zaterdag 22 oktober 2011


In the current educational climate, there are a lot of new technologies that are implemented in schools. Practically every school in the Netherlands makes use of computers, the internet, smartboards etc. And new technologies that can be useful for education keep arriving. Although most schools adopt an ICT policy and are interested in using new technologies, the implementation of these technologies is often still problematic. 

Since teachers are the ones that will have to integrate technology into their lessons, the implementation depends on their training. When implementing new technologies, the focus of teacher training is often on the technological aspects of a new tool. So teachers basically learn how this new tool works, a so called technocentric method.  However, this often prooves to be insufficient for the effective implementation of technology.
The TPACK framework offers insight in the knowledge teachers need to be able to integrate technology effectively in their teaching practice. TPACK stands for technological and pedagogical content knowledge, which describes the different areas of knowledge teachers need. Not only do they need to have knowledge about these three aspects but also about the way they interact with eachother. This results in seven different knowledge areas, which are also represented in figure 1;

Technological Knowledge (TK)
Technological Knowledge is important when teaching with technology. However, it is not sufficient for teachers to only know 'how something works'. They should also have insight in the way information technology can help achieve certain learning goals. Since the developments of technology are continuous and rapid, teachers should also be able to adapt to changes in information technology, which makes that this knowledge area is always evolving.

Pedagogical Knowledge (PK)
Teachers should also have a profound knowledge about the teaching and learning methods they use in their classroom. They should have insight in the way students learn, how to plan lessons and assessment and general classroom management. Therefore pedagogical knowledge requires an understanding of cognitive, social, and developmental theories of learning and how they apply to students in the classroom.

Content Knowledge (CK)
Having knowledge about the subject matter is of critical importance for teachers. They should dispose of a profound knowledge of the disciplines in which they teach, which includes knowledge of concepts, theories, ideas, organizational frameworks, knowledge of evidence and proof, as well as established practices and approaches toward developing such knowledge.

These are the three core areas of knowledge that teachers should master. However, these types of knowledge are not seperate entities in the teaching practice; they interact with eachother. Therefore, teachers should also have insight in the way the three interact with eachother.

Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK)
Using technology can influence the organisation of the classroom -amongst other things- and therefore the way of teaching and learning. Teaching a lesson in which all students are behing a computer already implies changes in the pedagogical approach. Also, most technologies are not specifically designed for educational purposes, so the teacher needs to know how to adapt certain technologies to make it appropiate for teaching and learning. Thus, TPK requires a forward-looking, creative, and open-minded seeking of technology use, not for its own sake but for the sake of advancing student learning and understanding.

Technological Content Knowledge (TCK)
Technology can influence the content that is taught and vice versa. When using the internet in teaching, for example, it seems less useful to provide learners with factual information, such as 'Bach was born in 1685'. This information is available to the learners with the push of a button, and they do not need a teacher to provide them with this knowledge. Instead, a more problem-solving type of learning would be appropiate when using the internet. Likewise, certain content decisions can limit the types of technologies that can be used. Therefore teachers need to know the manner in which the subject matter (or the kinds of representations that can be constructed) can be changed by the application of particular technologies. Teachers need to understand which specific technologies are best suited for addressing subject-matter learning in their domains and how the content dictates or perhaps even changes the technology—or vice versa

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)
Pedagogy and content interact very clearly in a variety of ways. The way in which the teacher presents certain content, the way he adapts to the prior knowledge of the student, the type of assessment that is used to judge if the content is mastered and looking at the subject matter in different ways are all part of PCK and essential to the effectiveness of teaching.

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)
The core of the TPACK framework is where it all comes together; technology, pedagogy and contence. Technological pedagogical content knowledge is an understanding that emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge. Underlying truly meaningful and deeply skilled teaching with technology, TPACK is different from knowledge of all three concepts individually. Instead, TPACK is the basis of effective teaching with technology, requiring an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones.
This is the type of knowledge that every teacher should have to teach effectively using technology. Because of the interaction between all three core aspects, there is no 'fixed' solution or guideline to be an effective teacher. Instead, there are a number of ways in which effective teaching with technology can be achieved, always depending on the subject matter, the teaching and learning style and the type of technology.
An effective teacher, then, is the teacher who mastered all knowledge areas and who can keep the three elements in equilibrium.

Note: The term 'technology' applies to both analog and digital technologies, thus both textbooks, chalkboards and microscopes as computers, smartboards and tablets. However, since recent developments and implementation difficulties are mostly of the latter type of technologies, those are meant when discussing technology on this blog. 

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. 

Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416.

