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Monday, March 11, 2013

Amplify Tablet Ready for Classrooms

It seems as if a new tablet computer hits the market every week, but a New York-based company is betting its tablet will be a hit. Amplify Education Inc., part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., introduced its Amplify tablet at the South x Southwest education conference. The device that will come preloaded with everything a student needs to get through the school day.

The Amplify tablet is priced at $299 for Wi-Fi-only models and $349 for a 4G unit. Each device also requires a two-year service and materials bundle that adds $99 a year for Wi-Fi and $179 a year for the 4G model.

While somewhat pricey, the bundles provide all textbooks, lessons, tests, and e-books a student is assigned. Teachers will be able to run a class and see what web sites and lesson areas students are visiting, while the teacher dashboard will allow for instant polls and keep tabs on students through the “Eyes on Teacher” button that sends a message to every screen in the classroom.

“We must use technology to empower teachers and improve the way students learn,” Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify Education, told eSchool News. “At its best, education technology will change the face of education by helping teachers manage the classroom and personalize instruction.”

Instant connectivity between student and teacher is what Amplify developers believe sets their tablet apart from other devices, such as the Apple iPad.

“If you go to Best Buy or a retailer and buy a tablet off the shelf, it can’t do this,” said Stephen Smyth, president of the Amplify division that created the digital platform that delivers course material to the device, in an interview on NPR.org. “Really, what we’re trying to solve here is actually how to have teachers use tablets in the classroom environment.”

While creating a buzz, the Amplify tablet also has its detractors. Some in education worry the device is more about profit than education and will make it easier for politicians to make the case for eliminating school district costs through cutting teaching positions.

“It’s all part of the same vision they have for transforming education by privatizing it,” Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters in New York, told NPR. “And we have seen, not just in New York City but nationwide, an avid pillaging going on of public resources for private ends.”

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