Tackling the TPACK framework may, at first glance, seem daunting enough for someone who considers themselves on the stringy-to-wiry end of humanoid body types, but is it truly that daunting? Can struggling with TPACK lead to an impressive six-pack? (And by six-pack, I do mean of the muscular variety, although out of frustration with the TPACK model one might be led to reach for the liquid version.)
TPACK, of course, stands for “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge,” (which you probably knew anyways, although I didn’t). I’m not sure what the “A” stands for… I suppose it’s just there because pronouncing “TPCK” without spitting on your neighbor is just too difficult. Explaining TPACK to your neighbor may be even harder than controlling your phlegm, but I will try anyways.
When a teacher is surrounded and immersed in technology, she or he must be very careful to hold on to their best teaching practices while, at the same time, making sure that the content is taught clearly and vividly. The knowledge to do tech, pedagogy and content at the same time, without throwing your back out or spitting on the front row, is TPACK in action. TPACK inaction is when you are surrounded by the technology, but so confused by it all, that you have no drive whatsoever (hard or soft) and are unable to make use of the wonderful tools being developed to assist and amplify your teaching.
Here’s what I said in official language:
Technological pedagogical content knowledge refers to the knowledge and understanding of the interplay between CK, PK and TK when using technology for teaching and learning (Schmidt, Thompson, Koehler, Shin, & Mishra, 2009). It includes an understanding of the complexity of relationships between students, teachers, content, practices and technologies (Archambault & Crippen, 2009).
That’s from the wiki that has a “pedia” on the end.
When a teacher has done the tech-integration thing for a while, it becomes a second-nature-teacher-thing; as easy as eyes in the back of your head or recess duty. But when one is first starting out, like many of us, it’s best to start working on your TPACK beginning with the smaller weights… one class blog assignment a week or a class podcast at the end of a full unit of study. Once one skill is under your belt, you can add a few more, slowly working your way up to the multi-media, sound-and-lights extravaganzas to be submitted to the Cannes Film Festival review committee once they have been polished.
Building an impressive TPACK six-pack is just like most other challenges, best tackled one step at a time. But once a teacher has packed on the ability to handle the tech tools competently, then they can begin to try out the really creative approaches to education; ones that use the new technology in a completely new and original way. Jeff Utecht, in his popular “Thinking Stick” blog suggests that truly innovative tech-rich teaching creates new and different learning experiences for the students that would not be possible without the technology. To continue the “six-pack” analogy, only an athlete that has trained hard and developed muscles that can handle difficult challenges can attempt new, extreme sports that no one has attempted before. Only teachers who gain experience by daily using technology and slowly adding to their knowledge base can launch into creative and original uses of technology to teach curriculum in new and challenging ways.