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The Triple E Framework: Learning First, Technology Second

By Amber White
 | Aug 04, 2017

Triple E FrameworkUnder what conditions can technology make an impact on student achievement? As I work alongside students, I continually think about this question, as do scholars, education professionals, school boards, and policymakers around the globe. In the classroom we want learning to take center stage, but quite often, the digital tool or software steals the show and deep learning falls prey to the novelty of technology.

Dr. Ellen Wartella describes engagement as “active learning” that is “minds-on” and requires one to be “engaged in thinking, reflecting, and effortful mental activity” so the mere act of “swiping, tapping, and physically engaging with an app is not the same as ‘minds-on’ activity.” Furthermore, research shows that technology has more impact when used to support instructional goals rather than when used as a surrogate for direct instruction. Therefore, if technology effectiveness in the classroom depends on how well it helps teachers and students achieve the desired instructional goals, how can teachers design their lessons to more thoughtfully integrate technology?

The Triple E Framework

Over the past few years, frameworks such as TPACK and SAMR have helped teacher professionals think about the intersections of knowledge they need to acquire to better integrate technology into classroom learning. Building on the work of these frameworks, Liz Kolb, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan and co-founder of the 4T Virtual Conference, designed the Triple E Framework as a practical tool to help teachers put “learning first, technology second.” This framework is rooted in learning goals and instructional strategies for smart tool selection. An easy-to-use rubric that accompanies the framework guides professional thinking on how useful instructional choices are when combined with technology in relation to learning objectives.

How it works

After establishing clear learning goal/s and then determining what technology will be integrated into the lesson, the framework can be used to evaluate overall lesson quality by looking through the lens of the three E’s: engagement in learning goals, enhancement in learning goals and the extension of learning goals. Each of the three components are informed by research and contain three questions that are scored on a scale of 0–2, with 0 = criteria not present in the lesson; 1 = criteria somewhat present in the lesson; and 2 = criteria absolutely present in the lesson (view the printed rubric here and an interactive online rubric here). With three questions for each component of the Triple E Framework, there is a maximum of 18 points that a lesson can earn. So what does the lesson point value mean?

  • 13–18 points: lesson meets all 3 E’s and is more than likely using technology to enhance and extend learning goals
  • 7–12 points: lesson meets at least two of the three E’s; take time to re-evaluate the lesson’s technology choices and instructional strategies to see if learning can be enhanced and extended even further
  • 0–6 points: lesson meets only one level of the three E’s; reconsider whether technology should be used for this lesson

To gain a better understanding of the framework and how to use it to evaluate a lesson, take time to work through this QR Code lesson and fifth-grade example.

Learning first, technology second

The likelihood that technology will effectively be used to improve achievement is greater when digital tools are helping students meet the instructional goals of the lesson. The Triple E Framework is a resource to help teachers design lessons that thoughtfully integrate technology with learning outcomes in mind.

For more information and resources about the Triple E Framework, visit or read, Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons.

Amber WhiteAmber White is a reading specialist, a teacher consultant for the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, and the director of curriculum and instruction for North Branch Area Schools. You can reach her on Twitter @AWhite100.
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