Coding and TPCK

Shulman talks about PCK or Pedagogical Content Knowledge and the intersection of these areas and the how it is a “special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers, their own special form of professional understanding.” (Shulman, 1987) PCK represents the “blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction.” (Shulman, 1987). In his paper he provides a framework to observe teacher instruction and what is needed to create a knowledge base for teachers. He identifies that it is much more than knowing the content or knowing how but the connection of the two that creates superior lessons.

Mishra and Koehler (2006) extend Shulman’s work with the addition of T to PCK which incorporates technology into the framework. “TPCK is the basis of good teaching with technology and requires an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge and to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones.” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, Pg. 1029) They aim to extend Shulman’s work with a framework that supports effective integration of technology into today’s classrooms as well as an idea of how to support teachers learning around developing lessons that maximize the interaction of these TPCK elements.

An example for me around TPCK would be the work that I have done this year with coding. We have been started with hour of code, which is a sequenced program that teaches the basics of coding. From there we moved into Scratch and went through a list of tasks designed to build awareness of the different aspects of coding. Finally students created a story or an inquiry question, generally related to a topic of study this year, and created a game to either tell the story or support a student learning the knowledge from the inquiry question. The result was better than I could have imagined and feels like I discovered the spot in the middle that Mishra and Koehler describe where pedagogy, technology and content mix perfectly. Students have truly had a multidisciplinary approach as they used math to solve movement issues, design skills as they tried, failed, and tried again to make their games work, and much more. Pedagogically as each student worked through the process with their own design using an inquiry lens they were definitely captivated and motivated to preserve through the tough time. As we get ready to take our games to student arcade I am excited for them to be able to show off their learning.

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


  1. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing your journey of coding in your classroom. I have not yet had the opportunity to introduce coding into any of my classrooms (short LTO’s) but I am very excited at the prospect of being able to in the future. Can I ask what grade you teach? The Hour of Code website is definitely a fantastic introduction to coding but I am wondering how young the students can be. Did you introduce the website to your students as a group or did the students go off and explore on their own? As an educator who is not familiar with teaching coding, I would love any input you have as to first steps. As Mishra & Koehler (2006) stated, “The question of what teachers need to know in order to appropriately incorporate technology into their teaching has received a great deal of attention recently” (p. 1018). At this point, I need more content knowledge of how coding works before I would feel comfortable teaching it in my classroom.

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

    1. Hello Kirsten,
      I am teaching Grade 4 this year and they love coding. All I did was show them the site and then let them go. The first year I did it, I tried to model it and I think I just held them back, this is definitely something that leads itself well to self-discovery. Hour Of Code works well as young as Grade 2 and maybe even 1. It would depend on reading level as they have to read the clues to tell them the problem to solve.. Hour of Code says its for Grade 2 to Grade 9+. They move from block coding to java script as they get older and skill improves. Once they have it down, we have moved to Scratch and I believe there is a Scratch junior for younger kids.
      I will say that I was a total rookie, when I started. My coding experience was programming a turtle way back (sadly that is longer back than I care to admit) in middle school, and then working through a number of Hour of Code lessons myself. It really helped to give me a foundation to get started. Happy coding. Sarah

      1. Hi Sarah,

        Thanks for your response and tips! I am looking forward to practicing (as per your suggestion) and then later introducing coding to my students once I have gained more content knowledge about it and feel comfortable.

  2. Hello Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing–this is a great example of TPCK. It does bring up a question for me around blended learning. When students are engaged in complex tasks, can we explicitly tell what they are learning? Does that matter? In projects, for example, I think the answer is “no”, or “sort of”. It is the very richness (and awesomeness) of the activity that makes the assessment of learning difficult. I love the projects, but struggle to accurately represent their work against a prescriptive “marking key”.

    1. Great question Michael. I think as the instructional focus changes, more inquiry versus direct instruction so does what I look for in assessment. At least in BC I find it easier to look at curriculum competencies and mark process rather than an outcome. Can they demonstrate a process, problem solving, or creative thinking? Rubrics are definitely my friend as I embark on this journey.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing your coding example. I’m not familiar with Hour of Code. What kind of pedagogical strategies does the website use to teach coding? Is there a gamified component to it? What keeps the student motivated to continue and how does it achieve retention of what is learned? Also, as someone who doesn’t code, would it be a good site for adult learners?

    1. Hello Momoe,
      Hour of Code is a site that started as a way to “demystify “code”, to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. ” (Hour of Code, 2017). They have grown from a week long event, into a huge site with many entry points into coding, even for adults:) The Hour of Code event started in 2013 with the goal to expose as many kids to code as possible and now millions participate in that week each year.
      Students move through a series of 10 lessons, each with progressively more difficult tasks that require you to learn a new skill while building on learned skills. With the variety of levels and topics I have never had a student who couldn’t find something that interested them.
      Absolutely, I think it is a good place to start as an Adult. It is where I started and while I still have a very long way to go, it gave me the confidence to bring it into my classroom.

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