These are my notes from the keynote presentation by Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra at SITE 2007. More on their wiki: http://tpck.pbwiki.com/

Our solution is TPCK: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

TPCK color logo

What is the big fuss about teaching and technology?
– tech is here to stay, and teachers need to deal with it
– tech keeps changing and moving (screen of some technologies that have arrived in the last 10 years)

These new technologies bring up important questions
– which techs are most important to learn?
– how can teachers keep up with this rate of change?
– what should teachers be doing with these things?

The answer to what teachers

Study by National Center for Educational Statistics in 2000: teachers have plenty of access to technology
– 99% had access in schools, most have access at home
– teachers are using tech frequently in their own personal lives, and frequently in schools for planning and productivity
– when it comes to INSTRUCTIONAL uses of tech, it gets interesting

Only computer business teachers are using tech frequently for instruction in their classes
– used most: MS Office suite

Teachers have access, see its value, use it for personal reasons, but don’t use it instructionally
– this is a far cry to what we see as possible with technology

Question: Why? What is the problem?

What w propose is “teaching is a wicked problem” (Rittel and Weber in 1978)
– we want teachers to be knowledgeable, accesssible, wise, funny, cerebral, benefolent, fair, firm, flexible, playful, serious…
– means more than complicated or challenging

Wicked problems
1- requirements are incomplete, contradictory, and changing
2- unique and contextual (dynamically bound factors to the context, no 2 problems are the same)
3- complex interdependencies
4- nonlinear
5- solutions are hard to recognize

Opposite of “wicked” is tame

Chess is TAME
– believe it or not
– according this definition by Rittle and Weber, chess is tame
– problem is stable (goal always the same), the rules don’t change, both sides operate with the same rules
– are complex interdependencies with Chess, but those are well defined and can be programmed into a computer
– a linear solution to checkmate can be programmed, we do have computers as chess grand masters now
– you know when you are done in chess,

Chess is very complicated, but it is not wicked

Why is TEACHING a wicked problem
– what is “effective teaching?”
– how do you define that, how do you measure that?
– contextual factors make each teaching situation different: school boards, parents, students
– those factors are also intertwined with each other
– there is no sequence of steps that teachers can follow in every situation
– are you ever “done” trying to teach effectively?
– solutions are never right or wrong, they are are more or less effective

Bring technology to the mix
– that makes a wicked problem even “wicked-er”
– new technologies + affordances / contraints

Difference between traditional technologies (pencil, microscope, blackboard) are specific
– new technologies are PROTEAN

traditional techs are STABLE, haven’t changed much over time
– new techs are very dynamic, changeable, can become obsolute

traditional technologies are very TRANSPARENT

what are teachers to do?

Douglass Adams: SEP field
– someone else’s problem

NO, this is OUR problem, not someone else’s problem
The right question is not what do teachers need to know to solve these wicked problems, and as teacher-educators how are we going to help them learn it?

The basic pieces of TPCK model:
– content
– pedagogy
– technology (core skills and concepts, we adopt “fitness” approach adopted by the National Research Council: teachers understand technology well enough to apply it appropriately to accomplish tasks, and continually adapt: it is application and adaptation focused)

The wicked (fun) stuff is in the overlaps between these domains (the intersections)
– Shulman’s ideas of content ideas are relevant here: PCK = Pedagogical Content Knowledge

How you can teach the subject matter is really more important than the subject matter itself

Technology is often disconnected from discussions of content and pedagogy
– the SEP syndrome
– important challenge is connecting technology back to content and pedagogy

If that happens, there are 3 other overlaps to talk about

TC: overlap of technology and content
– teachers need understanding of how subject matter is and can be changed by technology
– that relationship of mutual impact works both ways
– Showing traditional representation of the Periodic table, which was limited by the technology which restricted it to what would fit on an 8 1/2 by 11 page
– different representations of the periodic table are now available and accessible because they are not bound by those same constraints of representation

