dinsdag 29 november 2011

Reflecting on designing a TPACK-based lesson

Figure 1 Example of QR-code.
With three other students I recently designed a lesson based on the TPACK-model, i.e. a lesson in which technology, pedagogy and content were combined as a whole. These three components were smartphones, inquiry learning and parts of the plants respectively for our lesson. In this lesson, for which the Sekolah Indonesia Netherlands (SIN) at Wassenaar was used as a context, pupils were provided with questions about a certain part of plants (root, stem, leaves and flower: so there were four groups, and each group needed to find the compontents and function of their part). They needed to find an answer to these questions by scanning QR-codes (see Figure 1 for an example) on their smartphones in the gardens surrounding the school. Every group walks a different route (and gets a different color) and needed to follow the directions given to them to find the place to search for the QR-codes (see Figure 2 for an example of the map). In the end the pupils needed to make presentation in which they answered their questions to the rest of the group.

Figure 2 Example of the map.

So how did we come to our final design? We used the ADDIE-model to guide our process: so we started with a context and learner analysis, formulated design principles based on this, used these principles as guidelines to design and develop the lesson, provided an implementation plan and an evaluation plan (which was mainly aimed at evaluating the TPACK-competencies of the teacher).
In my opinion the process went smooth. As a group we worked well together - even though a lack of sufficient communication skills with respect to the English language sometimes caused misunderstandings (but this also helped improving my English language skills) - and we devided the tasks equally. But, looking back, I think we could have made the link between the analysis and the design principles and the design itself more explicit in our report. To me it now looks as if the principles just fall from the sky - even though that is not true - and we did not explicitly write down how these principles were operationalized specifically in our design.

Using the TPACK-model
The TPACK-model was really helpful in designing this lesson. It shows the three main components of a lesson (content, pedagogy and technology). By looking at it, it reminded me of the interrelationship of these components. When thinking about the technology (smartphones) it forced me to take the other components into account too. This was really insightful. The model also helped to structure my thinking. During the first meetings with our group we started brainstorming on lesson ideas. Using the TPACK-model, we were forced to think of a content, a pedagogy and a technology. Before knowing the model I would probably only have thought about the content and then about filling in the steps of the Expanded Events of Instruction of Gagné (in Smith & Ragan, 2005).

Stimulating teachers
Fisser (2006) mentions the Concerns-Based Adoption Model by Hord, Rutherford, Huling-Austin and Hall. This model summarizes the stages of concern of teachers about an innovation (see Figure 3). Using technology can be seen as an innovation.
Figure 3 Concerns-Based Adoption Model, according to Fisser (2006).
When teachers need to be stimulated to use ICT I think these stages should be taken into account. According to Fisser (2006) it is important to ask the same questions teachers are asking when the ask them. Also, this means that attention is needed for implementation for several years, because it will take at least three years for early concerns to be resolved and later ones to emerge. Probably we want teachers too much to use technology that we demand it NOW, while time is needed for teachers to get used to technology. Technological inventions go very fast and humans cannot adapt to these changes that fast. Teachers need to learn new skills, need answers to their questions. This not only means training, but also a rolemodel. Some teachers already seem to use technology very much and in very good ways. These teachers can function as these rolemodels. Teachers need an example, because the possibilities with technology are overwhelming them.

Fisser, P. (2006). Using ICT in higher education: From pilot to implementation, who is involved? In Whitelock, D. & Wheeler, S. (eds.), ALT-C 2006: The next generation. Research proceedings. Edinburgh: Heriot-Watt University.

