Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chapter 4 TPACK

The days run away like wild horses running over the hills...

This chapter really hit home with me with the idea that technology needs to be taught in tandem with content. (I think the same of needs to be taught as a language, yes--but a language of what? To do things with! Not endless worksheets but movies, poetry, art critiques.)

A nice continuum of describing an English teacher: sequence curriculum, choose texts, use frameworks to understand content. How can teachers use tech to help students engage in learning? There are so many changes in tools--yet luckily the canon does not change--so teachers need to be prepared to roll with the changes as they make curricular choices. This can be scary for non-TPCK people to come to terms with. The fact that student engagement these days is firmly rooted in multimedia, and that students are expected to be digitally literate, implies that teachers must also understand the power of digital media and digital literacy.

How does this translate to teacher training? First, develop training programs where tech is integrated (much like this course!) Focus on content-area specific tech integration skills and MOST IMPORTANTLY create spaces and opportunities for pre-service teachers to observe and experience the "blurring between, intersection and integration of [content]-specific technological, pedagogical, an content knowledge." (p.91)

Now, my mentor teacher in the earlier days did not teach with technology, but she was an excellent model for me. I watched her interact with students and learned a lot about the teacher-role for a teenager. She never lied to her kids about anything. "I think you are just being lazy," she would say. And that kid would nod and agree. No cajoling, no pleading. She failed a lot of kids the first quarter and met with every single parent and explained to them: "Look, you want your kid to be able to read and write?" When kids crawled out of the very depths of hell, those forties and fifties of the first quarter, and ultimately earning 80's and 90's by the fourth quarter....well, the proof was there. She was an excellent, strict, funny, honest, brilliant teacher. I digress from technology but the point is she was GOOD and I had ACCESS to her. More pre-service teachers need more ACCESS to REALLY GOOD MASTER TEACHERS.

(I often come away from grad class with an idea that has been modeled in the class. Not explicitly taught but modeled.)

Much has been said about "on-line" learning or distance learning, and the idea that this is how pre-service should learn about tech is off. I agree that face-to-face is key. Whenever I train teachers on how to set up wikis or Flickr, I always request a chat session. It is not as good as face to face but it is live Q and A time and often I can walk the teachers through the steps necessary to do what needs to be done for their technology projects. Live help is essential. Live support is essential. As Meg pointed out, she needed help last week, and where was Mr. Tech Man? There aren't enough Tech Mans to do the job of support, therefore teachers should be helping each other. This ties in with what happened last week with the shut down of the override password. Five teachers called me in the first hour of class to find out what to do. I had no answer because NO ONE had informed me that my override was defunct. Frustrating, yes--but--we happen to have handy, accessible Tech Guys and passwords were soon re-distributed. Empower more people, I say--give more tech power to teachers, train us on the tech-y side! TRUST US.

Reading about mutli-genre project--it struck me that it was not very student-centered and that is really important to me.

ACCESS to content-specific hardware and software is major! I love free tools but invest in some paid ones, too. There is great stuff out there and it takes curious, motivated, forward thinking types to sniff out these new things, try them, vet them, ask for them in classrooms.

There needs to be a digital media lending library--and I think we have sufficient tools in my school, although the cataloguing and distribution could be improved--but the library should have lots and lots of tools that students can use to make, create, edit, produce, plan, present.

There needs to be modeling, transparency, dialog among teachers. Classrooms should be flung wide open and observed. There needs to be a challenge to the "way things have always been". I am not saying to throw out the novel and the teacher who reads to his class as they sit, rapt, before him--think Mr. N.--I am just saying let the teachers talk and share and expect this culture in school, and expect that there will be technology that is effective in making meaning out of English! Let there be cognitive challenges! I learn, you learn, we all learn differently.

The two case studies were quite interesting. The first one really reminds me of the typical questions on my teacher message board. "I need resources on...I would like pictures of...someone share a movie with me..." My response is: why aren't the students looking for this content? If you are studying Spanish artists, don't lay them out on a platter for the students to ooh, ahh, yawn over....make it their project. Ask essential questions and let them find the answers, hammer them out. In a sense, this technology use (as presentational or ancillary) is useful but not really. The second case study is much more dynamic. There is a motivated teacher who sees how non-linear environments can show meaning among texts. What a powerful idea--and one she saw could be represented sans tech, but made so much easier by using tech!

Note: teacher 2 was motivated, saw the value, had assistance, and worked through even though she didn't master the software immediately. She plowed through it. When you plow through a field, things do tend to grow. The focus was not on the tool but the content and how the tool organized it. In the end, her project was incredibly powerful and student-centered! She adjusted as she went to include the tech components as part of her literacy plan.

So, where is this magical tipping point for teacher culture? Honestly, in the next 15 years, as digital natives appear in teacher training programs as a matter of course, the youth will simply tip us in the right direction. And it will take current youngsters like myself to grow old with TPCK in order to train the digital natives.

There is still a great gap in how teachers integrate technology. Time will help fix this. Time and people like our cohort.


Magpie118 said...

Hey, Amity!
I don't see a response to post to here. I hope I am looking in the right place. If you haven't had a chance to read this chapter yet, you should. It offers insight into the issues and mindset of those who are not as technologically advanced. :-)


Amity said...

One of the nicest links of this presentation was the one about digital ethics, and how to be safe on-line! (Thanks for the shout out on that, Maggie). Teachers need to be trained on how to maintain safe internet environments in their classe....and often that means dealing with "terrible sins" as they arise...they cannot be avoided but they can be dealt with and the experience used to teach.


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