PEARSONalized Learning

I have been pretty relentless in mocking Knewton CEO Jose Ferriera for his “robot tutor in the sky” description of the company’s adaptive learning product. And I pledge to continue this proud tradition. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

But the truth is that most of the vendors in this space, both startups and traditional textbook vendors, are not doing a whole lot better than Knewton. The reason the “robot tutors” quote remains so useful is that it is a beautifully compact and self-explanatory illustration of the same symptom that shows up throughout the industry. Vendors struggle find ways to pitch their products that educators won’t find both offensive and ridiculous. In today’s episode of the evergreen marketing sitcom, we’ll see examples of Pearson making analogies or prominent references to Netflix, Google Ads, and one other surprise tech hype guest. (You don’t expect me to give you all the spoilers up front, do you?)

For the most part, it’s not that these companies are conspiring against educators (although we do get periodic outbreaks of “disrupting education” talk driven by Silicon Valley bros who are want to make a virtue out of the fact that they don’t know how to sell to schools). Nor is it that the people in these companies are stupid, or that they don’t understand their own products. Rather, it’s a manifestation of a larger problem of our culture. Most people who are not teachers, whether they work for education vendors or not, don’t understand what teaching is. They have a very rough Gradgrindian sense of it. Learning, in this view, is not an activity undertaken by learners but something that is done to them. You screw off the tops of the students heads, pour the knowledge in, and voila! They have been learned! Learning can be done to students equally well by a person or a machine, since it is not “personal” in any way that relates to normal understanding of the word, and it certainly is not interpersonal.

The people inside education companies that work with customers closely in designing the products often (though not always) have a more sophisticated understanding of teaching than this. But the further away the employees are from product development, the less likely they are to understand how teaching really works. The inner workings of the classroom are just not part of their daily lives. As I wrote in my review of InstructureCon, it’s very hard and rare for any company of over, say, 100 employees to be strongly aligned and consistent across its culture. This is doubly (or even trebly) true when the alignment you’re trying to get cuts against the grain of strongly held cultural notions like the ones we have of teaching. So there are a lot of employees inside most of these companies that don’t get it. Some of them are decision-makers. Some of them are allowed to speak in public. Some of them are both. The result is generally…not good.

It’s probably worth providing a more detailed version of the full disclosure thing than usual for this particular post. Pearson is a client of MindWires, the consulting company that Phil and I run together. When we do consult for vendors (as opposed to universities, which is the other half of our main business), our focus is on helping them understand the needs of students, educators, and schools. We don’t take money to advise them on marketing except in the narrow sense that we try to help them understand the kinds of educational problems that their customers want to hear (and talk) about how to solve. One of the reasons we try to be meticulous about drawing this line is that it leaves our hands clean to write the kind of public critique that I am about to offer here. We always tell this to our corporate clients and let them know that we could write a critical piece about them at any time without warning or editorial review, as long as we are not writing about proprietary information that is part of our consulting work with them.

So here goes….

A good education is not like a good mix tape

The first examples of the problem come from a pair of interviews of Pearson CIO Albert Hitchcock in a UK tech publication called V3. The first is entitled “Pearson aims to become the ‘Netflix of education’“.

A vendor is already in deep trouble when that’s the headline. The piece contains gems like

“The analogy I use is to be the Netflix for education. We want to create a single platform to deliver all educational content and services, irrespective of the age and stage of the pupil,” said Hitchcock.

and

“Much as you would consume movies through Netflix, or buy services through Amazon, we want education to be delivered through this single, quality user experience, but available to all ages and stages of learners.”

Given his profile on LinkedIn, Mr. Hitchcock appears to be new to education except for whatever memories he has of his own days as a student. Let me offer a couple of suggestions on how to get along in education for him and the many vendor employees who are in a similar situation:

  1. Never, ever, say that you want your company to be the Uber of education, the Airbnb of education, the Pokemon GO of education, or the [insert name of tech darling] of education unless you really enjoy being a recluse (or you are secretly a double agent for your employer’s direct competitor).
  2. If you absolutely must say something like the above, then do not say you are the Netflix of education. Honestly, Netflix isn’t even great at being the Netflix of movies. The last time they recommended a movie that I actually wanted to watch was…uh…never.

