I found the concept of PCK very related to James Gee’s (2007) concept of “semiotic domains” which deals with groups or concepts that are hard to understand from the outside. Consider the analogy of being introduced to hockey. It is not enough to read and learn the rules of hockey. Nor is it enough for an outside party to be really good at explaining it. To truly understand, you must also watch and be invited to play the game (at whatever level), observe the history, rivalries, etc. You must get involved and become a “tribe member” at level that transcends mere anthropological observation. The same idea can be applied to jazz music, physics, gourmet cooking…whatever. So, in some sense, PCK is about knowing the best way to induct new tribe members. The addition of technology to the mix, or TPACK, is PCK while using technology without falling into the trap of “tech for the sake of tech” or limitations of “enhancement only” in Sarah’s SAMR model from our Design of TELEs posts.
Here is a recent example of PCK from my own practice. In one of my courses, we do PBL all year. Billy chose to design and make a bike speedometer because he “always wanted to know how fast he was going, but couldn’t afford a speedometer.” We knew enough to first teach him how to code and use Arduinos (simple computer boards) as well as basic algebra. Then, over three weeks he delved on his own into the content for calculating speed and how magnetic switches work, and came up with this.
We knew enough to create the conditions in which he could follow his passion to learn more about technology, math, and physics. Through these experiences, the core of my practice is evolving into “how can I best guide students to become tribe members?”