By punya mishra and matthew koehler
t his is the age of cool tools.
Facebook, iPhone, Flickr, blogs,
cloud computing, Smart Boards,
You Tube, Google Earth, and GPS are
just a few examples of new technologies that bombard us from all directions. Often our reaction when we
see a new toy is one of surprise and
pleasure. These toys are cool!
As individuals we see a new technology and can appreciate its coolness, but as educators we wonder how
these tools can be used for teaching.
The fact that a technology is innovative and popular does not make it an
educational technology. We hear common refrains: “Technology should not
drive pedagogy,” or “Technology is
just a tool, a means to an end, not the
end itself.” But these technologies have
the potential to fundamentally change
the way we think about teaching and
What Is Technology Anyway?
Someone once suggested that technology is all the new stuff that appeared
after we were born. The stuff that
was around before we arrived on the
planet we often take for granted. To
the over- 30 crowd, a car is not really
a technology, but a website is. To children born in the 1990s, neither cars
nor websites are examples of technology, whereas iPods and Wii gaming
We would argue that almost everything that is artificial—the clothes
we wear, the cars we drive, the pencils
we use to scribble notes, and the computers we use to browse the Web—is
technology, whether low tech or high
tech. But each of these technologies
has affordances and constraints, potentials and problems that we as educators need to understand before we
can start using them for pedagogical
Repurposing these cool tools for educational purposes, however, is not simple. If educators are to repurpose tools
and integrate them into their teaching,
they require a specific kind of knowledge
that we call technological pedagogical
and content knowledge (TPACK).
What about Pedagogy and Content?
As educators, our job involves teaching (pedagogy) students specific
subject matter (content). Many years
ago, Lee Shulman, then a professor
at Michigan State University, made a
provocative suggestion. He said that
teachers have specialized knowledge
that sets them apart from other professions. He argued that this special
knowledge lies at the intersection of
content and pedagogy—at the intersection of what we teach and how we
teach it. He called this special pedagogical content knowledge (PCK).
For example, a highly trained mathematician would not necessarily be a
great teacher of math. She might lack
knowledge of core pedagogical issues,
such as an understanding of students,
their developmental trajectory, conceptual misconceptions they may have,
and the best ways to present mathematical ideas to individual students.
Quality teaching, Shulman argued, is
the transformation of content and the
act of teaching in a disciplined manner.
Teaching is not a process of picking up a few instructional techniques
and applying them. It emerges from
thinking deeply about the nature of a
discipline in conjunction with strategies for helping students learn that
discipline over time. In other words,
PCK is a kind of knowledge that goes
beyond knowledge of content or of
pedagogy taken in isolation. Teaching
requires the transformation of content
in ways that make it intellectually accessible to students.