The Need to Understand

“To teach is first to understand.” – L. Shulman (1987)

About a couple of months ago, I, together with other Science teachers in my department, were invited to a half-day training by PASCO Scientific (a company that offers software and hardware geared for the instruction of science). The school where I worked had just acquired additional software and hardware from PASCO and the technicians came over to help us familiarize ourselves with their use.

I remember how my coordinator told me that we will get to “play with our new toys” – she was so excited about how these new gadgets can help our students have a better appreciation of science.

During the training, I was surprised at the existing PASCO gadgets we had. I was unaware that we had those “toys”! For a while there, I thought about the times that I could have used them in my classes. However, I was just glad that I finally know that we have those probes and sensors to use in my future classes.

I was excited because we have a new digital microscope that will allow us to project specimens onto a screen. The software bundled with the microscope could even take pictures of the specimens! There were also sensors for gathering different data that will be useful when conducting investigatory projects.

During the demo, I realized that besides having new gadgets, it was also crucial for us to not only understand how to operate them, but also to know where they can best be used. It was a good thing that the software bundle also came with suggested activities that can be modified and adapted in the classroom.

The half-day training spent with PASCO also made me understand all the more how important it was for teachers to understand the content of the subjects they teach. This way, we can plan our lessons and activities better for the benefit of our students. This will also help us choose which tools we can use in the classroom that will help us impart knowledge effectively and that will fit the needs and skills of our students.

This experience brings to mind Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) idea of TPACK (technological pedagogical content knowledge) which basically states that “[q]uality teaching requires developing a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy”. Understanding content and knowing which strategies to employ is the first step towards teaching effectively. Understanding and using which technology works best will further enhance and enrich classroom experience.

 

For more information on PASCO products and services, you may visit http://www.pasco.com/

References:

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00684.x.

Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-21.

 

Tony Stark and his Computers

I have been meaning to write about my fascination for the film industry’s depiction of Tony Stark (aka Ironman) and his computers. Watching TV serials like NCIS and CSI where characters often use advanced computers to analyze data, I have found myself fascinated and wondering if there are actually computers that do that. When the first Avengers movie came, I was again fascinated by the glass interfaces used by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. I was equally impressed about how Stark’s AI butler, J.A.R.V.I.S, was able to scan models and project them as 3D images where (and this is the most fascinating of all) a person can actually walk through to inspect.

What’s my point? You might ask.

Well, I have to admit, I actually started wishing for that kind of advanced technology when I was teaching Biology last year.  Teaching cell structures to my students had proved challenging because my girls thought the images of cells were just revolting.  When it came time to teach them about cellular respiration, I found that video clips of how a 6-carbon sugar is converted into energy were not enough.  I had to retell the story in such a way that the components “came alive” for them.  I had thought then, how neat would it be if I could project a 3D image in the middle of the classroom and have the girls manipulate it just to see what the effects will be?

This week in my Instructional Media Resources class, we were introduced to the TPACK Model designed by Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler (2006).

The TPACK Model by Mishra and Koehler Image source: http://tpack.org

The TPACK Model by Mishra and Koehler
Image source: http://tpack.org

TPACK (or sometimes TPCK) stands for “Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge” which is an important framework when it comes to using technology as a tool to enrich knowledge transfer in classroom encounters.

In the midst of reading the resources for the topic, I found myself researching about the likelihood that Tony Stark’s computers actually exist in real life.  There have been amazing developments in technology akin to that of the films like those by Elon Musk (Tolentino, 2013) and Hewlett-Packard (Bright, 2014).  I think that in the very near future, computers like those in Tony Stark’s universe will indeed be available to us.  Budget-constraints notwithstanding, the question that remains to be answered would be how they will impact education and how teachers will be able to use them effectively in the classroom.

References:

Bright, P. (2014, October 30). Gears and Gadgets. Retrieved from ARS Technica: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/10/hps-sprout-pc-is-like-a-real-version-of-iron-mans-jarvis/

Koehler, M. J. (n.d.). TPACK explained. Retrieved from tpack.org: http://www.matt-koehler.com/tpack/tpack-explained

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00684.x.

Tolentino, M. (2013). Elon Musk to Unveil Holographic Technology Akin to Tony Stark’s. Retrieved from Silicon Angle: , http://siliconangle.com/blog/2013/08/28/elon-musk-to-unveil-holographic-technology-akin-to-tony-starks/