TPACK is an acronym that stands for "Technological, pedagogical, content knowledge" (this site explains it more in-depth). You can see the need for the acronym! Sometimes this is also referred to as TPCK. The idea behind TPACK is that if teachers have it, they are more intuitive, creative, innovative, and successful in their efforts to integrate technology into their classrooms in ways that yield not just meaningful, but high impact results on student learning.
TPACK is based on the idea that teachers have at least one of the following kinds of "teaching" knowledge:
CK - Content knowledge: This means that if I am a social studies teacher, I know my content at what would be considered a mastery level. I probably hold an advanced degree or certificate that shows I have completed intensive studies in my content area.
PK - Pedagogical knowledge: This means that as an educator, I am aware of pedagogies - methods and practices of teaching. I have an understanding of best practices, and also understand and apply strategies that implement these successfully.
TK - Technological knowledge: This means I have an understanding about certain ways of working with technology, tools, and resources, and know how to apply them.
These basic three components of knowledge can intersect (see diagram) in ways that give rise to new knowledge. The intersections can produce the following kinds of knowledge:
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PCK - Pedagogical content knowledge: If I am a social studies teacher, I not only understand my content, but also understand and can apply the appropriate methods and practices that will help my students to learn and explore the content.
TCK - Technological content knowledge: If I am a math teacher, I understand my content, and also understand and can apply technologies, tools, and resources that can support the learning of this content.
TPK - Technological pedagogical knowledge: I have an understanding of how teaching and learning can change when certain technologies are applied in certain ways.
At the intersection is nirvana. Just kidding - but truly, when we are discussing what successful technology integration looks like, this is what we are striving for:
TPACK - this exists when a teacher understands clearly how their content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge can work together seamlessly to create constructive ways to teach content. This is what we would identify as truly skilled teaching.
Here is the really interesting part of all of this - based on an extensive study done on Asian preservice teachers (see citation below), it seems that the road to TPACK needs to be a purposeful one. The study widely conducted on preservice teachers showed that in order for a teacher to reach TPACK, there must other conditions in place, and more specifically, it would be especially difficult for a teacher to make the leap to TPACK if only certain kinds of knowledge existed without others. To summarize:
A teacher having only one or two of the basic teaching knowledges (CK, PK, or TK), would have difficulty reaching a state being successful with technology integration.
However, a teacher having any one of the intersections - the new derived knowledges (PCK, TCK, or TPK), would most likely be successful in development toward technology integration (TPACK).
What does this mean for professional development and teacher readiness?
Obviously, the TPACK model is a powerful tool for a teacher's ongoing self-assessment and reflection on practice. Understanding where teachers are starting from in terms of their content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge is crucial in making decisions about appropriate support and professional development. Leading a workshop for teachers on how to build wikis will probably not have a lasting impact on a teacher who lacks pedagogical and technological knowledge.
I think the TPACK model has a lot of implications that should make us consider (re-consider?) ideas currently floating around about how we use apps, and the still-current tendency to treat technology as a separate component or content area with our school curriculum.
It also raises the question: How can we use this tool to help teachers self-assess, and more importantly, how can teachers use this to move their practice forward?
Chai, C. S., Ng, E. M., Li, W., Hong, H., & Koh, J. H. (2013). Validating and modeling technological pedagogical content knowledge framework among Asian preservice teachers. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(1), 41-53.