The Anatomy of the Technology Test Kitchen – Applying Innovative Educational Technologies


Angela Gibson & Kate Sonka, TTK 2017 Co-Chairs

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The Technology Test Kitchen (TTK) is a centerpiece of the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference. Now in it’s fourth year, the TTK offers a hands-on learning experience for individuals to apply innovative technologies in real time.  Physically, the TTK is at the center of the Exhibit Hall, and metaphorically, the TTK is the heart, mind, and soul of the conference.

Technology Test Kitchen at OLC Accelerate 2017
Technology Test Kitchen at OLC Accelerate 2017


Our chefs make up the heart of the Technology Test Kitchen.  These Chefs are individuals from educational institutions who volunteer their time before, and during, the conference creating the dedicated space for learning exploration, hands-on testing, and pedagogical reflection. From colleges, universities, and organizations in and outside the United States, the Chefs: 

  • Develop live learning spaces supporting and moving participants through opportunities to discuss challenges with technology, design, and elearning.
  • Workshop through design solutions.
  • Test out hard and soft technologies and tools for support.
  • Connect concepts learned at the conference to practical solutions to improve quality of their work and the success of their learners. 

Challenges faced by those in online learning are welcome as these Chefs know how to serve up some great dishes!


A conference is more than attending sessions. Part of attending a conference, virtually or onsite, is to discover new tools and resources, find effective innovations and solutions, and connect with others creating support networks that last well beyond the conference. The spaces within the TTK promote engagement of all types based on participant preference.

Reaching participants where they are through different formats is vital. Chef’s Demos at the Chef’s Table offer a personalized interaction between a small group and a TTK Chef providing a step-by-step explanation of a technology, design idea, or innovation. Participants can interact in real time throughout the demonstration, and leave with a recipe in hand to apply to their own work. In the Design Station, there are two areas that offer a place for passive and/or active involvement. Conference attendees stop by and meet Chefs at the Design Thinking station to discuss technology, online design ideas, and challenges. Conference participants are invited to directly engage with the Chefs, or are welcome to simply listen to the conversations.

If participants would like to explore topics further, a Chef can move to the Design Action station to workshop design, technology, and instructional challenges brainstorming and creating solutions on the spot. Taking integration and real time solution-based learning further, a Daily Design Challenge will allow attendees to drop by and offer their own recipes for solutions.


People are the soul of the TTK. Looking out across the TTK each year it is apparent that both one-on-one and large group interaction create meaningful connections and lasting imprints. And, it is also obvious that the TTK has become a place of comfort and rejuvenation. At times conference attendees will find themselves needing a few minutes to reflect, evaluate, and breathe a little between sessions and the new learning taking place. It is not unusual to find conference participants using TTK tables to process what they are experiencing at OLC Accelerate.

Individuals attend conferences to increase knowledge, test out new ideas and tools, and network. Stretching outside what is comfortable, and learning in real time, are part of an educator growth mindset. As such, the TTK includes the Podcast Pantry – a pop up podcast production place. This is where podcasts are being made on the spot. Individuals are encouraged to stop by the production place and watch or taste test (try out) a recipe for real time podcast production. Hands on exploration furthers our connections to the theories and concepts learned during the conference.

Group experiences are also something that internalize meaningful and constructive learning. Part of the soul of the TTK is learning through collaborative fun. The Iron Chef Battles bring together teams who are challenged to craft a “delectable dish”. During each of the four heats, teams comprised of educators and exhibitors compete to answer a technology and design-based pedagogical challenge, as those in attendance watch brainstorming and design of the recipe in real time. Esteemed judges offer feedback and, along with the judges, the audience votes on which of the recipes they are most excited to try. In addition to the educational, collaborative, and good sportsmanship nature of the Iron Chef Battles, the audience, judges, and teams connect in a fun and exciting way leading up to the final Iron Chef Battle between winners of each heat held on the last day of the conference. Emcees, cheerleading, and music all create a dynamic and upbeat atmosphere for our educational soul.

Additionally, the TTK is proud to include featured talks and events, such as our opening kickoff with Matthew Luhn of Pixar. For more information, and to see the schedule of events, please visit the Technology Test Kitchen page. If you have further questions on what will be happening at the TTK, or how to participate in the Technology Test Kitchen, please email at

About Angela Gibson | TTK 2017 Chair, TTK Committee Member and Master Chef

Angela Gibson

Dr. Angela M. Gibson serves as Professor at American Public University System within the General Education department. She also teaches as an adjunct Lecturer in the Higher Education Administration Leadership doctoral certificate program and masters of Adult Education program at Texas A&M University – Kingsville. Additionally, she serves as faculty for the Online Learning Consortium teaching in the Online Teaching Certificate Program, facilitating workshops, and serving as a mentor to professional educators.

Dr. Gibson received a Masters of Arts in Human Performance Systems, with a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design, from Marymount University and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, with concentrations in Adult Education and Community College Education, from Texas A&M University – Kingsville. She has been published in various peer reviewed journals, presents at national and international conferences, and serves on the 2017 Online Learning Conference Steering Committee and is Chair of the Technology Test Kitchen.

Additionally, Dr. Gibson is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador and volunteers as an informal STEM educator creating learning opportunities at schools and with community organizations as well as providing social media outreach for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). She is a recipient of the Online Learning Consortium 2014 Effective Practice Award.

About Kate Sonka | TTK 2017 Co-Chair, TTK Committee Member and Master Chef

Kate Sonka

Kate Sonka is the Assistant Director of Academic Technology at the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University. Ms. Sonka holds a Master’s degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Education and a TESOL certificate from DePaul University. Her areas of scholarly interest include second language acquisition and the role of language in identity development. She has taught a variety of courses including first year writing for non-native English speakers, and a general education requirement course on language acquisition as part of a study abroad to Chengdu, China.

Ms. Sonka has been working in higher education academic technology for 5 years, and is especially interested in how technology and experiential learning intersect through both accessibility, and study abroad/away programs. She is the founder and director of the Accessible Learning Conference at Michigan State University, now in its third year.

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