What’s the Buzz: TPACK

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One of the first technology integration frameworks that I came into contact with was TPACK.  It was my first year as a tech coach, and I was looking for information on how to do my job. I had been hired under a new initiative, and all of the tech coaches in the district were new to the role.  I read (and reread) all of the information that I could find on TPACK and tried to understand how I could use it. As a first-year coach with new coaches all around me, I wasn’t able to make much use of the framework. I just didn’t understand enough about my role back then.

Fast forward five years…I found myself face to face with a very young and tech-savvy first-year teacher, who wanted additional bells and whistles in her classroom. In my role as coach, she felt that I was an obstacle for her.  I had to explain to her why I was limiting the number of tech tools in her classroom.

I wanted this teacher to understand that I would be happy to funnel additional tools her way when she was ready.  As a first-year teacher, she needed to prioritize some other areas first. She had to learn more about the art of teaching – planning lessons, classroom management, working with her peers – for some teachers that takes most of their first year.  As an elementary teacher, she was responsible for teaching a lot of content, and she needed to be more familiar with that. If she progressed as a typical elementary teacher, she would be ready to step up the use of technology in the second half of her second year.  

It was after that conversation that I realized I had learned where TPACK belonged in my tech coach kit.  I use TPACK to determine where a teacher is in their journey to the TPACK sweet spot. I use data from classroom observations, lesson plans submitted and team meetings to gauge where the teacher is with respect to the TPACK framework and that helps me to customize my approach.

For example, a teacher who has been teaching the same content for a few years and is still struggling to understand the content needs me to present solutions that will help take some of that load from them.  I might choose to introduce a flipped solution such as Edpuzzle (reviewed here).  The teacher could use a video to get the information across to the students and then use simulation practice activities in class. A teacher who has difficulty with classroom management might benefit from the use of an engagement strategy such as game-based learning.  I might introduce something like Prodigy Math game (reviewed here) or Kahoot (reviewed here).

Are you responsible for helping teachers grow?  How do you use TPACK? Leave a comment and let me know.

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About the author: Ruth Okoye

Dr. Ruth Okoye is the Director of K12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning. As a long-time technology coach, Ruth shares ideas and strategies for professional learning and thoughts on how to motivate yourself to “dig deeper” into educational technologies.


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