Amplify: News Corporation Forms New Brand for Education Division

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by Amy Chozick,
New York Times July 23, 2012

The News Corporation said on Monday that its education division would operate under a newly formed brand called Amplify.

In partnership with AT&T, the division will offer digital learning tools to kindergarten through grade 12 students, part of the media company's strategy to tap into the multibillion–dollar public education market.

The announcement is part of a larger restructuring by the News Corporation as it prepares to split into two separate publicly traded corporations. The education division, led by the former New York City schools chancellor Joel I. Klein, will join News Corporation´s newspapers and its HarperCollins book division in a newly formed publishing company. The more lucrative entertainment assets, like cable channels and movies and television, will form another, larger company.

Amplify will begin piloting its digital learning tools in the 2012-13 school year, News Corporation said. AT&T will provide 4G tablets, Wi-Fi service and technical assistance.

In separate moves, News Corporation also announced changes to its senior leadership in the entertainment division. Peter Rice, the chairman of entertainment for the Fox Networks Group, is adding the title of chief executive. He will be in charge of all programming and operations including sports, which David Hill took over in 1999 and built into one of the most successful sports operations in media. Mr. Hill is being promoted to senior executive vice president, with responsibilities that include programming, digital initiatives and opportunities overseas.

Mr. Klein is making the transition back to his role building the company's education division from his role as one of Rupert Murdoch's closest advisers dealing with the British phone hacking scandal.

"We´ve been planning this for quite a while," Mr. Klein said in an interview. "But the fact is I am here full time, and I think we wanted to make sure the announcement coincides with that so people know I´m doing this full time."

The News Corporation first got into the education business in 2010 when it paid $360 million for a 90 percent stake in Wireless Generation, a company based in Brooklyn that builds education software, assessment tools for teachers and data systems that help measure children´s performance and customize lessons.

Amplify will include Wireless Generation, but also expand on its core mission of data-driven tools, Mr. Klein said. He divides the education unit into three divisions: Amplify Insight, which is focused on educational analytics; Amplify Learning which focuses on curriculums in English, science and math; and Amplify Access, which would develop new delivery systems to bring digital learning into classrooms.

"This is not about digitizing textbooks," Mr. Klein said. "The question is what comes across those new platforms, and if it´s the same old, it isn't going to work."

Among educators, digital learning tools are a contentious issue. Many teachers see them as a way to make classes larger, add an extra burden to the job or cut down on teachers´ jobs altogether. Mr. Klein said Amplify's approach was "about empowering teachers."

He added, "I´m candid that if this isn't embraced by teachers in America, it won´t work."