Technology in Our Teaching


By Timothy Costello

What is TPACK and how does it play a role?

I will be the first to admit when I started teaching; I resorted to my “comfort zone” of what I knew. This was notes on the whiteboard, work sheets and/or assigned homework out of a student consumable…LOTS of consumables. Was this efficient? Yes it was, the same thing had been done for decades. However, I began to ask myself if it was effective? My answer was no…it was busy work, time consuming and labor intensive (for students and teacher). And oh the response and looks on students faces when handing out more worksheets. So, entering from stage right, technology. The question then became how do I integrate technology into my teaching more than just a document camera or a projector? I discovered TPACK.

Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge, or TPACK, focuses on the complex and multi-dimensional aspects of teacher knowledge while simultaneously determining the information required by instructors for technology integration within their teaching. The core of TPACK’s foundation is the interconnection of the three primary forms of knowledge: Content Knowledge (CK), Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) and Technological Knowledge (TK). However, each of these primary forms does not exist in isolation; they overlap each other much like a Venn diagram (see above).

Effective technology integration within our teaching regarding pedagogy and specific subject matter necessitates developing relationships between each component. There are many factors such as grade-level, culture (schools and student body) and instructional staff affecting technology integration. Therefore, no combination of technology, content or pedagogy will pertain to every teacher or school. Let’s examine the relationships between the core principles of TPACK.

For the sake of time and space, I will not define technology, pedagogy or content knowledge, we all know what they are. However, it is the interplay between each of them we will examine:

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK): transpires when the subject matter is transformed for teaching. This occurs when the instructor interprets the material and then finds multiple ways to represents it. This incorporates everything including curriculum, instruction, learning and assessment and pedagogy. Hence, the reason it is classified as PCK (Shulman, 1986).

Technological Content Knowledge (TCK): teachers need to understand how technology and content hinder and influence one another. Teachers can no longer master just the subject matter they teach, but how it can be changed by utilizing certain technologies. Instructors should understand what technologies are best suited for their subject domain and how the relationship may change both the technology and the subject matter (Koehler and Mishra, 2009).

Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK): this is exemplified when technology is used in particular ways in altering teaching and learning. This includes knowing the limits of tech tools as related to pedagogical designs and strategies (Koehler and Mishra, 2009).

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK): TPACK is different from the knowledge of all three disciplines individually. It is effective teaching with technology, demanding an understanding of concepts using technology, pedagogical strategies exploiting technology in ways to teach the content as well as pedagogical strategies when activating student’s prior knowledge in learning content.

In conclusion, when I discovered TPACK I had to ask myself where I fell in the diagram. Last year, as a brand-new intern teacher, I was confident in my content knowledge. However, I had very little confidence in my pedagogy and I was fairly confident with technology. This year, as a part of EdTech Cadre I have discovered more tech tools and their effectiveness with different pedagogical strategies, while I am still working on my pedagogy. My question to all of you is: Where are you on the TPACK Venn Diagram?

When Tech Problems Happen

We live in a fast paced world where there always seems to be more to do than there is time in which to do it. Part of the reason for that is that we now have tools that, when working properly, allow us to do more work in a very short period of time. That is great when the tools work, and we know how to properly use them. But we do not live in a perfect  world. Things break. Tools change. New tools come down the line. These things happen in all industries, and education is no exception. The problem becomes acute when things break or change while the teacher is standing in front of a class of 30+ kids. Everything comes to a grinding halt because something is not working as expected. Not fun.

Picture of a locked computer cart.

Don’t let your chromebooks stay locked up unused because of a fear of tech problems. Instead, practice problem solving strategies with your students.


Some folks want to avoid working with technology because of these unexpected events. The problem with that approach is that it leaves students unprepared to live in the world that we live in. Students are going to experience problems with technology in life. They need to have real world problem solving strategies modeled for them. That is one way people learn! Next time you have technology problems don’t panic. Don’t put the computers away in frustration. That shows the students that when faced with adversity it is best to give up. That is not the message we want to send as teachers. Trouble shooting may not be the lesson you had planned for the day, but make the best of it. Figure it out, in front of the kids. Figure it out with the kids. And ask for help, in front of the kids.

