At CES, Joel Klein Sees Technology as Future of Education

Joel Klein, former New York City Schools Chancellor, spoke about the importance of technology in education as he addressed the attendees at the Higher Education Tech conference hosted at the International Consumer Electronics Show. He said that bringing technology into the classroom was the only way to shake up the moribund system that hasn’t evolved much in over a century — even as the world completely changed around it.

Klein said that any enterprise run along the same lines would have gone out of business years ago, unable to support an excessive amount of financial outlay while being completely unable to compete in the marketplace. While America’s education funding is on par with other countries, it consistently rates squarely in the middle in international rankings year after year in terms of quality and outcomes.

Things have changed since Klein left his post as the head of the one of the largest school districts in the country. At the time, technology in schools mainly comprised of computer labs hosting out-of-date desktop computers where students took turns to do their work. Since then a growing number of districts have implemented plans to equip all of their students and faculty with portable digital tablets, or found a way to use technology already owned by the students themselves in the classroom to improve learning.

“Everything else has already made the leap,” Klein said, referring to industries such as commerce that have been quicker to adopt new technologies. “Education has to do the same.”

Some schools, such as the Rocketship charter schools in California, already are pioneering “one-to-one” technology, which puts computers in the hands of every student. But one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of mobile technology in the classroom has been its high cost. In 2010, the average cost of a tablet PC was $543.

Since leaving his NYC post, Klein has taken over as the head of the education technology startup Amplify, which designs and sells classroom management software for teachers which can be run on a tablet. The company – which forms a part of News Corp’s education division – announced at last year’s UBS Global Media and Communication Conference that it plans to enter the hardware market as well by releasing an open-source tablet specifically optimized to run the company’s software suite.

According to estimates unveiled during the presentation, Klein views the education market as lucrative, with over $700 billion up for grabs. Seventeen billion of that is available in the K-12 market in which Amplify expects to compete most aggressively.

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