News Corp is getting into the education business with a new division wearing the “Amplify” brand, and AT&T
is a major partner in the endeavor. In a press release, Amplify CEO Joel Klein said, "It is our aim to amplify the power of digital innovation to transform teaching and learning and to help schools deliver fundamentally better experiences and results.”
Amplify is centered around three core values--or as the press release tellingly calls them, “areas of business”: Amplify Insight, Amplify Learning, and Amplify Access. The Insight part of the trio pertains to analytical tools, powered by Wireless Technologies, that are designed to help teachers assess their classrooms and adjust curriculum and teaching styles accordingly. The Learning segment consists of interactive, adaptive digital learning materials, beginning with the subjects of language arts, science, and math.
The above all sounds fine, but the Access portion could be the sticky wicket; Amplify is providing 4G tablets through AT&T (which will also handle tech support and device management) and together the platform “bundles curricular and extracurricular content with sophisticated analytic capabilities and 4G connectivity to facilitate personalized instruction and enable anywhere, anytime learning.”
That sounds quite similar to what Apple is doing with its education endeavor and the iPad and is likely to have just as many problems pertaining to hardware costs. Tablets are pricey no matter how you look at it, and lifecycle management--including broken, lost, or stolen devices--sounds like a complete nightmare. 4G service isn’t cheap, either. There are too many school districts that can’t afford to patch the drywall, let alone launch a slick digital curriculum and a fleet of tablets.
In any case, Amplify is launching pilot programs in U.S. schools starting in the 2012-2013 school year. Best of luck to Amplify, and to anyone who can find a way to help teachers teach and learners learn. We’d be very glad to have our skepticism proven unfounded.