Rupert Murdoch's News Corp unveils its own Android tablet

Amplify Tablet

We learned today that the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation has unveiled a 10-inch Android tablet designed specifically for schoolchildren. Known as the Amplify Tablet (Amplify is also the name of the News Corp’s education division), the $299 slate was presented earlier today at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas. Amplify sales reps are said to be currently knocking on the proverbial doors of public schools nationwide.

Amplify tablet

Joel Klein

According to a press release:

The Amplify Tablet and related services are being piloted this year in school districts across the country in collaboration with AT&T. Tablets purchased by June 30 will be ready for use in classrooms in time for the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

For $299, students will receive training and customer care along with the tablet; a two-year subscription to Amplify’s educational content clocks in at an additional $99 per year. The Amplify Tablet Plus, meanwhile, is a second option; it comes with a 4G data plan, and because the Amplify is meant to be taken home at night by students, this is the model that will be pitched to those kids who don’t have Wi-Fi access at home. That model’s price tag is $349. On top of that, users will have to agree to a “two-year mandatory subscription which includes AT&T service for $179 a year,” according to an item from Engadget.

Steep price tags aside, however, the Amplify is said to be the first “open tablet-based learning platform designed specifically for K-12 education.” It comes pre-loaded with apps featuring educational quizes and games, and the News Corp’s Amplify educational division will also be providing schools with the infrastructure necessary to store their students’ data.

Joel Klein, the chief executive of the Amplify division, is largely credited as being the driving force behind the project; he previously worked as chancellor of New York schools. “There’s a huge opportunity if you can get kids excited about educational games,” he says, in a New York Times article about the Amplify. “You can change the learning curve.”

3 Comments on Rupert Murdoch's News Corp unveils its own Android tablet

  1. This is the K-12 analog to what I have been seeing in higher education. Notice that they are not talking about textbooks. Instead they reference “learning content” and adaptive systems that monitor and manage student learning activity. This high dollar solution would have been very appealing back in the day when education was more nearly fully funded. Today is another story.
    I have to wonder about the use of the word “open in this context. That will require close scrutiny. Given the corporate history involved, I have my suspicions.

  2. Frank: to be honest, I’m not entirely sure myself about the meaning of the word “open” here. But I think they simply mean that you can run other programs not associated with the Amplify platform; not really “open” in the sense that most of us would assume, in other words.

    On their website, one of the specs they highlight is the device’s “open platform;” here’s how the text reads: “The Amplify Tablet’s open Android platform also supports any digital content in which you’ve already invested and enables easy curation of Common Core-aligned content.” The URL is amplify.com/tablet, if you want to take a look.

  3. Dan: I read the NYT piece and went to their web site as well. As I watched the video and read about the three Amplify products (Amplify insight, Amplify learning and Amplify access), my initial concerns about any Murdoch enterprise in the education space were, well, amplified.

    It’s clear that control is the central selling point when they stress the features of Amplify:
    “Our robust mobile device management system allows district IT to control almost every aspect of the tablets they manage as well as push content out to student and teacher tablets across the system.”

    Content providers partnering with Amplify’s developers, Wireless Generation, are “in” and others are “out” of this closed market. They do support open source content such as from Kahn academy where that suits. The price is right and free content simply assures good margins. It’s a closed system wherever money changes hands. Many K-12 school systems actually want tightly closed systems that are closely aligned to state standards. Calling that open is simply disingenuous.

    By far my greatest concern is entrusting a corporation with sensitive data about children in their formative years. In the US, there is FERPA, Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html) which protects the privacy of student education records. Although News Corp. might qualify under FERPA to receive sensitive data from schools it contracts with (Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school), there are no provisions that I know of that would constrain News Corp after they obtain such information. The genie is out of the bottle.

    In an age where data has great value, it is not difficult to imagine a service in the not-too-distant future that advises employers, insurance companies and others using this data, aggregated or not.

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