There is a recurring cultural fantasy that “solving” the education “problem” consists of creating a customized playlist of little content bits. So really, more like the Spotify of education, if you want to play that game. This idea enrages educators because it trivializes what they do. Nobody who has taught believes that proper sequencing of content chunks is the hard part. (For a fully fleshed out prior example—or a “worked example” in teaching parlance—of how the sorts of comments Mr. Hitchcock have made typically play out in educational corporate branding over time, see my post-mortem on Udacity’s pivot away from higher education.)

The second noteworthy quote from Mr. Hitchcock came in the article, “Struggling to find a data scientist? Use machine learning instead“:

“We’re starting to meta-tag all the content so it can be chopped up into component parts and reassembled on the fly [for each user],” explained Hitchcock.

He likened it to the techniques used by firms such as Google in selecting which ad to display online based on its understanding of each user.

“But our use case is much richer. We’re changing the nature of the content, so we need deeper analytics, and we use Pearson’s unique intellectual property to modify that learning content on the fly,” he said.

We’ve gone from Netflix to Google Ads. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Can we get a spamming algorithm analogy just for good measure?

PR disaster aside, the day that Pearson fires all its data scientists is the day they should go back to selling paper trade books. First, educational contexts for machine learning are not just “much richer” than serving ads. They are orders of magnitude more complex. If Mr. Hitchcock wants to get a sense of what that means, he need look no further than Pearson’s own breadth and depth of published research. Like this paper on assessing case analyses in bioengineering ethics, to pick the one that happened to be first on a list of publications on Pearson’s research web site.

Second, many of the most interesting and valuable patterns that need to be spotted in any class that has a human teacher are the ones that happen at least partly outside of the digital content. No amount of rich metatagging will solve that problem. You will always need human scientists to make sense of what’s happening in the digital part of the education by looking at the analog part. Most publishers (though not Pearson, ironically enough) have been very slow to understand that this kind of anthropological data science work is a core competency for their business now. Mr. Hitchcock’s comments strongly suggest a basic lack of understanding of teaching, which is deeply worrying given his senior role in the company and apparent ability to get press access.

Serving our robot overlords

The next gem comes in the form of a sponsored article at Education Dive written by Christa Ehmann, Senior Vice President and Chief Education Officer at Smarthinking, Inc. – a Pearson Company (quoted from her LinkedIn profile). It’s not Gradgrindian in the classic sense but there is definitely a grinder in here somewhere. The article is called “A vision for PERSONalized learning.” OK, so we know from the start that the piece isn’t going to be subtle, but at least the emphasis is promising. There’s a lot of the standard quoting of definitions and citing of trends in the beginning that you can frankly skim or skip. The nub of the piece starts here, in the seventh paragraph:

The discussions are vibrant, and the technical developments are rapid. Unfortunately, the heart of any successful personalized learning system is often neglected: the human teacher, tutor, coach, or mentor. [Emphasis in original.] While these indispensable people are indeed recognized as working in conjunction with and alongside personalized learning elements, they are typically positioned as distinctly separate.

Personalized learning vision, research, and development will be far more transformative if it focuses on opportunities to strategically interject human-delivered instruction of all types throughout its technology and content. By positioning human teachers at the center of these systems, we can create truly transformative and seamless learning environments that are both scalable and economically viable.

Now we’re getting somewhere. There’s some language in there that troubles me. But I’ll give you a pass for now since at least we’re talking about humans in general and teachers in particular. Tell me more about this vision…

To understand what this might mean in practice, imagine a scenario like this:

  1. A content author melds text with media drawn from news reports, factually represented fictional scenes, lab settings, and verified social media content.
  2. Using Virtual or Augmented Reality devices such as Microsoft’s Hololens®, the learner is then placed within the content as a participant.
  3. A human teacher or tutor is then seamlessly interjected into the learner’s experience, walking through key processes (e.g., demonstrating a chemical engineering process or helping a nursing student calculate dosages for a life-or-death injection).
  4. While text and other content remain accessible in the background…

Stop. Just stop. Don’t go any further. Please.

So step one for bringing “the human teacher, tutor, coach, or mentor” into “the heart” of “PERSONalized learning” starts with a content author. Who, in fairness, is a person, at least until Mr. Hitchock figures out how to replace content authors with algorithms. Step 2 is Microsoft’s Hololens®.

Let me say that again. Step 2 is Microsoft’s Hololens®.

Finally, in Step 3, a human teacher or tutor is “seamlessly interjected into the learner’s experience.”

