Asserting that the K-12 education market is “ripe for disruption," Joel Klein, former New York City schools chancellor, now executive v-p at News Corp. and director of Amplify, its education unit, offered a presentation of Amplify’s business model and plans to release hardware and software solutions optimized for a new generation of digitally savvy students and teachers. Klein outlined plans to release an open source tablet device, and specialized teaching software tied to it and to Common Core standards and data analytics, all in an effort to transform the basic model of American education.
In a presentation at the UBS Global Media and Communication Conference, Klein outlined an American educational system—one teacher in a room of 25 kids, using minimal, if any, new technology—that he said not only fails students but “is a national security issue,” emphasizing that “if we don’t see a dramatic change to using technology in classes, the country won’t go forward.”
Klein’s point is that U.S. K-12 education is a “broken model,” with shockingly low graduation rates, “we spend a lot on education and do not see the results.” To change all this, Klein said, “the private sector’ has to be involved and that “technology will forever change how we teach students.” Klein said, “kids use media and technology of all kinds but they’re told they have to turn them all off when they get to school.”
Klein said the educational market was worth about $700 billion total, and outlined a $17 billion K-12 market targeted by Amplify. He said due to upfront costs of developing technology Amplify has invested about $180 million and expected to generate about $100 million in revenue this year—mostly contracts with about 200 school systems around the country. Klein said technology is “saving money,” and that “school systems want this.” He said Amplify’s business was growing at about 22% a year and he expected revenues to catchup and surpass current losses. He hailed the Obama’s administration’s Race to the Top program which offers grants to imaginative state-designed education programs and said that a subscription model was likely to win out in the educational sector.
Amplify is focused on changing American education with a program focused on Amplify Insight, teaching software tied to a prototype Amplify tablet device designed to collect and mine “big data,” in other words, use data analysis to drive teaching. He also pointed to Amplify Learning, customizable “gamefied” educational content—the digital textbook in a new form—tied to national core curriculum standards and designed to appeal to young people’s love of digital technology and multimedia. The program, Klein said, will use the appeal of the new hardware and software to extend the educational day beyond the 9 to 3 convention. Klein called this “blended education, ” a new model combining the best in technology and human support. “We know this stuff works,” he said, “students are engaged and learn quicker,” when digital technology is integrated into the learning process.
Key to the process will be Amplify’s “Access Tablet,” an open source “affordable” tablet device designed by Amplify. He emphasized that the tablet is built on a modified Android OS and will be an open platform and “run on our platform and others.” The tablet is synched with software and “it knows who you are when it’s turned on,” shows a student’s courses, collects educational data, schedules and collects quizzes and assignments and provides a “data-window” for parents. On the teacher side, Klein continued, the tablet lets the instructor see who is absent and present—attendance at the touch of a button—and can create instant chat rooms for class discussion, as well as allow teachers to lock out distractions—they can spot who’s playing Angry Birds when they should be reading—or takeover all the screens in the classroom when necessary.
“We think we’re positioned well to build a fresh business model,” Klein said.