Amazon Launches Inspire, Digital Ed Resources

July 1, 2016: Volume 23, Number 14

Amazon (Seattle) at ISTE in June launched Amazon Inspire, a free way to search for and share digital educational resources. The goal is to provide educators with the largest selection of free and open educational resources that can improve instruction and student learning outcomes. 

Rohit Agarwal, general manager of Amazon K-12 education, told EER that digital learning can transform classrooms, but making the promise a reality is a time-consuming proposition. Teachers spend upwards of 12 hours per week searching for and curating resources for classroom instruction, he said, adding that they place a high degree of trust in resources shared by their peers. 

Amazon saw this as an area where they could help by mirroring how teachers look for resources—by grade, subject or alignment with standards—and by offering a familiar interface that looks like the Amazon consumer marketplace.

“Teachers will be armed with the collective wisdom of their peers when they walk in to teach a lesson,” Agarwal said. Amazon Inspire is in beta stage. The company’s plan is for educators to shape the evolution of the service. 

One thing that Amazon heard from teachers as they developed Inspire is that a folder of resources has greater value than the sum of its individual parts. Amazon included a Collections feature where educators can group resources, recommend an order for use, and share what they have built. 

Other introductory features include:

 

  • Smart Search-search by grade level, standard or for resources from a particular district, search results can be filtered using more than 10 criteria;
  • Simple upload-drag and drop files for sharing, with the ability to add basic metadata, like title description, grade and subject;
  • Reviews-review and rate resources as you would an Amazon purchase; and 
  • Accessibility-support-built-in for accessibility and users can indicate the accessibility features of resources they upload. 

 

In addition to educators sharing, publishers and other content owners are invited to contribute resources. Early contributors include the Newseum, Washington, DC’s interactive museum of news and journalism, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Contributors can limit access to commercially purchased assets by sharing resource only within a subscribing school or district. 

Resource Sharing Gains Steam

Amazon began its commitment to the OER movement in October 2015 when the Department of Education launched its GoOpen campaign. Amazon Web Services is providing infrastructure and developer support for the DOE’s Learning Registry, an open database where content creators and educators about digital educational resources. 

In June, Illinois became the 15th GoOpen state, which involves committing to a statewide resource repository and participation in a community of practice. Additionally, there are 63 GoOpen districts that have committed to replacing at least one course’s textbook with open resources. 

Amazon’s service joins a number of other offerings that connect educators to resources. In Knovation’s (Cincinnati) Content Collection hundreds of thousands of professionally evaluated, standards-aligned online resources cover all subject areas, grade levels and learning resource types. Learning.com’s Curriculum Foundry helps districts build and share custom digital curriculum with a set of curriculum building tools that includes a repository of OER and other free digital resources.

Noodle Markets (New York) in 2015 launched a marketplace for K-12 products and services. Reviews on the site are mainly from Graphite, the free service from Common Sense Education. Crowd-sourced reviews, vendor reviews and profiles also are on site. To date, Noodle Markets lists 25,000 products and services. ■

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