TPACK: Finding the solution to the “wicked” problem of teaching with technology

The concept of TPACK (Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) has definitely left a strong  impression on me as a teacher. It sums up the entire Education process in one acronym: TPACK or Total PACKage. This one acronym gives us a comprehensive view of the entire educative process. We live in a world full of choices today. This is true for the field of Education as well. Be it “what we teach,” “how we teach,” “what technology we use for teaching,” what context we are teaching in,” or “how our students learn”: all this is ever changing and dynamic in today’s world.

We talk about technology today, but the technology was always present in our classrooms. The blackboard that we used in our classes for so long, was a technology. But slowly technology evolved and took a shape that we are used to in the present time. How we use this for effective teaching of the concepts that we want our students to learn is the “wicked question” that we as teachers answer almost every day in our classrooms.

Untitled drawing (3)Teachers must know and understand the subjects they teach, including knowledge of central facts, concepts, theories and procedures within a given field, along with a knowledge of pedagogical strategies that involve various elements of student learning, classroom management, lesson plan development, and implementation, and student evaluation.

I agree with Dr. Mishra when he says that technology changes:

 

  • How we teach. (Pedagogy)
  • What we Teach. (Content)
  • The context in which teaching/learning happens.

 

We as teachers unconsciously make these decisions every day: what to teach, how to teach and what to use to make learning easier for our students. The concept of TPACK is new to me but I feel that I have been applying this every day during my classes. But now it does get me to think consciously about these decisions and has given me a deeper insight into the process of using technology for better teaching and effective learning.

Image of students working on Chromebooks.

Today classrooms have more technology than ever before. Using it effectively is the challenge teachers face.

Today we have technology at our disposal which is a big advantage. I have been using technology such as Chromebooks, projector, internet access for students, and students’ own devices in my own classroom along with different pedagogical strategies such as group discussions, brainstorming, Socratic seminars, think pair share, and peer review, to name a few. We can now teach using methods which were not even conceivable earlier. For example, while students work on an independent reading activity for my class, I create a google doc and share it with my students. Students are required to respond to the prompt presented to them in the doc and others can join in and comment or ask questions or give answers. This engages students in online discussion and even students who hesitate to speak in front of others join in the online discussion.

My high school classes are composed of adolescent students from multicultural backgrounds. Engaging adolescents in classwork and maintaining their focus and attention is a challenge. Most of them don’t have English as their mother tongue. Some of the students are proficient with all four English language skills; others are still developing all or some of those skills. Most students struggle with writing skills. But I also have students who are good at writing but struggle with speaking skills. So different backgrounds, different previous experiences, and different skill levels, all these lead to different student needs. This makes teaching challenging and when you meet these needs it is really satisfying.

TPACK has given me a fresh insight into how we are unconsciously making decisions and using technology for effective teaching and learning in today’s classrooms. TPACK definitely has an impact on these decisions when I make them for my classes. One thing that I always have in mind is that technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Whenever I use technology, I think of its utility for that particular content, and its compatibility with the pedagogical strategies that I am using, keeping in mind the context and environment of my classroom.

Dr. Mishra has also brought focus on the idea of using creativity in making everyday teaching effective. Most technological tools we use (Office software, Blogs, etc.) are not designed for teachers, and we have to find creative ways of using them for educational purposes. I also try to find more creative and more useful ways in which I can use technology in my classroom. For this, I make use of our collaboration time and the PLC meetings that we have at school and also search for new avenues online.

I totally agree with the following three things:

  • Teaching with technology is a wicked problem.
  • Wicked problems require creative solutions that are novel, effective and whole.
  • Teachers are the designers of the total package.

Quality teaching is the transformation of the content. It is the act of learning to think in a disciplined manner. Technology gives us new opportunities to connect with the content and use new pedagogical strategies to pass the content to our students. The Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) has given me the knowledge that is needed to effectively integrate technology in my classroom. It has also given me an understanding of the complex interactions between the various knowledge components. These interactions happen differently across diverse contexts, and thus there is no one perfect way of teaching and integrating technology in our classrooms.

We as teachers need to apply technology creatively and productively by recognizing when technology can assist or impede the achievement of a goal, and to continually adapt to changes in technology. When technology is effectively applied in the educational field, we reach a stage that Dr. Mishra called “dynamic equilibrium”. This means that “a change in any one of the factors has to be compensated by changes in the others,” to make teaching and learning, engaging and effective.

