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Learning First, Technology Second #motivationmonday

Today Liz Kolb @lkolb talks about how we can put learning first and a very important reason technology should be second. We’re also hosting a giveaway of her new book on this show.

learning first, technology second liz kolb

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In today's show, Liz Kolb talks about the role of learning and technology:

  • What is the role of technology in learning
  • When technology is a distraction
  • The 3 E framework Liz teaches
  • How we can make technology improve learning and not distract from it
  • A fantastic collaborative idea with parents and students

I hope you enjoy this episode with Liz Kolb!

Want to hear another episode on improving learning with technology? Listen to Eric Sheninger talk about digital pedagogy that improves learning.

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Full Bio As Submitted

Liz KolbLiz Kolb

Liz is a clinical assistant professor in education technologies at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. She authored Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education (published by ISTE in 2008), Cell Phones in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for the K-12 Educator (published by ISTE in 2011), Help Your Child Learn With Their Cell Phone and Web 2.0 (published by ISTE in 2013), Learning First, Technology Second (published by ISTE in 2017).

In addition, Liz has published numerous articles and book chapters on new technologies and education in prominent publications such as Education Leadership, School Administrator Magazine, Scholastic, Edutopia, ISTE's Edtekhub, and Learning and Leading with Technology. Liz has done consulting work and has been a featured and keynote speaker at conferences all over the United States and Canada.

Liz is currently co-chairing an auxiliary committee for the U.S. Office of Education Technology on sustainable professional development in teacher education. She is a MACUL board member and a member of the COSN advisory board for mobile learning and emerging technologies. She is passionate about engaging students in education and leveraging learning opportunity through digital technologies. Liz is also the creator and coordinator of the Triple E Framework, which is an open-source framework for K-12 teachers and administrators to use to assess the effectiveness of technology in lesson plans. Her blog is at

Transcript for this episode

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[Recording starts 0:00:00]

Learning first, technology second. This is episode 81.

The Ten-minute Teacher podcast with Vicki Davis. Every week day you’ll learn powerful practical ways to be a more remarkable teacher today.

VICKI:   Happy Motivational Monday. Liz Kolb @lkolb

is with us today talking about how we can put learning first and technology second. So Liz, this is the title of your book  that has just come out. How do we put leaning first and technology second because there’s so many toys and things we can play with out there? Isn’t it easy to get distracted?

LIZ:              It’s very easy to get distracted. And I absolutely am guilty of being distracted by the technology which is why this book came about. Over the last couple of years many teachers and administrators had come to me saying we now have a one-to-one program, we now have a lot of technology in our school through difference funding sources but now we’re worried about whether or not the technology is actually effective for the learning. We’re using it a lot but we feel as though maybe we’re using it because it is shiny and it looks good and it feels good but we’re not actually impacting learning in a way that is meaningful.

I spent six years looking through the research on what’s effective and ineffective when using technology and learning and I found that there are a lot of things that we know about goof effective instructional strategies with learning that we were leaving out when we were integrating technology. So, things like when we look at engagement, no just looking at whether not the student is using a device individually but making sure that they are having some kind of human-to-human contact co-engaging or what we call joint media engagement and working together with the screens.


This framework came about because of much of this research that I looked at and I originally developed this triple E framework

which is what the book focuses on for my student teachers. They found it to be incredibly helpful, so then I have kind of decided to put it together into this book. The reason why it’s called Learning First, Technology Second is because the framework focuses on the learning goals and the end in mind and thinking about the ways that we leverage technology in order to meet those learning goals rather than focusing on the technology first and the wow of the technology.

VICKI:          So what is the triple E framework? Are you able to give us a quick summary because we’ll, of course, want to point everybody to the book?

LIZ:              Yes. So the E stands for engagement and learning goals, enhancement of learning goals and extension of learning goals. And all three of those were again, informed by the research that engagement does not necessarily mean looking at the device but it actually means what we call high attention as well as high comprehension. So they are not just focusing on the device but they’re actually focusing on the learning goals through the device in some way. And then enhancement looks at how we leverage the learning through technology, how we’re adding scaffolds in support. So is it differentiating learning? Or are we helping students get to those higher order of thinking skills. What is the value added beyond something we would do with traditional tools? There’s no value added, then we should question why we’re using it.

And then the third level is extension which talks about how technology can reach students in their everyday lives and extend learning to the authentic everyday world and make those connections for students. Kind of situating their learning in what they’re seeing in the outside world.


VICKI:          So really we don’t use technology for technology sake, technology has to actually improve learning, right?

LIZ:              That’s our hope. I am somebody who the first time I learned PowerPoint I turned all my lectures into PowerPoint thinking that was the magic snake oil that we needed to have students learn. And what I found was that while they were engaged, they weren’t actually learning more. My few students were still few students. My students who did well still did well. And so, I realized that there’s a lot of ways we use technology because it looks good and it’s kind of shiny, but if we want to look beneath the surface we really want to look at how it’s actually meeting and helping us get to the learning outcomes that we help our students get to.

