Updated below with details of a copyright issue related to the site.
Amazon is launching a new site where K-12 teachers and schools can upload and access unlimited educational and classroom resources — lesson plans, videos, tests, projects, games and other content — in collaboration with their peers across the country, free of charge.
The company’s Amazon Education unit is launching the site, called Amazon Inspire, in conjunction with the ISTE 2016 education technology conference in Denver, opening up the Inspire beta to U.S. K-12 educators and schools starting today.
“Our ultimate goal is for every teacher in every single subject to benefit from Amazon Inspire,” said Rohit Agarwal, general manager of Amazon K-12 Education, in an interview. “When they walk into a classroom, we want every teacher to benefit from the collective knowledge, the collective insights and the experience of every single one of their peers.”
It’s the latest in a series of moves by Amazon in the education technology market. The company acquired the TenMarks online math startup in 2014, and separately markets e-books and tablets for teachers and school districts. The company describes the project as an outgrowth of its involvement in the U.S. Department of Education’s GoOpen initiative. Amazon also provides technical resources and support for the department’s Learning Registry open database.
Reports about Amazon’s plan for the Inspire content sharing platform first surfaced earlier this year. The experience of using the site will feel very familiar to regular Amazon users, letting teachers search by keyword and filter based on grade level, state standard, geography and other criteria. There’s even a section where teachers can rate and review the shared content, much as they would a product on Amazon’s site.
However, the company says this platform is separate from Amazon’s main e-commerce site. Amazon says it won’t be linking to paid products from the Inspire site, or using data from Amazon Inspire searches or viewing history to target specific products to teachers when they browse on Amazon.com.
“We’re focusing Amazon Inspire as a K-12 education resource discovery service — it’s as simple as that,” said Agarwal, who was the TenMarks CEO prior to the company’s acquisition, when pressed by GeekWire about the ways Amazon might be able to use Inspire to directly benefit its broader business.
In addition to search and reviews, features include an easy upload tool and collections that let teachers curate and share different resources as a group.
The company says the site has tens of thousands of resources at launch, including free materials from the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, which expects to offer more than 2,000 plays, lessons and teaching modules by the time the new school year starts, coinciding with Shakespeare’ 400th anniversary.
Asked if it plans to incorporate TenMarks content into the site, Amazon said it had nothing to announce at this time.
Update, Wednesday, July 29: Amazon has removed three items from its new Amazon Inspire educational tool over copyright concerns, just one day after launching the platform. Two of the lesson plans that have been removed were created by a rival educational site, according to The New York Times.
“Our team is doubling down and investigating what the root cause is,” Rohit Agarwal, GM of Amazon K-12 Education, told the Times at the conference. “We will do what is appropriate to respond to the results of the investigation.”
Educators flagged the copyrighted materials Tuesday, after Amazon sent a screenshot of the lesson plans to several publications as part of a news release. The removed items represent a small fraction of the tens of thousands of resources that populate the Inspire platform.
Amazon said in a statement, “Amazon Inspire is building a community around states, districts, schools, and teachers sharing free educational resources but uploading resources is not a requirement to participate. If an author has concerns with content in Amazon Inspire, they should contact us and we’ll investigate and remove anything that appears to violate our terms.”