A Few Modest Goals

drizin3

Welcome to my first blog for SUSD Site Tech Cadre (STC). I have been tasked with keeping a blog as a member of the STC and I have been struggling with what to contribute. I am embarking on new adventures in technology and looking for destinations unknown. I am just getting started on this adventure and feel that I really have a great deal to learn and very little to share. I have set a few modest goals for myself this year:

  •       Tech up my ELD classes.
  •       Retool my Graphic Design Pathway to better meet industry standards
  •       Create collaboration opportunities among the CTE (Career and Technology Education)  and core teachers.
  •       Build lasting bonds between middle schools and high schools.
  •       Strengthen CTSOs across the district

drizin2

My first goal is to introduce more technology into the ELD curriculum. I noticed almost immediately that my ELD students were disengaged and bored when interacting with the curriculum; if you are not engaged, you are not learning. My first adaptation was to incorporate Google Drive, Google Classroom and Google Docs for Joint Construction Paragraphs (JCP). JCP involves students working together as a class to construct a paragraph on a topic about which they have just learned; students dictate while the teacher writes out what they say on chart paper.  The process allows students to contribute what they have learned without the pressure of writing alone. It works well if you are not a member of the legibility challenged (I am the in the Hall of Fame), and if your students are not timid when it comes to participation (A persistent challenge in any class but even more acute in ELD). A quote from the textAs a replacement for writing on chart paper I started to use Google Applications for the JCP activity. I created a folder in Google Drive, a shared link which I posted to Google Classroom and then added a Google Document in the folder for students to enter in their contributions. This allows the students to add without having to raise their hand and be singled out. Students’ contributions appear on the document as they type, each having their own color allowing the instructor to see who is participating. Additionally, the instructor can see who is logged in and contributing at the top of the page. I went from about 20% participation to about 90% participation. Students edited as we discussed, correcting spelling and grammar for each other, shifting sentences up or down for continuity and adding ideas freely. When we debriefed after the lesson they unanimously agreed that it was a great deal more fun than watching me writing their ideas out. It was the first time in the class that the majority of students had been genuinely engaged and participating all year. I am now looking for the next upgrade.

Here Is Where You Come In

As I embark on each one of these goals, the first improving the ELD experience, I will share the journey and look to you, the reader, to help direct my course. I would like to hear how you apply technology in your classes or about the challenges you are facing that might be solved by applying technology. Please email me at Doctor.Izzn@gmail.com and I will share your contributions (anonymously if requested), questions and potential solutions here on the blog. I may not be able to find all of the answers but perhaps we can solve them together.

Let the adventure begin,

Dr. Izzn

About that monitoring software…..

+This year Stockton Unified has deployed a software program that allows teachers to see on the teachers’ computer monitor what the students in a class have on their screens.  Teachers have expressed frustration with keeping students on task when there are so many easily available distractions online. Last year a few sites piloted a couple potential solutions, and NETOP became the obvious choice.  The software is easy to use and seems rather intuitive. It does require that the teacher uses Google Classroom, the teacher must have a Google Classroom with a roster for each individual class session. That GClassroom roster is what NETOP uses to decide which students to monitor. If students transfer out of a class the teacher needs to drop that student from the GClassroom so the student can become available to the teacher that is receiving the student. To set yourself up with NETOP, follow the handy dandy user guide here:  NetopVisionforChromebooks_UserGuide Teachers

Pic of teacher and students

Netop software provides a number of sound tools to the teacher, but nothing beats moving around the room working with the kids.

While many teachers have stated that they are looking forward to being able to see what is on students’ screens, but that is far from the most powerful aspect of this software. This software allows the teacher to broadcast content to individual Chromebooks, solving the problem of weak projector bulbs or no projector at all. Instead of trying to see what the teacher is projecting across the room, the student will be able to see it on their own Chromebook! This alone can be a gamechanger for many classrooms!

This tool supports a number of powerful learning strategies but sitting at the desk playing gotcha is not one of them. We suggest when you first start using the tool that you project all of the students’ screens up on the wall, mention that you CAN monitor what they are doing, and then go about your business, moving through the room delivering solid instruction, because, at the end of the day, it is solid instruction that matters.

