Cooking with TPACK

This week for my CEP 810 class, I was given a challenge:  to cook something using only a bowl, plate, and utensil.  The twist was that all of these things were blindly chosen by someone else!  Watch my video to see how I fared:

Although I initially thought it would be very challenging to use the wine bottle opener (officially called a wine key or sommelier knife) for this task, I think I was actually pretty lucky.  It only took minimal repurposing, as I was able to use its little knife, originally intended for cutting through foil wrapping, for scooping and spreading the peanut butter and jelly.  My prior experience with this utensil enabled me to quickly repurpose it for my sandwich making.  If I’d never used a tool like this before, I might not have realized that there was a knife hidden in there.

used with permission from

used with permission from

You might be surprised to realize that this task is directly related to what teachers do as they construct learning experiences for their students!  The TPACK framework outlines how technology, pedagogy, and content are interconnected.  Dr. Mishra, one of the creators of this framework, emphasizes in this talk that teachers take technology, which was often not intentionally created for use in educational settings, and repurpose it to fit the content they teach and the pedagogy they use.  A teacher uses technology most effectively when their teaching is NOT dictated by the tool, but instead when they use the technology in a creative way to support the learning outcome they desire.

I could have tried make my sandwich using the corkscrew part of my utensil, but it would have probably made a mess, and I would be wasting the potential of my tool.  Similarly, I could use technology like Screencastify to record my lectures and have students watch them at home.  I’d be integrating technology, which is great.  But if I keep teaching outdated content or using bad pedagogy (individual work on in-class worksheets, or front-loading content with lectures instead of having students inquire first), it’s still bad teaching.  Instead, I could repurpose the technology: have students make videos explaining how they solve a problem as evidence that they’ve mastered the content and have metacognition about their strategies.

Instead of letting your pedagogy and content be controlled by the technology available, I challenge you to explore the tech tools available to you, and then think about whether you could creatively use them to enhance the way your students learn!


Blog-Reader Extraordinaire

Google Reader Stats

I think should win some kind of award for Most Faithful Blog Reader Ever.  Reader currently tells me that I’ve read a total of 144,265 items since January 9, 2007.  During the school year, one of the highlights of my week is Saturday morning, when I can sit on my couch with my iPad and a steaming cup of coffee and catch up on my blogs. Seeing “400 unread items” gets my heart beating a little faster.  And when the number of unread items gets way up there, I’m not good at just clicking “mark all as read” and moving on …I feel compelled to give all of those posts a chance to catch my eye, since someone obviously felt they were worth writing, and I don’t want to miss out!

So in March, when I heard the news that Google Reader was shutting down, I almost cried.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive. I mean that almost literally.

Once I picked my teary self up off the floor (and discovered Feedly, my new, beautiful RSS-drug of choice), I realized that even if I stopped reading blogs, nobody would notice.  Even though I am a faithful blog-reader, I’m just a lurker — I haven’t yet jumped into the conversation.  But after 6 years of reading blogs, and being a high school chemistry teacher for about as long, I think it’s about time for me to join in.

I certainly don’t feel like I am a master teacher.  I still make lots of mistakes, have seasons of high and low motivation, and learn so much about myself and the craft of teaching every year.

The Birth of this Blog

But I’m beginning to realize maybe those are things worth sharing.  I’ve gleaned much encouragement and tips from other bloggers  I need their little encouragement to try new things, rather than recycling what worked last year.

And I have a mix of professional interests that I love thinking and talking about: educational technology, chemistry,  flipped learning, the Living by Chemistry curriculum, inquiry, NGSS, STEM, mobile learning (one to one technology programs), student research, peer instruction, group dynamics in student lab groups, iPad apps, …. I could go on and on!

This blog is a place where you can find tales of my experiences in these areas.  I hope to provide you with the same encouragement and influx of ideas that I’ve received from my favorite bloggers, and perhaps the motivation to try something new or to share your own ideas!

So, Google Reader: may you rest in peace.  And thanks for giving me the motivation to get started!