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Understanding the Origins of Ed-Tech Snake Oil


Personalized learning! Adaptive learning! Brain science! Learning science! Big data! New and improved! The marketing for “personalized” educational products can feel a little like a late-night infomercial. Rather than getting common-sense explanations of how the products work or being provided with peer-reviewed research to justify ambitious (if vague) claims, we are simply reassured that a product works because it is “based on the science of neuroplasticity.”


In other words, there are plenty of good reasons to be suspicious of the marketing claims even when you trust the company’s leadership completely. And how often do you trust your vendor’s leadership completely? In the worst of cases, I’ve gone as far as calling some marketing claims “snake oil.”