The process of designing a lesson as an educational designer
Designing a course as an educational designer, not a teacher preparing a lesson for his students is highly challenging and maybe the most difficult decision one can make. In our group for example, everyone had a different opinion concerning with the best way we can design the lesson. Especially the difference rose on how should it look like? What are the components of it? Although I am a teacher, I am not familiar with designing of a lesson which incorporates TPACK. So we were almost missing the direction. Several design model were consulted, yet didn’t fit for our plan. Finally we had to either omit or add some of the components from Dick & Carey model so that to fit with our design framework. However, from this experience, I think as a course designer you need to focus on two major audiences; the teacher and the students. Thus you need to know the characteristics of these audiences in order to decide what they can teach/learn, how and the kind of support they may need. Probably one could need to conduct a situational analysis to identify the knowledge (content, technology and pedagogy) that the intended audiences already have.
Despite my experience in teaching teachers and several course designs assignments I have done, I found myself stuck in this assignment as it was not easily fitting in most of the course design models. My previous knowledge tells me that in course design, you start with stating the goal, analyze the learning situation, write the syllabus, design materials, implement and evaluate. But these simple procedures I know didn’t fit on it. As the lesson required integration of TPACK, then had to think where and how to integrte TK, CK, PK, TCK, TPK, PCK,to get TPACK. Integrating TPACK in the design, especially the presence of a predetermined part of TPACK which you have to begin with such as TK was the most challenging thing.
Several decisions were taken towards the design of the course. We had to ask ourselves several questions; what do we want to design, for whom, how and why? We had to take into account the knowledge we need to develop; technological, pedagogical or content knowledge? We had also to think of what should be the focus of the lesson, teacher or student?
My first impression, when I foound that we alread have the technological knowledge(social community) as the starting point in our design I thought it would have been easy to go through the rest of the parts. Unfortunately it was not that way. There are several social learning community tools such as, facebook, Myspace, Netlog, Elgg, wikis etc. Then we had to think of the type of the social community that fits best in the education context. Thus we decided to use Elgg after referring to several literatures about different social communities in education. There were also some challenges on where to go after having the technology. What should come first, pedagogy or content? (See the next section on working with TPACK) Other steps such as design of the materials, implementation and evaluation were a bit simple. Yet there was a challenge on the kind of support that can be provided. If at the beginning you make an assumption that the teacher and students have the knowledge on content, technology and pedagogy. You find yourself in trouble on deciding the kind of support you would provide as far as your audience knows what to do. Overall, assuming the role of educational designer and designing a lesson on the basis of TPACK is challenging and nice one.
Working with TPACK
Looking at the TPACK model as it is and describing it may look very easy. But when it comes to the application of the TPACK model in the real course design you reveal several difficulties and challenges that the model poses. In the first group meeting to discuss the assignment we used more than an hour to discuss the best route we can take on the TPACK model. Having the technological knowledge we had to think if we should then move to the content knowledge or pedagogical knowledge? In most cases, the movement in the TPACK can be thought easy when it begins with the content (CK). If a teacher is having a topic to teach it can be easy for him to think of the methodology for teaching it and the technology that can fit on it. Its interesting that you have a technology then you are thinking what can I teach with this technology or how can I use this technology? When you have the technology, it becomes difficult to make the right combinations between TK, PK, CK, TPK, TCK and PCK. I think it is very hard, though we did it. Then our thought was summarized as in Figure 1 and 2, also shown on the Niels’s blog. Finally we thought it is easy to think of the pedagogy after having the content. Thus, we opted to start from TK, CK, PK, TCK, PCK, TPK and finaly TPACK.
Some difficulties also experienced on determining the kind of knowledge you want to describe in each component of TPACK. For example, when we talk of the technological knowledge, what do we mean? Does it refer to the knowledge that a teacher already have, knowledge that a teacher is supposed to have or knowledge that you want a teacher to develop? This also had some difficulties in working with in the TPACK model. It was unclear whether you have to report the knowledge as if the teacher is already having or you address the knowledge the teacher is supposed to have? If you focus on the knowledge a teacher is to have, how do you integrate it in the lesson? Will a lesson need to comprise a part for teacher training to develop competencies of using TPACK?