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The use of passive voice alone should have been enough to set off alarm bells. Microsoft’s Hololens® coming before the teacher who is the PERSON headlining the piece should have been a five-alarm fire for whichever PR PERSON approved (and paid for!) this article. Most disturbing of all, though, is that unlike Mr. Hitchcock, Ms. Ehmann has the title “Chief Education Officer” and has a PhD in Education from Oxford. She should know better.

Update: In fairness to Ms. Ehmann, please see my comment in the Google+ thread below, which provides a more charitable and probably fairer way to frame the problems with her article.

I know from my public work as an analyst, our consulting work representing schools when we have dealt with Pearson on their behalf, and our consulting work directly with them that these examples do not represent the monolithic views of the company. Pearson has historically been the antithesis of Instructure in terms of internal alignment. Asking what Pearson thinks about education has only been slightly less complex and semantically indeterminate than asking what America thinks about the 2016 Presidential election.

Update: Case in point: Here’s an article in EdSurge by a Pearson employee entitled “Why We Don’t Need a ‘Netflix for Education‘.”

Despite recent efforts to reduce their alignment problem (including their massive effort around “efficacy”), these articles suggest the problem is stubbornly persistent. The fact that two senior executives were allowed to make these kinds of egregious statements in public does not inspire confidence that folks inside the company who really do understand teaching and learning are the ones who are driving the bus (assuming the bus has a driver).

But the larger point is that Pearson is no more unique than Knewton in being unable to stop itself from putting its foot in its mouth on topics related to digital education. The shift to digital requires these companies to understand much more about teaching than they did when they were just shipping books off and letting teachers do what they like with them (which sometimes was almost nothing). And by “companies,” I mean all the employees in the company, and certainly all employees who are allowed to make strategic decisions or speak in public. Because these examples of Pearson’s public statements are really, really bad. If you look around at the other textbook and adaptive learning vendors, both large and small, most of them are not doing much better, either.

Going back to the point I made early on about where we draw the line between our consultant and analyst roles, Phil sometimes jokingly calls posts like this one “free consulting.” In that spirit, we offer these gifts to our colleagues in Pearson and the rest of the ed tech industry:

(https://youtu.be/8wDw33NLuT0)

(https://youtu.be/USAHX56lWqE)

We made these for you. Use them directly or just use them as models. Use them in your external communications and, more importantly, in your internal communications.

Or you can just keep letting Netflix, Google Ads, and Microsoft’s Hololens® be your dominant themes when you talk about the future of education. That could work.

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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27 Responses to PEARSONalized Learning

  1. Pingback: "Nobody who has taught believes that proper sequencing of content chunks is the hard part." http://mfeldstein.com/pearsonalized-learning/ via: @mfeldstein67

  2. mikecaulfield says:

    The Hololens thing was great. I may bookmark it for the EDUCAUSE column, as an anti-pattern.

    My thoughts are predictable here — taking off from your “bits of content in the right sequence is not the hard problem”.

    My main addition is just that we need more bits. Like, lots more.

    I was talking about this with my wife, who teaches middle school art. A lot of systems do “Priniciples of Art” as an outcome matrix — “line, pattern, space, shape” etc.

    Our daughter’s teacher has a method of doing this that is boring and ineffective. The students work on a project where they draw one thing over the course of WEEKS in different ways — one primarily with line, one with texture, etc.

    Nicole, on the other hand, exposes her students to a rich variety of art.

    * One day they do drawings in style of Alma Thomas

    * The next it’s Albers

    * Then it’s Rauschenberg

    That’s like day three.

    It’s not that I’m saying “More content in the curriculum!” Please, lord, no.

    But students gain a much richer understanding from examples, and they need lots of them. We think analogically, metaphorically. But the analogy machine needs examples or it’s not good.

    Anyway, this is me being a broken record saying that the idea of sequencing content as a primary activity is even more pernicious, because it usually implies selecting some “best” piece of content, rather than helping students build up the seemingly redundant examples they need to do some serious thinking with. There is no best content, because what you really want the students to doo is triangulate from multiple pieces of content, and triangulation isn’t really sequential.

    Blah blah blah. But had to say it. 😉

  3. And we would miss you if you didn’t. 😉

  4. GalleryP says:

    I find this article a bit astonishing in a “bite the hand that feeds you” fashion, but more importantly think it misstates Pearson’s and other educational service providers’ role in education.

