I ended up attending the 2009 SITE conference in Charleston almost on a whim. I didn’t propose a presentation, but my good friend Andrea did: “Online Social Networking Used to Enhance Face-to-Face and Online Pre-Service Teachers Education”. The abstract states,
“In this presentation we will share our experiences with teaching a technology course for pre-service teachers using online social networks to enhance the course. We will begin by presenting three case studies in which two social networks were used in three different instances of the course. Finally, we will present our findings and our conclusions about social networks, how they can be used most effectively, and the advantages and disadvantages of the features in each.”
Andrea’s section of IP&T 286 was the first instance. A section taught be the course coordinator, Dr. Charles Graham, provided the second instance. Andrea asked if I would mind writing up a brief description of my experience using Ning in my online section of IP&T 286 last semester. Since I didn’t mind, I provided the third instance and was granted third author status.
I learned that the presentation had been accepted months ago, but did not decide to attend until a few weeks prior to the conference and didn’t actually make travel plans until last week. I’m glad I decided to come, and not just because Charleston is a beautiful city with weather ten degrees warmer than what I left behind.
I arrived at the conference on Wednesday. The first session that I attended was a presentation by Linda Brupbacher and Dawn Wilson of Houston Baptist University. The presentation described efforts in technology integration in a pre-service teacher program. Brupbacher and Wilson emphasized their attempts at a spiral curriculum aimed at developing future teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge. For me, the idea that I was most eager to try was that of placing the technology course at the beginning of the course sequence for education majors. Brupbacher and Wilson pointed out that this gave pre-service teachers skills that allowed them to use technology to aid in their own learning, which in turn gave them ideas for using technology to aid their future students’ learning. I like Brupbacher and Wilson’s approach, but I would go even further. I believe that all college freshman should take a required technology course that helps them learn how to use technological tools to support their learning.
Since the presentation that I was a part of was a “brief paper” and was presenting at the end of the hour, I managed to catch a presentation by Denise Schmidt, Evrim Baran, Ann Thompson, Matthew Koehler, Mishra Punya, and Tae shin. The presentation was entitled, “Examining Preservice Teachers’ Development of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge in an Introductory Instructional Technology Course.” This presentation described the results of a study that attempted to measure pre-service teachers’ growth in TPACK over a course of a semester (the study will continue to measure these teachers’ growth throughout their time in the education program). Their results showed growth in all seven TPACK components. I was interested in this presentation because I have been working with Dr. Graham and a few other graduate students to create an assessment of TPACK for use with pre-service teachers at BYU. I saw some similarities between their instrument and ours. However, we’ve encountered some difficulties in clearly defining the boundaries between constructs. The concept of TPACK has some intuitive appeal for me, but I have concerns about the distinctions between the component parts of the TPACK framework (I have similar concerns with TPACK’s parent concept, PCK– I’ll discuss these in a later post).
Wednesday afternoon, I attended back to back sessions by Judi Harris, Mark Hofer (and a host of collaborators). The session title was “Operationalizing TPACK for Educators: The Activity Types Approach to Technology Integration” and it was delivered in two parts. Activity types are an attempt to categorize the activities that teachers think about when planning lessons. I first read Harris and Hofer’s article about activity types in 2006 and had immediately sat down and tried to create my own comprehensive list of activity types (which I still have by the way). My approach was different than Harris and Hofer’s. They and their collaborators looked at the types of activities used in each content area. I attempted to look across content areas in an attempt to separate general pedagogies from content or topic specific pedagogies. It seems to me that for PCK or TPACK to be a useful construct, it should be possible to classify general pedagogical activities as pedagogical knowledge (PK) and content or topic-specific activities as pedagoical content knowledge (PCK). I asked Mark Hofer about the lack of general activity structure in the taxonomy. He argued that they felt that the difference between reading text in, for example, a social studies classroom, was different enough from the activity of reading text in a mathematics classroom to constitute separate, content-specific activity types. I am not yet convinced. Still, I find the concept of activity types to be a very practical concept for assiting teachers’ planning, independent of the TPACK framework.