Personal view on TPACK:
But what does this mean to teaching practice and teacher training? And what could be the added value of the TPACK framework for education?
The TPACK framework highlights the compex package of knowledge and skills a teacher should dispose of. In my opinion it would be very useful to inform teachers about these different areas of knowledge and the way they interact with eachother. This way they can be made aware of the factors that influence effective instruction. Through this insight, which they would otherwise only gain through experience, they can reflect on their own teaching methods. They can determine which knowledge and skills they might be lacking and start their professional learning from there. Whereas, when teachers are not familiar with the aspects that influence the effectiveness of their teaching, it will be a lot more difficult to pinpoint the problems they have.
For teacher training programs this framework has some consequences. At first sight it seems to make it difficult for schools to let their teachers engage in professional development at all. Since the effective implementation of technology is dependent of numerous aspects, one should approach teacher training in an individual manner. Every teacher has his own subject matter to teach and his own pedagogical approaches to do this. Moreover, the technology that is adecuate for a specific subject matter and teaching style differs greatly amongst teachers. All of these factors interact and influence the most effective way of teaching with technology, according to the TPACK framework. Thus, when using the TPACK framework in teacher training, it should be more flexible then current programs probably are.
Maybe this makes professional development a bit more difficult, but it will probably make it a lot more effective too. As I suggested earlier, the consciousness of teachers about the TPACK elements already increases their understanding of teaching practice and the changes that might be needed when implementing a new technology. Likewise teacher training could focus more on the possibilities for teaching than training specific skills. From this point of view the TPACK framework could contribute greatly to the professional development practice. Usually there would be a 'given' when training teachers to implement technology. For example, when there would be a training for integrating technology in math lessons, the content knowledge is more or less the same. Then teachers could be offered different types of technologies combined with a certain pedagogical approach to teach effectively. They can still adapt the different possibilities within that to their personal teaching styles, the students prior knowledge etc. The same goes for a new technology that has to be implemented; the teachers could be trained in the different ways to present the content of their lessons, or to adapt the PCK otherwise, using this technology. This way professional development can become more 'customized' by using the TPACK framework to reach a more effective implementation of technology in the teaching practice, than a teacher training program that is more technocentric.
All in all, the insight in TPACK framework offers in teaching practice certainly has an added value to teaching practice and professional development.

dinsdag 11 oktober 2011

Everly’s bad day on simSchool

Last Tuesday, our class was introduced to a program called ‘simSchool’ , which can be a very useful tool for teacher development. In short, simSchool is a ‘ flight simulator’  for teachers. That is, it is a virtual classroom in which teachers can interact with virtual students. The teacher can assign several tasks to the students and also say things to them or ask something. This way the teacher can try out new instructional approaches, sequencing of his lesson and classroom management techniques. Since the simSchool classroom does not contain real students, the teacher can try out a lot of different things, without harming any students. That way he can examine which strategies, activities etc. work, before he puts it into practice. The program also offers insight in the individual needs and characteristics of the learner, so the teacher can practice building a relationship with his students and analyzing differences between them.

All this can be done in a timely fashion, since the simSchool simulation time passes faster than actual time. About every 10 seconds, 1 minute of class time goes by.  Therefore the teacher can learn and do a lot more, than if he would actually had to try it out in a classroom.

simSchool has actually been used by a lot of teachers already and an analysis of their experiences led to the following results;
·    improvement in general teaching skill
·    improved confidence in using technology
·    increased belief that the teacher has the skills and ability to make a difference in a child's life
·    improvement in pre-service teachers' performance in teacher preparation courses and attitudes toward inclusion of special needs students
·    significant positive impact on the mastery of deeper learning capacities that comprise the readiness to teach
·    increased "staying power" on the path to the field of teaching acquired through rapid development of strong self-efficacy and resilience

Everly's lesson plan:
Luckily, I was able to try the simSchool program out myself! The lesson Everly was given in the simulation consisted of three different tasks;
  • Going over last weeks lessons (15 minutes of simulated time)
  • Take notes during lecture (15 minutes of simulated time)
  • Do on oral quiz (15 minutes of simulated time)
This is a somewhat traditional, but also quite convencional way of teaching, which we all have experienced in the classroom. After assigning these three tasks to Everly, the simulation was stopped.

The results in the screen that automatically appears after stopping the simulation show that this lesson was not that effective at all! Everly's motivation, academic prestations and hapiness are not increasing during this lesson. In fact the lesson made a lot of these factors decrease.

So what to do? Luckily the simSchool also provides the teacher with some information about Everly's interests, learning styles and other characteristics. We can see that Everly;
"talks a lot, likes variety and interaction, learns best by "doing", likes to work with others; is generally positive and enthusiastic; likes to plan and have structure, needs closure, completes every task, wants everything "to count" toward the grade; creative, makes up hypotheses, improvises answers, takes risks."

