When Maine's Governor announced that he was awarding HP the contract for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), and not to Apple (who had been Maine's partner in MLTI for the last 12 years), he also told schools that they could choose from any of the 5 finalist proposals. Schools had flexibility to decide which solution matched their needs best.
But many of the discussions that have followed seem to have focused almost exclusively on the device (mostly the HP laptop, the MacBook Air, and the iPad). I think because of the focus on devices (and the passion techies have for their devices!), the conversations seem to have bordered on “Platform Wars” at times (with the vim and vigor that all religious wars have!)
But MLTI was never supposed to be about platform, nor the specific device, and not even “job skills.” It was always supposed to be about tools for learning. And I wish schools would discuss learning tools more, and less about device, OS, and job preparedness.
Not even the proposals are about the device. The device (laptop or tablet) is only one component of a whole solution: device, network, software, tech support, projection, professional development, etc. (Supposedly, in support of learning…)
So I'm hoping that schools are looking hard at their school visions for learning, thinking about technology supporting teaching and learning, but also doing a side by side comparison of the solutions as they work to make their decisions.
Any of you who are involved with Customized Learning may have participated in the Complex Reasoning training. In that training, we learned that Decision Making happens effectively when you identify criteria, rate the possible choices against those criteria, and then choose based on the ratings and analysis.
I encourage each of us, as we think about what direction we are going to go, to think not primarily about our preferred OS or device, or “job prep,” but rather about comparing the full solutions:
- How does the PD compare? (And is it focused on teaching and learning, or on the device and the software? Does it focus on leadership for implementing 1to1 and for school change?)
- How does the software compare? Is it just productivity tools or is it a good set of software for teaching and learning (including productivity tools)?
- How much technical support can we expect? Repairs? Imaging? Set up?
- What about data storage? How much? How easy? What happens after the contract?
- What about the device? Appropriate for student use? Battery life? Quality of network? How well does their projection solution work, not just for teachers, but for kids?
- What is the provider's experience with education? (Not simply providing tech, but in helping schools use their tech for teaching and learning – how well do they understand teachers' context?)
Auburn has a good idea of what choice we are selecting, but I'm not arguing that you choose what we choose. I am arguing that you look closely at comparing the 5 solutions against all these criteria. If you and your decision makers do that, and you choose something different that we did, that's great! At least you compared all elements of the solution.
I would just be disappointed if you chose based on “one criterion” (e.g. OS, favorite platform, or “it's the device I use”) or used criteria that don't match the vision and purpose of MLTI (e.g. used “job prep” instead of “learning tool” for your purpose), even if you end up making the same choice we do.
The State has provided a side by side comparison document (available here).
You don't have to use the point scores from the Review.
Do your own rating, but compare the solutions against all those criteria.