Technology, pedagogy and content in the same sentence!

As teachers we love a good acronym PLT, IEP, EAL …., the list goes on and seemingly continues to grow every new school year or PD (another one) we attend. Another great one that has been more prevalent over the past few years is TPACK, used as an educational technology framework for the more effective integration of technology in the classroom.

The TPACK model created by Mishra & Koehler was adapted from an early model of Pedagogy and Content knowledge first theorised by Shulman in the 1980s. This early model placed the importance of having a strong understanding of pedagogical knowledge as well as the context you were teaching. I am sure we can all remember that one teacher who was incredibly knowledgeable in their content area, but struggled to engage and convey that information in an efficient manner.

Moving forward in recent years there are aspects of pedagogy that have shaped our instruction and the learning occurring in our classrooms. The more prominent use of technology in society has arguably increased the need to better utilise it in our classrooms. Therefore, the addition of T to the models suggests the importance of technology knowledge for teachers in today’s classrooms. Though I am not suggesting everyone has to be a computer genius or super programmer. However, I am suggesting a want to explore and understand how they work, just as you would the content you are teaching.

Often for many educators they are always looking for ways to help them teach more effectively and in turn create better learning opportunities for their students. Just being aware of a model like TPACK and the understanding of that technology is not a stand alone and DOES NOT change other aspects of your teaching practice, behaviour management or assessment of student learning, moreover, technology should facilitate these and make them easier and more authentic.

So what does TPACK mean for you? And what are some practical examples that can help you continue learning as an educator?

Looking forward at improving your own professional practise and that of others for many teachers there needs to be a want to improve and drive to actually do it. Often time is a concern, and in fact, an excuse for most educators for not prioritising their own learning and improvement. There is also the case of ‘I’ve always done it this way and it works, why change it?’, which is another common excuse of less tech-able educators.

So what do we do with these people? How do we motivate them and educate them on the benefits of learning with technology.

  • Work slow with these people
  • Provide them with small snapshots of technology, do not overwhelm
  • Model good practice of the use of technology in a range of settings
  • Set goals for them and regularly update
  • Provide them with time to share their successes with other colleagues/peers

Encouraging teachers to become more tech savvy is not an easy task and I am often asked ‘where do you find all these things?’ ‘how do stay up to date with current technology’ my easy answer is Twitter. Collaboration is a key part of any learning, sharing ideas and thoughts and being able to extend your knowledge off of the knowledge of others is extremely important in our classrooms. We always encourage our students to do this – then why aren’t we?

Set time aside in teachers schedules to have them create their own Twitter account and follow people of interest to their learning areas. Twitter is not just technology, though many of the active users are competent tech users, there are so many other great conversations about education and learning in general which anyone can benefit from.

Using technology in the classroom should be engaging for students but not replace your basic pedagogy or instructional practice, in fact, it should enhance it. Finding time to play with technology and explore tools that work best for your practice is key to the use of it in your classroom. Finding something that is useful and effective in your classroom is gold. Anything that can save 5 minutes, or simply allow one student to understand a topic better is time well spent exploring the plethora of ed tech tools and resources.

Once you have found this little piece of gold – share it! Tell people about it. How has it improved your classroom? You will begin to find the sharing is reciprocated and that exploring becomes a lot easier because others are sharing with you.

One last note. TPACK is a framework. It is not the ultimate guide to teaching in the 21st century, but what it does, is make you think about the use of technology in your classroom. It makes you remember that sound pedagogy and practice should not be completely thrown out just because you booked the iPad trolley that day. Make learning meaningful and authentic, the technology will come.  

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