TPACK – affectionately known as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge is the work of Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler, both associate professors of educational technology in the College of Education at Michigan State University. As well, Mark Hofer and Judi Harris at the College of William & Mary use the TPACK concept with student-teachers. At the center of the concept is how those three knowledge areas–technological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge–interact with one another.

TPACK is achieved when those three forms of knowledge intersect, and Mishra and Koehler believe that true technology integration occurs when educators can understand and use those relationships fully.

In the same ways that TPACK is knowledge that results from teachers’ content, general pedagogy, and technology understanding, it is comprised, in part, by three particular aspects of that knowledge that are represented by the other three intersections depicted. These are:
Pedagogical Content Knowledge: How to teach particular content-based material
Technological Content Knowledge: How to select and use technologies to communicate particular content
Technological Pedagogical Knowledge: How to use particular technologies when teaching

As technology becomes an increasingly important tool for teaching and learning, a concept focusing on how teachers can effectively and effortlessly tailor technology to their instructional practices is making its way into teacher P.D.

Successful technology integration is rooted in PLANNING the curriculum content and students’ content-related learning processes primarily, and secondarily in savvy use of educational technologies.

Unfortunately, many teachers wishing to incorporate educational technologies into curriculum-based learning and teaching begin with selecting the digital tools and resources that will be used. When instruction is planned in this way, it becomes what Seymour Papert (1987) calls “technocentric”– focused upon the technologies being used, more than the students who are trying to use them to learn. Technocentric learning experiences rarely help students to meet curriculum-based content standards, because those standards did not serve as a primary planning focus. Accompanying pedagogical decisions (including the design of the learning experience) often focus more upon use of the selected technologies than what is most appropriate for a particular group of students within a particular educational context.

When integrating educational technologies into instruction, teachers’ planning must occur first with standards-based curriculum requirements, then effective pedagogical practices, and finally, available technologies’ affordances and constraints.

When it comes to technology and teaching, Koehler and Mishra believe that technology influences knowledge, and vice versa.

Technology has to be integrated into the content and pedagogy, but it has to be used in an innovative manner as well. If educators integrate technology effectively, it becomes more meaningful because it connects learners to the content–and something creative and new emerges from that effort.

“TPACK describes a form of knowledge–it’s not an approach in and of itself, but it describes knowledge that teachers need to have to connect technology with their curriculum,” Hofer said.

Harris and Hofer said, teachers can learn to integrate technologies into their curricula so they enhance teaching and learning, and in such a way that it becomes almost second nature to do so. The focus should be on students’ learning, and not on the technology itself.

What do you notice about each of these photos?

Use the right tool for the job! TPACK is the right tool/concept/strategy that assists in planning effective, efficient, engaging and empowering learning experiences for students. I would also add that we must remember our students’ learning needs.

Learning activity types function as conceptual planning tools for teachers; they comprise a methodological shorthand that can be used to both build and describe plans for standards-based learning experiences. Each activity type captures what is most essential about the structure of a particular kind of learning action as it relates to what students do when engaged in that particular learning-related activity (e.g., “group discussion;” “role play;” “fieldtrip”). Activity types are combined to create lesson plans, projects and units. In the activity types approach, educational technology selections are not made until curriculum-based learning goals and activity designs are finalized.

Combining Activity Types
As helpful as providing taxonomies of learning activities may be, the true power of utilizing activity types in designing learning experiences for students is realized when combining individual activities into more complex lessons, projects and units. The breadth of a plan for students’ technology-integrated learning is reflected in the number of activity types it encompasses. Though activity types can be used alone, more types included in a single plan typically help students address more curriculum standards simultaneously and in more varied and engaging ways than when fewer activity types are combined. The parameters of different activity type combinations—which reflect the complexity, amount of structure, and types of learning planned—are what help teachers to select among them.
Combining 1 – 2 activity types usually produces a class time-efficient, highly structured, and easily repeatable
experience, comprised primarily of convergent learning activities. It is completed often in just one or two class
Combining 2 – 3 activity types yields a class time-efficient, yet longer duration learning activity that is more
flexibly structured, and is comprised often of more divergent learning activities.
Combining 3 – 5 activity types produces a medium-term, somewhat structured, both convergent and divergent exploration of curriculum-based content and process.
Combining 5 – 8 activity types forms a learning experience of variable length that is a somewhat structured, yet flexible, and usually mostly divergent exploration of content and process.
Combining 6 – 10 activity types creates a learning experience of rather flexible duration, structure, and content and process goals. It is the longest and most complex of these combinations, and therefore would be planned relatively infrequently for use in most classrooms.

Planning for students’ curriculum-based learning that integrates appropriate and pedagogically powerful use of the full range of educational technologies is challenging. Considerably detailed and deliberate planning decisions need to be made, based upon multiple decision points, and chosen wisely from among a full range of possible educational activities that incorporate technologies in powerful ways.

In thinking about the TPACK concept, this also assists with teacher’s planning – a great resource for teachers/students to use when selecting tech tools to complete an activity.

Interested in learning more about TPACK or getting more involved in the TPACK community? Here are a few ideas:
Visit and contribute to the TPACK wiki.
Join the TPACK SIG.
Join and contribute to the TPACK Google group.
Review and provide feedback on the TPACK Learning Activity Types wiki.
Access past issues of the TPACK Newsletter.
View recent (but unedited) mentions of TPACK (including tweets) on the Web at Matt Koehler’s “All Things TPACK”.

Image – scissors

By Nicole Lakusta

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