    Let’s face it, Pearson’s (various, inconsistent) opinions about what makes for a great education are irrelevant. It is the educators and administrators (and to a lesser extent, students) who decide what content, tools, and services are relevant to their needs and it is the providers’ job to offer those services as best they can, nothing more and nothing less. And, of course, the educator’s decisions and choices are not consistent, either. (But definitive statements from a service provider are either sales pitches or just reflect their hubris that they are at the center of a process in which they are decidedly not.) If they provide what even a significant minority, let alone a majority, of their customers want at terms they can afford, they will prosper. Maybe that’s why they admire Netflix, albeit I agree that otherwise that example seems naive.

  5. If we don’t criticize our clients at moments when criticism is appropriate, then how can we be trusted to give fair analysis? Our clients are self-selecting. They know who we are and we do. We respect them—including Pearson—for understanding our complex role in the ecosystem and trusting us to manage the balance between our role as private advisors and public watchdogs in ways that are beneficial to everyone, including them, in the long run.

    Your point about the diversity of needs in the market seems to boil down to “Hey, if people are buying what they’re selling, then everything’s good.” First, I disagree with the premise. Our focus on e-Literate is improving education. The market is a means to an end from that perspective. It doesn’t always serve that end equally well. But more to the point, people are *not* buying what Pearson is selling anymore in sufficient quantities. Have you read any of their quarterly earnings reports? Have you noticed the fact that both of their largest competitors (at least in higher ed) are now owned by private equity and one filed for bankruptcy? Their mainline business is slowly dying and they have not yet found a viable replacement. Their current messaging will not help this problem, which is the main point of the post.

  6. GalleryP says:

    Thanks for the response. And you caught me, I’ve always believed that high quality, useful products and services will sell as those in the market seek to improve their results/satisfaction. Is this incorrect? And it is the customers who get to decide what these services are, no?

    And yes, I agree with you, some of the traditional providers have currently lost their way as they try to discover on their own or tell their customers what they want – this is mostly wasted energy and expense – rather than listening to them,working with them, (and possibly your team as well.) The educational customers are the experts, not the service providers.

    As just one example, too many politicians and service providers thought the K-12 market wanted Common Core, but how’s that worked out? Closer to home, I have no idea whether the current focus of much provider/venture investment, “adaptive learning,” will prove generally or just marginally useful, though I tend to believe the latter. The market does not seem to be rushing to adoption.

  7. Phil Hill says:

    Great convo here so far.

    I’ve always believed that high quality, useful products and services will sell as those in the market seek to improve their results/satisfaction. Is this incorrect?

    Although this is from a non-publisher example, see Dammit, the LMS for counter-argument to this assumption.
    http://mfeldstein.com/dammit-lms/

  8. GalleryP says:

    Thanks for jumping in. I don’t quite, however, see your point. Instructure has done a great job of capturing market share albeit they don’t yet make money, so I don’t really know how sustainable that is. And besides, per the previous post, the reason they gained share is they gave instructors what they wanted for grading, rather than the feature set the author thought was more valuable. The market saw something it valued (rather than what it was told to value,) and Instructure was rewarded, but the rewards so far haven’t been sufficient to completely overwhelm the merits of their competitors or to make them financially successful, at least by conventional measures.

  9. Phil Hill says:

    The point I was making is that one cannot always assume that high quality, useful products and services will be commercially successful. Yes, there are examples of correlation bet such as the Instructure grading one you mention, but there are also many examples of the market rewarding poorly-designed products. In fact (per Michael’s foul-mouthed post), the market can even encourage that which they do not want or need (feature bloat in LMS space).

    It would be nice if educators and administrators showed and used what they need and vendors produced products and services based on that, with the best-designed options winning most often. But the situation is more complex.

  10. GalleryP says:

    “Feature bloat” is not typically a successful long term strategy as it raises costs without significant benefits, and but I agree it happens for a variety of unfortunate reasons including the “asks” of a specific customers, and not just in the LMS market. And yes, some service providers and customers need to do a better job of managing this, and if they do, they will be rewarded. And while I mostly avoid examples from differing industries and the analogy here is far from perfect, Apple has typically done a good job of avoiding feature bloat, and is wildly successful by about any financial measure you could imagine.

  11. The education “market” is not like, say, the car market. It’s not just a question of looking at price, features, and reviews and making a decision about the best product. It’s mediated in all kinds of weird and complex ways, including cultural dynamics. Our role, both as public bloggers and private consultants, is to be a kind of family therapist. Neither buyers nor sellers have the tools to communicate and work with each other productively on a consistent basis, which is the kind of transparency and predictability necessary for both functional markets and functional families. We try to help the two sides understand each other better so that they can work together better. Occasionally, this means calling bullshit on one side or the other when the two are sitting together—i.e., publicly on the blog—so that they can get past problems that are causing distrust to build in the relationship.

