News Corp unveils Amplify: New partnership with AT&T for digital ed

Educational technology finds an unlikely advocate and ally in News Corp's new venture called Amplify.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

News Corporation, known best for its edgy Fox networks and scandal-embroiled Rupert Murdoch, is bringing its vast media expertise into play in the education space with an ambitious new venture called Amplify. Through a partnership with AT&T, Amplify is also planning to bring a 4G-enabled tablet to market as a platform for its digital products and services.

According to a press release from News Corp,

Amplify is dedicated to reimagining K-12 education by creating digital products and services that empower students, teachers and parents in new ways...“Together, we plan to bring to market a 4G mobile tablet-based experience that we believe will significantly enhance teaching and learning for grades K-12,” said Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO, AT&T Mobility.

Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify (a new entity created by News Corp), went on to say

“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 will introduce new products in a thoughtful way, so that technology can finally live up to its promise to advance learning and augment teaching for students, teachers and parents..."


Amplify has three broad categories designed to address the hardware platform, software platform, and content:

  • Amplify Insight. Amplify's subsidiary, Wireless Generation, "makes mobile, digital assessment and instructional intervention tools for teachers...[focused] on educational analytics and formative assessment Wireless Generation has already been active in education for 10 years and currently serves "over 200,000 teachers and over three million students, in all 50 states". News Corp acquired a 90% stake in Wireless Generation in 2010.
  • Amplify Learning. Amplify is developing new digital curricula in English Language Arts, Science and Math aligned with the Common Core Standards. The curricula are focused on interactivity and utlize analytic technology from Insight for adaptive learning and Response to Intervention approaches.
  • Amplify Access. This is the hardware platform being developed in conjunction with AT&T, focused on tablets using the companies 4G LTE network.

Tablets, curricula, and analytics are all being rolled out and piloted during the coming school year. During the pilot phase, "AT&T will provide 4G tablets, device management and technical services, and connectivity over the AT&T Wi-Fi network and AT&T 4G network." Going forward, it isn't clear what subsidies, if any, will make the hardware and connectivity more affordable to schools, although it's likely that at least the 4G connections will be eRate-eligible.

The New York Times provides some broader context around News Corp:

The announcement is part of a larger restructuring by News Corporation as it prepares to split into two separate publicly traded corporations. The education division, led by the former New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, will join News Corporation’s newspapers and its HarperCollins book division in a newly formed publishing company...The timing of the move comes as Mr. Klein makes the transition from his role as one of Rupert Murdoch’s closest advisers dealing with the British phone hacking scandal and back to his role building the company’s education division.

The scandals and uncertainty around News Corp's leadership and future have cost it major contracts as it has sought to leverage its earlier investment in Wireless Generation. Formation of the new company, Amplify, should help address this, but it remains to be seen of Amplify can distance its brand from that of its parent company. It also remains to be seen if Amplfy can scale up the adoption of digital curricula and educational analytics where other companies have repeatedly failed.

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