Applicability of TPCK in Teaching and Learning

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The exponential worldwide growth of technology has forced changes in our educational system. Our educational system is far behind the times in terms of using of technology to aid in teaching and learning in the classroom. Despite the fact that existing studies provides a strong foundation for teachers in physical classroom environments, virtually all states offer substantial online learning programs for K-12 students, and the number of states that require online skills as a prerequisite to graduation continues to mount (Watson, Gemin, & Ryan, 2008). Federal and State spending on technology in schools has slowly increased but very little has been done neither for the teachers' in-service training and development nor on the applicability of TPCK in the classroom.

The application of TPCK in the classroom has proven to be inconsistent because of the lack of research (Watson, Genin, & Ryan, 2008). Knowing how to teach is not the same as knowing what should be taught. What should be taught to prepare students for the world of technology has barely surpassed the addition of computers to the classrooms.

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The application of TPCK in the classroom has, in recent years, taken on five approaches in the direction of technology integration; software-focused, demonstrations, instruction and projects that are technology centered, workshops, and technology based continued education courses for teachers (McCormick & Scrimshaw, 2001).

Integrated learning software was mainly designed for distance learning and not in the classroom. This software is useful in keeping track of a student's needs and progress. In most recent years, there are more and more schools that offer individualized learning using integrated learning software in the classroom. This software enables students to learn at their own pace and to receive a more individualized learning experience while still receiving the benefits of a classroom environment (McCormick & Scrimshaw, 2001, p. 37).

Part of the curriculum may now require that students demonstrate their ability to utilize technology by being tested on how to do internet research. There are many web based resources for teachers that can aid them in developing a technology based curriculum. These resources include lesson plans and classroom projects that have been successfully used by other educators (McCormick & Scrimshaw, 2001, p.40).

The problem is that technology based lessons and projects require the acquisition of new hardware and software (McCormick & Scrimshaw, 2001, p.43). Many schools cannot afford the hardware and software that would make lessons in technology reality. Because of the lack of funds for classrooms, some teachers are finding it necessary to purchase some of the hardware and software programs themselves.

There are a couple of large scale professional development workshops and courses available for educators. One initiative, called Marco Polo, offers prepackaged professional training to groups of teachers with a district. TeacherLine offers a large variety of professional development courses so that teachers can utilize them at their convenience and according to their individual needs (McCormick & Scrimshaw, 2001, p. 48).

Technology-focused teacher education institutions that are either universities or districts and that operate by themselves or within a group, present educational technology courses to teachers as part of their continuing education requirements. These courses can be taken online or in person and can serve as recertification courses or as fundamentals of graduate course requirements (McCormick & Scrimshaw, 2001, p. 57).

The TPCK framework illustrates how teacher's understandings of technology, pedagogy, and content can effectively work together to generate efficient discipline based teaching with educational technologies. In the framework there are three mutually dependent parts of teacher's knowledge; content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge (Koehler & Mishra, 2005).

Content knowledge is actual understanding of the information that is to be taught or learned. Knowledge and the characteristics of examination vary a great deal amongst different content areas. It is imperative that teachers fully comprehend the subject matter that they teach. Full comprehension implies having knowledge of concepts, theories, ideas, organizational frameworks, knowledge of evidence and proof, and established practices and approaches toward the development of the knowledge. A teacher who does not comprehend the content of what they are teaching can result in false information and misconceptions for the students (Koehler & Mishra, 2005).

Pedagogical knowledge is an innate understanding of the various approaches to teaching and learning. This brand of knowledge pertains to student learning, classroom supervision, lesson development and execution, as well as student assessment. A teacher with profound pedagogical knowledge understands that students learn and acquire skills in different ways, and how they develop patterns of thought and opinions about learning. Pedagogical knowledge requires an understanding of cognitive, social and developmental theories in regards to learning and how those aspects apply to students in the classroom (Koehler & Mishra, 2005).

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Technology is constantly changing and so is the information that teachers have to know in order to be productive in the classroom. Teachers must have a broad knowledge of the changes in technology. When teachers don't keep up with rapidly changing fields of study, they run the risk of misleading or misinforming students about the world they live in.

Pedagogical content knowledge is essential to effective teaching. It requires knowledge of teaching, learning, curriculum, conditions that promote learning, an awareness of all student's prior knowledge, alternative teaching methods, and common fallacies. Having pedagogical content knowledge means having the flexibility that comes from exploring alternative ways of looking at the same idea or problem (Koehler & Mishra, 2005).

Technological pedagogical knowledge is the understanding of how teaching and learning fluctuate when certain technologies are put to use. It requires a complete understanding of the limitations and affordances of particular technologies and the educational environment within which they function best. A major part of technological pedagogical knowledge is creative flexibility with the tools that are available in order to restructure them for specific uses. This is because most software programs are not designed to be used for educational objectives. Teachers need to develop revamping skills in order to advance student learning and comprehension. There are many online activities that can be utilized by students in K-5 or above, such as, keypals and telefieldtrips.

Technological content knowledge is the understanding of how technology and content influence and limit each other. Content and technology are often considered separately when planning for instruction. When considering the subject matter that students will be studying, technology is not part of the planning process. It is generally not recognized that technology and knowledge are profoundly linked. In today's world, it is vitally important that teachers not only understand what they teach but also the manner in which it is taught.

Teachers must have an understanding of technology in order to determine which technology venues are best suited to deliver the subject matter to the students. For these reasons, educators should fully understand the three key ways in which technology and content relate to each other.

The launch of new technology has essentially changed content while content has shaped new technologies and established new uses for old technologies (Mishra, Spiro, and Feltovich, 1996 ).

Technology is not neutral with regard to its effects on cognition. Different technologies produce different ways of thinking (Mishra, Spiro, and Feltovich, 1996 ).

Changes in technology provide us with new ways of gaining knowledge through reasoning, intuition, and perception. Having technology become part of the general consciousness will enable those technologies to be suitable for teaching and learning (Mishra, Spiro, and Feltovich, 1996 ).

Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) means being highly skilled at teaching with technology. Technological pedagogical content knowledge encompasses practical ways to teach content according to student's learning needs. A student's learning needs are derived from knowing what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn (Mishra, Spiro, and Feltovich, 1996 ). It is up to the teacher to know how technology can help remedy conceptual challenges.

A successful teacher will use technology pedagogical content knowledge to build on a student's existing knowledge by transforming content into pedagogical forms in a way that makes it comprehensible for the student. The important thing to remember is that there is no single way of teaching that will work equally well for everyone. Teachers need to develop cognitive flexibility, not only as it pertains to content, technology, and, pedagogy, but also as it pertains to the ways in which these components interrelate with each other (Shulman, 1986).

It is not enough for teachers to learn about technology. They must also be taught how to utilize the skills they learn to teach more effectively. A teacher's knowledge requires flexibility and confidence in addition to curriculum based content. It is imperative that teachers become familiar with the complete range of learning activity types within each curriculum based field that can be used as flexible cognitive planning tools (Putnam & Borko, 2000).

The lack of available resources that would enable teachers to use technology in classroom lessons is quickly becoming a major issue. (Sandholtz, 2001, p. 349). Not a great deal has been done to educate the educators in areas of technology since the turn of the century. The lack of in-service training and support has forced many teachers to try to obtain this knowledge on their own or simply do without.

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In order to apply a technology based curriculum in the classroom, teachers would have to take on roles that stretch outside the realm of instruction. Many teachers consider the selecting and designing of educational activities and projects to be part of the job. However, teachers today have to include choices of different digital and non digital tools in the planning process. Teachers have to keep up to date on new technological devices that may be introduced into the classroom.

Teachers are not just educators these days. They have taken on the role of investigator. Teachers are left on their own to investigate new technological devices, software, and hardware that may benefit their student's learning experience. Teachers have become technicians who have to repair their equipment in their classrooms because the schools cannot afford to buy the equipment let alone fix it. Teachers have become students in the field of technology. Many of their students are more knowledgeable in electronic devices than they are.

Many parents are demanding that their children be taught with preparation for the real world in mind. A growing number of children are attending virtual schools because of the lack of technology based teaching methods in public schools.

There are many reasons why schools should make every effort to incorporate technology into the classroom. Students learn and develop at different rates of speed and efficiency. Technology can individualize lesson plans through computer networks called integrated learning systems. Teachers can create individualized lesson plans for their students. Students all have different person histories, pursuits, and means of inspiration. Individualized lesson plans that are taught through an integrated learning system can enable students to learn at their own pace and without feeling threatened by their environment. (Voogt, 2008)

Upon graduation, students are expected to be skilled at accessing, evaluating, and communicating information. Educational technology can rouse students into asking meaningful questions, enter discussions, devise opinions, take on problem solving and critical thinking, and investigate their views of reality. Online tools and resources enable students to assemble and assess information then communicate their findings with anyone in the world. Exchanging ideas requires reading, assessment, writing, developing charts, graphs, spreadsheets, and databases (Voogt, 2008).

Technology can improve the quantity and quality of student's thoughts and writing. Students are expected to solve intricate dilemmas. To do this, they need to understand the question and look for their own answers. There is a computer application called productivity tools that completely alters the way students create and think. This program enables students to categorize, probe, deduce, create, and evaluate their own work (Voogt, 2008).

This type of program is designed to help students focus on problem solving and enables them to work out a solution and immediately get the results.

Students must be globally conscious and able to utilize resources that exist outside the classroom. Technology enables students to immediately ascertain and discover other peoples and cultures, as well as, maps of the world and demographic data. Being able to take part in assignments that have value outside of the classroom can enable students to feel industrious and offer them a feeling of belonging (Voogt, 2008).

Students must be made to feel at ease with the tools of the information age. Technology is an important part of the world that the students live in. The old style of education will not prepare today's students for the real world.

The integration of technology in the classroom will transform education. TPCK will be the catalyst that will reform education on a worldwide scale. There will need to be more policies and practices that support teacher learning for technology integration in pedagogical practices. Changes need to identified and enacted in curriculum goals, roles of teachers and learners, and ways of assessing the learning outcomes of the students. Professional development for teachers must address issues of values and beliefs that create the motivation for teachers to learn.

The integration of technology into the classrooms has barely begun. Implementing changes is a time consuming process. The teacher's role in the integration is vital to its success. Changes take place through the teachers and the implementation of those changes depends greatly on with willingness of the teacher (Shulman, 1997). The integration of TPCK into the classroom creates a problem when it comes to national testing. With a system of individualized learning, will it be possible to get accurate test results from national testing? It would seem difficult to prepare students for a national test when the students in the classroom as at different levels of learning for their particular grade level. The national tests are designed for students of a certain grade level to be at the same level of learning as everyone else in that grade level and across the nation. It is clear that the integration process will be a long one as many changes need to be made. Current educators may have to be reeducated for the world of technology in order for it to be integrated into the classrooms. The current curriculum for teachers will also need reformation.