Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Essential Summer Reading - The Triple E Framework

I first heard about Liz Kolb's Triple E Framework and the accompanying book in her interview with Vicki Davis. I was intrigued. The more I looked into it, the more I'm convinced this is something every teacher should study over the summer.

What is the Triple E Framework?

At the core, it's a simple idea with just a few important resources. I'll sum it up here and include some links.

As any teacher is aware, adding tech to a lesson doesn't necessarily make it better. It might make it a lot worse. Even if the students are actively using the technology and having a great time completing the lesson, it doesn't mean they're learning the content at a satisfactory level.

Liz Kolb addressed this problem by giving us a list of research-based practices and standards that sum up how to best integrate tech. As you might guess, it's based on three E's:
  • Engage - This is authentic engagement with the learning goal (not just the tech).
  • Enhance - This is about choosing tech that adds value to the learning experience.
  • Extend - And here we look at extending the learning beyond the classroom, to the students' personal lives.
The way Kolb defined those three aspects of learning with tech resonated with me immediately. She was putting into words so many things I witnessed and felt as I worked in dozens of classrooms over the past five years. What I love about her work is that it's clear, practical and backed by research

And she relentlessly emphasizes the learning goal of the lesson over the tech. As obvious as that might sound, we all know that's not always what happens when a teacher or administrator discovers some new tech tool.

All of this can be found in her book, Learning First, Technology Second.  I'll say more about the book below, but the good news is everything is open source and it's freely available on the Triple E Framework website. Here are some key parts you'll want to look at:
  • Overview - This page defines those three E's above, but it also lists the nine questions that teachers should use to guide lesson planning or evaluation. The video on this page provides an excellent summary.
  • Rubric for Lesson Design - This is a simple, free tool that allows a teacher to score a lesson based on how it measures up on the nine questions. Every teacher should use it until they've memorized it!
  • Lesson Planning Template - Here's the same information in a slightly different format for lesson creation.
  • Instructional Strategies - We know any tech tool will only be effective when it's supported with quality teaching. Here are three lists of strategies that can support tech for each of the E's.
  • Case Studies - Here are some examples of putting the Framework into action at various grade levels.

What about the book?

I ordered the Learning First, Technology Second right away because I knew I would want the full story. It didn't disappoint!

It provides a lot more detail that what you'll find on the website. Several examples illustrate exactly how the rubric should be used to effectively evaluate a lesson. There are also many more examples of quality lessons in the book.

I most appreciated the chapter on effective instructional strategies that support good use of technology. Rather than just listing them like they are on the above website, the book explains a number of important ones for each of the three E's.

I read the book quickly, but I'll return to it many times for these examples and lists.

Here are a few things that stood out for me:
  • For true engagement, students need a social aspect. Try to leave room for "co-use", either between students or between the student and teacher, when tech is being used in the lesson. That means two students on one device might be better than 1-to-1 and some conversation about the learning goal should be happening as they use the tool.
  • Up to 70% of apps that are promoted as educational have no research behind them to support the claim. We can't assume the tech alone is accomplishing anything as far as real learning. Teachers must be sure instructional strategies are in place when the students are using the tools.
  • Every lesson doesn't need to score high on all three E's. What matters most is that a teacher naturally begins to evaluate tech use in light of the Framework and looks for opportunities to improve in each area.
My only regret about the book is the title. I think it might make it too easy to dismiss. After exclaiming about how much I love the Triple E Framework, I showed the book to another instructional tech and he was less than impressed. Looking at the title, he said, "Yeah, but we all always say that." 

I agree that the heart of the Triple E Framework is to make the learning goal first priority, not the tech. I just hope educators will not stop, thinking they'll find nothing new. The wealth of practical ideas in the book is well worth exploring, even for those of us who have been proclaiming, "Learning first, tech second," for years.

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