The other interesting thing never thought about its importance in the TPACK, was the context. While I always thought the context is something very simple, during the design process, during the lesson design, I had several questions to ask myself about what a context real mean? Is it the students in the class (say primary school students) or the coverage of the lesson (such as History of Enschede or Netherlands)? I also experienced that the possibility to forget the context when describing the TPACK model is high.
The opportunities/challenges of flexibility
The level of flexibility for this assignment was limited. Although there was a certain level of flexibility such as, freedom to decide the learning goal of the lesson, location, time and choices within the TPACK model, we find this flexibility to be so limited. The presence of a fixed starting point from the TPACK model for the design of the lesson reduced the level of flexibility we could have if there was no starting point. Having been given the starting point and the example of the tool to use at a particular point (TK, social community) reduced the level of flexibility. In the assignment we had only two options from the TPACK model, thus we had to decide either to go left or right after the starting point.
However,designing a lesson to be conducted in the social learning community provides a variety of flexibilities. In the social community learning, there are a lot of social community tools which provide access to all people to use for education or other purposes. Social community tools such as facebook, myspace, hi5, netlogs, badoo etc can be used in conducting a lesson. At this particular approach we had great opportunity to choose the social community we think it fits with our chosen lesson. Thus we agreed to choose Elgg which is more academic than the other commercial community tools.
Social community doesnt provide flexibility only to the designer but also to the students and teachers. In social community, a teacher and students can work on their assignments or reflect on their works at their own time. It is a kind of learning tool which provide an interesting flexibility of time, location and technology (as one can decide to use internet from mobil phone and be able to work in a train, or in a party rather than computer.
Overall the TPACK model provides a lot of flexibilities to the designer, learners and the teacher. But more flexible if the designer is given the freedom to choose the starting point. With TPACK a teacher and learners are able to have flexibility of content, instructional approaches and technology. But in the process of course design it was found a bit difficult to incorporate all these flexibility to the students. However, its my sincere belief that a teacher who has developed sufficient competencies in TPACK would easily find flexibility in any design of the materials or lesson.
On the other hand the level of flexibility to the learners whom we are designing the course for and for ouselve was limited by the lack of knoweldge to design a lesson. Probably we know well about the TPACK, but we don’t know what starts and what ends in the lesson design process.
Implications for the instructors
To my opinion working with TPACK in the design of educational materials or learning program is highly challenging. Especially it becomes difficult when you have to assume the responsibility of a designer and not a teacher. A teacher can easily design for his learners but for the educational designer has to think about the learners and the teacher. This requires enough investment; I don’t think its something that can be done in a couple of weeks. For the purpose of acquainting learners with the knowledge of designing materials, I think its good to have so prior instruction in the classroom concerning the design procedures before we go to the real design.
However it is expected that a design of the course which takes into account the TPACK, would help the teacher to develop competencies in TK, CK, PK, TCK, TPK, and PCK and thus TPACK. A good knowlege on this would help in enhancing the children learning in the social community and other technologies available for enhancing learning. Through this kind of design, where a teacher is assessed on his competence in TPCK, there is high possibility for teacher development through training and all kinds of support that a teacher can get from the designer and colleague in the process of implementing this designed lesson.
I appreciate that through this assignment I have known more about the TPACK, but am still in dilemma whether the approach we took in the design of the lesson on the basis of TPACK was the right one or wrong. Because I am ignorant about lesson design. Finally, when I learned about the TPACK model in the classroom, I thought it is very simple and can be easily integrated in the teaching process. From this assignment I have learned a lot about the integration of TPACK in education and appreciate that it’s not that much simple to integrate content, pedagogy and technology in education. Some careful measures should be taken to ensure that the integration is balanced. The very possible mistake likely to occur in the course of designing a learning program that incorporate TPACK is overemphasis in one component than the others.
After this assignment, I believe I still have a long way to go, learning the TPACK model and its use in education. I am confident enough that I know TPACK and the kind of flexibility it provides to both teachers and learners yet I acknowledge the fact that I need to learn more about it. Maybe I will need to do a research on it to find out how easily can it be integrated in the classroom. For example when you are preparing a teacher to have the TPAC knowledge, should he/she learn these components independently or together in one context? If a teacher is learning History, should we teach history, technology and pedagogy in one class or every component should be learned independently from different classes? If so how will this teacher learn to integrate the various components of TPACK?