Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TPACK and its added values for teachers

In this section I would like to discuss the core components of teachers knowledge and after which try to reflect on some advantages of TPACK based on my personal experience as a teacher. The first part will address a general description of teachers’ knowledge on the basis of Mishra and Koehler’s work: each individual component of the knowledge, paired components of the knowledge and the combination of the three bodies of knowledge. The second part will deal with reflective discussion on the added values of TPACK.

The three domains of teachers’ knowledge: TPACK
It is undeniable that teachers’ knowledge of pedagogy and content is essentially important, but as technological advance is playing increasingly important roles in our educational practices in which technology - such as chalks, blackboards, and markers in more traditional innovations or computers, PDAs, and smart phones in more advanced innovations – has come to our classrooms. This reality requires teachers to integrate or adopt technology into their classrooms for better educational practices as an additional capacity to their knowledge in pedagogy and content knowledge. Therefore, being a teacher should have a sort of required knowledge: three domains of teachers’ knowledge.

The three domains of knowledge include technological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge, or the so-called TPACK for they become the core components of teacher knowledge, and are fundamental for effective instructional practices. First is content knowledge. It is teachers’ knowledge and understanding of the subject matter or course being taught to students, e.g., Math, Natural Science, English, etc. Without this, teachers would teach nothing to students. Second is pedagogical knowledge. Having a great deal of content knowledge is not enough for effective instruction. If content knowledge answers the question of what teachers teach, then pedagogical knowledge answers the question of how teachers teach the content. This knowledge is teachers’ understanding of instructional approaches, methods, and classroom techniques with which teachers would be able to provide powerful learning environment.  Third is technological knowledge. It refers to teachers’ capacity to appropriately select and use technology that best support and promote effective instruction. This capacity allows teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms in which teachers can benefit technology for their own classroom practices. This knowledge also requires teachers’ skills to operate technology they use, for example teachers may have to be able to operate a computer and other technology devices.

These bodies of teachers’ knowledge can be connected in pairs as pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), technological content knowledge (TCK), technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK). Pedagogical Content Knowledge refers to how teachers teach particular content-based material to students, Technological Content Knowledge is how teachers select and then use technologies to communicate particular content knowledge, and Technological Pedagogical Knowledge mainly addresses how teachers use particular technologies when they are teaching (Harris & Hofer, 2009). These all three pairs form as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) as illustrated in figure 1.
Figure 1. TPACK Framework
As seen in the figure, the intersection of the three circles forms a combination of three knowledge domains, the so-called TPACK. This model of teachers’ knowledge is inseparable with the work of  Mishra and Koehler (2006).

What advantages can teachers take from TPACK?

In this part, I will discuss some advantages of TPACK which I mostly reflect from my experience as a teacher.  I have been teaching since 2003 in that time Information and Communication Technology (ICT) especially the introduction of internet was booming in my region. I firstly didn’t know at all if such innovation would affect educational practices around the world. I was really curious about it and tried to learn from some expert friends. With little knowledge triggered me to learn more about it especially how ICT would be possibly integrated into my classrooms. I then participated in seminars as well as international conferences to enrich my pedagogical knowledge as well as technological knowledge; at the time I was not familiar with the latter term. I realized afterwards that technology is important to support my teaching practices; I read some literatures on how to use technology in teaching, and practised it in my classroom. There are some advantages of what I could learn from such experience in which I combined the three knowledge domains in my teaching practices.

Cost-effectiveness is the first added value. In teaching I used to copy materials and students also did the same; students handed in assignment in paper-based copies in which they had to print them out. It meant we had to spend money for that. But, with technology lesson materials should not always be printed due to the availability of digitals like e-books and so on. I posted materials online on a virtual classroom I created for free and gave my students the class key I gave to them and then they created their own account to join the class; I also asked my students to send their assignment via e-mail to me without necessarily printing it anymore. I realized that having knowledge and skills on technology could save my money and students also experienced the same thing. Another advantage is that teaching and learning process becomes easy. The ease of teaching would be in terms of delivery. If teachers know how to effectively disseminate information and transfer materials to students, then they find it easy to do so with technological skill. Previously, I always got difficulties in communicating with students. Calling by phones or cell phones to every student is impossible because it took times and charged me a lot of money. By e-mail and other messengers communication becomes easy and cheap.

Having good content knowledge, using effective teaching strategies, and knowing what and how to integrate technology would increase students’ motivation and behaviour to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation in learning. For example, when I taught general English to fresh university students, I invited them to learn in a multimedia language laboratory instead of learning in a normal classroom. Students were very enthusiastic; they were happy because they wanted to learn language with computer applications. For me I was trained by the lab supplier on how to operate the lab; it’s a kind of technological knowledge for me. What I found with students was that most students were motivated and we didn’t realized at the time that class time was over. It is important to note that language lab itself is a thing and would not give any advantages, unless I knew how to use it for my teaching purposes.

I also personally believe that TPAK would be able to create a student-centred learning and low-structure situations where students are provided with numerous options and a great deal of autonomy. In the context of a student-centred learning, I just introduced students how they could operate the computers in the lab to learn language. The applications in each computer allowed students to focus on the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) they wanted to learn. My role at the time was only facilitating students and gave support when they got troubles. Learning was steered by the students. It was amazing for me; technology as well as knowledge about technology did help me a lot in shaping students’ learning. In foreign language teaching, therefore, it is necessary for teachers to be familiarized with CALL or Computer-assisted Language Learning, CMC or Computer-mediated Communication, CALI or Computer-assisted Language Instruction and so forth because in the context of foreign language teaching those learning models are able to facilitate students with spoken or written native English. With regard to a low-structure situation, options in my opinion represent flexibility. With technology, several learning options could be offered. For instance, as was stated, learning should not always take place in normal classrooms. Learning in a lab or at distance from home would offer a new situation, and learning can be enhanced through computers with some educational applications. Students could also choose what they wanted to learn first. They could start with listening part or they wanted to begin with reading part. It’s flexible and learning is self-directed!
Figure 2. Language Laboratory

It is important to note here that the added values of TPACK are not limited on the above-mention advantages. It depends on the tools we use, the context where we use the technology, and other contributing factors. What I want to say is that TPACK would enable teachers to create a powerful, productive learning environment. With content knowledge, I know what to teach; with pedagogical knowledge, I know how to teach; with technological knowledge, I know what technology best suits and how to use it to support my instruction; and with TPACK, I understand what and how to teach effectively with technology support.


1 comment:

Petra Fisser said...

Thanks for this post Fauzan! I really appreciate your thoughts about TPACK in the context of your own context! Thanks for sharing this with us.