NewsCorp Amplify Tablet Becomes Reality at SXSWedu

After teasing it at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, NewsCorp is now releasing their new tablet Amplify which will be a centerpiece of the company’s push into digital education publishing, GigaOM reports. The tablet will debut during a panel at the technology conference SXSWedu which kicked off this Monday in Austin, Texas.

The tablet comes as a result of work done by Wireless Generation, a company acquired by NewsCorp in 2010, and will feature a 10 inch screen running the latest version of the Android operating system called Jelly Bean. It will come with a suite of apps created by NewsCorp as well as with preloaded content from education technology titans like Khan Academy and CK-12. It will also include the Desmos graphic calculator for free.

The goal for the tablet is to bring it into the classroom as quickly as possible and, according to GigaOM, it is optimized for use in an education environment.

“Simply giving kids hardware or another computer, I think, is not going to change what’s going on,” Joel Klein, Amplify’s CEO and the former New York City Schools Chancellor told reporters on a press call. “That’s why we focused instead on creating a rich, robust learning platform for the school space.”

Amplify’s tablet, which comes ready for student use out of the box, lets administrators and teachers distribute content across an entire class or grade level, allows teachers to control the content on students’ screens and gives students different digital ways participate in class. To enable those features, the company said, it couldn’t just run its software on any device, it needed to get deeper into the operating system.

Teachers will be able to use the tablet’s software to monitor students’ progress through their schoolwork and will have complete control over the tablet operation of each student, up to and including blocking it from the internet or shutting down a particular app. Amplify also comes with a tool for two-way communication between students and teachers such as quick surveys and reports on kids’ progress generated on the fly.

Since the tablet utilizes Google’s popular mobile operating system, it will also have access to some apps sold on the app store Google Play.

Although the product doesn’t launch with analytics dashboards for teachers, over time apps running on the tablet could give teachers and schools a clearer picture of achievement at the individual and broader levels, the company said. Using various apps and services, schools could enable teachers and students to do some of what Amplify’s tablet can do on regular iPads and Android devices – classroom clickers and startup ClassDojo, for example, provide classroom management tools, social education startup Edmodoprovides a platform for sharing content and collaboration and Pearson  and McGraw-Hill Educationoffer digital textbooks that aim to personalize learning.

The tablet is priced competitively to make it attractive to cash-strapped schools and school districts. The basic model , which comes with WiFi built in, but doesn’t have cellular access, will be priced at $299. The Amplify Plus will cost an additional $50 but will have 4G build in and will include 2 years of mobile internet valued at $179 per year.

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