Monthly Archives: January 2017

Deeper Learning

I would define educational technologies as utilizing any too to enhance and transform students learning to take place across multiple modalities. It’s important for students to have a learning experience where they can dig deep into a particular concept and really master it rather than skim the surface of a many concepts.  I’m a big fan of project based learning and I find students are able to really own a topic when they can explore it in depth. I find educational technologies to be the rope the somewhat ties everything together. My students enjoy keeping the conversation around classroom topics going even after the 3 o’clock bell through our learning management system. It demonstrates to me how invested they are in a topic and allows we to guide their learning more clearly.

Balance and Burnout

In Shulman’s article “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform,” he describes how both management of students and management of ideas are necessary components of guides of good practice.  He also says that teachers themselves have difficulty in articulating and explaining what they know and how they know it.  These two points stuck out to me in particular as they emphasize the interconnectedness of the different components of PCK and TPACK.  Individually, each of the components provides a fragment of the image of teaching and learning, but it is only through a collective approach that true teaching occurs.  An individual with strong content knowledge but poor pedagogical knowledge likely would not be truly effective at achieving learning goals in the classroom, nor would an individual with weak content knowledge and strong management skills.  The balance is what I feel develops over time as university students become professionals and new professionals become more experienced in the profession.  Unfortunately, it would seem that for teachers who struggle to find this balance, burnout caused by needing to compensate for gaps in pedagogical or content knowledge can be more likely.

When I teach students about fractions, I spend time developing understandings with physical manipulatives (e.g. coloured cubes, fraction magnets, egg cartons and marbles, fraction pizzas) and digital simulations in Smart Notebook or on the iPad, and then move into the more abstract concepts of the written algebra.  This comes to mind as an example of PCK (or TPACK depending on the strategies on a particular day) as it includes knowledge of the actual mathematics of fractions, what they represent, common errors when working with them, and real-world applications, while also accounting for pedagogical strategies of how best to help specific students learn the concept.  I have found that while students initially struggle with the abstract concept of fractions, when they are able to see and manipulate conditions, they are better able to develop an understanding of fractions and their mechanics, and then subsequently be able to apply this knowledge in further learning.  Someone with a strictly mathematical knowledge base would not likely be able to select the most effective activities for the learning needs of particular students, and someone with a weak understanding of fractions would not likely be able to provide a wide range of learning opportunities and manage student questions and strategies.

In situations where a teacher needs to teach unfamiliar or uncomfortable topics, what strategies can be used to help them continue to provide effective learning experiences?  How can more experienced colleagues support new teachers in developing the skills and knowledge necessary to find the balance without burning out in the process?

Elementary TPCK – PCK

As an elementary school teacher, albeit in the upper grades, I have to teach every subject all the time. Of course, I am not an expert in everything that I am called upon to teach and this is where the PCK framework is essential in order for me to be successful in my teaching practice. Because I am with my students for the entire day I am able to form a relationship with them as a class, which then informs my knowledge about the processes and methods required for successful teaching and learning in the class. Over the years I have been able to increase my content knowledge of all the subjects, through my own learning and through interacting with the students, finding new and different ways to present the materials as I become more knowledgeable in the content. The advent of digital technology has enabled me to be more knowledgeable about the curriculum and the specific content that I am teaching as the information is more readily available, and there is a plethora of ideas suitable for use in the classroom to create my own lessons to benefit the learning styles and abilities of my students. I have noticed over the years as I become more comfortable with the content I am teaching, that the pedagogy of teaching becomes easier, I can focus on the learning of the students rather than making sure my understanding is clear. Also in being with one classroom of students throughout the day makes it easier for me to relate the content of what we are learning in mathematics to what we are learning in science, or art, and show the students how all things are connected and not in convenient compartments. It is a standing joke in my grade 7 class that whenever I point out that we are doing math in science, or reading in math, the students all say “It’s all connected – mind blown”, but at least they are starting to get the idea.

