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What Is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge?

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This paper describes a framework for teacher knowledge for technology integration called technological pedagogical content knowledge (originally TPCK, now known as TPACK, or technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge). This framework builds on Lee Shulman's construct of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) to include technology knowledge. The development of TPACK by teachers is critical to effective teaching with technology. The paper begins with a brief introduction to the complex, ill- structured nature of teaching. The nature of technologies (both analog and digital) is considered, as well as how the inclusion of technology in pedagogy further complicates teaching. The TPACK framework for teacher knowledge is described in detail, as a complex interaction among three bodies of knowledge: Content, pedagogy, and technology. The interaction of these bodies of knowledge, both theoretically and in practice, produces the types of flexible knowledge needed to successfully integrate technology use into teaching.
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Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge?
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.
60
Editors’ Note: For the benefit of readers who are unfamiliar with the notion of
technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK), we offer the following condensed
and updated depiction by Mishra and Koehler (2007), which was presented originally at
the annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education
in 2007.
Judi Harris & Matt Koehler
Special Issue Guest Editors
What Is Technological Pedagogical Content
Knowledge?
Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra
Michigan State University
Abstract
This paper describes a framework for teacher knowledge for technology
integration called technological pedagogical content knowledge (originally
TPCK, now known as TPACK, or technology, pedagogy, and content
knowledge). This framework builds on Lee Shulman’s construct of
pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) to include technology knowledge. The
development of TPACK by teachers is critical to effective teaching with
technology. The paper begins with a brief introduction to the complex, ill-
structured nature of teaching. The nature of technologies (both analog and
digital) is considered, as well as how the inclusion of technology in pedagogy
further complicates teaching. The TPACK framework for teacher knowledge
is described in detail, as a complex interaction among three bodies of
knowledge: Content, pedagogy, and technology. The interaction of these
bodies of knowledge, both theoretically and in practice, produces the types
of flexible knowledge needed to successfully integrate technology use into
teaching.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
61
As educators know, teaching is a complicated practice that requires an interweaving of
many kinds of specialized knowledge. In this way, teaching is an example of an ill-
structured discipline, requiring teachers to apply complex knowledge structures across
different cases and contexts (Mishra, Spiro, & Feltovich, 1996; Spiro & Jehng, 1990).
Teachers practice their craft in highly complex, dynamic classroom contexts (Leinhardt &
Greeno, 1986) that require them constantly to shift and evolve their understanding. Thus,
effective teaching depends on flexible access to rich, well-organized and integrated
knowledge from different domains (Glaser, 1984; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Shulman,
1986, 1987), including knowledge of student thinking and learning, knowledge of subject
matter, and increasingly, knowledge of technology.
The Challenges of Teaching With Technology
Teaching with technology is complicated further considering the challenges newer
technologies present to teachers. In our work, the word technology applies equally to
analog and digital, as well as new and old, technologies. As a matter of practical
significance, however, most of the technologies under consideration in current literature
are newer and digital and have some inherent properties that make applying them in
straightforward ways difficult.
Most traditional pedagogical technologies are characterized by specificity (a pencil is for
writing, while a microscope is for viewing small objects); stability (pencils, pendulums,
and chalkboards have not changed a great deal over time); and transparency of function
(the inner workings of the pencil or the pendulum are simple and directly related to their
function) (Simon, 1969). Over time, these technologies achieve a transparency of
perception (Bruce & Hogan, 1998); they become commonplace and, in most cases, are not
even considered to be technologies. Digital technologies—such as computers, handheld
devices, and software applications—by contrast, are protean (usable in many different
ways; Papert, 1980); unstable (rapidly changing); and opaque (the inner workings are
hidden from users; Turkle, 1995).On an academic level, it is easy to argue that a pencil
and a software simulation are both technologies. The latter, however, is qualitatively
different in that its functioning is more opaque to teachers and offers fundamentally less
stability than more traditional technologies. By their very nature, newer digital
technologies, which are protean, unstable, and opaque, present new challenges to
teachers who are struggling to use more technology in their teaching.
Also complicating teaching with technology is an understanding that technologies are
neither neutral nor unbiased. Rather, particular technologies have their own propensities,
potentials, affordances, and constraints that make them more suitable for certain tasks
than others (Bromley, 1998; Bruce, 1993; Koehler & Mishra, 2008). Using email to
communicate, for example, affords (makes possible and supports) asynchronous
communication and easy storage of exchanges. Email does not afford synchronous
communication in the way that a phone call, a face-to-face conversation, or instant
messaging does. Nor does email afford the conveyance of subtleties of tone, intent, or
mood possible with face-to-face communication. Understanding how these affordances
and constraints of specific technologies influence what teachers do in their classrooms is
not straightforward and may require rethinking teacher education and teacher
professional development.
