News Corp's DUMBO-built education unit will distribute free tablets

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

News Corp. on Monday laid out a plan for its grade school education business, built on its acquisition last November of DUMBO-based Wireless Generation for $360 million.

The media giant named the business Amplify and said it and AT&T would 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 network and Wi-Fi network. None of the schools selected to participate will have to pay for the program.

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. announced last November that it would take a 90 percent stake in Wireless Generation, a creator of software tools for educators.

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.

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 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.

Klein said News Corp. aims to be a major provider of educational services and said the U.S. education market exceeds $600 billion annually.

He said that school districts spend money on computers, connectivity, textbooks and professional development and hoped that Amplify would be among the things schools spend money on.

"If we have the impact that I hope we'll have, people will find room in their budgets to support the work," he said.

The company did not say which schools would take part or how they'd be selected.

July 24, 2012 - 7:00am



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