Joel Klein’s New Education Venture – Amplify!

Dear Commons Community,

Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City School System, recently announced that he would be heading Amplfy, a new education venture for the News Corporation.  The New York  Times reported that:

Amplify is teaming up with AT&T to deliver digital learning products through 4G tablets for schools.  In an interview, Mr. Klein said Amplify’s products would use educational games aligned with the Common Core learning standards and customized so teachers can pinpoint a student’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

“So that if one child is having trouble with fractions and another child is already in the middle of algebra, even if they’re in the same class they can move forward and progress,” Mr. Klein said.

Education publishers, including CTB/McGraw-Hill and Pearson, and software companies are racing to develop similar digital products for iPads and other tablets that can customize instruction and analyze classroom data. When asked how Amplify would distinguish itself in a crowded landscape, Mr. Klein, the company’s chief executive officer, said: “This is not digitizing textbooks. This is really creating a very interactive curriculum.”

This venture will not be without problems.  As the article mentions:

“Whether schools will be impressed enough by the product and comfortable enough with the News Corp. name to switch to Amplify is a whole other story…also Mr. Klein — who frequently clashed with the city’s powerful teachers’ union when he was chancellor — may be associated with an ideology that could cause discomfort for some school leaders.  [This is an understatement]

Amplify’s products will be made by Wireless Generation, the Brooklyn-based education technology company that was bought by News Corporation in 2010. Wireless Generation also helped design ARIS, the web-based platform for tracking information about student achievement and teachers in the New York City public schools. Mr. Klein spearheaded the project, which came under scrutiny when it didn’t live up to expectations.  Wireless Generation also lost its effort to build a statewide data system when its contract was rejected by the state comptroller.”

Surely gaming has a place in our curricula and should be part of our efforts to improve education.  And I would like to say that I wish Mr. Klein, Amplify, Wireless Generation and the News Corporation well but all of them have too much baggage to be a part of these efforts.

Tony

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