  12. GalleryP says:

    Don’t get me wrong: I read this blog regularly because it seem you two really do try to give balanced advice and careful reviews and don’t just rely on your own opinions. I don’t know a source that is consistently better, though I did find today’s post disappointing (which is why I commented.) But I also think those in the education industry, on both sides of the table, over-intellectualize how the market works, and it is often more like “cars” than you assume. High quality products and services offered reliably at reasonable terms succeed far more often than those of lesser value, and the customer base,which in this instance generally tries very hard to be discerning, is best arbiter of that value.

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  15. No worries, GalleryP. We don’t take offense. We just have a different perspective on the complexity of the decision-making process, on both sides of the table.

  16. sashatberr says:

    I’d love to read an article about the companies that are getting it right (or closer to right.) I concur that a lack of talented folks who teach and have taught but are not SMEs within edtech companies is a huge barrier to success for both established companies and startups.

    Sasha

  17. Sasha, as I said in the Google+ comments thread above, there is no shortage of really smart and knowledgeable subject-matter experts at these companies. It’s more a problem of cultural shift of the larger organization, which is made harder because these companies have co-evolved with educational institutions that also have yet to make the difficult cultural shift.

    I don’t think there are a lot of examples of companies that are doing it right yet. the McGraw Hill Education team is very good at not saying the wrong things and showing that they understand some of the hard challenges in front of them. Their sales reps are often another matter entirely. I like some of what I’m hearing out of small companies like Lumen, Acrobatiq, and Soomo. Blackboard has been saying some of the right things about analytics. (Full disclosure: McGraw Hill and Lumen are both clients of MindWires.)

    But I don’t think we’ve figured out as a sector—vendors and educators alike—what these newfangled data-driven things are good for and how to frame their value in ways that do more good than harm.

  18. TheCypher says:

    What a pointless article. Zero substance. This entire article seems to be about how stupid and clueless everyone is and how they all need to enlist the consulting services of ‘Sir. Feldstein’ for his priceless words of wisdom. Because he knows better than everyone else. With all due respect Mr. Feldstein, rather than write about how everyone is stupid except you; why don’t you try offering some constructive wisdom? Because there is none whatsoever in your article.

    Case in point, being a technologist myself, I find your comment about Mr. Albert Hitchcock not having experience in the Education Industry, completely moronic to be honest. Why does a CTO of an Education Company need to have experience as an educationalist? Going by your logic, the CTO of Uber should have been a cab driver at some point in his life to be considered qualified for the job and the CTO of Netflix should have been an aspiring movie star, the CTO of Amazon a bookseller and so on and so forth. Do you see how stupid an argument this is?

    For ‘anybody’ in ‘any’ industry to think that their job can never be done by a computer and in fact can be done better, is plain ignorance and stupidity. Educators and education are no exception. We are living in an age of drones and driverless cars Mr. Feldstein. Why is the idea of machine learning and analytics driven delivery of ‘effective’ educational content so far fetched? If you notice, all the people who are critical of this concept are educators (of course, nobody wants to be told their jobs can now be done by a computer, do they?). I am sure accountants, cash register clerks, toll workers, ticket vendors, cab drivers, pilots and a whole lot of people in other professions said the same exact thing not too long ago. It has just taken a little while longer for educators to join that club. It will happen Mr. Feldstein; whether you like it or not.

    How much personalized teaching do children get in public schools today? 30% of the children in an elementary grade are probably bored out of their minds because they are at a more advanced level than the topic being taught. Another 30% need extra help and may be the remaining 40% are at the right level for the curriculum that is being delivered. Sensible people all agree that not every student is the same and that is exactly why we need “Adaptive & Personalized Learning”. Especially at the elementary education level. Nobody is talking about ‘teacherless schools’ just yet Mr. Feldstein. Nobody is saying this will replace teachers. We can only produce so many teachers. So there is no need for panic.

    You have taken the concept of Adaptive & Personalized Learning and intentionally (I certainly hope it was intentional because if it wasn’t then I am wasting my time here) oversimplified it as a playlist or a mix tape. We both know it is not that simple and we both know that is not what technologists (including Mr. Hitchcock) are talking about. Creating a playlist of related items in a random order doesn’t need any technology. But if you really want to create an intelligent system that responds to student interactions with appropriate content that will help the student get from a point A to point B in the least possible time with the least number of steps, then that requires serious technology and engineering.