Smith, P., & Ragan, T. (2005). Instructional design. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

dinsdag 25 oktober 2011


Shulman (1986) introduced the term pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), because he observed that in educational research pedagogy and content were always dealt with separately. According to him, pedagogy and content should to be combined by a teacher to teach well, and therefore pedagogical content knowledge was needed. Teachers should know about the content of the topic they teach, and about pedagogies that can be used to teach this content. When combined, it means that teachers need to know what pedagogy fits well with what kind of content and in what situation. Shulman (1986) also considered curricular knowledge, by which he meant knowledge of the materials (books, software, films, etc.) to be used during a lesson. This knowledge supports the PCK.
Figure 1 The TPACK-model, from Koehler and Mishra (2009)
In the TPACK-model of Koehler and Mishra (2009) this curricular knowledge is called technological knowledge. Because technology adds a dimension to teaching (especially modern technologies are protean, unstable and opaque and therefore confront teachers with new challenges), they added technological knowledge to the PCK, ending up with technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), see Figure 1.
The technological knowledge (TK), pedagogical knowledge (PK) and content knowledge (CK) are already explained. In the model several combinations of these three knowledge kinds can be observed. Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is the one proposed by Shulman (1986), the basis of this model. Technological content knowledge (TCK) refers to knowledge about which technology fits with what kind of content, how to adapt technology to content, how to represent and manipulate content using a technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). The technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) means that the teacher is aware of the pedagogical affordances and constraints of a range of technologies, what technologies are compatible with what pedagogies (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).
TPACK is an emergent form of knowledge that goes beyond all three core components: content, pedagogy and technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). These three components should not be seen as isolated, but as a system, in which complex relations among them exist. Understanding of these relations means TPACK.

Integration of technology into schools means a change in what teachers need to know and do (Strudler & Hearrington, 2008). Because new technologies seem to be protean, unstable and opaque they confront teachers with new challenges (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). The quick developments in technology seem to be the main problem for integrating ICT in schools, because teachers need time to adapt to it (Strudler & Hearrington, 2008).
In my opinion the TPACK-model provides a framework for professional development of teachers. The model shows how technology, pedagogy and content interrelate with each other. Zhao and Frank (2003) provide and ecological perspective of integration of technology into schools. Introducing new species, whether intentional or unintentional, affects the equilibrium, or homeostasis, of an ecosystem. In their view technology uses are a species that invades the ecosystem of a school. The invading species may interact with one or more existing species (students, teachers, etc.). The ecological perspective shows us that technology and schools both need to go through a process of variation and selection to acquire new properties: a process of integration, which needs to be provided by two sides. Technology needs to adapt to the school ecosystem, but the school also needs to change. This is all very similar to the metaphor of the curricular spider web, provided by Van den Akker (2003): when changing one element in a curriculum, everything moves with it. So when changing technology, everything else changes. Technology can be seen as a pedagogic strategy and when implementing it, it would alter the strategy teachers use (see here), which is also in line with the TPACK-model, by Koehler and Mishra (2009), who propose that technological knowledge is needed in combination with pedagogical and content knowledge: this implies that when changing the technology, a teacher should also adapt pedagogy and content to it.
The blue line around the model (see Figure 1) actually shows the importance of context: when something changes, everything else has to change with it. It is one whole. Teachers who understand the relationships between the three compontent of the model, will be able to adapt  to a new situation faster than other teachers, and this is how this model can help in the integration of technology into schools.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.
Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4-14.
Strudler, N., & Hearrington, D. (2008). Quality support for ICT in schools. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (eds.), International handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education (pp. 579-596).
Van den Akker, J. (2003). Curriculum perspectives: An introduction. In J. van den Akker, W. Kuiper, & U Hameyer, Curriculum landscapes and trends (pp. 1-10). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Zhao, Y., & Frank, K. A. (2003). Factors affecting technology uses in schools: An ecological perspective. Americal Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 807-840.

woensdag 19 oktober 2011

Cool tools for Schools

Cool tools for Schools is a nice website with - as the title already implies - lots of cool tools which teahcers can use in their classrooms. These tools are grouped in certain categories, like collaborative tools, video tools, audio tools, writing tools, etc. Every tool is ccompanied with a short discription, so teachers can quickly scan the lists with links to tools.
What2Learn is an example of a quiz tool. With this tool teachers can create quizes in the form of games.  Teachers can make an account and create quizes. They can create their own games or use pre-made games, like Underwater Mathematics. Then they can make accounts for their students, but it is not free. Student accounts cost £1,- per student, while teacher accounts are free. That is a major drawback of the tool. But when teachers actually order student accounts they can see their students' progress, which can be very helpful.
What2Learn is a very nice tool for teachers who want to test their students on declarative knowledge, and can be used for automatisation of procedures (like the mathematics example). This tool is not suitable for testing application and higer order cognitive skills.