One of my favorite science units to teach is Structures, Mechanisms, and Forces. During this unit the students build a variety of structures out of different materials, for different purposes, and make observations about the process. As a way to bring the unit together at the end we do a study of Rube Goldberg and his fantastic machines. As a whole class we look at a variety of his cartoons depicting a few of his fantastic machines. We brainstorm about the actions that we are seeing as a class. Then we focus on just one of them to determine how the machine works and what forces are acting upon each structure to cause the movement or action. Each student writes out the process of the machine from start to finish. We then compare them to note any discrepancies and students justify the reasoning behind their process. The next step is for them to get another fantastic machine that has been divided into the individual actions and put it together like a puzzle to show the actions and functions of each part of this specific machine. This is usually done in a small collaborative group so the students can benefit from the collective ideas. After this practice, the students design and draw their own fantastic machine in the style of Rube Goldberg. They have to show all the actions and forces used to create the machine, and the process in which functions using at least 10 steps and three types of simple machines. This is done on grid paper as a scale drawing. The last step is for the students to work with a partner to create one of their own fantastic machines for a specific purpose, such as make a ping pong ball fall into a cup using at least 10 steps and a few metres away from the start. This is a way to take the ideas from the drawing board into a working model. Lots of trial and error, students learn perseverance and the value of testing for mistakes,  but lots of fun in the learning too.



Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.


PCK in Physics

While the specific terminology PCK and TPACK are novel to myself, the concepts themselves are not. The fusion of content knowledge and pedagogy are vital to any teacher’s success. Schulman argues that the teacher is responsible for taking what they know and preparing it for effective instruction. This process involves the following aspects: comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection, and new comprehension. Teaching is a complicated process that involves knowing concepts and conveying them to students in hopes that they too obtain this understanding. Shchulman states this can occur through “talking, showing, enacting, or otherwise representing ideas.” In summary, an effective educator needs to have both a mastery of the content itself, as well as the ability to convey that information to students through transformation of that knowledge and instruction.

In terms of an example of PCK lesson of mine, we are currently introducing the concepts of significant figures, precision, and accuracy in Physics 11. Students often have difficulty differentiating the ideas of precision and accuracy and further, applying significant figures to real world data. Following discussion of these topics, students then complete a mini lab where they use lab equipment (such as meter sticks, rulers, calipers, tape measures and various graduated cylinders) and apply those concepts to practical measurements. They are faced with four problems that involve measurement and calculations that will assist them later in the course.


Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching. The foundations of a new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1)1-23.



The Virtual Context

The major theme that seems to be emerging for myself as I progress through the course is the focus on brick-and-mortar classrooms of math and science and how technology can be used to make these spaces technology- enhanced.  We saw this in the video cases presented in Module A.

I’m curious however of how virtual classrooms fit into the scope of the course so far.  If a technology-enhanced space is a classroom in a school with tools like smartboards or motion sensor equipment connected to a computer, how can a virtual classroom qualify to be a technology-enhanced space?

For example, Elluminte Live is a popular conferencing tool used by virtual schools for live interaction between teacher and students.  Is it appropriate to say the Elluminate Live window of one live class is the “classroom”?  If so, would tools like powerpoints, simulations, google docs, LMS based discussions, quizzes, chat systems allow for the Elluminate live classroom to be technology-enhanced?

It would be great to get some feedback from peers!

Ideal Space

The introduction to Module B defines technology as tools that are means to an end, the end being thinking in students, thinking by doing activities that are designed using those said tools.  Technology-enhanced spaces are defined as classrooms that make use of tools to help design interesting activities for students so they can think, understand, create, and learn.

An ideal pedagogical design then is one where:

  1. tools meant to be used to design activities are easy to use, easy to access, and easy to afford
  2. activities using these tools that are engaging, interesting, and thought provoking
  3. the goals of the design are for students to perform activities by co-operation and teamwork; fostering skills necessary for success after school.

The blending of our knowledges and our students as creators of their own content knowledge

While pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge continue to be different concepts by definition (with pedagogical knowledge addressing the “how” of our teaching, and content knowledge addressing “what” we are teaching), it is interesting to me that these concepts would have been treated as separate entities, not that long ago (Shulman, 1986; Mishra & Koehler, 2006), rather than interconnected as I believe they are seen today. In the past, the “how” was through an imparting of knowledge from teacher to learner. Children’s minds were to be filled and knowledge was transferred through lectures and independent work assignments. Today, through research and technology, we realize that students do not learn well in these environments. In addition to this, the content that we once deemed important has changed as well, and will continue to evolve as the world changes with the development of new technologies and as we learn from our current world structures and experiences.

