I recently became interested in the work of Mishra and Koehler because it seemed to make sense and apply itself well to the issues facing technology integrators in school environments. Referred to as the “Holy Grail” the overlap between the three areas of content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge is the area where the interests of all three components are met and true integration is happening.
My observations, however suggest that when technology arrives into a school environment it often is seen to displace one of the previously well-ingrained areas and is thus resisted by teachers who are well versed in, and practiced, with them. For example, if technology is used for it’s own sake; or because of the “wow” factor; or because of pressure to keep up with neighbour schools, the pedagogical principles associated with drill and practice and teacher-centred tutorial style learning, are sacrificed to make way for “new learning” approaches. Despite being based on well researched constructivist theories, teachers tend to resist change because the technology seems to be the driving force rather than the pedagogy which is behind it. Likewise, technology may be seen to support existing pedagogy but at the expense of content because of the increased time it takes for teachers and students to learn how to use the technology. Mishra, Koehler and Harris have identified 40 classroom-based activity types that were devised after research in social studies classrooms. They suggest that teachers become acculturated into certain behaviour patterns that fit their expectations for their subject area and attempts to alter these behaviours are doomed to fail.
My contention is that technology integration needs to support these behaviours rather than seek to alter them and to this end I have surveyed all teaching staff to attempt to identify the common “activity structures” that exist in my school. Mishra, Koehler et al suggest that the curriculum content areas need to be researched more thoroughly;
“Given that the first taxonomy of activity types has been created very recently, and that it refers to just one curriculum content area, it is clear that much more work in this line of inquiry must be done. Activity type taxonomies for each of the K-12 curriculum content areas, once developed, should be tested and refined according to what teachers discover and recommend when using them.”
I am considering whether it is the culture and/or historical context of a school and it’s clients that determines a common pedagogy which is perceived as “the way it is done here”. To investigate this I have adapted the activity structures that were suggested by Mishra, Koehler et al, and have surveyed the entire staff regarding their preference for some identified classroom practices. I am collating the results received so far.
Over the coming weeks I intend to;
- analyse the results further
- refine the activity structures, if necessary
- identify technologies that support existing practice
- survey staff regarding their use of these technologies, and suggest alternatives as necessary
- survey the use of the same activity structures again to see if the use of technology changes the patterns of behaviour that were previously identified.
The intention is to discover what (if any) ritualised forms of teacher behaviour are common and thus occur in the majority of classrooms. With this information it will then be possible to identify and supply professional development that will assist in the use of technology that is more likely to be accepted.
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge.Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32 (2), 131-152.
Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (in press). Planning for technology-integrated learning in social studies: Teachers as chefs, not cooks.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Harris, J. B., Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (no date) Teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Curriculum-based Technology Integration Reframed.
 Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge.Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(2), 131-152.
 Harris, J. B., Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. Teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Curriculum-based Technology Integration Reframed, page 10