The notice placed atop the website for Amazon’s TenMarks line of products gets straight to the point:
“We’re winding down. TenMarks will no longer be available after the 2018-2019 school year. Licenses for TenMarks Math and Writing will be honored through June 30, 2019. If you’re a current customer, you will receive an e-mail outlining what this means for you.”
With that announcement, the online retail giant, which has been making inroads in school districts over the past few years, announced a big change in its K-12 offerings. TenMarks, an online instructional resource, has been a part of Amazon since 2013, when the Seattle-based corporation acquired it. And Amazon had added a writing curriculum to TenMarks as recently as last August.
Now the brand and its associated products will go away. Amazon, in a brief statement to Marketplace K-12, said the move was a “difficult decision” based on a “thorough review” of the product. The company did not offer any further comment.
School districts have a vast universe of curricula and instructional resources to choose from, and it’s unclear where Amazon saw TenMarks falling short.
TenMarks Writing seeks to help students improve their written skills using instructional techniques like scaffolding and encouraging quick communications to write short conversations. The platform uses images and words to initiate a back-and-forth between two characters after a writing prompt. There are also features that use an online engine and language processing to guide students through more in-depth written assignments.
Teachers using the product were offered lessons, unit plans, graphic organizers, rubrics and other features, my colleague Michele Molnar reported last year.
An Amazon official told Marketplace K-12 that the company was particularly proud of TenMarks’ ability to leverage “natural language processing to provide students with comments personalized along the way for what they’re writing about their essays.”
Amazon has taken a series of steps over the past few years to increase its role in K-12 systems—particularly in the areas of purchasing and cloud-based computing.
Amazon Web Services is a cloud-based storage option that many districts are buying as a way to avoid having to add physical server capacity and infrastructure. As of last year, the company said the product was being used by 7,000 education institutions worldwide.
In addition, the company has sought to capture K-12 district buying through Amazon Business for Education, an online marketplace where teachers and school officials can shop for a variety of products. It also made an arrangement with a national cooperative purchasing program, U.S. Communities, meant to streamline purchasing for school supplies through Amazon.
Another example of Amazon’s recent interest in the K-12 space can be seen in with last year’s re-launch of Amazon Inspire, a platform designed to house resources created on open licenses and now being tested in a beta version. Amazon had revealed the platform in 2016 but then pulled it after the New York Times reported that some of the resources that had been uploaded on it were protected by copyright.
Amazon officials said that Inspire and TenMarks were designed to be complimentary—that teachers’ writing assignments could be posted on Amazon Inspire.
Educators and opinionators responded with a mix of curiosity, bewilderment, and disappointment to Amazon’s TenMarks’ announcement. Some also made a pointed suggestion for Amazon: that they make TenMarks materials available on an open license for users to remix and share as they see fit.
I am so sad about this. @TenMarks has been an integral part of my instruction in my math classroom. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you!
— Julie Medina (@DuganMedina) April 1, 2018
Seriously SO disappointing! Any ideas what happens w/existing @padlet already created? I have a ton that I used to curate resources for Ts. First @TenMarks now this! UGH…frustrating. #Hyperdocs will replace @padlet for me!
— Becca Henig (@BHenigSME) April 3, 2018
A practical example why education shouldn’t rely on proprietary vendors/systems, and instead pursue #OpenSource. | Analysis: After Amazon’s TenMarks shuts down, what then for K-12 schools and Amazon? – GeekWire https://t.co/8UBkIMjmOc
— Sean Wilson (@Connectionary) April 2, 2018
There is such a large body of work connected with TenMarks, to just close it down is such academic loss. How about making a grand gesture and make it all open source?
— Glen Warren (@warrenmedia) March 31, 2018
Other tweets had a different message in mind: They came from companies offering their products to teachers looking to replace TenMarks. (We’ll let you search for those pitches on your own.)
- Amazon’s Open Educational Resources Website Gets Off to a Slow Start
- Amazon, Ed. Organizations Launch Blitz for “Growth Mindset” in Math
- Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft Battle for K-12 Market and Loyalties of Educators
- Amazon Joins With Purchasing Group to Give Schools Access to Online Marketplace
- N.Y.C. Schools to Decide on Amazon Contract Worth Up to $64.5M
- Amazon Education to Launch New Website for Open Education Resources