"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Amazon About to Launch New Enterprise in the Education Industrial Complex

Susan Ohanian

In Amazon Unveils Online Education Service for Teachers Natasha Singer, a business reporter for the New York Times covering education technology, describes Amazon's new enterprise, Amazon Inspire. In late August or early September, Amazon plans to  "introduce an online marketplace with tens of thousands of free lesson plans, worksheets and other instructional materials for teachers."

           Called Amazon Inspire, the education site has features that may seem familiar to frequent Amazon shoppers.
           Search bar at the top of the page? Check. User reviews? Check. Star ratings for each product? Check.

Singer notes that the educational materials market is where the money is. Analysts predict that, over time, it will  be much more valuable than the school computer market.  The New York City Department of Education is already paying Amazon $30 million to provide e-books to its 1.1 million students. But at least with e-books produced by major publishers, someone has vetted the manuscript. Amazon is  asking  "innovative teachers" to sign up right now for its mahem: "Be a pioneer and help build the future of open educational resources." You can fill out a form and Amazon will let you know if you qualify:

       Complete the form below and we’ll send you a special code if you qualify (we’ll also notify you when we are open
       to schools everywhere). Once your account is set up, we just ask for just 10 minutes of your time to upload and share
       5-10 of your own resources to Amazon Inspire. We also encourage you to rate and review the resources you discover

Amazon also invites

      Are you a state, district, or school? An OER provider or a publisher with free content to share? We’ve collaborated
      with thousands of teachers and dozens of states, districts, and publishers during the private beta of Amazon Inspire.
      Now it's your turn. Help us to provide teachers everywhere with access to a large and diverse selection of free digital
      teaching resources.

L'etat c'est mois.

Natalie Singer's article focuses on the big money involved in this market and who Amazon's competitors are. There's no hint of  any slough of despond that should cause anybody who cares about schoolchildren. Singer points out that entities like TeachersPayTeachers already exist. She doesn't mention AFT's Share My Lesson. Here's my take on that: A Letter from Randi Weingarten about Share My Lesson . Of course Singer doesn't mention how dreadful this stuff is. Business reporting is about where the money is, not very often about what offal goes into producing it. But consider: Does anybody think that teachers at Sidwell or  Chicago Lab School will be dialing up Amazon for free lessons?

Of interest: Natalie Singer is also  "doing a part-time fellowship at the Data & Society Research Institute in Manhattan, researching the use of learning apps in primary and secondary schools in the United States." According to her bio at The Times, Singer joined the staff in 2005  "to develop the Skin Deep column for the Thursday Styles section and cover the beauty industrial complex."

Beauty industrial complex. What a phrase. I checked to see if the New York Times had ever been  honest enough to write about the education industrial complex. Only once, and then, in the context of Louisiana governor Jindal trying to dump the Common Core:
        Emmett McGroarty, education director of the American Principles Project, a right-leaning think tank, said Mr. Jindal
        had “given more hope to the moms, dads and other citizens across America who are pushing back against a $600 billion
        education-industrial complex and the elites in both parties who have been advocating for the national Common Core

It is a phrase we all, liberals and conservatives, should employ--as a reminder that children are at risk. In case you didn't follow the TeachersPayTeachers link above, here it is, though it's easier to see here
Don't blame Pearson for this test prep practice sheet. It is part of a 20-page packet of test prep materials for Kindergarten and Grade 1 sold by Teachers Pay Teachers--$5.

Footnote: Speaking of TeachersPayTeachers, Amazon has already run into trouble by using some of their copyrighted material:  Amazon Inspire Removes Some Content Over Copyright Issues.

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