Social and contextual factors also complicate the relationships between teaching and
technology. Social and institutional contexts are often unsupportive of teachers’ efforts to
integrate technology use into their work. Teachers often have inadequate (or
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
62
inappropriate) experience with using digital technologies for teaching and learning. Many
teachers earned degrees at a time when educational technology was at a very different
stage of development than it is today. It is, thus, not surprising that they do not consider
themselves sufficiently prepared to use technology in the classroom and often do not
appreciate its value or relevance to teaching and learning. Acquiring a new knowledge
base and skill set can be challenging, particularly if it is a time-intensive activity that must
fit into a busy schedule. Moreover, this knowledge is unlikely to be used unless teachers
can conceive of technology uses that are consistent with their existing pedagogical beliefs
(Ertmer, 2005). Furthermore, teachers have often been provided with inadequate
training for this task. Many approaches to teachers’ professional development offer a one-
size-fits-all approach to technology integration when, in fact, teachers operate in diverse
contexts of teaching and learning.
An Approach to Thinking About Technology Integration
Faced with these challenges, how can teachers integrate technology into their teaching?
An approach is needed that treats teaching as an interaction between what teachers know
and how they apply what they know in the unique circumstances or contexts within their
classrooms. There is no “one best way” to integrate technology into curriculum. Rather,
integration efforts should be creatively designed or structured for particular subject
matter ideas in specific classroom contexts. Honoring the idea that teaching with
technology is a complex, ill-structured task, we propose that understanding approaches to
successful technology integration requires educators to develop new ways of
comprehending and accommodating this complexity.
At the heart of good teaching with technology are three core components: content,
pedagogy, and technology, plus the relationships among and between them. The
interactions between and among the three components, playing out differently across
diverse contexts, account for the wide variations seen in the extent and quality of
educational technology integration. These three knowledge bases (content, pedagogy, and
technology) form the core of the technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK)
framework. An overview of the framework is provided in the following section, though
more detailed descriptions may be found elsewhere (e.g., Koehler & 2008; Mishra &
Koehler, 2006). This perspective is consistent with that of other researchers and
approaches that have attempted to extend Shulman’s idea of pedagogical content
knowledge (PCK) to include educational technology. (A comprehensive list of such
approaches can be found at http://www.tpck.org
/.)
The TPACK Framework
The TPACK framework builds on Shulman’s (1987, 1986) descriptions of PCK to describe
how teachers’ understanding of educational technologies and PCK interact with one
another to produce effective teaching with technology. Other authors have discussed
similar ideas, though often using different labeling schemes. The conception of TPACK
described here has developed over time and through a series of publications, with the
most complete descriptions of the framework found in Mishra and Koehler (2006) and
Koehler and Mishra (2008).
In this model (see Figure 1), there are three main components of teachers’ knowledge:
content, pedagogy, and technology. Equally important to the model are the interactions
between and among these bodies of knowledge, represented as PCK, TCK (technological
content knowledge), TPK (technological pedagogicalknowledge), and TPACK.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
63
Figure 1. The TPACK framework and its knowledge
components.
Content Knowledge
Content knowledge (CK) is teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter to be learned or
taught. The content to be covered in middle school science or history is different from the
content to be covered in an undergraduate course on art appreciation or a graduate
seminar on astrophysics. Knowledge of content is of critical importance for teachers. As
Shulman (1986) noted, this knowledge would include knowledge of concepts, theories,
ideas, organizational frameworks, knowledge of evidence and proof, as well as established
practices and approaches toward developing such knowledge. Knowledge and the nature
of inquiry differ greatly between fields, and teachers should understand the deeper
knowledge fundamentals of the disciplines in which they teach. In the case of science, for
example, this would include knowledge of scientific facts and theories, the scientific
method, and evidence-based reasoning. In the case of art appreciation, such knowledge
would include knowledge of art history, famous paintings, sculptures, artists and their
historical contexts, as well as knowledge of aesthetic and psychological theories for
evaluating art.
The cost of not having a comprehensive base of content knowledge can be prohibitive; for
example, students can receive incorrect information and develop misconceptions about
the content area (National Research Council, 2000; Pfundt, & Duit, 2000). Yet content
knowledge, in and of itself, is an ill-structured domain, and as the culture wars
(Zimmerman, 2002), the Great Books controversies (Bloom, 1987; Casement, 1997;
Levine, 1996), and court battles over the teaching of evolution (Pennock, 2001)
demonstrate, issues relating to curriculum content can be areas of significant contention
and disagreement.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
64
Pedagogical Knowledge
Pedagogical knowledge (PK) is teachers’ deep knowledge about the processes and
practices or methods of teaching and learning. They encompass, among other things,
overall educational purposes, values, and aims. This generic form of knowledge applies to
understanding how students learn, general classroom management skills, lesson
planning, and student assessment. It includes knowledge about techniques or methods
used in the classroom; the nature of the target audience; and strategies for evaluating
student understanding. A teacher with deep pedagogical knowledge understands how
students construct knowledge and acquire skills and how they develop habits of mind and
positive dispositions toward learning. As such, pedagogical knowledge requires an
understanding of cognitive, social, and developmental theories of learning and how they
apply to students in the classroom.
