News Corp. to launch tablet-based education pilot

In collaboration with AT&T, the company will offer a tablet-based platform that bundles curricular content with sophisticated analytic capabilities and 4G connectivity to facilitate personalized instruction.

In a further expansion into the ed-tech market, News Corp.—Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate that owns FOX News and the Wall Street Journal, among other properties—on July 23 unveiled its new K-12 education business, called Amplify, and said it was partnering with AT&T to fund a pilot project that aims to put tablet computers in students’ hands in the coming school year.

AT&T will provide tablet computers that work on its 4G and Wi-Fi networks. None of the schools selected to participate will have to pay for the program. The company did not say which schools would take part or how they’d be selected.

The idea is to put tablet computers into the hands of students for use at school and at home. The system tracks their progress and is meant to tailor lessons to each student’s level.

Amplify is being spun off from News Corp. along with newspapers in a planned reorganization of the company. It brings together the student assessment software business Wireless Generation with a new curriculum it is developing.

News Corp., based in New York, announced in November 2010 that it would take a 90-percent stake in Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Wireless Generation, a creator of software tools for educators, for $360 million. Last summer, New York’s comptroller spiked a $27 million deal with Wireless Generation because of the fallout from Murdoch’s phone hacking scandal in Great Britain.

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Former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, who joined News Corp. in January 2011 to head up its education initiatives, will lead the company’s Amplify division.

Wireless Generation founder Larry Berger said the pilot project was not just meant to convert participating schools into future customers. He said it was a way to improve the system and prove it works.

“There’s no way to do high-quality research and development without working in schools,” he said. Once the pilot project is complete, the company hopes to market its services to as many schools as possible.

Wireless Generation says it currently provides mobile assessment and instructional services to more than 200,000 teachers and 3 million students in all 50 states. It supports different ways of paying for tablets. Sometimes parents pay for them, sometimes schools pay for them, sometimes school districts lease them, and sometimes schools rely mostly on students to bring whatever mobile device they have.

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