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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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Twitter Chat About Playing Games and Making Games for Learning

On April 18 I moderated #6thchat. It was an excellent hour of discussion about playing and making games for learning. I wrapped up with a video and question about my Game Design Project Packs.

Here's the Storify archive. I realized afterward I didn't always use #6thchat on my replies, so they won't appear hear. You can see all replies if you expand a tweet that's part of a conversation.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Using Games and Game Design in the Classroom - a Twitter Chat on 4/18

I'm excited to say I'll be the guest moderator of #6thchat on April 18, from 9:00 PM -10:00 PM, EST.

The title of the chat will be Playing Games and Making Games (of all types) for Learning. Where will we go with such a broad topic? To give you an idea, here's some of my background in games and education.

I've loved playing games all my life. For as long as I remember, I've had a passion for learning new ones and for creating my own.

I have created some simple computer games, but board and card games are by far my favorite. My most popular designs have been party games and couple of them have been enjoyed by people all over the world.

As a former high school math teacher and now as an instructional tech coordinator, I shared my interest of all these games with students throughout the 23 years of my career. From digital to traditional, strategy board games to party games to role-playing games, I've explored their potential for learning, both in and out of the classroom.

I've used them as warm-ups, for creativity exercises and for critical thinking activities. I have also helped several teachers lead game design projects based on course content.

I'm convinced of the power of games when it comes to teaching and learning. At the same time, though, I've seen them used ineffectively in the classroom. I know it's possible to make a fun, popular game activity that doesn't result in the learning we need to see.

It's from this cautious optimism that I generated list of questions for the chat. I hope you will join us on 4/18 as we discuss effective ways to use games for learning!

And it won't be the primary focus, but I will talk about my Game Design Project Packs. Check out this post and the quick video below if you want to learn more about this fun activity for deep learning.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Another Fun Middle School Computers Lesson - Making Comics with Google Slides

I've been posting some of the creative projects we used in our middle school Computers class. (See this post on simple podcasts and this one on animation.)

Those of you who regularly follow my work will be very familiar with the basics of this one -- Comics with Google Slides!

When we did this in class, the excitement level went through the roof! Many students in my district have learned this process already, so some took their own pictures instead of using the ones provided in the directions. You can modify those as necessary for your class.

Click here to get a copy of the Google Doc that contains the directions for students. It links to this sample comic.

Those directions take students through the process of creating a comic. It uses some of my resources that you can find on my Comics page.

Also, this video tutorial is referenced in the directions. It shows the basic process.

And in case you missed the header image above, remember you can get my free ebook about making comics like this by joining my monthly newsletter list. Please click here to sign up.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fun Animation Project with Chromebooks

This simple animation project from our middle school Computers class proved to be the most engaging one we've done so far. I'll post all the videos, the directions and some tips below so you can easily adapt it for your class.

We used the Stop Motion Animator app on Chromebooks. (They finally released an update for the app after a bug had made the previous version unusable for several months.)

Students had a ton of fun with this project! They watched my simple tutorial (below) and were making animated videos in no time. A few groups didn't want to stop at the end of class!

You can see in the photo that our students used Lenovo Chromebooks with the reversible camera. It allows them to easily capture images on the table in front of the device. If you have Chromebooks with cameras that only face the user, it's a little more challenging to get pictures of objects on the table and see the screen at the same time. (Here's a blog I came across that shows how one teacher addressed this problem.)

Here are the simple example videos that I created for the project:

And here is the short tutorial that shows how to use the app:

This document contains all the directions and links to the above video files.

And here are a few tips and things to consider:
  • I didn't mention in the video that the spacebar is the shortcut key for capturing a frame and that the Undo button will delete the last frame of the animation.
  • In my tutorial I neglected to emphasize the importance of slight movements of the object from frame to frame. I also didn't state that it looks best if the camera stays in the same place. Consequently, some students made a very choppy series of images. It sort of hinted at action, but I wouldn't call it an animation.
  • We had a little trouble with the app when we tried to load a previously saved video or when we were recording audio. Usually restarting the app or the Chromebook solved it.
  • You'll notice the directions refer to a contest for the best animation. I selected five videos from those submitted and posted them on our school's homepage. Students could vote (using a Google Form) for their favorite. Here's the winning video, created by one student who won a snack and soft drink for his efforts.
I hope your students enjoy this activity as much as ours did! If they create videos you'd like to share, I'd love to see them and show them to our class.