Although the vast majority of schools and teachers have embraced technology as the powerful learning tool it is, many still struggle to incorporate it effectively into their existing curricula and teaching practices. In this month’s issue of Educational Leadership, Professor Liz Kolb of the University of Michigan School of Education shares a refreshingly intuitive and useful framework for teaching with technology.

Kolb spent a decade working with school leaders to determine what works, discovering “that the secret ingredient to learning with technology is found not in the tools themselves… but in the instructional methods the teachers employ with the tools.” To illustrate her learning, she developed the Triple E Framework to guide our collective efforts to integrate technology meaningfully into our classrooms.

The first E is for engagement, the holy grail of education. As Kolb reminds readers, “learning occurs through social interaction” – thus, teachers should choose apps and tech tools that bring students into collaboration with others. When they can’t – when the technology is strategically designed for a single user – teachers can make sure to incorporate reflective exercises and opportunities to give and get feedback around their work. Kolb includes a helpful set of questions teachers can ask as they determine whether a tool will enhance engagement or cause distraction – for example, “Does the technology allow students to focus on the task with little distraction?” “Does the technology cause [an unintented] shift in behavior?”

The second E is for enhancement, which is necessary for deeper and more critical thinking. “Many of the tools that ask students to use their creation or synthesis skills are not content-specific,” however, meaning that in order to assure that technology is enhancing learning, teachers need to “purposefully design strategies to help connect the content learning to the creation software.” A critical question for teachers to ask themselves any time they incorporate technology into a lesson is, “what value is added to the learning experience by integration this technology over a traditional method?” I love the value-add question because it prioritizes the experience of students.

The final E, extension, is where all learning should land. In Kolb’s words, “learning happens when it is situated in authentic contexts. Technology should help bridge real-world learning with the classroom curriculum.” Indeed, technology is one of the most powerful ways to build bridges in and out of schools, second perhaps only to loading students onto buses or planes and taking them into direct contact with the world outside their walls. I appreciated Kolb’s essay for its balanced perspective on the promise as well as some of the pitfalls of educational technology.



Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.