News Corp. Wants to Hack the Classroom
News Corporation has been shaking things up right and left: Rupert Murdoch is stepping down from the directorships of the company’s UK newspapers.
Peter Rice, who has been head of Fox News’s entertainment unit, is now head of the Fox Networks Group. This puts him in charge of all programming and operations for the group, for Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports Media Group, FX, Fox International Channels and the National Geographic Channels. David Hill, chairman and CEO Fox Sports, since 1999, will become News Corp.’s senior executive vice president.
Meanwhile, things across the Atlantic have been heating up for News Corp.
Criminal Charges For Former Murdoch Execs
Murdoch’s removing himself from the UK papers was well-timed. On Tuesday, criminal charges were brought against two ex-News of the World editors, Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. Both have strong personal links to Prime Minister David Cameron, Coulson as his spokesman and Brooks through her friendship with him via her husband, a horse trainer and longtime friend of Cameron’s. The prospect of Coulson and Brooks facing criminal trials — guaranteed to have extensive press coverage — are a “potentially serious hazard” to the Prime Minister, who faces a general election in 2005. Along with Coulson and Brooks, six other former NoW staffers face a total of 19 criminal charges.
Back in the USA: Hacking the Classroom
Perhaps this is why, the day before, News Corp. made an announcement of a completely different sort, about how it plans to “disrupt” education with technology. Joel Klein, the CEO of Amplify, News Corp.’s new k-12 education division and the former New York City education chancellor, announced today how the company intends to shake up education through technology and, specifically, through a new tablet computer it is launching with AT&T.
Students will be able to use the tablet not only in the ways students are already using tablets in school, for e-textbooks and accessing the internet. News Corps.’s educational tablets will enable assessment — of teachers by students — through mobile tools. Explains TechCrunch:
Amplify has also partnered with Wireless Generation, an education firm that builds mobile assessment technology, so that teachers can evaluate students on-the-fly … Klein couldn’t immediately reference any supportive peer-reviewed research on the impact of mobile assessment, but did note that Amplify plans to put significant resources into the development of nascent technologies. Wireless Generation tells us via email that there are currently two studies “underway,” one by the Department of Education’s research arm, the Institute for Education Science, and another by the University of Michigan. “Quite frankly, the research reflects the state of the art, and I think we’re going to change the state of the art,”¯ which is a good indication of just how comprehensive Amplify aims to be with their product development.
“On-the-fly” student evaluations of teachers?
It’s not that I don’t think students should evaluate teachers. As a college professor, end-of-semester evaluations by my students are routine and, while I do cringe to read the evaluations, I always learn something valuable so I can try to be a better teacher.
But these evaluations are made when a class is nearly over and with time for them to think things through in responding. “On-the-fly” comments from students sound potentially troubling and liable to reflect arbitrary feelings and opinions. Students are so accustomed to typing a comment and sending it off via text or Twitter; will such comments be genuinely helpful? Should they be used for such career-making, or breaking, purposes as teacher evaluations?
Given that News Corp. has come under scrutiny from the phone hacking scandal in its British newspapers — Monday brought reports of stolen cell phones — interesting, if not intriguing, that the company is making digital devices a centerpiece of its education strategy.
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