dinsdag 25 oktober 2011

TPACK. A helping hand in integrating technology in schools?!

I think both teachers as education scientists know teaching is a complicated practice. There is a lot of specific knowledge teachers have to know to teach in a good way. Classrooms are dynamic and complex, and even more complex when teachers have to integrating technology in the classroom. Teachers have to make the right combination with pedagogues and technologies. It is not about the technology, but about the pedagogical use of the technology in education. But how does teachers have to implement technology? And are there guidelines? Teaching is a difficult and loaded job, so some help is welcome.

Well, there is hope for teachers: TPACK. According to P. Fisser (personal communication, 19 October 2011) TPACK is a framework for teacher knowledge for technology integration. The model can help teachers by integrating (new) technologies in the classroom. In this article I will discuss the model and the potential use. TPACK is well known in the educational research domain. Just google 'TPACK' and you will find websites from TPACK itself (tpack.nl, tpack.org), Dutch parties like Kennisnet (pdf) and blogs. So, what is so special about this model?

Difficulties with the use of technology in education
TPACK offers help to teachers who have inadequate (or inappropriate) experience with the use of technology for teaching and learning. You cannot blame teachers for having inadequate experiences, a lot of teachers earned degrees in periods when the use of technology in education was in a different stage. And not only 'older' teachers, also novice teachers can have inadequate experiences. There are also teachers who does not consider themselves sufficiently prepared to use technology, does not know how to integrate the technology or just does not see the value or relevance to use technology. And for the teachers who wants to use technology, acquiring a new knowledge base and skill can be very challenging, especially in a busy schedule - and believe me, teachers really have a busy schedule. There is no ultimate way to integrate technology, but there are some core elements involved: content, pedagogy and technology. In my other blogpost I discussed the interrelationship between those. Now, we just take a look deeper.

In the middle of the elements: TPACK
The three core elements can be drawn as circles who overlap each other (Figure 1). Now it is clear where the abbreviation stands for: Technological knowledge, Pedagogical knowledge And Content Knowledge. Technological knowledge (TK) is about necessary skills to operate with technologies, the ability to learn new technilogies and an understanding of technologies. So basically, teachers may have a certain interest in technology and enough skills to work with it. Pedagogical knowledge (PK) is about students, students' prior knowledge, knowledge about how to use resources, classroom management and other skills a teacher may have. Content knowledge (CK) is knowledge about the content that is learned such as central facts, concepts, theories and procedures, explanatory frameworks and evidence for proof (P. Fisser, personal communication, 19 October 2011).

Figure 1. TPACK (from:www.tpck.org)

Like I discussed in my earlier post, there are many interrelationships between PK and CK, CK and TK, TK and PK and so on. TPACK focusses on the relationship in al three. This technological pedagogical content knowledge is an understanding that emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy and technology knowledge: " True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge" (www.tpack.org). In fact, the model shows the importance of the involvement of all three core elements, because it is all needed to implement technology successfully in education. When teachers only focus on two or even one core element, there is no balance between all core elements. In that case, the model has some similarities in message with Van den Akker's curriculair spiderweb (Van den Akker, 2003). He also states there should be a balance between curriculair elements otherwise the intervention will not work properly or will fail.
Important is the contexts circle in the model. There is no single technological solution combined with pedagogical content and content knowledge that applies for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching. When using TPACK you always have to take the contexts into account. This connects to Koehler and Mishra "Rather, solutions lie in the ability of a teacher to flexibly navigate the spaces defined by the three elements of content, pedagogy, and technology and the complex interactions among these elements in specific contexts" (2007, p. 66). This is exactly what I  just mentioned. Every solution for the implementation of technology in education should be adapted on the specific contexts.

Nice, but how to use?
The model is helpful for those who want to implement technology in schools. TPACK gives insight in the main factors involved. But TPACK it is not just a guideline which contains all the possible answers. It is also not a simple model with phases you can follow. It is more a reproduction from the overview you may have by implementing technology in schools. TPACK users have to understand the idea of interrelationships between the elements and the importance to adapt these on each other. You can chose a technology and adapt the pedagogical style on it, but you can also search for a technology that fits within the pedagogical style, as long you keep in mind to adapt all the elements on each other.

I think TPACK is just the immersion we need for the implementation of technology in schools. Like I discussed earlier, there are interrelationships between the elements. But there are so many interrelationships you have to take into account, you can lose the overview. With TPACK teachers can easily see in a glance the most important factors. They know they have to adapt the contents on each other. How they do it, depends on the context. Teachers are free to design their solution without following phases or required steps. When teachers get stuck, the community of TPACK also provides examples and good practices for the use of TPACK, so teachers can learn from it.

I think, when teachers work with TPACK they have to know they could train their experiences with technology. They can work together or even get help from technological specialists outside the school. That is also something that depends on the context, they can work in a team (like teacher design teams) with help from the contexts to develop a "TPACK-Proof" solution. TPACK is sometimes written as TotalPACKage. I think it really is, when implementing a TPACK-designed solution, it should probably work.

In this article I am quite positive about TPACK. However, there is a negative thing about TPACK but that is moreover general in curricular development. That is, teachers need time and motivation to develop a solution with TPACK. So I would say, teachers only have to work with TPACK when they really want to implement technology in schools. Although there is a understandable model, they still have to spend a lot of time in designing the solution.

Van den Akker, J. (2003). Curriculum perspectives: an introduction (In J. Van den Akker, W. Kuiper and U. Hameyer (Eds.), Curriculum landscape and trends (pp. 1-10). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Retrieved from: http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/article1.cfm

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Hi Xander, thanks for your post. And yes.. technology integration takes time.. but I think it's not only up to the teacher to make the time. the organisation in which he/she works has to have some kind of support. This could be time/money/facilities, but sometimes an interested principal who asks questions might be enough.. What do you think?

  2. Hi Petra. I think you are right, the organisation has to help teachers to implement the technology. This could be money or ICT but also extra time (or less lectures) to implement. Even help from outside the organisation to support the teachers. So, people in the organisation should help the teachers, because the implementation is an extra task besides the normal job, so extra help and steering from the organisation could be helpful.