 

Number Talks

“My students struggle with number sense.”

“I have students that don’t know their basic facts.”

“The students in my classroom lack the ability to reason about math problems.”

Common phrases heard in math classrooms. I have said them when I was teaching and I hear them now all too often in professional development sessions. But why? Why are our students not grasping these skills under our guidance? What are students missing? Our teachers are implementing the standards, providing engaging lessons, and reinforcing skills all throughout the year. What else can be done? But alas I have the answer!

Number talks. Short math conversations where students solve problems in ways that are meaningful to them. Little to no prep on the part of the teacher, with a huge return from students! You read that right, little to NO PREP on the part of the teacher. Why wouldn’t you try it?

Number talks, developed in the early 1990’s, have recently resurfaced with the shift of implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. The CA Math Framework references them as a strategy for increasing math discourse in the classroom and supporting the 8 Mathematical Practices that are foundational for learning in the CCSS. The Framework says, “the problems in a number talk are designed to elicit specific strategies that focus on number relationships and number theory. Students are given problems in either a whole- or small-group setting and are expected to mentally solve them accurately, efficiently, and flexibly. By sharing and defending their solutions and strategies, students have the opportunity to collectively reason about numbers while building connections to key conceptual ideas in mathematics.” (CDE, 2016) Implemented routinely for about 10 minutes a session, number talks have shown to increase students mathematical abilities to think flexibly, examine errors, identify misconceptions, and solve computation problems. All in all showing a strong understanding of number sense, fluency with math facts, and the ability reason about math without struggle.

numbertalk

But, don’t just take my word for it, hear from Sherry Parish, the author of Number Talks. Listen as she describes the process and its success. Consider watching students engage in at all grade levels. Dive in and take a look at the Number Talk resources linked in your SUSD Unit of Study resources; all available as Google Slide presentations (NO PREP) and chunked in a variety of skill sets.   And, finally ask for support or a demo in your classroom by reaching out to your site Instructional Coach or me, Angela Pilcher, at the Curriculum Department.

Ten minutes a day will change your phrases to

“My students are strong in their number sense!”

“I have students that know their basic facts!”

“The students in my classroom have the ability to reason about math problems!”

Skill Mastery: Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk!

By Adriana Cruces

Currently, our school is using a new textbook, as we have navigated through the textbook in our second year after adoption, it has been found that most of the specific skills to become proficient in the subject and level have been missed by the assessments given by the publisher and or are at a higher level of study since the adoption was a college-level textbook.

Untitled drawing (2)One particular idea has been brought to the table: using the textbooks as a resource and not as the main tool used to drive instruction.  Why not select and construct mastery assessments that each student be given with multiple scenarios of assessment for one skill and be required to pass and master the skill at least at an 80% rate. This could possibly set the stage for students to know that the particular skill, one, it’s not going away, and two is really needed to understand the skills and know how to apply them in order to move forward in a real-life situation.

As a reflective practice, I have asked the question: What are those essential skills that each student must master in order to function and be successful in the next level of study? And How can I provide real-life scenarios where each student must depend on knowing how to apply this skill that will allow them to internalize and retain the learned objective? Finally, how can I continue to spiral those skills to ensure the use of the skill becomes automated and mastered?

Image of students and teacher discussing work

Educators need to work together to identify which skills students need to master in order to be successful in the next level.

Together with all reflective practices, I have come to terms that one single textbook cannot be and should not be the main nor the only driving force that provided practice for students. But rather, as a district, as a department, and as a single classroom, we could study the possibility of finding which essential skills must students master at each given level of subject matter in order to go on to the next level of study. How will students show they can walk the walk and talk the talk!

I would appreciate feedback on ideas that would help construct data-driven skills based level assessments when individuality in each class and each school and each district will be a factor as students transfer from one class to another or from one school to the next school or even from one district to the next. On more than one occasion, I have discovered that although we believe we deliver quality instruction in our individual classrooms, if one student transfers from one class to the next, or one school to another, the delivery and expectations of each individual classroom  hinder students success, as there is no common ground currently for some subjects here at SUSD! Shouldn’t we as educators be part of solutions! Shouldn’t we walk the walk and talk the talk?

