TPACK for the 21st-century educator
July 26, 2018
By Dr Nicolas Matthee

For many of us, the TPACK framework has been committed to the dusty chambers of our long-term memory. Perhaps it’s time to dust it off and re-evaluate its worth for the 21st-century educator.

Reproduced with permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

The TPACK model initially evolved from only one of the three dimension it currently consists of. The first dimension of the TPACK model was the PCK or pedagogical content knowledge dimension. This was developed by Shulman in 1986 based on his evaluation that teachers needed a better grasp of good teaching practices. To elaborate, he felt that teachers needed to know what content knowledge they needed to possess and how this was related to the particular subject matter of their chosen field. Once they understand the content knowledge required of them they can then integrate it into their teaching and therefore develop a more effective pedagogy. Shulman is quoted as saying the following on how PCK can be understood: “the most useful forms of representation of those ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations and demonstrations – in a word, the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others”

The approach of Shulman toward PCK is widely held as part of the basics in teacher education as this model describes the very heart of what it is to teach. In 2006, the model was adapted by Matthew Koehler and Punya Mishra to eventually become the TPACK model.

Koehler and Mishra essentially divided the PCK model into its different parts, content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, and added a crucial third dimension, technological knowledge. This framework for teaching demands an understanding of the complex relationships between students, teachers, content, technologies, practices and tools.

Leanna Archambault and Joshua Barnett summarise the TPACK model as follows:

“Good teaching is not simply adding technology to the existing teaching and content domain. Rather, the introduction of technology causes the representation of new concepts and requires developing a sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between all three components suggested by the TPACK framework”

In a recent framework document by the South African Department of Basic Education titled, Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning: Building Educator Competencies in Facilitating Learning with Digital Tools and Resources, the TPACK framework is translated to make more sense in the context of the classroom:

Identifying broad levels of activity related to pedagogy and the effective use of digital tools and resources

The TPACK framework may seem overly complex and a large mountain to climb, but with a proper understanding of the framework, it can lead to truly transformative teaching.

If you are interested in acquiring some practical tools for implementing the theory of the TPACK framework in your classroom, consider enrolling for the ITSI course on the 21st-century educator.