Pedagogical Content Knowledge
PCK is consistent with and similar to Shulman’s idea of knowledge of pedagogy that is
applicable to the teaching of specific content. Central to Shulman’s conceptualization of
PCK is the notion of the transformation of the subject matter for teaching. Specifically,
according to Shulman (1986), this transformation occurs as the teacher interprets the
subject matter, finds multiple ways to represent it, and adapts and tailors the
instructional materials to alternative conceptions and students’ prior knowledge. PCK
covers the core business of teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment and reporting,
such as the conditions that promote learning and the links among curriculum,
assessment, and pedagogy. An awareness of common misconceptions and ways of looking
at them, the importance of forging connections among different content-based ideas,
students’ prior knowledge, alternative teaching strategies, and the flexibility that comes
from exploring alternative ways of looking at the same idea or problem are all essential
for effective teaching.
Technology Knowledge
Technology knowledge (TK) is always in a state of flux—more so than the other two core
knowledge domains in the TPACK framework (pedagogy and content). Thus, defining it is
notoriously difficult. Any definition of technology knowledge is in danger of becoming
outdated by the time this text has been published. That said, certain ways of thinking
about and working with technology can apply to all technology tools and resources.
The definition of TK used in the TPACK framework is close to that of Fluency of
Information Technology (FITness), as proposed by the Committee of Information
Technology Literacy of the National Research Council (NRC, 1999). They argue that
FITness goes beyond traditional notions of computer literacy to require that persons
understand information technology broadly enough to apply it productively at work and
in their everyday lives, to recognize when information technology can assist or impede the
achievement of a goal, and to continually adapt to changes in information technology.
FITness, therefore, requires a deeper, more essential understanding and mastery of
information technology for information processing, communication, and problem solving
than does the traditional definition of computer literacy. Acquiring TK in this manner
enables a person to accomplish a variety of different tasks using information technology
and to develop different ways of accomplishing a given task. This conceptualization of TK
does not posit an “end state,” but rather sees it developmentally, as evolving over a
lifetime of generative, open-ended interaction with technology.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
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Technological Content Knowledge
Technology and content knowledge have a deep historical relationship. Progress in fields
as diverse as medicine, history, archeology, and physics have coincided with the
development of new technologies that afford the representation and manipulation of data
in new and fruitful ways. Consider Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays or the technique of
carbon-14 dating and the influence of these technologies in the fields of medicine and
archeology. Consider also how the advent of the digital computer changed the nature of
physics and mathematics and placed a greater emphasis on the role of simulation in
understanding phenomena. Technological changes have also offered new metaphors for
understanding the world. Viewing the heart as a pump, or the brain as an information-
processing machine are just some of the ways in which technologies have provided new
perspectives for understanding phenomena. These representational and metaphorical
connections are not superficial. They often have led to fundamental changes in the
natures of the disciplines.
Understanding the impact of technology on the practices and knowledge of a given
discipline is critical to developing appropriate technological tools for educational
purposes. The choice of technologies affords and constrains the types of content ideas
that can be taught. Likewise, certain content decisions can limit the types of technologies
that can be used. Technology can constrain the types of possible representations, but also
can afford the construction of newer and more varied representations. Furthermore,
technological tools can provide a greater degree of flexibility in navigating across these
representations.
TCK, then, is an understanding of the manner in which technology and content influence
and constrain one another. Teachers need to master more than the subject matter they
teach; they must also have a deep understanding of the manner in which the subject
matter (or the kinds of representations that can be constructed) can be changed by the
application of particular technologies. Teachers need to understand which specific
technologies are best suited for addressing subject-matter learning in their domains and
how the content dictates or perhaps even changes the technology—or vice versa.
Technological Pedagogical Knowledge
TPK is an understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular
technologies are used in particular ways. This includes knowing the pedagogical
affordances and constraints of a range of technological tools as they relate to
disciplinarily and developmentally appropriate pedagogical designs and strategies. To
build TPK, a deeper understanding of the constraints and affordances of technologies and
the disciplinary contexts within which they function is needed.