Breakout EDU Games

Breakout EDU is an immersive learning game platform where students use critical thinking skills and teamwork to solve a complex puzzle in order to open a locked box. You may have heard of Escape Room activities that have become very popular and are popping up in cities all across the country. Stockton has two Escape Rooms that opened in early 2018. Breakout EDU is the educational version of an Escape Room. In an Escape Room, a group of people works together to solve puzzles, search for clues, open locks, and escape from the room before the time runs out. In Breakout EDU a group of students works together to solve puzzles, search for clues, open locks, and open the final locked box before time runs out.
A unique thing out Breakout EDU is that the games can be completely physical with real locks or completely digital with virtual locks or my favorite a hybrid of both physical and digital locks and problems to solve. Click on this link to see three types of digital puzzles and locks. See if you can unlock all three locks before the time runs out.

A physical Breakout EDU will require you to purchase some items (separately or as a kit). Once purchased these items can be used over and over for different Breakout EDU games. The kit that is available for purchase from the Breakout EDU website comes with:

  • Large Box
  • Small Box
  • Key Lock
  • 3-digit Lock
  • 4-digit Lock
  • ABC Multilock
  • Directional Multilock
  • Hasp
  • Color, Shape, and Number Mulitlock Wheels
  • Invisible Ink Pen
  • USB Drive
  • UV Light
  • Hint Cards
  • Reflection Cards

There are hundreds of Breakout EDU games already created for all kinds of curriculum and content topics and for different grade levels.  You can also create your own or easily adjust one that has already been created. In addition to the content knowledge that students will be learning or applying, Breakout EDU games require the very important skills of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.

Students use critical thinking to solve the problems and puzzles.  This may involve sorting, ordering, synthesizing information, making connections, evaluating, and comparing.  By collaborating on solving the puzzle students will utilize the different strengths of each student. You will probably not finish in time unless you work together and collaborate.  Communication is also key to finishing the Breakout EDU in time. One person may find a clue that another group needs to solve a puzzle or open a lock. When one locked box is opened there may be something inside that will help another group solve their puzzle.  Without good communication, the group will waste a lot of time unnecessarily. Creativity is important because solutions to puzzle are not always obvious and require students to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to use the information and solve the puzzles.

Students will be engaged, working with others, and actively learning.  Breakout EDU is adaptable for any subject and grade level. Once you do few of the ones available on their website, you will be ready to create your own Breakout EDU games with the help of their creation programs.  If this sounds interesting and you want to know more about Breakout EDU, I will hopefully be presenting this during the beginning of the year Professional Development days.

One More Thing

Do you ever feel like you have to give your students one more thing? Whether it be
a survey, an assessment, etc.? Do you ever feel like there is one more computer
program that the students just “have” to use for them to see their test scores
soar? Imagine Learning? Mobymax? ST Math? Khan Academy? No Red Ink? Quizlet? Kahoots? The list seems to be never-ending and continues to grow. I know with my students the last thing they need is #onemorething. They, just like us, will become overwhelmed (and just maybe frustrated) with #onemorething.

Image of a quote in the textI understand that we are trying to move away from paper and more towards being paperless, but I think Alice Keeler said it best when she said that “paperless is not a pedagogy.” Alice Keeler! Thee Alice Keeler said that ‘paperless is not a pedagogy.’ For me, I think what I need to focus on the most is finding what works for each of my students and make those accommodations and/or modifications necessary for them to be successful and not just #onemorething. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that we can’t explore other, or even more educational programs, but I think we need to know when to say enough is enough and when to follow the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

Image of a tweet from Alice Keeler

If you don’t follow @alicekeeler on Twitter, you should.

I am writing this just in case there are others out there, who like me, are feeling a
tiny bit overwhelmed and are feeling as though you’re being pulled in every direction when it comes to #onemorething. You’re not alone, and we can get through this together. We need to do whatever it takes for our students to be successful. If one student sees success on Imagine Learning but not in Mobymax, then we need to find out why that is and tweak it. Make it work for your students and you. Not every kid learns the same nor do we. If we keep that in mind then we might be able to get through the rest of this year and all the other years more than just by the skin of our teeth.

Now if this post isn’t relatable to you or you need someone to blame, you are more
then welcome to #blameitonprescott, I’m fine with that.