Avoid Sucker's Choices When Choosing Technology for Schools

Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson continues to the conversation begun by Tim Holt, George Couros, Chris Lehmann and highlighted by Dr. Scott McLeod:
This 90% debate is worthless. Would you try a cancer cure that is 90% effective - if the alternative is no cancer cure? Would you marry a woman who makes you happy 90% of the time - if the alternative is never marrying? Would you try a teaching method that works for 90% of your students - if the alternative is keeping on doing the same old, same old? 
Wait for 100%, Miguel, and you'll wait forever. Yes, I'll take 90% functionality in the device I can afford today, rather than wait for the mythical 100% tomorrow.

Of course, I don't disagree with this assertion. Even 80%, much less 90%, of the list of learning activities--which I've detailed for the purposes of this conversation online for your review--of the conversation make the technologies under discussion worthwhile. I suspect the root of this argument is less the fact that Chromebooks are inadequate, and more that some have an unreasonable preference for one technology over all others.

When I look around, I focus on the technology that gets the job done. If that's Windows (I hate Windows), then that's the tool. If it's Linux, then Linux is it. If it's Mac or iOS, then that's what I go with. Avoid the sucker's choice, "Either we go Apple because it's the best blah blah blah, or nothing."
Either / or choices are Sucker’s Choices. The best at dialogue refuse Sucker’s Choices by setting up new choices. They present themselves with tougher questions that turn theeither/or choice into a search for the all-important and ever elusive and. 
In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler write about how to search for the elusive AND. (Source: Refuse the Sucker's Choice)
The approach to take is suggested in the blog entry referenced in the quote above:
Step 1. Clarify What You Really WantFirst, clarify what you really want. For example, “What I want is for my husband to be more reliable. I’m tired of being let down by him when he makes comments that I depend on.”
Step 2. Clarify What You Really Don’t Want.Second, clarify what you really don’t want. For example, “What I don’t want is to have a useless and heated conversation that creates bad feelings and doesn’t lead to change.”
Step 3. Present Your Brain With a More Complex Problem.Third, present your brain with a more complex problem. For example, “How can I have a candid conversation with my husband about being more dependable and avoid creating bad feelings or wasting our time?”
Some have argued that some devices should find no home in public schools. I would argue that all devices might find their place in public schools because our choice of tools should reflect the wide diversity of peoples and needs in society. We only narrow those choices down when funding is limited. In that case, we ask the question:
Which technology can we use to achieve the most learning objectives AND is cost-effective?
Step 1 - Step 1. Clarify What You Really Want
What I want is technology that helps students and staff achieve desired learning objectives and allows maximization of limited fiscal resources.

Step 2 - Clarify What You Really Don’t Want.What I don't want is for the District to spend tons of money on technology that won't be usable in as many teaching and learning situations as possible. I don't want folks buying any technology that catches their eye today, but fails to align to the real needs and work they are about, and eventually, that technology ends up sitting on a shelf, in a drawer un-used.

Step 3 - Present Your Brain With a More Complex Problem.
How can we better clarify the technology that meets our needs so that we don't waste time, money and effort on approaches?

In one District I am familiar with, they've begun the conversation about limiting the technology-based instructional delivery methods based on whether they aligned to "The EC Way." Their overarching goal is as follows:

Create, sustain, and grow a culture of learning for all.
And, they back it up with 7 guideposts that they've identified examples to go with:

  1. Learners actively regularly participate in authentic and engaging work so that they persist when the work is difficult. 
  2. Learners work in appropriate groups including cooperative, heterogeneous, homogeneous, or individually to maximize learning.
  3. Learning is integrated between subjects and across medium (including technology) so that skills are not taught in isolation, but instead applied to relevant work. 
  4. Learners benefit from customization of content, process, and product, layered support, and scaffolding to ensure individual success. 
  5. Learners receive a frequent feedback loop clearly communicating concept mastery.
  6. Learning outcomes are predicted by the rigor of activities and the time spent on task.
  7. All learners--students, teachers, and families--partner together to optimize learning.

What guideposts are you considering when it comes to technology purchases?

Image Source
Guidepost - http://goo.gl/tsNBz

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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