Amazon launches further into U.S. education tech

Jun 27, 2016, 2:37 PM EDT
(Source: woodleywonderworks/flickr)
(Source: woodleywonderworks/flickr)

Amazon launched an online portal for teachers on Monday dubbed Amazon Inspire, which looks to entrench the company alongside Google, Apple, and Microsoft in the U.S. edtech scene. 

Amazon Inspire includes thousands of free resources such as worksheets and lesson plans for teachers. The materials provide teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade with free instructional materials, and enables users to review products and share resources. Inspire significantly ups the ante for Amazon’s role in the U.S. edtech market, which its competitors have been building out for years with both hardware and software.

All three of the companies cited above have made huge efforts to entrench themselves in classrooms, much to the chagrin of privacy advocates who claim that the Obama administration has let Silicon Valley have its way with American school systems to the detriment of individual privacy. Indeed, various lawsuits over the years have set a fire under legislators’ seats. Earlier this month, a coalition of organizations and individuals sent a petition to U.S. Education Secretary John King urging for changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The petitioners claim that education agencies can still share student data with third parties without permission from students or their parents. 

So Amazon is entering a market that is still in the tumultuous stages of regulation. But it is not alone; startups are working the market as well. A report from EdSurge last week said that U.S. edtech raised $225 million in May across 17 different deals. The startups span all manner of educational services, software and hardware. 

Despite this progress, a survey released on Monday by the Education Week Research Center of 700 teachers found that educators who are least confident in educational technology tend to work in high-poverty and urban schools. Teachers in low-poverty, suburban schools are the most confident in edtech’s role in the classroom. These findings are not surprising, but they speak of a potential growing digital divide within the American school system — one of which tech giants should be aware.