Personalized learning v. targeted advertising

Arguing that ‘the line between educational and commercial purposes may be somewhat blurry,’ Katherine Varker, Associate General Counsel for McGraw-Hill Education, asks:

Where does targeted advertising end and personalized learning begin?


The fact that you don’t know – or don’t care – means that I don’t want your company anywhere near my kids.

6 Responses to “Personalized learning v. targeted advertising”

  1. It is very important for schools to protect students personal information. As a mom, graduate student, and teacher, I am in support of proposals to protect student personal information. Anastasia Martin EDM 510 Website Anastasia Martin EDM 510 Blog

  2. Scott: Who is Kevin? Honeycutt? Massive indictments against Tad Honeycutt in our area regarding millions of dollars misspent in Charter Schools. Court hearings still pending. I wonder, any connection between the Honeycutts?

  3. Let me try to make things a little less blurry for the confused textbook publishers.

    Let’s say Mary Mathyness has students spending part of each class logged into an individualized remediation and practice website; and every night, Mary has them do online homework assignments on another site.

    Mary wants to know which students are making progress, which students are struggling, which students are getting the homework, and which students didn’t do the homework at all. Oh, and she’d like to have all the homework results automatically recorded in her school’s gradebook system rather than her having to manually enter the grades in herself.

    None of this is about raising standardized test scores or identifying the “bubble kids.” Instead it’s about not letting the kid in the back row fail the class because Mary didn’t have time to check homework in class because there’s a fire drill in fifteen minutes, or because Mary didn’t notice that Johnny is completely lost because she had to deal with a discipline issue on the other side of the room.

    With teachers increasingly using multiple online sites, someone came up with the idea of a learning management system (LMS). The best practice versions help kids AND teachers. Instead of teachers keeping track of student log-ins for each site, the student just signs in with one password—like signing in with your Facebook or email account. In addition, all of the data from each site is transmitted to the LMS, which can compile it into customizable and usable reports. And finally, a best practice LMS should be able to automatically transmit online assessments and homework results into the school’s grade book system.

    If the textbook providers wish to share student data to accomplish these goals, that is called A GOOD THING.

    If the textbook providers wish to share student data so that students can get personalized ads to buy Taco Bell Doritos locos tacos, that is called a BAD THING.

    Glenn Laniewski
    Latest Post:
    Math Video Challenge Registration Now Open!

  4. There isn’t enough context in the linked article to know if Ms. Varker is referring to technology or to products. If she is describing the tech she is absolutely correct. If she was talking about specific products your reaction would be justified.

    The TECH that allows targeted ad delivery based on usage history is the same that would allow us to target content to kids based on their personal interests – hockey, horses, horticulture etc. Not only is that benign it might improve engagement and support teachers.

    But, if she is talking about PRODUCTS that would include advertising targeted at kids in school your point is taken. That would be a mistake.

    Without more context it is difficult to reach the kind of sweeping condemnation you issued.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lee. The concern here, I believe, is not between technology or products but rather USAGE. Can’t we clearly identify substantial and important differences between using tech or products for learning versus advertising?

    • I’ll add a second thought to this, which is the automatic framing of kids as subjects. This is a very different view than the one I put forth in my TEDxDesMoines video, for example, in which students have agency, control, direction, and power over technology rather than simply being objects or TARGETS of others:

Leave a Reply to Al Vogler