A TPACK video mashup!

Hi, this is Punya Mishra from Michigan State, guest blogging for Sean while he is away doing cool things. I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel some pressure to come up with a particularly interesting posting. It is one thing to write on my own blog, that’s my space and I can do what I want there. Writing for someone else (with as august an audience such as you, dear Reader) is a different matter altogether. When Sean asked me to guest blog he suggested that I write about the TPACK framework, a topic I seem to have some expertise about, so I will do that, but with a slightly different tack. I would like to talk about what technology can do for us as educators.

We need to approach this with some humility since technologies have often been hyped as leading to fundamental educational change. I wrote about this earlier on my blog, taking quotes from books written back in the 1930s!!

More immediately, this line of thought was prompted when I received a series of emails from people about a video that was making the rounds. It was a commercial created by an unnamed organization (you will see the video below, so the organization is not much of a secret) that spoke to how the educational system has failed us and suggested that technology could be a solution to finding talent and creativity. I saw the video and was impressed by its production qualities and overall tone, but something bothered me about it. This led to some musings that I place below AND a mashup of the video that I created. You can see both the original and my mashup towards the end of this post. You are of course free to scroll down and see the videos, just make sure to see them in the order they are presented (the commercial followed by my mashup) for full effect, but it would be good to read through what I have written below before seeing the videos, just out of the kindness of your heart 🙂


I have often said that technology changes everything. What I mean by this, particularly in the context of teaching is that incorporating technology into teaching cannot be just business as usual. Technology is disruptive. A new technology changes both what we teach and how we teach. But what does this really mean? One important aspect of thinking about new technologies are the new possibilities they create. Think about calculating the distance to the moon by using publicly available recordings of the Apollo mission. Or seeing the shape of the earth through time-lapse photographs of an eclipse

There is one fundamental problem with thinking about what new technologies can do for teaching. It has to do with the fact that we often look at new media to do things the old fashioned way. This leads to questions such as, is an eBook as good as a regular book? Is online learning as good as face to face learning? These discussions often seem pointless and futile to me, and I am reminded of a joke that I had once read, about two goats who come across a box of film in the Nevada desert, and as goats are wont to, they eat the film. At the end of the meal, one goat asks the other, “So what do you think of the film?” The other responded, “The book was better.”

What this, somewhat weak, joke hits on is what we often see when a popular book is turned into a movie. There are people who hate the new version, feeling that it fails to capture what it was that they had liked about the book. This to me is an aversion to change and an expectation that things that work one way would work the same way forever.

Similar to the goats in Nevada, I am often asked to compare between learning with and without technology. For instance speaking of online learning, I am often asked whether online can be as good as face to face learning. I often answer this question by flipping it around and asking “can face to face learning be as good as online learning?” The point here is that this question may be the wrong one to ask. Just as it seems futile to compare the film and print version of the same story, it is futile to compare one technology to another because the criteria for evaluation are (or should be) different. At the end, it depends on what the purposes are and which technology is appropriate for which of them. What we need to look at are the differing potentials and possibilities of each of these technologies – and develop strategies that utilize the best of both rather than set up these rather tiresome black and white contrasts. This sensitivity to affordances and constraints of different technologies is at the heart of the TPACK framework.

It was in this context that I saw the commercial and which prompted me to write this post and create my mashed-up version. But then again the more I thought about it the more I felt that a video demanded a video response, so an hour or so of work later, here it is. I should also provide a hat-tip to Leigh Wolf, my colleague, for her feedback on a draft version of this movie.


First, though let us watch the original video:

And follow that with my response:


In conclusion, we often approach technologies with our own biases and predilections related to appropriate and inappropriate ways of using them. Cognitive scientists use the phrase “functional fixedness” to describe the manner in which the ideas we hold about an object’s function can inhibit our ability to use the object for a different function. Functional fixedness often stands in the way of creative uses of technologies. Overcoming this is essential for the intelligent and creative application of technology for learning. So thinking of technology merely to supplant a lecture (which was my concern with the original video) is doing a disservice to the possibilities that technology provides us.

For example, a whiteboard has certain constraints and affordances: it is heavy and difficult to move, yet it is easy to write on and erase, and it can function as a public “writing space” to share ideas with others. These constraints and affordances, however, do not necessarily determine how a whiteboard can be used. The manner in which a whiteboard is used in a classroom as opposed to a science lab clearly indicates that the function of a whiteboard is determined very much by the context in which it is used. Similarly, one can use a digital camera to see the world in new ways, and PowerPoint, a presentation tool, can be used as a medium for artistic creativity. And Audacity, an open source audio editing program, can be use to compute the distance to the moon!

It is only with looking at technologies for what they can do, rather than merely replicate existing practices that we can hope to achieve their potential. At the end of my mashup I use three words to capture what I would most like to see happen: Explore, Create, Share. That is the only way I believe that we can achieve the potentials of these new technologies.


