Amazon to Teachers: Use the Cloud for Lesson Plans

Harnessing the power of its immense software-as-a-service platform, Amazon is building a school in the cloud.

Called Amazon Inspire, it's currently in an invite-only beta testing with educators and school districts, who are using it to upload lesson plans and download everything from college rankings to Shakespeare reading guides.

As a concept, it bears a striking resemblance to Wikipedia, which many students can no longer cite as an official source for academic works. Inspire is built around a simple uploading concept: educators can drag and drop files they want to share, add basic metadata such as title, description, grade and subject, and publish the content on the service.

Once the content is published, their colleagues can explore the resource library and filter their search results by grade level, standard, or a specific school district. This being Amazon, of course, Inspire also lets its users rate and review the resources.

But Amazon is looking beyond lesson plans: it has enlisted several organizations outside of primary education to upload content. Among them is Newseum, the Washington, D.C. journalism museum that collects the front pages of major newspapers around the globe.

In a nod to the needs of high school counselors, Inspire also has access to the US Department of Education's College Scorecard, with statistics like graduation rates and tuition costs. And then there's the Folger Shakespeare library, which has uploaded more than 100 teaching resources on the Bard's work and plans to add 2,000 more by September.

As with Wikipedia itself, which encourages its volunteer editors to cite their sources, many of this content is available for free elsewhere. So Amazon likely intends Inspire to stand out by making it easy to comb through a vast amount of teaching resources in one place.

Individual educators and school districts can request access to the beta, though pricing and a general availability date were not announced. Amazon's Web Services platform already hosts a similar free service called the Learning Registry, which is maintained by the Department of Education.

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