Like the SAMR model, TPACK theory is another way to view the application of instructional technology to the classroom. TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge. Formerly known as the PACK theory before Technology was added to the acronym, this theory is a Venn Diagram of three domains: Technology Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge:
- Technology Knowledge - Do I have a working knowledge of various information and web app technologies? Do I understand instructional technology theory? Do I have an understanding on instructional technology design?
- Pedagogical Knowledge - Do I understand learning theory? Do I understand how to teach my content area in a developmentally-appropriate manner which is suitable for all learners? Do I understand how to facilitate and to scaffold lessons for the development of higher order thinking in students and for the creation of new meaning? Do I even adhere to a particular learning theory?
- Content Knowledge - Do I understand my subject area?
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So often, even without a knowledge of TPACK, we educators attempt to implement all three domains but fall short usually with only two intersections:
- Pedagogical/Content - Educators know how to present their content with an understanding of learning theory and how students acquire knowledge but continue to implement 20th century tools for its delivery. We need to remember that today's students are 21st century learners who need to be using 21st century learning applications.
- Content/Technology - Educators know their subject material and know their technology but do not understand learning theory or how to use technology properly for student learning and the development of higher order thinking. I call this "throwing technology at students" and results in either disconnecting students or just entertaining students without engaging them.
- Technology/Pedagogical - Educators know how to implement technology to instill critical thinking in students but address subject material in a very limited scope due to a lack of knowledge. This does not occur often.
Do you see yourself in any of the above examples?
Although the TPACK model looks good on paper as a Venn diagram, the major criticism surrounds: What the heck does that center sweetspot even look like in the classroom? At least with the SAMR model, there is a finished product or artifact at the end which illustrates the end goal! While I confess that I too do not "know" what that sweetspot looks like, however, I will continue to implement TPACK as a planning guide. So as I begin to look ahead now to the possibility of teaching 100% online again and begin to create online lessons, I am asking myself these questions IN THIS ORDER:
- Content Knowledge: What is skill or content do I need to teach? Do I know what I am teaching? As educators, this is probably the easiest of the three knowledge domains for us.
- Technological Knowledge: What technologies do I want to implement for this lesson? Does my use of technology line up with instructional technology theory? If I were to be teaching 100% online, I would have to address this question before addressing pedagogical knowledge. However, many times, the technology will naturally lend itself to the focus/goal of the lesson, while other times, it may be necessary to seek new ones which will support your goal.
- Pedagogical Knowledge: How can I implement Comprehensible Input in this lesson? How can I ensure that I am addressing the learning needs of all students? What are my student learning goals for this lesson? Is my lesson addressing higher order thinking in students? When addressing these questions, in many ways, one must also ask if the use of particular technology can achieve these goals. This is where Technological and Pedagogical Knowledge overlap.
In many ways, I hope that I have not oversimplified TPACK theory, but hopefully this theory can help guide you when creating online lessons or even in-person lessons for the classroom.