This morning we did an activity that was analogous to the Technology Pedagogy and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework to help us draw connections between it and our teaching practices. Essentially we were given a kitchen tool at the beginning of class (a spatula for instance) and then randomly divided into groups and instructed to “make” something (fruit salad for example) using only the tools we were given at the beginning of class.
I took a few things away from this activity. First, the ability to be flexible was incredibly important. Just because you’ve never used an olive spoon to make a sandwich before doesn’t mean that it might not have a use (using the handle to spread peanut butter). Sometimes the tools that we have can be used in ways that we didn’t think possible. Our “content” in the context of the activity was sandwich making. The “technology” was an olive spoon. The pedagogy was how the spoon was used to contribute to the making of the sandwich. As teachers we are always trying to balance these three things. An appropriate intersection of the three places a teacher in a position to deliver a quality lesson (or make a quality sandwich).
Beyond flexibility, it became clear to me that a deep knowledge of all three contexts, technology, content, and pedagogy is vital to success in this model. Without the deep knowledge of each you can’t be flexible. If you are well versed in your content and various technology, but only know one avenue to delivery of the content then the quality of your lesson will not increase. The article, “Using the TPACK Framework: You can have hot tools and teach with them, too,” cites an example of a math teacher utilizing open sourced DJ software to teach about ratios (Mishra and Koehler, 2009, p.17). Without deep knowledge of his/her content knowledge, that teacher wouldn’t be able to recognize the connection between DJ software and mathematics. Likewise, without the knowledge of various pedagogies, the teacher wouldn’t be able to recognize the value that technology would have in the context of that particular concept. Without a deep understanding of each context, the overlap is lopsided and results in instruction that is not optimum.
Deep knowledge of the contexts and flexibility is important, but my biggest takeaway today was that teachers have always been doing this. They’ve always been balancing these three contexts. But in the last 50 years the technology context evolved incredibly rapidly in comparison to the other contexts. Prior to the development of computers, technology didn’t evolve terribly quickly. It was safe to assume that whatever technology you had at the beginning of your career would change relatively little by the end of your career. Or if it did change, it would change rather slowly. What we’ve seen in the last 20 years is that students now carry around more information in their pocket than entire universities contained only 20 years ago. This has the potential to fundamentally change our pedagogy for the better if we decide that there is value in developing a deep knowledge of the technological context. I would argue that there has always been value in developing that context, however at this point in history it’s much more intimidating for many educators.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2004). Using the TPACK Framework: You Can Have Your Hot Tools and Teach with Them, Too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 14-18.