    As you rightly pointed out, Mr. Hitchcock is a technologist, not an educator. And that is why I bet you he was referring to Netflix’s engineering capability when he said “Pearson aims to become the Netflix of education”. I am sure he wasn’t referring to the Netflix ‘recommendation engine’. Because any serious technologist will tell you that Netflix probably has the best engineering horsepower on the planet at the moment when it comes to software engineering. No less than Amazon, Google or Facebook. What you may not know sir since you are not a technologist (based on your profile, I am not sure what you are frankly. I am still trying to figure that out. Might need a recommendation engine for that one), is that Netflix is one of the first large scale consumer businesses to truly utilize the capabilities of the public cloud. They are on the cutting edge of Open Source technology and at any point in time they are probably either contributing to or in the process of creating in excess of 30 new Open Source technologies.

    In closing, Mr. Feldstein or should I say ‘Sir. Feldstein’, if you want to make a career out of taking people’s comments out of context and writing blogs about them, I suggest you cover the current Presidential election campaign instead. You will have better luck. Or perhaps try writing scripts for Michael Moore.

    Oh! by the way, you will never have to worry like the rest of us about a computer taking your job. I am pretty certain they will never invent a computer that can write blogs like you do.

  19. Sorry, TheCypher, I’m not taking the bait. Very brave of you to use your real name when making such a bold critique, by the way. Me? I’m an open book. If you want to know “what” I am, you can find out plenty without going too far. There’s twelve years of posts here. I’m not going to be troll baited into a protracted argument with you or into defending my credentials. But I will provide a couple of quick points.

    First, if you want context, here’s some, provided by somebody who is not me:

    “If the views expressed by leading edtech companies are any indication, the race to become the first ‘Netflix of Education’ is gathering steam. Comments from both established learning companies like McGraw-Hill, as well as more recent entrants like D2L and Udemy, reveal a strong push among edtech companies seeking to position themselves as “education’s answer to Netflix.”

    “One feature of Netflix in particular seems to have captured the imagination of edtech companies. The future of learning—we are repeatedly told—is found in personalized instruction, a term often interpreted as delivering educational content tailored to learners’ preferences, interests, and schedules. This is a view of personalized learning that is strikingly similar to the approach Netflix has popularized with movies.”

    That quote is the first two paragraphs from the EdSurge article referenced in my post, which was written by a Pearson employee. That is the context in which Mr. Hitchcock made his Netflix reference.

    Second, if you think that writing pieces like this one are attempts to advertise our consulting services, then you’ve never been a consultant. While I readily admit that Phil and I are not the best marketers in the world, we’re not dumb enough to think that publicly criticizing current clients is a great way to drum up business. We always discuss pieces like this with each other before we publish and have to feel that we have compelling ethical obligations as analysts for doing so. Sometimes we may go too far. Other times we may not go far enough. I won’t pretend that we always get it right. To the contrary, I’m pretty sure that we don’t. I’m comfortable letting our regular readers–who actually know something about the sector–as well as our clients, make their own judgments. And you can make yours too.

    As for the rest of your arguments…well. Like I said, there’s twelve years’ worth of writing on this site. If you really want to know my answers to your other points, they’re already here somewhere. Since you don’t strike me as a person who has spent a lot of time studying education and ed tech, you might find value in doing some homework.

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  21. Actually, Sasha, upon further thought, I should have referred you to this post in answer to your question about examples of companies doing it right: http://mfeldstein.com/pop-quiz/

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  24. Amie Brown says:

    Thinking you might benefit from Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset”. I took the time to read your article because I try my best to maintain a Growth Mindset but not feeling inspired to offer retort to something that seems so cynical and closed minded. Luckily, Pearson employs many leaders with Growth Mindsets. Don’t underestimate one’s capacity to learn and grown.

  25. Amie, I’m sorry you feel this piece is closed-minded and cynical. I don’t see it as either. Hard-hitting, yes. But critical is not the same as cynical.

    I am familiar with Carol Dweck’s work. I’m not sure how it applies here. You seem to think that I am writing off Pearson. That is not accurate. I have a history of praising companies—including Pearson—when I think they are doing good things and criticizing them when I think they are doing bad things. That’s my responsibility as an analyst and watchdog in educational technology.

    Since we’re trading reading suggestions on maintaining a growth mindset, you may be interested in the piece I wrote about Pearson’s efficacy work in 2013.

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