The concepts of pedagogical and content knowledge are not new, but the way they are addressed in our society and our classrooms today has changed (or at least is in the process of changing) to support the increased importance and value of digital technology and related multiliteracies/new media literacies. This brings into question “how” we are using technology in our classrooms today, as well as what programs or skills we are teaching through it. Are we enhancing learning? As Mishra and Koehler (2006) point out, “Merely introducing technology to the educational process is not enough” (p. 1018) and both the “how” of teachers’ application of technology and the “what” that technology will look like play important roles in our classrooms today. As Mishra and Koehler (2006) discuss, it is now the “how” of educational technology’s integration into our curriculum and teaching practice that must be addressed.

Today, I feel that much of our teaching is moving away from imparting “teacher” content knowledge and towards instead teaching students skills so that they can investigate and research to find their own knowledge. While this might sound like we are beginning to shift our focus back to “pedagogical knowledge,” I would argue that today pedagogical knowledge incorporates concept knowledge (and in some classrooms, technology knowledge – we’re getting there…) in so well, that they blend together quite naturally. Students construct knowledge best by doing, not by listening, so by allowing students to be creators of their own content knowledge (to a certain extent – teachers, of course, continue to play an important role), we are allowing them the choice and flexibility to learn more freely, with fewer restraints. For example, for a science unit on the human body, my students and I explored, together as a class, the digestive system, which included some textbook reading (read and discussed together as a class, not individually), a look at x-rays of human intestines (belonging to a colleague of mine who recently retired and passed on a set of old x-rays to me – the kids love them!), student diagrams/models, and so on. Once we have done one body system together, students are sent out to research and become “experts” on one other body system that they will be able to share with their peers. The teaching that is done to support this is around the “how” to research effectively, which resources would be appropriate, how to reference works, and so on. There is some “what” (content) mixed in as students are taught to ask inquiry-style questions to get their research going; however, it is not a delivering of knowledge of the actual scientific content I want students to come away with – that part they have to do themselves. Ultimately, students create projects that fulfill criteria that we designed together before beginning the project. Students are required to create initial questions they have about their system, then attempt to answer those questions through their research. They are required to use at least one book source and one online source, to include pictures, keyterms and definitions, and eventually to share their knowledge in small groups with others in their class. Each student ultimately learns about each system, but in the process, they have interacted with the content themselves, collaborated with peers, problem solved and actively participated in their own learning and then in the teaching of others. In this way, the students become creators of their own knowledge and the information being learned becomes more accessible to learners in the classroom.


Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.

PCK to TPCK: How do we make an effective transition?

PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) proposed by Lee Shulman and TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) put forth by Mishra and Koehler are both valuable theories as they focus on the blending of each area of curriculum for teachers. Mishra and Koehler extend Shulman’s theory by adding a technological component which has become an important part of education today.

In reading (or re-reading the articles this week- I believe I have read them all in previous MET courses) I was struck by quotes I hadn’t really even noticed before. For example, Shulman (1986) states: Teachers must not only be capable of defining for students the accepted truths in a domain. They must also be able to explain why a particular proposition is deemed warranted, why it is worth knowing, and how it relates to other propositions, both within the discipline and without, both in theory and in practice. This quote really struck home for me as I realized it states exactly why we need the PCK model. To be effective teachers we can not just be experts on Content or Pedagogy but rather we need to blend these with other facets of the students education so they can see cross-curricular connections. Teaching each subject as if it were a fishbowl and untouched by other elements creates compartmentalized knowledge that does not help the student understand the world.
In the second article by Shulman (1987) he states that One of the frustrations of teaching as an occupation and profession is its extensive individual and collective amnesia, the consistence with which the best creations of its practitioners are lost to both contemporary and future peers. I actually stopped and said “yes” this is exactly what happens? Why does it happen? How have we not learned from this? How is it our profession does not function like architecture, medicine and engineering, where lessons are learned, ideas are shared and curriculum improves?

Finally, Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) article on TPACK is an extension of Shulman’s work on PCK. For those who have heard about, yet not studied TPACK a similar error is often made. People throw technology into their lessons with out stopping to wonder why and if it is indeed improving the lesson. My favourite quote from this article is: “ In other words, merely knowing how to use technology is not the same as knowing how to teach with it. (p1033).” Knowing how to push buttons or work a program does not mean it is improving your programming. Teaching with technology should immediately imply that something different is happening. I have become very interested in the learning by design format and believe it applies directly to the idea of PBL’s (problem-based learning) in the classroom. Learning by Design is the PBL of the teacher.

