DAILY INSIGHT: Avoid sucker's choices when choosing tech for schools

By Miguel Guhlin, CIO Advisor

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 the either/or choice into a search for the all-important and ever-elusive and.

In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, the authors write about how to search for the elusive AND. (Source: Refuse the Sucker's Choice)

The approach to take:

Step 1. 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.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.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?”

People 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 people 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. 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 ends up sitting unused on a shelf.

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?

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?

Miguel Guhlin is director of technology for a 5A school district in Texas and past president of the statewide TCEA Technology Education Coordinators group. This blog is cross posted at Around the Corner.