Still in the K-12 Jungle: Amazon Partners With Edhesive to Bring CS...


Still in the K-12 Jungle: Amazon Partners With Edhesive to Bring CS Education to Schools

By Tina Nazerian     Apr 3, 2018

Still in the K-12 Jungle: Amazon Partners With Edhesive to Bring CS Education to Schools

Despite fits and starts, Amazon is marching forth with its K-12 education efforts. On Monday, just days after the company quietly said it would be shutting down TenMarks’ online math and writing tools, it announced a partnership with Edhesive, a company that offers computer science curriculum to schools.

Through the partnership, Amazon will be sponsoring schools that want to implement Edhesive’s curriculum for AP Computer Science A or AP Computer Science Principles, says Emily Grad, Edhesive’ co-CEO in an interview with EdSurge. The standard price for a school that wants to use Edhesive’s computer science curriculum is $2500.

Any school can apply to the program. Grad said preference will go towards those that don’t already offer an AP computer science course, as well as schools that have financial need and a plan to recruit students from underrepresented populations, and have a teacher committed to teaching the course.

An Amazon spokesperson wrote over email that the companies “wish to activate up to 100 schools or provide [10,000] new users with this new course content.”

For Amazon, this partnership is an opportunity to familiarize students with their development ecosystem. All Edhesive students will enjoy free AWS (Amazon Web Services) Educate Starter accounts and other resources. In addition, Amazon is working with Edhesive to add cloud computing content to the AP Computer Science Principles course.

This partnership is also a part of the Amazon Future Engineer Pathway, an initiative that is a part of the $50 million commitment to supporting K-12 computer science education that the company made in September. The company spokesperson added that this effort also provides paid internships for freshmen and sophomores in college (applications will open this September), as well as scholarships.

Students who want to study computer science in college can apply to those $10,000 scholarships starting this November. They must successfully finish their Edhesive AP Computer Science course with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and get accepted to an accredited four-year university, according to an Amazon blog post. However, the company notes that being an Edhesive AP Computer Science student “is not a requirement for being a scholarship recipient.”

This is the first corporate partnership for Edhesive. The company also has partnerships with the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, the Delaware Department of Education and individual educators. Grad says currently, close to a thousand schools use Edhesive for AP Computer Science curriculum. Most of them are in the United States.

Edhesive traces its origins to Amplify, the New York City-based digital education company that was once owned by News Corporation. The product, which was initially a computer science MOOC, was developed as a skunkworks project within Amplify and spun out as an independent company in July 2015.

Grad says she wants students to be prepared with “21st century skills” before they start college. “Every year we wait is another class of students who graduate and leave school without these essential computer science” skills, Grad tells EdSurge.

Through this partnership, Amazon may be steering its education efforts away from building and selling instructional tools, and focus instead on providing financial support to encourage students to become well-versed in its technologies. Last August, Amazon gifted 1,600 Echo Dots to Arizona State University engineering students living in a new dorm. Amazon also runs the Alexa Prize, a research competition where university teams developing new ideas for conversational artificial intelligence can win monetary prizes.

In a prepared statement, Amazon’s vice president of marketplace technology, Ian Simpson, pointed to the company’s broader desires with this partnership: “We want to remove barriers for students to learn CS at the most critical phases of their education and reward those who persist with early software engineer internships to join us in working at Amazon and in the broader tech industry.”

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