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News Corp's education unit launches digital lessons

By Jennifer Saba

(Reuters) - News Corp's education division Amplify on Monday unveiled a digital curriculum aimed at middle school students in a move to kick-start growth in the unit after years of investment.

The curriculum is for English Language Arts aimed at sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students, and features content from a library of e-books, dramatic readings by actors, story animations, and role-playing games about classic authors such as Edgar Allan Poe.

"If this succeeds, teachers will want to use this to orchestrate their lessons," said Joel Klein, the chief executive of Amplify and former New York City schools chancellor.

Amplify is betting on the changes roiling U.S. school districts, which are spending billions of dollars on digital technology at the expense of textbooks. At the same time, many states are moving toward adopting Common Core, a national academic standard that Amplify follows.

Amplify will make the digital lessons available starting at $45 per student per year in fall 2014. It plans to roll out curriculum for students in kindergarten through grade 12 for English, math and science at a later date.

The curriculum will work on a variety of devices, including Apple's iPad and Google's Chromebook.

Amplify has its own tablet that it introduced last year, but that product has faced some challenges. A North Carolina school district suspended the use of the tablet because of technical problems involving the charger.

Education is a cause close to the heart of News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch, who has been a vocal advocate of school reform.

News Corp purchased Wireless Generation, a New York-based educational analytics and assessment firm, for $390 million in 2010.

News Corp has since focused on expanding the educational unit and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the business. For the quarter ending December 31, News Corp reported it spent $10 million related to product and curriculum development for the unit.

(Corrects acquisition price of Wireless Generation to $390 million from $300 million in 9th paragraph)

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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