Based on these characteristics of Everly, me and a few of my fellow students came up with another lesson plan, that would probably be more effective. Since Everly learns best by doing, we first let him play a game for the first 15 minutes of simulation time. Then, because he likes to plan and have structure, we made him develop a project plan for the next 15 simulation time minutes. Finally, we made Everly engage in a student-lead class discussion to offer some variety and have him collaborate with others.

Unfortunately, we were not able to retrieve the results of this simulation at the time. I tried to perform the same lesson again at home, but again the results were not shown. However, some classmates who did similar simulations confirmed that these type of tasks indeed increase Everly's attitude and prestations.

Reflection on simSchool:
This simulation program seems to be a useful tool for teachers to experiment with different ways of teaching; regarding both the pedagogical approach as the tasks that are given. This way teachers can gain insight in teaching practice in a relatively fast manner, without disturbing or annoying actual students.

On the other hand however, it is in no way comparable with a real classroom. Although you can "say" something to the students, it is the actual interaction with real students that is the most difficult and probably also the most scary task of a teacher. Although teachers can certainly use the knowledge they gain from simSchool, it is my opinion that most learning and insight comes with experience.

Actually, the comparison with a flight simulator is really accurate in this regard too; although flying a simulator is very helpful and applicable, you do not experience reality. However life-like it may be, you can crash your plane, without any risk (besides maybe failing on your simulatorexam). The real fear and excitement can only be experienced when flying a real aircraft....


maandag 3 oktober 2011

Flexible Learning

Before discussing anything else, it seems useful to establish what flexibility in education actually means.  Collis and Moonen (2001) describe flexibility in learning in terms of the choice the learners have about different aspects of their learning experiences. These different aspects represent different choices and therefore different types of flexible learning. These different types are the following;

Different types of flexibility (Collis & Moonen, 2001):
1.     Flexibility related to time
This type of flexibility implies that the learners have a choice in several issues related to time, such as the deadlines for the assignments, the examination moments, the schedule of the lectures and the time it will take to complete the course (influencing the pacing of study).
2.     Flexibility related to content
One could imagine that the learners would also have a choice in the content that will be treated during a certain course. Besides choosing the topics a course should treat, learners can also be given a choice in the sequence of the different parts, the learning materials that are used, the orientation of the course and the criteria for completing it.
3.     Flexibility related to entry requirements
For many courses, there are certain criteria a student has to meet to be able to follow it. These entry requirements or conditions for conditions for participation could, in a flexible learning environment, also be determined by the learners themselves.
4.     Flexibility related to instructional approach and resources
This type of flexibility regards the ‘practical’ aspects of a course, like the social organisation of learning, the language to be used in a course, the learning resources and the instructional organisation of learning.
5.     Flexibility related to delivery and logistics
Finally, the learners can also be offered a choice in the time and place of different aspects of a course, such as the contact with the instructor and other students, the methods and technologies used for making contact with them or asking for help and the delivery of course information and content.

As you can see there are a lot of different ways to apply flexible learning in education, Nowadays, however, the focus of many schools is mainly on distance learning, thus concerning the delivery and logistics. An example of this kind of flexible learning is described below.

Chapter 1 from
Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2001, second printing 2002). Flexible learning in a digital world: Experiences and expectations.
London: Kogan Page.

An example of flexible learning:
The EchoSystem (formerly Lectopia) is a technology that allows schools to record lectures, in both video and audio, including the presentation materials. This allows students to access the content of the lectures any time or at any place they want.

The company that provides this form of flexible learning, describes the product as follows;
“In a world where they can retrieve virtually any music, image, or video with a few keystrokes, students don’t just want on-demand learning, they expect it. The EchoSystem enables schools of any size to meet that need, capturing lectures—whether through a Podcast or rich media video—for anytime, anywhere playback. See how leading institutions capture student satisfaction when they capture classroom content.”

An example of the EchoSystem lectures can be found through the following link;

Although it might seem practical and useful for students to be able to access the content of lectures on demand, there are also some issues when implementing a so-called Web-Based Lecture Technology. The article of Preston et al. (2010) suggests that, while many academics recognise the changing nature and needs of their students and have introduced WBLT as a consequence, many have not reconceptualised their curriculum and its delivery to meet these changing circumstances. This article can be accessed through the following link;   



From now on this blog provides me with a space to reflect on flexible learning in education. It is evident that with the development of new technologies, the nature of education is changing (I am after all using an online blog for my course with Petra Fisser!). How flexibility can be supported and implemented in a useful way, while using technology is the the quest I will undertake on this blog. I am looking forward to it, hopefully so do you!