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IGI Global Speaks with Professor Margaret Niess of Oregon State University on the AERA Conference and the Concept of TPACK

TPACK in the Classroom: Developing Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge

By IGI Global on May 20, 2013
AERA LogoRecently IGI Global caught up with editor and contributing author Margaret Niess, who recently attended the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2013 Annual Meeting April 27th-May 1st in San Francisco, California.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the field’s leading scholars met with more than 14,000 education researchers at the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine the major issues and challenges facing students, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders. The 2013 annual meeting theme was "Education and Poverty: Theory, Research, Policy, and Praxis."

Niess has made many research contributions to IGI Global, including the chapter, “Re-Thinking Pre-Service Mathematics Teachers Preparation: Developing Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge (TPACK).” Niess is just one of the many accomplished educators and IGI Global editors and authors who attended and presented at AERA. Here she elaborates on what TPACK is, and tells us a little about her experience in San Francisco.


The top 5 things you should know about TPACK:

  1. At first, only a few teachers realized the connection between using digital technologies and finding ways to incorporate that technology as a teaching/learning tool in the classroom.

  2. In 1986 Lee Shulman introduced the idea of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as the knowledge that teachers relied on for teaching.

  3. The intersection of TPACK: the TPACK model highlights the importance of learning the content with the technology (TCK) and learning to teach the content with the technology (TPK).

  4. TCK and TPK are different! Learning a subject like mathematics with technology like spreadsheets is different from learning to teach mathematics with technology such as spreadsheets.

  5. TPACK develops over time, with important experiences where the teachers are challenged to focus on pedagogy, content and the technology concurrently rather than separately.

IGI Global: A great deal of your work has focused on technological pedagogical content knowledge. What is the history behind TPACK?

Margaret L. Niess: TPACK describes teachers’ knowledge needed for teaching with technology. When digital technologies were presented for educational uses, the prevailing belief was that all teachers needed was an understanding of the capabilities of the technology, and that they would naturally link the capabilities to their content and figure out ways to incorporate the technology as a teaching/learning tool in their classrooms. The reality was that many teachers did not seem to make that connection.

In 1986, Lee Shulman introduced the idea of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as the knowledge that teachers relied on for teaching. During the 1990s, teacher educators came to grips with the idea of an integration of pedagogy – recognizing the transformed knowledge structure where pedagogy and content were so intertwined, that this knowledge was different from the two knowledge bases separately. This time was also the time when teacher educators were realizing the power of the new and emerging technologies for educational purposes and that simply providing professional development on the technologies alone was not actively impacting teachers’ knowledge for teaching with the technology. Thus, the idea of TPACK, or technological pedagogical content knowledge, emerged in the early 2000s. The center of the TPACK visual describes the intersection of content, pedagogy, and technology. It is the center of this visual that represents the transformed knowledge called TPACK. Thus, the focus on teacher knowledge has deepened with the recognition that this knowledge is something different from simply PCK. It adds TCK (technological content knowledge) and TPK (technological pedagogical knowledge) to the understanding of teachers’ knowledge for teaching with technology. What the model has done has focused attention on how teachers’ knowledge, and teachers’ knowledge for teaching with technology, is transformed.

Teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Thus, they are more likely to think that the way they learned is how one learns the content. Typically, a teacher who learned mathematics without spreadsheets was more likely to believe that spreadsheets come after having learning the mathematics, and were useful only as an extension rather than a learning tool. Teachers need to experience the intersection of TPACK – learning content and pedagogy with the technology. The TPACK model has highlighted the importance of learning the content with the technology (TCK) and learning to teach the content with the technology (TPK). However, TCK and TPK are different. It is important to recognize that learning a subject like mathematics with technology like spreadsheets is different from learning to teach mathematics with technology such as spreadsheets.

The TPACK model focuses attention on the transformation of teachers’ knowledge, and that TPACK develops over time with important experiences where the teachers are challenged to focus on pedagogy, content, and the technology concurrently rather than separately.

You had a few presentations at AERA, including one as part of a TACTL roundtable and a paper. Let’s talk about the roundtable first: TACTL. Can you explain a little more about what TACTL is for those outside of education?

TACTL is a Special Interest Group (or SIG) within AERA elaborated as Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning. This SIG promotes the development and evaluation of preservice and inservice programs intended to transform teacher education, to prepare technology-proficient educators to meet 21st century learners’ needs. This SIG has been in existence for 10 years and is thus focused on programs for transforming teachers’ knowledge for teaching with technology (TPACK).

The roundtable in which I participated was focused on research in this area of the identification of programs that effectively impacts teachers’ knowledge development. My research was titled Developing Algebraic Reasoning with Dynamic Spreadsheets through an Online Learning Trajectory Approach. With the importance of basically lifelong learning for teachers, programs through distance education have become increasingly recognized as an avenue that supports teachers throughout the world, rather than only in specific locations. In this roundtable, I talked about a specific learning trajectory approach that was focused on algebraic reasoning (the content) with spreadsheets (the technology) where the tasks focused on pedagogical strategies for teaching algebraic reasoning with spreadsheets – thus developing TPACK through distance education.

Your paper topic focused on “Transforming Teachers’ Knowledge Using a Learning Trajectory Instructional Approach Focused on Student Thinking with Technologies”. What type of audience were you able to present to, and how was this particular topic received?

This research paper was presented to primarily teacher educators and teacher education researchers who were in attendance at AERA. The room was filled and the discussion following the presentation was active. The Discussant applauded the research as providing direction for work in the identification of learning trajectories for developing teachers’ knowledge. He suggested that the paper be submitted for publication as soon as possible. Yes, I am working on getting the paper submitted!

What upcoming research are you working on now or hoping to do soon? Anything inspired by the conference?

The interactions at research-based conferences always seem to inspire me to continue with the research. My current research is focused now on the design of distance education courses for K-12 teachers for teaching with new and emerging technologies. For example, I am currently teaching and researching a course on teaching mathematics and science with image and video technologies in an online distance education format. This study provides a rich description of how this learning trajectory, situated within a social metacognitive - constructivist instructional framework, influences K-12 teacher participants’ thinking about their own thinking with the technology in learning mathematics/science and their thinking about their students’ thinking and understanding when learning with technology. We designed a learning trajectory that consists of three components, and I am now currently interested in extending the learning trajectory that we have proposed to see how it might be applied to multiple distance education courses.



Margaret (Maggie) L. Niess is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Education at Oregon State University. She has authored several exemplary publications and is a lead editor of the IGI Global title, Educational Technology, Teacher Knowledge, and Classroom Impact: A Research Handbook on Frameworks and Approaches. Her research focuses on integrating technology in teaching science and mathematics and the knowledge teachers rely on for teaching with technologies –TPACK. She has authored multiple peer-reviewed works including a teacher preparation textbook, Guiding Learning with Technology. She is currently directing the design, implementation, and evaluation of a new online Master of Science program for K-12 mathematics and science teachers with an interdisciplinary science, mathematics, and technology emphasis. Research from this work has focused on developing a community of learners in online graduate coursework. She chaired the Technology Committee for the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE), served as Vice President of the Teacher Education Council for Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), served on the Board of Directors for School Science and Mathematics (SSMA), and was an editor of School Science and Mathematics Journal.
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