dinsdag 11 oktober 2011


SimSchool is a classroom simulation that supports 'the rapid accumulation of a teacher's experience in analyzing student differences, adapting instruction to individual learner needs, gathering data about the impacts of instruction, and seeing the results of their teaching', as stated on the website (www.simschool.org). It is a 'virtual learning environment where instructors can explore instructional strategies, examine classroom management techniques, and practice building relationships with students that will translate into increased learning'. When starting a simulation, you can choose from several learning activities, which you can assign to the whole class or just one student. You can also give behavioral and academic assertions, observations and inquiries. When doing that the student's power, happiness and achievement will be influenced. By experimenting you can try to make your students happy and achieving without losing too much power. Of course this seems easier than it is - at least that is my observation.

Everly's bad day
Now I will describe one module. Everly's Bad Day. I do not want to anticipate, but with me as a teacher Everly really had a bad day. I started with looking at the file of Everly in the computer. There I found that he likes assignments and stays on task. He needs some stimulation and manages to get along with other students. Then I started the simulation. I began with the steps provided in the manual for the lesson. But halfway I got lost. Nothing seemed to change, even the time did not proceed. I came to the conclusion that Internet Explorer wasn't the right browser. When using Mozilla Firefox I restarted the simulation. This time I tried to adapt the teaching strategy to Everly. First I made him read silently. Achievement boosted, but power and happiness quickly fell. So I decided to let him play a game. He liked that, but achievement dropped. After that I did not manage to let it boost again without letting Everly lose happiness or power. It was really difficult, and this was just one student. Think how well everything would have been with a whole class of students! The reason I failed probably had something to do with picking the wrong assignments for Everly. But still I do not know which ones I should have picked. Probably I had to little time to figure that out. With more time I am pretty sure I would have found it out.

Linking to pedagogy and technology
The simulation of SimSchool really has experiential value, because everything that happens is very concrete (Reeves, 1998). As a user you are constantly challenged to reflect on what you do. Why is this happening? What can I change? This implies learning from your experiences, constructing knowledge based on what you experience. The pedagogy therefore has constructivist characteristics (Smith & Ragan, 2005). Of course this experience is not real, it is just a simulation. A lot of factors, like the mood of the students, the way in which the assignments are used and communication with the students are not available or very limited. But that doesn't mean that it has no potential to work. Reeves (1998) points out that learning through using knowledge, skills and attitudes is much better than learning through memorizing it. The simulation is helping to use knowledge and skills, not to memorize it.
In SimSchool users can make their own simulations, but also instructor can do so. These simulations can be shared. This makes SimSchool easily modifiable, which according to Reeves (1998) seems to have some dangers, because implementation becomes difficult. On the other hand, every created simulation is very teacher-proof, which means that nothing can be changed to it. Reeves (1998) proposes a balance between teacher-proof and easily modifiable, because modification allows for innovations that can make implementation more successful. This balance seems to be available in SimSchool. I also think that SimSchool can offer flexibility, because so many things can be decided by the learner. But also an instructor can pre-make a lot of options, which allows for flexibility too.


Reeves, T. (1998). Evaluating what really matters in computer-based education. Visited on 11 Octrober, 2011, via http://www.eduworks.com/Documents/Workshops/EdMedia1998/docs/reeves.html