TPK: focus on creative flexibility with tools
– many of the tools we have in school today are designed for BUSINESS
– it is important for teachers to break out of the constraints of those

Contrast commercial video games with educational video games
– big differences
– many are imposed by the limitations of the 50 minute class period
– if you are liberated from that traditional constraint, you can have games that last hundreds of hours and engage students at much higher levels

The intersection of all 3
– Emergent, interactive, flexible, complex, essential tension, fluency, deep, pragmatic, nuanced…

Consequences for Teacher Education
– see this happen when a new tool is introduced
– understanding the TPCK means the challenge of online instructional design begs very basic questions for instructors
— what content is important?
— how will I engage my learners?

Old tricks don’t work anymore in online environments
– many profs struggle with getting students to discuss articles
– they do that with an hour long F2F discussion in class
– online, asynchronous discussions which is a very different context often doesn’t work the same

Others who have talked about these ideas is maintained on:

http://tpck.pbwiki.com/

others have called this ICT, information literacy, technological content knowledge, electronic TCK

Our model provides a relatively simple answer to the question: What do teachers need to know about technology?
– overlap of these circles or domains
– talking about context: each is different and each teacher has a unique, diverse set of learners

Wicked problems require an honoring of the context

Question: how do we get teachers this type of knowledge that we’re talking about?
– there is no 1 right way to do this
– notable attempts: Judi Harris is adapting activity structures, and working with teachers to adapt content to them
– there are several sessions here about TCPK
– Learning Technology by Design session by Koehler and Mishra

We usually approach with “Learning Technology by Design”
– learning about tech uses in context

3 key ingredients
1- teachers work in groups
2- work on extended project
3- attempt to get teachers to learn technology as they need to learn it, without explicit direct instruction

Why do we think this process has value?

Goal is to move from THOUGHT to THING
– this is a process
– in that process, which has the goal of creating a product, the number of skills which teachers learn along the way is quite impressive

You can’t have TCPK without T (technology)
– teachers need to develop these skills in context
– how do these skills connect to pedagogy?
– all technology skills they are learning are already connected to pedagogy

Most important: Teachers “learn to learn”
– to design an online course, an urgent need comes up: I need a transparent GIF at the top of my page, and I have a PNG
– they learn they do not need a course to learn these things, they need to learn they can teach themselves

Does it work?
– we are conducting evaluation studies as we go along
– this is a sampling of those studies

2004 case study: Design team making an online course
– about classroom disipline
– we were interested in what participants were learning, the group was learning
– artifacts of web design process reflect

Participants are very concerned about what we want students to learn, and how they will learn it
– felt case-based learning was the way to go
– content and case-based pedagogical approach was reflected in early webpages

Midrange pages show technology showing up more to teach content, like discussion boards, calendars, and other tools
– tools and content are available, but their connection is not clear

Later: these connections are made more clear, tools (like discussion boards) only show up when they are needed for the task or goal at hand

Another study still in press: we followed the conversations of a design team
– use qual and quant methods to categorize statements individuals made in conversations
– we found early in course, individuals come contributing one thing, instructor is generally contributing something about content or pedagogy, sometimes both
– shows increasing complexity in conversations, sometimes taking place simultaneously across domains

Also used survey methodologies to assess learning:
– many initially think nothing needs to change when they teach online
– later they develop that technology is a matter of “fit” with content and pedagogy, their understandings become more nuanced

We think all these evaluation approaches show the value of our design-focused approach

What are teachers supposed to DO with this knowledge?
– teachers as curriculum designers

Skill is not enough, there is not a linear sequence that turns content
– analogy to a person trying to learn how to play an instrument

Joseph Schwab p 245: “Teachers will not and cannot be merely told what to do… no command or instruction can be so formulated to control…”

Wicked problems cannot be approached with formulaeic approaches
– we want to emphasize the role of teachers as the DESIGNERS of the curriculum, not the CONSUMERS of it
– teaching is not a sequence of steps, it is more an artistic performance

