by Michelle Schira Hagerman
What special knowledge do teachers need to have when they think about the integration of technologies in their literacy classrooms? Shulman (1987) told us that, for starters, teachers must understand the interactions of pedagogy and content. They need to understand the content they teach and how to teach this content most effectively to their students. He called this pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) – a unique and multi-faceted fund of knowledge that teachers use to guide instructional choices and curricular designs. When we ask our students to use Google Docs for collaborative writing or VoiceThread to support the development of oral communication skills, however, what changes? What impact do technologies have on content? And on pedagogy?
TPACK: Kristen Kereluik and Michelle Schira Hagerman, 2012.
Mishra & Koehler (2006) contend that technologies, all of which have affordances (pros) and constraints (cons), also interact in complex and multi-faceted ways with content and pedagogy. Like Shulman's framework of PCK, Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK; also TPACK) represents the unique and multi-faceted funds of knowledge that guide teachers’ choices when integrating technologies in their classrooms. As Koehler & Mishra (2008) argue,
TPCK is the basis of effective teaching with technology and requires an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies, pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems students face [...] (pp. 17-18)
Expert technology integrators don't just slap technology on to a lesson ad hoc. Rather, they flexibly weigh a tool's unique affordances and constraints for learning in the dynamic ecology of their classroom context before they act. But how can literacy leaders support the thoughtful integration of technologies that support instruction and, in the process, encourage teachers to become more aware of their own TPACK? There is no single answer, but these three examples are worth considering.
- At Jakarta International School, language teacher, Dana Schwartzkopf leads a Tech Treats working group that meets once a month, after school. At each session, Dana highlights a tech tool, its affordances and constraints for learning, and models "play time" during which teachers collaboratively figure out how the tool works. They also talk about pedagogically justifiable ways to integrate the tool.
- At Ruth Fox Elementary School in North Branch, Michigan, Principal, Anne Wood, and Reading Specialist, Amber White, have encouraged grade-level teams to choose and integrate technologies with special affordances for reading and writing. At planning meetings, teachers discuss their tech use, what worked, what didn't work and why.
- Students in the Master's of Educational Technology program at Michigan State University belong to very active Facebook groups where member-colleagues share questions and tips about how, why, and when to use digital technologies. This is a very valuable resource that any professional learning community could emulate.
For more information about TPACK and how to build it, check out:
Koehler, M.J. & Mishra, P. (2008). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? In AACTE Committee on Innovation & Technology (Eds.). Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Educators (pp. 3-30). New York: Routledge.
Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.
Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.
Michelle Schira Hagerman is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at Michigan State University.
This article is part of a series from the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).