Smith, P., & Ragan, T. (2005). Instructional design. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

maandag 3 oktober 2011


Flexible learning means that the learner is offered a choice in different aspects of learning (Collis & Moonen, 2001). Flexible learning is complex to implement in practice. Collis and Moonen (2001) summarize a few major barriers confronting the desire to make learning more flexinble, like that flexibility seems to be unmanageable (particularly for instructors, because it takes a lot of time from them), not acceptable (the school culture expects that the course provider is responsible for certain decisions about the course offering), not affordable (each combination of options may require specific input, the more options, the more input is needed) and flexibility seems to be unrealistic (some combinations of options may not be compatible with one antother by their very nature). So why should we want flexible learning? 
Collis and Moonen (2001) give two important reasons. Firstly, the changing characteristics of students in post-secondary education, since those students come from a wide variety of places and all have different experiences and sometimes even different cultures and languages. Secondly, the need for lifelong learning in the context of increasing career mobility.
Since there are a few reasons for wanting flexible learning, we should ask ourselves: how can more flexibility be offered? There are five key dimensions of flexibility (Collis & Moonen, 2001) which will be discussed shortly below.

Flexibility related to time
Giving students the option to choose the time for starting and finishing training programs or courses can be way of offering flexibility. Also students could get the option to decide when to submit an assignment or to make appointments themselves with a teacher for feedback. Yet another way of creating more flexibility is to let students decide their own pace of studying or moments of assessment.

Flexibility related to content
In a training program students can be free to choose elective courses that meet their learning needs. Also within a course flexibility can be offered by letting the students choose specific topics/aspects that will be covered. Also, students can be free to decide the sequence of different parts of a course. Even the course orientation can be left to learners choice: will a course be very theoretical with al lot of lectures or more practical with hands-on assignments? Key learning materials can also be chosen by the students to offer flexibility. For example students can choose between a book or scientific articles. Last but not least students can be offered options for assessment standards and completion requirements (learning goals for example).

Flexibility related to entry requirements
Offering different conditions for participating in a training program or course is a way of creating more flexibility. For example, it is possible to formulate strict entry requirements for a training, like the kind of preliminary training needed. Offering flexibility in this will mean that there are more preliminary training programs giving access to a certain training.

Flexibility related to instructional approach and resources
Students can be given options for the social organization of learning, for example working in a group or individually. Courses can be offered in different languages (for example English and Dutch), but also within a course choices with regard to language could be offered, like the option to choose the language used to write papers or to make assignments. Options for the origin of learning resources can help creating flexibility: will the teacher offer most of the information or will the students do? Or maybe information comes from the internet or the library. Also, choices can be made with regard to the kind and number of assignments that the students need to complete.

Flexibility related to delivery and logistics
Options regarding the place and procedures can be offered. Time and place where contact with the teacher and other students occurs can be decided by the students themselves. This also includes choices like learning at home (distance learning) or maybe outside (for example during a biology lesson/course). Technologies or methods for obtaining support and making contact can also be considered when creating flexibility, for example e-mail, chat or telephone. Also the location and technology for participating in various aspects of the course can be considered, or even the types of help that the teacher provides or that is provided via others (for example students). Lastly, teachers can give students the choice for the delivery channels for course information and content, which means the kind of media used, for example PowerPoint or a Wiki.

A few years ago I started using Dropbox to share information with my team members in a project. Dropbox is a very nice example of a tool that can be used to support flexible learning. You need to download the program, after which it creates a special folder in your 'Documents'-folder. There you can create other folders to save your files, just like in normal folders. The difference is that the files will be updated immediately to the servers of Dropbox. On the site (www.dropbox.com) you can login and share folders with others. These other people will then be able to edit the files in that folder and after they did, the files will be updated, also on your computer. No need to send files via e-mail. This way students can work wherever they want: the files are not only visible on your computer, but also in your browser when you login to the site, where you can download them. So even when a student has no access to his or her own computer, he is still able to download the most recent version of his work. This has a lot of advantages when you want to be flexible. Visit the site of Dropbox for more information.

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


This blog had been created for the course 'Pedagogies for Flexible Learning Supported by Technology', which is part of the CIMA-track of the EST-program of the University of Twente. Every now and then I will update this blog with posts about flexibility and technology in education.

This is the first time ever that I am writing a blog. Everything here is new to me and it took me some time to find out how it works, but I am learning quickly, which this post - hopefully - prooves.