In this view:
– we need to accept the fact that it IS a wicked problem (not simple)
– need to honor the complexities of context
– need to develop strong conceptual knowledge (TCPK)
– teachers need to be flexible and adaptable, be able to react
– CREATIVE: teachers need to creatively combine elements of instruction as expert teachers

We are talking about flexibility and creativity
– “planned improvisation”
– tension between planning and improv make good teaching

Teachers need PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
– only way to move to higher levels of performance

Final thoughts
– approaches that rarely teach skills don’t go far enough
– learning about technology is different about learning what to do with it
– since TPCK can be applied to any technology, teacher prep programs should develop TPCK in spirals (work up to more complexity over time)

We must develop TPCK with content matter
– practice is an excellent route to learning

With wicked problems, you need to jump right in and that is where the learning happens
– as long as you have enough complexity in your interaction between content, pedagogy and technology you can move right in
– context, context, context

Must have deeper understand of how these different elements relate to and interact with each other within their particular CONTEXT

Thanks to SITE and Gary Marks for the TPCK strand at this conference

Email addresses:

punya [at] msu [dot] edu
mkoehler [at] msu [dot] edu

http://tpck.pbwiki.com/

We shouldn’t talk about “best practices” we should talk about “better practices” and stop searching for the silver bullet
– I can embrace the idea of “good practice”

[I THINK THAT IS A GREAT POINT. WE NEED TO RESPECT CONTEXT AND DIVERSE LEARNERS BY STOPPING USE OF THE PHRASE BEST PRACTICES.]

literacy: the ability to communicate signs

Creativity happens only within constraints
– if you don’t have constraints, you don’t know what you are being creative against or in comparison to

We often undervalue the opportunities teachers to have to craft learning interactions, even in small ways
– we need to focus in colleges of education on the fissures, opportunities, and openings which remain

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4 Responses to Confronting the Wicked Problems of Teaching with Technology

  1. […] Today’s AP article “Study eyes effect of tech on classroom” is yet another example of media oversimplification of “wicked challenges” that are faced by teachers every day, particularly when it comes to the use of educational technology. According to the article: Going high-tech doesn’t lead to higher math and reading scores, according to a federal study. The study on the effectiveness of education technology was released late Wednesday by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, a research arm of the Education Department. The study found achievement scores were no higher in classrooms using reading and math software products than in classrooms without the new products. […]

  2. […] Today’s AP article “Study eyes effect of tech on classroom” is yet another example of media oversimplification of “wicked challenges” that are faced by teachers every day, particularly when it comes to the use of educational technology. According to the article: Going high-tech doesn’t lead to higher math and reading scores, according to a federal study. The study on the effectiveness of education technology was released late Wednesday by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, a research arm of the Education Department. The study found achievement scores were no higher in classrooms using reading and math software products than in classrooms without the new products. […]

  3. […] Today’s AP article “Study eyes effect of tech on classroom” is yet another example of media oversimplification of “wicked challenges” that are faced by teachers every day, particularly when it comes to the use of educational technology. According to the article: Going high-tech doesn’t lead to higher math and reading scores, according to a federal study. The study on the effectiveness of education technology was released late Wednesday by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, a research arm of the Education Department. The study found achievement scores were no higher in classrooms using reading and math software products than in classrooms without the new products. […]

  4. […] Given the alternative of a bus ride without iPods or laptops, I suppose this project in Arkansas has some merit and value. If the program’s champions fail to empower students to use their digital devices to both WRITE and CREATE as well as CONSUME content from the web, I think they are going to fail at a basic level to fully leverage the power of their investment and the protean tools they’ve purchased with taxpayer dollars. (I heard the word “protean” used a couple of weeks ago at the SITE conference to describe the versatility of digital technologies like computers, which are fundamentally different from fixed-purpose, traditional educational tools like the chalkboard, overhead projector, pencil and microscope.) […]

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