VICKI:          So, Liz, this is Motivational Monday and I have all of this worry. Like, “oh my goodness.” What does work? Can you point us and motivate us, help us to point towards things that actually do work in the classroom?

LIZ:              Yea, there’s a lot of great things that work with technology. First of all, co-use is very important as I mentioned earlier. Working together on a screen is how students begin to reflect on what they’re doing on a screen. So rather than having students all working individually with headphones on and their own iPads in the classroom, pair them up, have them work together. That can make a large difference in their ability to comprehend what they’re seeing and doing in the classroom.

VICKI:          Also the other thing that we want to think about is how are we able to use technology to connect to everyday experiences. So rather than having them isolated in a piece of technology think about how we can use things like Skype  to connect to other classrooms or something like the Google Expeditions  to experience what it might be like in the artic if we can’t actually get there. So thinking about how we’re using technology to help students experience things that they couldn’t experience and work together.


                    That co-engagement is so key and it’s just a small change that you can make. Pair students up or choose a software like Google Docs that allow students to work with other people through the tool itself in a synchronous way.

VICKI:          So collaboration and working together and co-creation is widely important?

LIZ:              Yes, it is. So skills, those higher order critical thinking skills that we continue to talk about – I know many people talk about the C’s and making sure that that’s actually happening with the technology and it’s not so isolated.

VICKI:          And Liz, you know, you’re speaking my language when you talk co-creation because when we create and we help kids create things that are more than they would have been as individuals that’s when the magic happens, isn’t it?

LIZ:              It is. And it’s so amazing because the other things we do in the classroom, we often have students paired up and working together or we’re working with the students and helping them work through ideas and build knowledge together. Sometimes we put technology in front of them we forget they still need to do that, they still need to have those conversations.

VICKI:          They do. I’m just really excited to hear you talk about co-creation because it’s just not something people talk a lot about. I mean, I think people forget the greatest software every invented is the human brain. And when we truly unleash that collaboration and co-creation is when we see things that we couldn’t do without technology.

LIZ:              Absolutely. And very rarely are the greatest inventions and things we’ve seen in society individually created. There’s always a group of people working together to make that happen. So even if I can give a quick example; in my daughter’s classroom they use Google Docs to write their stories and work on editing. And the teacher actually shares with the parents when they’re going to be working on it so we can log in at the same time that they’re working on it.

And the teacher gives us some scaffolds as supports of what we should ask and how we should ask it and what we should be looking for.


                    So we’re having these conversations to help them build their writing and as a parent I’m also learning how to learn them, so we’re both learning at the same time.

VICKI:          Now, that’s a genius teacher. I hope after the show you’ll introduce me because you have blown my mind. I mean, I know we have helicopter parents and that’s not necessarily a good thing. However, that really is unleashing the power of parenting and partnering with teachers and parents and students, isn’t it?

LIZ:              Absolutely. And parents want to know how to help their children learn. And many times they just don’t know how to do it. So they’ll often just plug their child in front of an app or a computer to do it but in reality if the teachers can get them online at the same time and give them some support and how them how to do it the parents are really excited to do that. And I can’t tell you how excited my 4th grader is to see me logged on at the same time. And all of a sudden she’s really interested in the different forms of grammar and the detail in her writing. And it has exponentially improved her writing and my ability to see those things as well.

VICKI:          My mind is just running and there’s so many ideas with what we’ve discussed. And thinking about co-creating with parents as well as peers is very powerful. So listeners, Remarkable Teachers, we’re going to be hosting a giveaway for Learning First, Technology Second so do check the show notes and enter  to win and take a look at this book. Liz has done so many great things, she’s one of the first people that I read when I really got in to using cell phones in the classroom. She has so many resources for us. But let’s really think about Learning First, Technology second. But also when we’re learning how we can be co-creating ad collaborating. I’m so excited.

Hello Remarkable Teachers, would you please help me do something? I’m trying to help more people find out about the Ten Minute Teacher Show. To do that, if you just could take some time to go to iTunes or to Stitcher or to leave a review. It really does help. Thank you so much.


Thank you for listening to the Ten-minute Teacher Podcast. You can download the show notes and see the archive at Never stop learning.


[End of Audio 0:10:23]


[Transcription created by Some additional editing has been done to add grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Every attempt has been made to correct spelling. For permissions, please email]


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Casey Korder May 22, 2017 - 7:19 am

Excellent Episode very relevant in a world with so much technology being integrated in the classroom.

Susan May 23, 2017 - 2:31 pm

I really enjoyed listening to this discussion. Some of the ITC’s in my county are reading the book this summer. It was great to get a jump start!

Michelle Catallo May 28, 2017 - 11:55 pm

I find the push to use technology in the classroom was a cart before the horse action; while I agree to the need and its abilities but, I think it could be done better.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere