Bringing it all together: TPACK

Ok… those of you that read my second post on the NETS standards, might have noticed (if you look back) that I made mention of a future post on TPCK, or TPACK as it is now commonly referred to.

To cut to the chase and lay this out for you clean and neat, TPCK stands for “technological pedagogical content knowledge.” TPACK is what the acronym has evolved into. The reason for this is likely twofold. 1. It sounds better to actually say it with a vowel. and 2. => it now also alludes to the “Total PACKage” in education.

I had meant to really lay out the history of this entity for you to fall back on when it comes up… and it will. However, when I made the NETS post back in July, it was just on the edge of the new insanity of school year preparation. Therefore, I didn’t fulfill my initial goal in the time frame I had intended. Please allow me to severely abbreviate.

The reason I would like to abbreviate revolves around the simple fact that I have some images, etc. that I would like to share with you from the third floor at BHS. Jake Kelly (or Jacob if you choose to send an e-mail @ SJSD) is a new teacher in the science department. He teaches two different courses: Principles of Chemistry & Physics and Environmental Science. Last Friday, I was invited to observe an on-site field study of the urban creek that runs through Hyde Park. If I wasn’t an instructional coach… nor a science teacher… I would have still been interested. Click here for a set of images from that session as well as a video:

Now I know we are more than inundated with work on our “plan period” in 2008. But, one thing I would love to see happen at Benton, would be to have teachers of varying disciplines go along on such real-world endeavors. Can you imagine the buy-in we could score from students if they witnessed us engaging in fields of study outside of our “own?” Like I said- rarely does this opportunity present itself with progress reports looming, etc. However, if you ever get the chance, do it.

In 1986, Lee Shulman made popular the concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). This is that “thing” an outstanding educator possesses when they exhibit a strong interplay between rich content knowledge of their subject as well as a strong mastery of pedagogical (methods & practices of teaching) skills. What emerges in the overlap of these two entities is a deep awareness of the particular strategic practices that match well with each type of content. We would all agree that being an expert in a field of study doesn’t assure success as a teacher. Likewise, we would probably agree that possessing a gigantic pedagogical toolbox alone would not assure success in a field of study little known by the teacher.

However, when a content expert commits to learning which particular teaching practices work best to produce learning about a certain content goal… then great things happen.

If a high level of PCK produces good teaching, then strong TPACK really does produce the “total package.” TPACK is a framework that was brought to the forefront of technology integration in education by Dr. Matthew Koehler and Dr. Punya Mishra. This concept is illustrated in its simplest form by use of a three-circle Venn diagram:

According to Koehler & Mishra,

“True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator). Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, [transactional] relationship between all three components.”

TPACK is a framework well worth deeper consideration and discussion for our future at Benton. Let this brief post serve as yet another shot across the bow of our classrooms. If we can incorporate these ideals as we go along, it will serve as a solid guide for planning as well as reflection on our work.

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Sean Nash

Biology teacher in the great state of Kansas. Back at it in the classroom after a 30-year career in Missouri. Former District Curriculum Administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator, and Instructional Coach. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at


  1. Sean,
    WOW, that was impressive. Thought the video with Jake and class was super. Need to learn some of this stuff. Probably on my free time if I find some.
    Keep up the great work.

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