Tech Expo 2019: Let the games begin!

Speaker: When it comes to tech, look to the research for what works best

  Liz Kolb encourages teachers to ask the question “Why” when it comes to the technology they use in their classrooms.

A research associate at the University of Michigan and the keynote speaker at Tech Expo 2019, Ms. Kolb made a compelling case for turning to research-informed strategies for deploying classroom technology. She admits it was a lesson she learned from the experience of her own early teaching.

“When I look back on that, after reading the research many years later, I realized I made a lot of mistakes and I didn’t use research-informed strategies,” she told a capacity crowd at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Ms. Kolb said that research into multitasking led her to realize she had to change her classroom structure. Technology is closed, and devices are turned off during her discussions. Only specific and purposeful use of devices is allowed during those times.

She illustrated how not only is the student who is using a device distracted but so are the students nearby. Take away the technology and kids have deeper discussions. There’s less distraction and repetition.

Rather than argue against technology, she made the case for using it purposefully.

“To this day I now swear by this method because it works really well for my classroom,” she said.

Overflow rooms were needed to handle the crowd of educators to what LHRIC Executive Director Kathy Conley called the Technology Leadership Institute’s “capstone event” of the year.

“This is the event where we truly reach down into the classroom and have so many of our teachers attending,” Ms. Conley said.

She applauded the progress made over the years from when classroom technology was new and educators were figuring out how best to use it to support students.

“What I’m seeing now is we’ve perfected this. So how do refine it and make it even more diverse?” Ms. Conley said. “We’re using technology to reach even higher heights.”

More than 300 people turned out for the daylong series of 28 breakout sessions, lunchtime “power-up” sessions and a “Learning First, Technology Second” panel prior to the afternoon “TLI GooseChase Rally” scavenger hunt.

Tech Expo is a showcase for what works, what to look forward to and what to avoid in the move to a more personalized learning environment across teaching and learning.

Ms. Kolb is the creator and coordinator of The Triple E Framework, an open-source framework for K-12 teachers and administrators to use to assess the effectiveness of technology in lesson plans. The three Es are Engagement, Enhancement and Extension, and she applied a rubric based on them to a sample lesson using iMovie.

The result suggested iMovie isn’t the best technology tool by all measures. When seeking to improve a lesson in such an instance, she offers this advice: change the tool or change the strategy.

Using more technology doesn’t translate to greater students success, she warned. By way of example, she told of how her own daughter came home from school  with many different technology tools. Her child’s teacher admitted she didn’t use any of them with the kids but sent them home because they were provided.

She made the point that the teacher matters more than the technology.

“One thing that’s very clear is that there is no magic tool that’s going to make students learn,” she said. “It really comes down to the fact—and hundreds of pieces of research make it clear—you are the magic.”