Does compartmentalizing technology under TPACK allow teachers to consider technology as “extra”?

I’ll provide some background about myself in order to put the above question in context. I am still relatively new to the game of educational technology research.  I focused on science text reading strategies for my MA in Science Education, and have switched focus to educational technology for my future Ph.D. I taught mathematics at the high school level for one year, and physics and chemistry for two, so admittedly not a lot of time in the classroom. But long enough to get a feel for the attitudes and pedagogical skills of my colleagues both at my school and within the school district. It was during my time as a teacher that I came to view technology as a vital component of effective teaching. Unfortunately many around me did not share that view so I changed career paths in order to help affect change and bring others “into the light”.


Focusing on technology has of course included readings and discussion about TPACK. In case you don’t know, those letters stand for technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (Thompson & Mishra, 2007). It is where technological knowledge, content knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge all come together and is nicely illustrated on the left, thanks to The statement that led to this blog post can be attributed to Margaret Niess in her chapter from “Educational Technology, Teacher Knowledge, and Classroom Impact (2012). “Developing TPACK is, thus, posed as a “constructive and iterative” process where teachers need to reflect on and carefully revise multiple experiences and events for teaching their content with appropriate technologies based on their “existing knowledge, beliefs, and dispositions (Borko and Putnam, 1996) (p. 5). It would seem to me that this would be the process for any good, or even average, teacher when practicing his or her profession. Yet technology is still often left out of the mix in the science classroom.

It seems that by labeling technology implementation under TPACK, we view it as an entity separate from “typical” good teaching practice. Perhaps that was not the intent, but it seems to be the practice. I have worked with science teachers who can put together effective explorations and inquiry activities with basic lab equipment but shy away from any use of technology. This does not make sense to me as some of the methods they used were more complicated than some of the technological alternatives. A mystique has been generated around technology use in the classroom and I feel it has had a detrimental effect towards its implementation. Perhaps if technology were treated like any other piece of lab or demonstration equipment in science methods courses and teaching practice in general, rather than as a separate entity, teachers would demonstrate less hesitancy with its use in their classrooms.

About Cynthia Clark

I hold a doctorate in curriculum & instruction, with an emphasis in educational technology and science education. I work for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the Evaluation and Assessment Specialist for the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment. My current research interests include qualitative responses to course evaluations, both the development of open-ended items and their subsequent analysis.
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