Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Intersections of TPACK

This week in graduate school we have been looking at the idea of TPACK by Mishra and Koehler.  This idea of the three circles (Technological Knowledge-TK, Pedagogical Knowledge-PK, and Content Knowledge-CK) is a relatively new one in the education world.  Gone is the shock of the SAMR Model, which to some element I still believe applies to schools and situations where there is no framework for discussing and talking about technology education.  Before really understanding and being able to have tough discussions about technology integration, staff need to be able to antiquate where exactly their technology integration skills currently fall on the spectrum of the SAMR model.  This discussion, like the one that Maggie Hos-McGrane had with her team, is the prerequisite for truly understanding and applying the TPACK model into our classrooms, corporations, and educational arenas.

The bottom line is that the TPACK model is much more complex than the SAMR model.  TPACK, at its heart, is all about the connection of the TK, PK, and CK.  It is in the middle of these three concentric circles that we find the best opportunity for teaching and learning to occur.  The uniting of these forces can create a learning experience where the content knowledge is presented through technology using a pedagogy that best fits the subject matter.  Or if that definition doesn't make sense, it is really the overlap of these three areas where a 21st century classroom is most powerful.  Lisa Nielsen has some fantastic resources on her blog about using the TPACK as a framework for professional development, integration of technology, and pre-service lesson plan evaluation.  Lisa's work is worth a few minutes to see how she is successfully using the TPACK to continue on this discussion of technology integration.  Another great look at how SAMR and TPACK connect to one another can be seen on Jenny Luca's wiki.  She provides a wealth of videos and links to better understand both models and how they relate to one another.

At the end of the day, the TPACK model is a great way to discuss technology integration.  I think it has some fantastic applications in the K-12 educational environment.  However, I believe it is even more important to consider this model in the corporate setting.  As an educational trainer I need to consider the specific content knowledge of what I am teaching.  First, do I know the content inside and out?  If I am teaching about a new piece of software, it needs to make sense to me and I have to know it really well.  Second, can I teach?  I might be the absolute smartest person when it comes to the content, but if I don't know anything about teaching I will fall flat on my face.  Having a background in teaching, classroom management, lesson design, and other characteristics of pedagogical knowledge is immensely important to my job.  Third, do I know the technology?  Having a background in technology is important, but even more important is the ability to actually use it productively when training others.  Do I know which buttons to push, where to navigate to, and more so what to do when something goes wrong?  I have to know these elements in order to be effective in this area.  Each of these areas are wonderful if all I wanted to be was someone with great knowledge of a piece of software, a great teacher, or a total technology geek – not all three.  However, educators and corporate trainers need to be all three of these at once.  That is a difficult and tall task for any educator, much less for someone that works at software company.  The world continues to change as new items come out, methods occur, and older ideas that used to work no longer do.  I have to do my job as a corporate trainer at the intersection of these three circles in the TPACK.  If I do, then I succeed.  People learn the product because of my teaching, knowledge of the technology, and effective use of the technology.  If I am too much about the technology or lack the knowledge of the product then I will not be successful.  I like how Mishra and Koehler discussed this idea in their recent publication: "This would not be possible without a deep, complex, fluid, and flexible knowledge of the technology, the content to be covered, and an appropriate pedagogy."  This intersection is something that I strive for each and every time I step in front of a captive audience to teach our software.  I need to equally hit the technology, content, and pedagogy in order to be successful.

When I step back and consider this intersection it does, at times, seem daunting.  Balancing these three areas is a difficult task.  At times I think we all dip into having too much technology and not enough content or vice versa.  However, I really believe that if teachers took some time and framed their teaching using the TPACK model it might become more successful.  It begins with reading the works of others like Mark Fijor as he discusses TPACK in terms of really limiting and narrowing down the tools that educators use in their classrooms.  It is by this smaller number we can really begin to allow staff to go deep and truly learn them inside and out, which in turn allows them to be successful in this circle of the model.  Simplifying the technology offerings is also an idea patterned by Dr. Jenny Lane as she discussed app choices and starting with the content and app rubric that matches the TPACK model.
Citation: Mishra & Koelher
Finally, like the cartoon above, our teachers can really be effective integrators of technology, but they need to begin with the content and instruction and then add in the technology component.  It is through the use of the TPACK model that corporate trainers like myself and K-12 educators can really begin to re-think, retransform, and re-imagine instruction to become more effective in today's world.