I hope you enjoyed the guest post as much as I enjoyed writing it. I look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts. You can post them here, or on my blog or write to be directly at punya [at] msu [dot] edu. Thanks also to Sean for giving me this opportunity. Take care.


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 http://nashworld.me


  1. Punya,

    First of all, thank you for sharing while Sean was away breaking all the “functional fixedness” of teaching Marine Biology to students in St. Joseph, MO.

    As I text messaged back and forth with Sean this morning (he has brought my son back with him from the Bahamas), he asked me if I had commented. I text messaged back that I had not, but I did have many thoughts and feelings about what you posted. Funny, I am still a reluctant learner in this venue. I know reflection is the most dynamic learning tool. Silly me.

    So, my learning. I am the instructional principal at Benton High School (where Sean is the instructional coach), and ever since I learned about TPACK, I realized the acronym encapsulated my supervisory responsibilities succinctly. I am the TPACK principal. From that moment of realization, I have also come to learn that our staff thinks “technology” replaces — not enhances — much akin to the video.

    And my learning focus is based deeply in trying to find ways to get beyond what you stated so well,

    “What I mean by this, particularly in the context of teaching is that incorporating technology into teaching cannot be just business as usual. Technology is disruptive. A new technology changes both what we teach and how we teach.”

    I believe I can not professionally develop teachers by separating “T” from “P” from “CK.” I see my district leaders thinking it can be. I see them allowing others to lead who think it can be. You even found a commercial from a school that thinks it can be.

    I am not sure I have learned enough yet to know exactly how to go about it, but I do know that I must. And that is what I learned. It may not seem deep in the few words of a comment, but it has given me another sign to follow on my journey of learning. And again, thanks for guest writing.

    Ancora Imparo.

  2. Jeanette, Thanks for your comment and your efforts. Institutional change is often a slow process – but I do believe that we are at the cusp of some significant social and cultural shifts, shifts that we as educators have to deal with. I am not sure that anybody knows “exactly how to go about it.” So in this regard you are not alone. I think it will be a process of trial and error, informed by reflection and collaboration. A bigger error however will be not making an effort. Take care.

  3. “Explore, Create, Share.”

    Yep- I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, the toughest one of these for most folks I run into is the first… explore. In my brain, this equates to play. Untested, aimless play. It is the first thing I do with any new technology… kick the tires, and see what the thing can do. Find the limitations. Explore the possibilities. I think it helps to have a little bit of your personality grounded in childhood still. I certainly have an immature chunk left in my personality that I doubt I could squeeze out if I tried.

    This is truly the biggest idea to be found here:
    “It is only with looking at technologies for what they can do, rather than merely replicate existing practices that we can hope to achieve their potential.”
    I couldn’t agree more.

    There is just so much goodness in this post… links about 30’s quotes, distance-to-the-moon calculations, pointing to “functional fixedness,” and video. I am still trying to soak this one in while getting caught back up after our Bahamas field study.

    Thanks a million for such a contribution. I couldn’t have asked for more!

    I am so glad you decided to point out -with many examples- how valuable it is to dig in and really respect any new technology available for what it might be able to do for you. I was reminded of my first tinkering with PowerPoint on my Dad’s computer… I created presentations of some of my latest poems, line by line, faded and dramatic. I didn’t see it first as a way to deliver bullet points. This post made me reflect on that idea. I think it is really significant.

    Play is crucial. It really isn’t just silly stuff. Exploration is built into the system at innovative companies. It is too bad that our schools seem to be increasingly pulled into a dry world of numerical accountability that tends to squash such opportunities. To be truly innovative in education today… you have to enjoy playing with it on your own time.

    I wonder how we can systematically assure that a time and place for exploration and innovation is available for educators? Without it, it seems silly to expect that very thing from the students of our teachers.

    Thanks again Punya,


  4. Sean, welcome back and thank YOU for the opportunity to write and share my ideas. The video was fun to make and the guest post provided an slot to think through (publicly) some of these ideas.

    BTW, when you get a chance, check out the posting on my blog (http://punya.educ.msu.edu/2009/04/08/translation-technology-tpack-reflections-on-french-lieutenant%E2%80%99s-woman/ ) on adapting a novel to film. That was what I had started writing for you… but it just became too long and I wasn’t sure I should inflict that on your readers!

  5. Explore, Create, Share!

    That’s a fantastic way of visualizing how e-learning ought to work. In India, we’re probably still just grappling with this new medium, and it might be wonderful if we can directly latch on to this idea and work with it instead of going down the traditional path of trying to duplicate classroom training in a different medium. Thanks for the wonderful post.


  6. I was not familiar with the term functional fixedness. Thanks for sharing that in the context of the blog. I also LOVED the video mashup. What a great example of NOT having functional fixedness, and a wonderful way to get your point across! I’m presenting an article at Duke University for the Alice Symposium June 17, 2009, that incorporates TPACK into a curriculum design model using the 3D animation program of Alice to help students gain a greater proficiency in core subjects, while also developing 21st century skills. (See link to paper at http://timetrek-sontag.blogspot.com/)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *