Amazon Launches 'Inspire,' a Free Education Resource Search Platform for...

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Amazon Launches 'Inspire,' a Free Education Resource Search Platform for Educators

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Jun 27, 2016

Amazon Launches 'Inspire,' a Free Education Resource Search Platform for Educators

Back in February, an EdWeek Market brief reported that Amazon Education was starting to beta-test a new platform with educators, helping teachers navigate the jungles of open educational resources (or OERs, for short).

Well, that platform—Amazon Inspire—has officially launched today in tandem with the ISTE conference in Denver, Colorado.

A free, mostly-OER platform (see below for why it’s “mostly OER”), Amazon Inspire works like a search engine for educational videos, lesson plans and games. Users can search by criteria like topics (say, “fractions” or “the Constitution”), standards, grade level, and time to complete, as shown below; additionally, they can rate materials with 1 to 5 stars.

The search capabilities of Amazon Inspire. (Source: Amazon Education)

The resources, covering all grades and subjects, are created by a mix of educators involved in the pilot, Amazon’s partner organizations (the Newseum to EdLeader21), state education departments, and future users of the platform. An upload button in the upper righthand corner lets users contribute resources.

The platform also allows users to organize sets of resources into collections, which Amazon’s General Manager of K-12 Education Rohit Argawal believes will support the “ultimate goal of every teacher having collective knowledge and insight.” Educators essentially choose resources to group together, describe the collection, and then offer directions for how someone could use the resources.

As far as calling itself an OER platform, that is somewhat correct. In support of Amazon’s commitment to the U.S. Department of Education #GoOpen campaign, many of the resources uploaded to Inspire are free, remixable, and downloadable, adhering to a definition of “open” that David Wiley explains here. But there’s one big caveat: districts can restrict who sees their educators’ uploads and/or collections—and in that sense, Inspire does not have 100 percent “open” content, as certain resources will be limited to limited school or district communities.

At the moment, the platform is free but requires an access code. Argawal tells EdSurge that any teachers are welcome to apply by providing Amazon with some basic information. But this isn't just about giving something away for free, as Tory Patterson, co-founder of venture capital fund Owl Ventures, told the New York Times: "Amazon is establishing a foothold that could expand into a one-stop shopping marketplace—not just for paid learning materials, but for schools’ wider academic and institutional software needs."

Editor's Note: This article was updated on 6/28 with additional information. Owl Ventures is an investor in EdSurge.

Mary Jo Madda (@MJMadda) is Senior Editor at EdSurge, as well as a former STEM teacher and administrator. In 2016, Mary Jo was named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" list in education.

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