Wednesday, May 02, 2012

TPACKing Your Way to a Wild Learning Experience.

Used w/permission from - rights free
Learning is about more than content or pedagogy or technology.  It involves the uniting of these forces to create a learning experience where content knowledge is presented through technology using a pedagogy that best fits the subject matter.

As if this wasn't enough to boggle an educator's mind, the context within which it is being taught must also be considered.  It is this context that determines relevancy to the student.

This is called TPaCK. TPaCK stands for
  • Technology
  • Pedagogy
  • Content Knowledge
Understanding the Premise: This approach derives from Lee Shulman's work in the 80s when he introduced the notion of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK).  Shulman (1986) says "pedagogical content knowledge is of special interest because it identifies the distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching. It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction" (p. 8).

Pedagogic Content Knowledge by Dr. B -   A good way to learn about PCK is through Dr. Bilash's website. Review her work and watch her two short videos to see the connection between Pedagogy and Content Knowledge.  This may seem simple, but acknowledging the differences in the way a teacher understands content compared to a content expert is revealing.

Adding Technology to the PaCK: Acknowledging the connection between pedagogy and content knowledge, it is time to consider the medium through which this adapted content is presented/experienced. This medium is technology in the broadest sense of the word.  It doesn't have to "plug in." The best way to experience a Van Gogh painting is in the Musee de Orsay museum in Paris. If you happen to be visiting Paris sometime soon, that might be possible. If your future plans involve staying around the house a little more, then there are other avenues available to you. This is where you can use various forms of technology to fill the bill. You could enjoy Van Gogh's The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise through a Post-Impressionism book,  a Jigsaw Puzzlea 360-degree Panorama inside the church,
a tour of the church and town, Wikipedia, even through a unique java-blend.

Whatever technology you select, it is the intersection of Pedagogy, Content Knowledge and Technology within a Context that will carry the message for the learner. It will determine the topic's relevance to the learner and ultimately learners interest in remembering and using the new information.   

The key to the TPaCK method is examining the intersections between the domains. This would include Pedagogy-Content (PC), Technology-Content Knowledge (TC) and Technology-Pedagogy (TP). The most important point is the intersection of all of the domains TPC which we find at the middle of a 3-circle venn diagram.

This Low-Tech video explanation by RoyceKimmons is quite informative. He uses the 3-circle venn diagram to explain the relations of these domains.

 Here are a couple of other videos to help reinforce the concept.
The best place to find out about TPaCK is at   This is an ever-growing website that contains a plethora of possible resources.

Are You Looking for The Source?
Thinking Creatively: Teachers as designers of Content, Technology and Pedagogy by Mishra and Koehler at SITE 08.  This is part 1 of a 3-part sequence of YouTube videos that describe the TPaCK from its creators.

Applying TPaCK to Digital Content
This theory is just great, but what about practical application?  I can't get my head around how to make this happen in my classroom.  I understand that I must teach World War II events using a pedagogy that is relevant to my population of students and that it should be conveyed using technology that is meaningful and engaging with my students.  But is there a formula?

Probably not!

Activity Types
There are, however, Activity Types that have been developed by a group of researchers including Judi Harris, Mark Hofer, Denise Schmidt and Ann Thompson. Activity Types are conceptual planning tools that assist educators in organizing and creating curriculum-based learning activities. Each activity type captures what is most essential about the structure of a particular kind of learning action as it relates to what students do when engaged in that particular learning-related activity (e.g., group discussion; role play; fieldtrip). They have been organized by placing them in taxonomies.

TPACK Taxonomies
Dr. Judi Harris and Mark Hofer wrote a series of articles about using their subject-based taxonomies for TPACKING classroom projects Learning and Leading with Technology.  (It is actually pgs 22 - 34.)

Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2009). “Grounded” technology integration: Planning with curriculum-based learning activity types. Learning & Leading With Technology, 37(2), 22-25.

You can find a succinct table of the Activity Types arranged by Format of Expression in an article entitled:

Instructional Planning Activity Types as Vehicles for Curriculum-Based TPACK Development (.pdf)
More Specifically: The hierarchies used for 7 different subject areas are found on the William and Mary School of Education Activity Types wiki.  

Here are some examples of how it has been done with a few lessons:

Using TPaCK to Teach Grammar in Middle School

Visit our WikiBook: TPACKing for a Wonderful Educational Trip 
It contains all of the wonderful work completed by the Tech Coordinating groups.
This is a unique way to publish authentic information with your students.

Happy Traveling through TPACK.



  1. Leigh,

    When you mention how we implement TPACK in our teaching, you touched on a topic that has been in the front of my mind for some time now. I think as we consider about how TPACK can be implemented in practice, we have to think also about how teacher TPACK can be developed. I think there are at least two levels of TPACK implementation we can consider with regards to level of technology use in the classroom: integration and innovation. We have been integrating technology for a long time using TPACK whether or not we really knew we were. I view integration as happening once we make a decision to use technology and include it in instruction. We make a decision about a technology, which then makes a change in how we teach the content, the P and C. However, if we think of TPACK as a knowledge to be developed in teachers, I think we can reach technology innovation which is the creation of new types of learning experiences that wouldn't have been possible without the technology. I believe there is a continuum between these two lenses if you will that teachers move along as they develop an awareness of TPACK. As the they develop each domain of knowledge: T, P, C, T, TP, TC, PCK, and TPACK, they can begin to see stronger connections between each domain and how each can be leveraged in the classroom to create new learning experiences.

    As I think about how this type of knowledge development can be created, I go back to how Mishra and Koehler (2006) explain how they implemented it in masters courses. They called it learning by design, which reminds me of problem based learning. They had students work together in groups that were responsible for defining, designing and refining a solution to a problem over the course of a semester. As I look at how this can be applied to practicing teachers in PK-12 schools, I see great potential. But it requires professional development practices to change.

    Not sure what I was hoping to accomplish with this comment, but your post spurred my thought process, so I wanted to share. Happy summer break!


  2. Thanks for the wonderful comment, Dan.
    I believe that your wonderings were exactly what we need to address in education. You talk about a continuum and I believe that it aligns with ACOT Levels of Technology Integration into the Curriculum. It has to do with developing awareness and vision.
    This is an important posting that you have written. I hope that you will post it on your blog as well so that it will see a larger audience.


  3. Dear Dan and Leigh,

    Playing the TPACK-game with teachers is a great way to enhance insight into the connections between T, P, C, PC, PT and TPC. A small group (4-6) of teachers with different backgrounds works well. With the aid of a T a P and a C card, a teacher can come up with astonishing creative ideas that can be used in teaching practice the next day. Teachers that played the game and then put their ideas into practice have reported enthousiastically.
    As a teacher it is not allways possible to find enough colleagues to play a game as a means of lesson preparation. In that case the activity types are a great help.

    Francine Behnen

  4. Francine,
    The TPACK game sounds like an interesting process. Can you please share more about it or provide a link to more information about it?




Please share your ideas on this topic.