Student Engineers at Harrison

By Peter Gallegos and Veronica Torres

Our goal at PLTW is to teach students to develop the job related skills they will need for the careers of the future.”  PLTW Site

 There currently is a shortage of engineers in the United States and PLTW schools are addressing that shortage. PLTW students at Harrison are not only learning engineering skills, they are learning the skills needed to communicate and persevere. Communication and critical thinking are skills you will find in any Project Lead the Way (PLTW) classroom. Harrison students have learned to communicate with classmates and other, more experienced engineering teams they have met at competitions to refine and improve on their designs. For example in the picture below, one of the students in Harrison’s PLTW class is discussing strategies with high school students from Tracy.

Img of students discussing robots

A student from Harrison discusses robot strategies with high school students from Tracey.

Two and a half years into the program Harrison students are first and second out of 25 competitors in the VEX League Robotics Competitions, and just qualified for the state championships! The VEX League consist of both high school and middle school teams.

Standings in Vex robotics

Students from Harrison dominated the robotic competition.

What is a VEX competition?

First, students find out about the game. Different games require robots with different capabilities. The game consists of  a 15 sec. autonomous round, where the robot works on its own, with no human interaction. Then a student driver will take control of the robot for 1 minute and 45 seconds. Robots operate depending on codes written by students.  Robots earn points by moving mobile bases into 5, 10, 20 point zones. The robots also earn points by stacking cones to create the highest stacks in each zone.

Once students understand the specifics of the game, the students design a robot in their engineering notebooks. Students have to program remote controllers to work with their robots. The students then build a robot to their own specifications, making adjustments along the way. For example, lifting and flipping motions must be programed into the robot.


Once the robot is built, the students prepare for competition. They refine and practice their skills  to get ready for competitions.


The engineering team at Harrison is co-ed  and students see themselves as future engineers. Here Harrison girls are taking notes and collaborating at the SJ County Delta College Vex Competition, learning from each other.

image of students at a robot competition

Harrison students taking notes at a robot competition

Students are trouble shooting a robot motor running the wrong way.




Virtual Math Manipulatives

Have you ever wished that every student in your classroom had their own manipulatives like a geo board, fraction set, number line, pattern blocks, set of money, and more? Have you ever thought it takes up too much time to get all those math manipulatives out? Have you ever wanted to provide a fast math visual in your lesson delivery, but it just takes too long to draw or you aren’t the best artist when it comes to drawing all those straight lines?

What if I could show you how you to do all this and more in seconds! That’s right you can with The Math Learning Center. You can get FREE math apps on every students chrome book. No more time wasting, no more all my students don’t have one, no more skipping that visual. Not when it’s this easy! Talk about making connections and engagement for your students!


Step 1:  Go this web address.

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Step 2: Click the App you want (ie: Geoboard)

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Step 3: Scroll down and you’ll see three options for how to get it, Open Web App, Apple App Store, and Chrome Store. Select and click Chrome Store.

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Step 4: Select and click ADD TO CHROME

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Step 5: Select and click Add App

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Step 6: It will download and automatically and open to your Chrome Apps. If you close your Apps don’t fret. You can always find the Chrome Apps anytime by clicking on the multi-color grid that says Apps.

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Step 7: Now click your new free App and explore what it can do. (ie: Money)

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What does it do?

Step 1: Once App is open select $1.00 bill.

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Step 2: Click on the screen. The $1.00 will appear and more. Then Select a new denomination. (ie: quarter)

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Step 3: Click on the screen where you want to place the quarter. Then select some more denominations and place them on the screen where you want them on the screen. (ie: Quarters)

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Step 4: Click around and explore. Look at the tool bar below that allows you to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and so much more.

Don’t forget to get all the FREE math Apps and play around with them to see how they can help save you time, enhance your math lessons, make connections in math, and engage the students. Each student can have the FREE math Apps on their chrome books too. They just need to follow the steps above on their individual chrome books or you can put it on each students chrome book. (Editors note: You can also have the app installed on all of the chromebooks in your cart. Just email Wayne Stagnaro with the name of the app and your cart number.)


Blog Post By: Lindsay Kumar, Instructional Coach Monroe Elementary School