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Inspiring OER with Amazon Inspire

by Miguel Guhlin

This blog was updated on October 4, 2016 to include additional resources and information.

High-quality OER (Open Education Resources) can save teachers significant time and effort,” points out this article at Edutopia, “on resource development and advance student learning inside and outside the classroom. Further, open sharing of resources has the potential to fuel collaboration, encourage the improvement of available materials, and aid in the dissemination of best practices.” Given that OER is increasingly available in education space, representing various “big players” like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft’s OpenEd.com, it’s worth taking a look at new offerings in this space.

What will these services mean for school districts and teachers? And, more important questions linger, such as, “Should teachers and school districts be trying to create their own content when so much is available online already? If not, who curates OER content?”

Let’s explore three current and future sources of open educational resources:

Amazon Announces Inspire

“Where big ideas take-off,” shares a video for Amazon’s new service,  Inspire. You might think a free online lesson plan collection would be passé given that there are many other online lesson plan collections (as well as open educational resources available at no cost), but Amazon Inspire seeks to put a fresh face on digital lesson design, as well as open educational resources.

Open Educational Resources are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse without charge. Open Educational Resources are different from other resources a teacher may use in that they have been given limited or unrestricted licensing rights. That means they have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. Source: OER Commons

Amazon Inspire seeks to make free resources, created by teachers and others, available for the purpose of improving learning outcomes. The new system will be searchable by grade level, type, and more. Contributors will be able to review and rate content made available online. Since Inspire is not yet available, teachers and contributors can request early access, and potential organizations can request to collaborate as well. Their invitation to collaborators appears below:

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.

Of course, Amazon is neither the first or the last to the OER space.

Google OER Custom Search

Until Amazon’s Inspire OER clearinghouse is ready, be aware that there are ample locations to find OERs. One place that you can look is a Google custom search. For example, a quick search on blended learning yielded these results:


How many of these resources remain current however? Keeping it all updated remains a key obstacle according to JISC’s web site:

Sustainability of OER release is currently a significant issue for institutions around the globe and evidence of benefits must be clarified if resources are to be made available for continued release. (Source: JISC)

If you explore The OER4Schools Professional Learning Resourceyou will probably be impressed (as I was) by the breadth and depth of the content available. Now imagine maintaining this content, updating it to reflect the latest information (e.g. Google Forms and Drive updates may not be reflected on this page fast enough to be useful).

As LeiLani Cauthen (@learningcounsel – The Learning Counsel) pointed out recently (paraphrased in my notes below) at a San Antonio, Texas event, teachers are essentially competing against a global network of knowledge workers. Small teams of teachers in their respective classrooms are unable to keep up with the constantly changing flood of content, apps, and information washing over schools in waves.

Digital curriculum and LMS companies are dis-intermediating teachers because there’s no possible way for teachers to design the mobile learning experiences students need at the speed they need to. Teachers are competing against a global network of knowledge. Some district curriculum leaders think they can simply digitize their resources and teach teachers to use a variety of digital apps. But organizing and managing this for each teacher is impossible for them. It’s a never-ending task that teachers have no time for or expertise (most were not taught to be instructional designers of curriculum that is multi-sensory and mobile), and, as such, more information is needed.

OER Commons

Featuring an easy-to-use interface, the OER Commons presents educators
with a variety of open educational resources. As you can see from the results below, there is content available in a variety of areas.OER


FormSwift Common Core Lesson Plans

Another resource for creating customized lesson plans is from startup FormSwift. They provide a very nice-looking and easy-to-use template for making an ELA, math, or science lesson plan based on the Common Core standards. The free site allows you to edit a PDF or Word document that can then be printed or emailed in to a supervisor.


Open Educational Resources certainly have great potential for educators, providing content and lessons that teachers can adapt. Yet the question remains. Even though OERs are becoming available, who evaluates these and makes sure they connect to the district’s curricular goals? And do teachers really have the time to curate content coming from multiple vendors?

OER Apps and Resources

  • MERLOT OER Search (iOS) – MERLOT Search provides easy-to-use access to the MERLOT database of 48,000+ higher education resources. MERLOT’s Open Education Resource collection has been curated by subject matter experts, many with comments provided by members who have used them and often with learning exercises attached for use in the classroom.
  • OER Search (iOS) – OER Search provides a quick and easy way to discover high quality open educational resources that are freely available online. Search from 30,000 resources that have been curated by educators from over 300 collections and providers.
  • Creating and Sharing Open Educational Resources (iOS) – This nonlinear collection of multi-touch resource books are designed to support educators who are authoring content and/or guiding learners who are authoring content for publication. This course is designed as a collection of resources to help the teacher and student navigate through open educational resources.

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