An example of how I use PCK in science is when we study the planets or solar system, even before the availability of videos like Cosmos by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, it was a very visual and hands-on unit. Students created models of our solar system not in the usual sense but rather to scale (obviously with in reason but they had to understand that and explain it). This activity required students to use math skills in measuring and finding replicas of the size of each planet in relation to each other. It involved problem-solving and collaboration ( I can’t tell you how many groups ended up frustrated when they chose thin thread to represent the distance- thin thread tangles easily and when it is metres long it is even harder to control). Students had to figure out how to store their projects so they didn’t return each day to a jumble of threads.

In addition to their own amazement at the distance of the planets from each other and their size they also had to find a way to demonstrate this to students in grade one and two. Often the most challenging part was keeping to scale and explaining how large the sun was in comparison to the items they could see.

When the students have completed the unit (including seasons etc) the groups take part in the final assignment. Each group is provided with a time period and a scenario. The scenarios are pretty open-ended and require debate with in the group to make a decision. One of the example scenario’s (this works well in my area as we are 40 minutes from Niagara Falls, students understand the seasons here, we cover the war of 1812 in great detail and there are always activities to attend, we read novels like The Bully Boys by Eric Walters so students can look at the war from a different perspective).

The scenario reads something like:
The war between Canada and the US has been going on for three years now. You are a group of General Brock’s advisors. He has stated the final push for the war must come in the next year, but when is the best time to launch the attack? As his advisors, you must come up with a proposal of when the attack should occur (why is this the best choice, preparation, surprise etc), how the attack will occur (what is the best plan that costs the least in terms of supplies and lives)?

It is great to see the kids get involved in this. They present their findings and usually a debate ensues. (Go in summer we can travel lighter, Go in winter we can walk across the Niagara river and not need boats).

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.

Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching. The foundations of a new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1)1-23

Tools of Learning

Of the various descriptions of technology and its impacts on learning, I found Chris Dede’s comments in Robert Kozma’s book (2003) to resonate with my views.  He noted that technology’s mere presence and availability in schools does not immediately or automatically produce better learning environments.  Instead they are tools that facilitate a myriad of new possibilities from ones that directly impact individual learning (empowerment of disenfranchised learners), classroom environments (richer curricula and enhanced pedagogies), and the larger learning community (stronger links between school and society).  This very neatly supports Jonassen’s (2000) assertion that “[S]tudents learn from thinking in meaningful ways. Thinking is engaged by activities, which can be fostered by computers or teachers.”  In total, technology provides stronger, more interactive, more meaningful, and more engaging learning opportunities which in turn provides students with a deeper and more connected understanding.

To me, a technology enhanced learning experience is one that uses technology to bridge the needs and desires of both students and teachers in order to provide a more meaningful and effective learning environment.  For students, this would mean that technology offers them more stimulating and engaging activities, an adaptable pace for individualized learning, and ways to explore and connect their curiousity.  On the other side of the classroom, technology would provide teachers with automation of menial tasks for time efficiency, dynamic but focused learning activities, and opportunities for students to create and formulate their own knowledge.



Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Computers as mindtools for schools, 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/ Prentice Hall. Retrieved from Google Scholar:

Kozma, R. (2003). Technology, innovation, and educational change: A global perspective, (A report of the Second Information Technology in Education Study, Module 2). Eugene, OR: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, ISTE Publications.

A Little Something For Everyone

I define technology as any digital tool (computer, iPad, mobile device), as well as the tools that you would use them with (internet, programs, social media).  Combined, these help to create my ideal pedagogical design of an enhanced learning experience.  I think that designers of learning experiences must be creative to ensure that their spaces are educational, captivating as well as encourage critical thinking among their users.  I would ensure that there are various forms of media available, such as videos containing information, but there can also be videos of the instructor delivering information.  This would give a face to face feel.  For the various types of learners, I would include, podcasts, visuals schemas.  There would have to be a discussion section, that were asynchronous as well as synchronous.  I also like the idea of frequent short assessments.  I know that this seems over ambitious but these are elements that I myself are found of in TELEs.