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News Corp Amplify Tablet takes a shot at the iPad in K-12

Amplify Tablet


As a systems administrator in a K-12 school district if there’s one thing that I am constantly hearing it is “when are we getting iPads”? It’s incessant, and it’s a thought that is always in the back of my mind. Since the first iPad I think we’ve all looked towards the device and knew it was a game changer, and over the past few years we’ve seen more and more uses for the iPad in the education space. Ask almost any educator who has implemented this technology in the classroom and they’ll gladly start talking about how they’re using it, how the student interaction levels have skyrocketed, and how the students are excited to learn again. Ask any technical support for those classrooms, and well the story changes drastically.

As someone who isn’t an educator I have to look at the part of the iPad which most educators don’t see… the infrastructure required to support it. There’s iTunes accounts to manage, VPP (volume purchase) programs to handle, MDM (Mobile Device Management) systems to install and configure, profiles (Wifi, application lockdown) to manage, and the dreaded Bonjour service which if left unchecked can bring an otherwise solid wireless network to it’s knees or a not so safe for work image to an unsuspecting printer. It’s this back-end infrastructure which keeps me up at night. Apple’s solutions are half baked at best, and most networking companies are still playing catch up to support the devices.

Enter News Corp. You may remember them from “The Daily” or any number of stories surrounding  their heavily disliked CEO and his supporting staff of voicemail hackers… sorry reporters. Well, News Corp has a little known division called Amplify, and today they announced they were releasing a tablet. Everyone else has a tablet… so why not? Yea, I said the same thing you did… Insta-Failure.

Hear me out on this one though – Amplify has a chance. Watch this:

What you’re seeing in that demo is a range of products all rolled into a simple platform designed for the classroom. It’s not a hodgepodge of mac mini servers, or individually developed apps that students can run at will. It’s got so many cool features that, if News Corp can pull it off, they will have me taking a serious look at the platform.

Amplify is run by Joel Klein former chancellor of NYC public schools. So, the guy at the top knows education and knows what it takes to engage students. I’ll leave all the rest of the political commentary to the folks at the NY Times. Add to that some solid hardware (basically an Asus Transformer tablet), and you’ve got a pretty good foundation for building an education device.

Now, the key to what has me excited about the Ampliy tablet is the utilities built in. As you saw from the video, each tablet comes with content already. So out of the box, a teacher can sit down and lay out a lesson with out trying to find content. As the need grows adding content appears fairly simple. Then with the push of a button, that teacher can dump the lesson plan out to each tablet in classroom, work through the material and instantly assess the classroom’s grasp of the topic with survey questions. If a student needs extra help there’s additional content at the ready, again at the push of a button. There’s $20k/yr learning management systems that can’t do that easily, let alone do it on a tablet with a class in session.

Even better there’s classroom management software built in as well, so if a student gets off task the teacher can refocus the student instantly by blocking applications, or locking down the device itself. We pay a lot of money for software like that in our tech labs. What’s more there’s built in MDM for device configuration, application management, plus an option for 4G data with controlled access. If you’ve ever priced those last options, you know the $179/yr price tag is very reasonable.

All in all, as someone who supports tablets in classroom (both in theory and in infrastructure) the Amplify tablet has my curiosity piqued. I’ll be keeping an eye on this platform as it evolves, and I can’t wait to see if it ends up being as good as it looks!

What do you folks think? Does Amplify have a chance against the incumbent iPad?


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  • Patrick Jordan

    I think I get about the same impression as you Brandon, though I don’t know all the infrastructure side like you. If the tablet and its apps and ecosystem are as good as that video then the iPad has some very stiff competition.

  • james

    I think the idea is very sound, but its also very ambitious. Gonna take lots of coordination to implement. Also it appears to be android based. In general Android tablets are super hack able I am curious how they will deal with that.

    While I am not really sold on the idea in a classroom, it would be awesome for remote learning. Could make school very accessible in 3rd world and remote locations.

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  • EducatingMom

    I think that there is better and cheaper than both the iPad and Amplify, for example, Educational Resources’ award winning LearnPad. The LearnPad comes complete with pre-installed content and access to free apps and unlike the iPad, can run Flash-based resources from a range of well known publishers.