Amplify's Middle School Content: Learning Is Beautiful

Posted: Mar 3 2014, 6:21am CST | by , Updated: Mar 3 2014, 7:16am CST, in Technology News


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Amplify's Middle School Content: Learning is Beautiful

Amplify just unveiled their digital ELA curriculum for grades six, seven, and eight.

“It took a long time in gestation because it is unlike anything anyone has ever done in public education,” said Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify and former chancellor of New York City Department of Education. “This is not some old wine in a new bottle, like a digitized textbook with a few animations,” he said. “We’ve brought together world-class instructional materials, rich multimedia and a powerful analytics engine that will transform the way teachers teach and students learn.”

Amplify is best known for the orange tablets that they unveiled at last year’s SXSWedu, but this curriculum is not hardware specific. It will work on non-Amplify devices and it will be available for $45 per student. The press release is quick to include that this price includes an e-library of over 300 books and a collection of games that students can play outside of school (the games are really slick. Read my previous article here).

Klein emphasized that this is not about screen-based instruction with a robot avatar. “The teacher is the key deliverer of the content,” he said before providing three reasons why he believes this is the “right time” for new interactive learning materials.

  1. The availability of devices. Schools are rapidly adopting digital devices, but that doesn’t mean there’s adequate learning content available.

  2. More new teachers are young digital natives. Which presumably means they feel more comfortable with digital tools in the classroom.

  3. “This whole thing of the common core.” Klein is not the only high profile person in education I know who believes that achieving the common core standards will be very very difficult without adopting new digital tools.

Amplify’s new curriculum is “built on top of an education-friendly analytics engine that is designed to help students read three times more and write three times more, as well as to help teachers provide students three times more meaningful feedback.”

“This is about teaching and learning,” Klein explained.

The Amplify ELA curriculum is beautiful. It sports really impressive graphics, dramatic readings, and top notch writing. Aesthetics were clearly a priority here. It looks great.

I haven’t seen enough of it to evaluate the content or the pedagogy as a whole. But it is clear that the folks at Amplify are putting a lot of thought into what learning materials would look like if built from the ground up at a time when tablets and chromebooks are ubiquitous. The lessons are multimedia and the production quality is exceptional.

I have to admit that I’m pretty excited to see the entire curriculum. What might happen to education when school materials have production qualities comparable to mainstream media’s?

We all still have lots of questions about educational technology in general and Amplify in particular. For example, what do we make of Amplify as a News Corp company, do they belong in classrooms? Is there enough evidence, research, or data showing that one-to-one device implementation is a good idea? When digital learning platforms employ complex personalized analytics, how do we protect student privacy? There are many more. I’ve covered a lot of these issues in the past and I’ll continue to cover them in the future. But not today.

For now, I’ll just offer some screenshots from Amplify’s curriculum for those of you who are interested in getting a sense of the look and feel. Also, be sure to check out the video at the end–a teaser for Amplify’s dramatic reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s the Raven–my kids (6 and 8 years old) found it enthralling.

Jordan Shapiro will be speaking at the Global Education And Skills Forum in Dubai (March 15-17) about game-based learning, educational technology, and the future of learning.

Source: Forbes

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