Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Friday, July 5, 2013

Murdoch's Wireless Generation, education's NSA?

I'm half anticipating that a techie or two over at New Corp's ed division will jump ship and flee to Hong Kong after whistle-blowing Murdoch hacking of U.S. students' families. Maybe a Wireless Generation competitor like McGraw-Hill or Pearson, will offer them asylum on one of their privately-owned islands.

Former N.Y. schools chancellor, Joel Klein became Murdoch's go-to guy on damage-control after the company’s News of the World tabloid in Britain had hacked into the phone of a murdered 13-year-old, Milly Dowler. London hearings soon revealed that Murdoch's criminal enterprise was bribing officials and  hacking phones and internet (including police) nationwide.

In 2010, News Corporation paid $360 million for a 90% stake in Wireless Generation, a company based in Brooklyn that specializes in education software, data systems and assessment tools to help teachers analyze student performance and customize lessons.Once the British scandal died down (what short memories the "wireless generation" has), Klein led his company’s aggressive push into the U.S. education market.

Murdoch soon became the darling of U.S. corporate school reformers and keynoted Jeb Bush's 2011 Education Summit. Hundreds of cash-strapped public school districts (including Chicago) were encouraged to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and have handed Murdoch's people control of all student records and family information. Murdoch/Klein's on-line teaching program, Amplify, is also a top industry seller.
Review from a former Wireless Generation employee-- "A lot of poor quality work passed off as final products, most everything is worked out in production leading to many hot fixes and more long hours. Little respect for teachers or end-users in many within the company.... No, I would not recommend this company to a friend."
The school data-mining business is very competitive and includes Gate-funded operation, inBloom. Aside from accessing student records, it is also being used to spy on teachers and violate their privacy in many ways, ultimately replacing them altogether in the classroom.

I'm not opposed to online teaching/learning or record-keeping and think the new technology has much to offer, especially in the area of integrated and personalized learning, pacing and remediation. But there's no evidence that Murdoch's products are a successful application of if Klein is just a good (well-connected) huckster.

I do know that Murdoch and Klein are the last guys, outside of Booz, Allen, Hamilton and the NSA, that should have their hands on student records and school information.

Just waiting for that whistle to blow.

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