Got TPACK? – Meeting the TPACK Kings

As part of my role as ICT Pedagogical Officer I was invited to a two day conference in Sydney so that all the institutions involved across Australia (and that’s about 40) could share what they’d been learning, discovering and doing, to help pre-service teachers and those who work with them gain a better understanding of the Australian Curriculum, the National Professional Standards for Teachers and the use of ICT in any classroom.

It was a fantastic two days celebrating both the significance and the success of a very ambitious project on a tight deadline. 12 months to change the world! – or at least long standing cultures in institutions across a very large continent. Those who had worked with us all (ESA, AITSL, ACARA, ACDE – ohh we had lots of acronyms) as well as those who had provided us with a framework to help us to explain the place of technology in the classroom were all in attendance.  We were even treated to 30 mins of the minister himself!

For some, the opportunity to be in the same room as the lead singer from Midnight Oil was pretty special.  Being from the U.K. I have to admit to having never heard of them… (ducks for cover) and so for me, the highlight was meeting, listening to and still learning from Mr Matt Khoeler and Mr Punya Mishra; the authors of the TPACK framework.  During the course of the last 10 months I’ve watched numerous Keynotes, Read TPACK Handbooks, written workshops, lectures and assessments which require knowledge of this wonderful framework and have begun to shape a lot of my own practices around its principals.  My husband was teasing me in the lead up to the conference, concerned that I would be a little star struck by the two academics  who were working – with us – in person – for the 2 days – but I managed to hold myself together 😉

From left - right: The minister, Mishra and Khoeler. All in the same room!

Challenging the job title I often give myself  of “Educational Technology Specialist” Mishra told us that  there is no such thing as educational technologies.  He urged us to stop looking for them, to stop limiting ourselves to specific things that are perceived to be “educational technologies” and to start being more creative. One of the main points of the TPACK framework is to be creative so, at our schools and institutions we shouldn’t limit ourselves to what has already been labelled as ‘educational technology’.

Upon reflection, that’s the kind of thing I do a lot of.  Take this post in which I use the advertising tool Aurasma, for instance.  That was never presented as an educational technology – in fact, I found out about it through a fabulous online marketing tweeter!  However, I saw an opportunity.  I asked myself “can i use this (Technology) to differentiate and scaffold (Pedagogy) a task on Romeo and Juliet (Content)? I quickly discovered the answer was YES and it was all very exciting!

Redefining things is what humans do.  It’s how we’ve progressed as far as we have.  I’m sure that the rock that a cave person decided to turn into an axe didn’t whisper it’s re-purpose into the cave person’s ear… we were creative and look where it got us!

To demonstrate this, Mishra asked the simple question “How many of you have ever emailed yourself?”.  When you consider the original purpose of emails  “a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients” (Wikipedia)  and then you consider the idea of emailing yourself – for that purpose – you might begin to worry.

Well…. I email myself all the time.  Not because I’m lonely or and have only myself to chat to… but because I want to store a file somewhere online so that I can get to it anywhere, because I’m moving documents from one computer to the other and I don’t have my USB stick with me.  Thanks to Gmail’s generous server sizes, I have been able to re-purpose email so that it becomes a storage and file transfer service and suits my needs better.

Instead of looking for educational technologies, find a tool and ask yourself this question:

 How do the tools allow us to Break out of the box? (Mishra 2012)

Use your skills as a teacher to re-purpose the tool into something that is connected to the learning needs of the children (or adults) that you are working with.  Take your multi-function technological devices, your iPads, your smart phones etc and find new ways to make them function pedagogically to help students to understand and explore the content they need to learn.

Being Brave

Mishra also touched on the idea of control.  He discussed how aware he was that teachers worry that they will lose control if they let kids use these technologies.  That true loss of control would be when a student finds a theory that you didn’t know that you might  not be able to hold the title of “the sage on the stage”. Honestly, if I pit my knowledge of the things I’m trained in  – whether that be the art form of English or my skills in using technologies in the classroom against the plethora of knowledge available out there  on the internet – I KNOW that there will be someone out there with another view, another theory… In fact.. I WANT that to happen. 

As an English teacher, one of the things I love about my job is how many different ways a poem or a story can be read and interpreted.  (Yes… Mr R Barthes… You were right) Every time I teach the poems I am asked to teach each year I learn something new from my students.  They re-purpose that literature to fit their world.  We then have opportunities to discuss the different interpretations and come to some consensus together. My subject specialism has no right or wrong answer and I love that about it.   Those skills we practice, the ability to interpret, to analyse, to judge and way up information, to provide evidence (or reasons) why I feel that way about it, those are the same skills I use when I come across some new technology for my classroom.  

Just because I give my students ways to find “theories {i} didn’t know” doesn’t mean I can’t teach.  That I am not the expert in the room. Instead, in my view, it means that I am helping them to become “sages of their own stages” I am teaching them the skills needed to evaluate the vast amount of information that they have access to. To explore content, to make shared decisions and judgements so that they too can be creative and begin to re-purpose and shape the knowledge to fit the fast paced, ever changing world they’re growing up in.   In my experience, telling my students not to expect me to be the fountain of knowledge, in asking them not to expect me to give them the answer I believe to be true, we all get a lot more out of the task we’re undertaking together.

Breaking Things

I think the overwhelming message I took away with me was the idea of taking risks. That it is important to accept that you are a learner – that it’s even more important to share that knowledge with your students.  I have come across so many teachers who are terrified of doing that and I would urge them to consider this list of these “facebookisms”, shared with us by Matt and Punya.  They’ve certainly worked for them for me and, more importantly, for my students!

Facebookisms

'Facebookisms' from Mishra and Khoeler's presentation.

 1) Done is better than perfect –  Even Mary Poppins was only Practically Perfect in every way…  Give it a go and then get better at it each time.  If you don’t start somewhere how will you make progress?

2) Code wins arguments – I guess in Facebook’s case – having someone present the written code for the new idea will win arguments. As teachers i think we can have licence to interpret this as Just Do It (Nike style?) Don’t spend hours talking about it, just give it a go and see what happens!

3)Move fast and Break things – Obviously, not literally… that would be a OHS nightmare for all principals.  But being afraid of breaking things is a barrier.  I had a massive poster above my IWB for years – it told my students that I loved mistakes because by showing me they had made them they gave themselves the opportunity to show me how they’d learnt from them

4) The riskiest thing is to take no risks – Self explanatory I reckon 😉

5) This journey is 1% finished – Thank god for that! If i thought I was 100% cooked – that I knew everything I needed to know about everything I do then I’d stop doing it and find something else. How boring would that be? 😉

Now, for the most important question…. Do I win a “Got TPACK Badge”?  I desperately want one…!

Do you deserve one too?

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