For example, consider how whiteboards may be used in classrooms. Because a
whiteboard is typically immobile, visible to many, and easily editable, its uses in
classrooms are presupposed. Thus, the whiteboard is usually placed at the front of the
classroom and is controlled by the teacher. This location imposes a particular physical
order in the classroom by determining the placement of tables and chairs and framing the
nature of student-teacher interaction, since students often can use it only when called
upon by the teacher. However, it would be incorrect to say that there is only one way in
which whiteboards can be used. One has only to compare the use of a whiteboard in a
brainstorming meeting in an advertising agency setting to see a rather different use of
this technology. In such a setting, the whiteboard is not under the purview of a single
individual. It can be used by anybody in the group, and it becomes the focal point around
which discussion and the negotiation/construction of meaning occurs. An understanding
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
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of the affordances of technology and how they can be leveraged differently according to
changes in context and purposes is an important part of understanding TPK.
TPK becomes particularly important because most popular software programs are not
designed for educational purposes. Software programs such as the Microsoft Office Suite
(Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Entourage, and MSN Messenger) are usually designed for
business environments. Web-based technologies such as blogs or podcasts are designed
for purposes of entertainment, communication, and social networking. Teachers need to
reject functional fixedness (Duncker, 1945) and develop skills to look beyond most
common uses for technologies, reconfiguring them for customized pedagogical purposes.
Thus, TPK requires a forward-looking, creative, and open-minded seeking of technology
use, not for its own sake but for the sake of advancing student learning and
understanding.
Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge
TPACK is an emergent form of knowledge that goes beyond all three “core” components
(content, pedagogy, and technology). Technological pedagogical content knowledge is an
understanding that emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology
knowledge. Underlying truly meaningful and deeply skilled teaching with technology,
TPACK is different from knowledge of all three concepts individually. Instead, TPACK is
the basis of effective teaching with technology, requiring an understanding of the
representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use
technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts
difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that
students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and
knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge to develop
new epistemologies or strengthen old ones.
By simultaneously integrating knowledge of technology, pedagogy and content, expert
teachers bring TPACK into play any time they teach. Each situation presented to teachers
is a unique combination of these three factors, and accordingly, there is no single
technological solution that applies for every teacher, every course, or every view of
teaching. Rather, solutions lie in the ability of a teacher to flexibly navigate the spaces
defined by the three elements of content, pedagogy, and technology and the complex
interactions among these elements in specific contexts. Ignoring the complexity inherent
in each knowledge component or the complexities of the relationships among the
components can lead to oversimplified solutions or failure. Thus, teachers need to
develop fluency and cognitive flexibility not just in each of the key domains (T, P, and C),
but also in the manner in which these domains and contextual parameters interrelate, so
that they can construct effective solutions. This is the kind of deep, flexible, pragmatic,
and nuanced understanding of teaching with technology we involved in considering
TPACK as a professional knowledge construct.
The act of seeing technology, pedagogy, and content as three interrelated knowledge
bases is not straightforward. As said before,
… separating the three components (content, pedagogy, and technology) …
is an analytic act and one that is difficult to tease out in practice. In actuality,
these components exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium or, as the
philosopher Kuhn (1977) said in a different context, in a state of ‘‘essential
tension’’…. Viewing any of these components in isolation from the others
represents a real disservice to good teaching. Teaching and learning with
technology exist in a dynamic transactional relationship (Bruce, 1997;
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
67
Dewey & Bentley, 1949; Rosenblatt, 1978) between the three components in
our framework; a change in any one of the factors has to be ‘‘compensated’’
by changes in the other two. (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1029)
This compensation is most evident whenever using a new educational technology
suddenly forces teachers to confront basic educational issues and reconstruct the
dynamic equilibrium among all three elements. This view inverts the conventional
perspective that pedagogical goals and technologies are derived from content area
curricula. Things are rarely that simple, particularly when newer technologies are
employed. The introduction of the Internet, for example – particularly the rise of online
learning – is an example of the arrival of a technology that forced educators to think
about core pedagogical issues, such as how to represent content on the Web and how to
connect students with subject matter and with one another (Peruski & Mishra, 2004).
Teaching with technology is a difficult thing to do well. The TPACK framework suggests
that content, pedagogy, technology, and teaching/learning contexts have roles to play
individually and together. Teaching successfully with technology requires continually
creating, maintaining, and re-establishing a dynamic equilibrium among all components.
It is worth noting that a range of factors influences how this equilibrium is reached.
Implications of the TPACK Framework
We have argued that teaching is a complex, ill-structured domain. Underlying this
complexity, however, are three key components of teacher knowledge: understanding of
content, understanding of teaching, and understanding of technology. The complexity of
technology integration comes from an appreciation of the rich connections of knowledge
among these three components and the complex ways in which these are applied in
multifaceted and dynamic classroom contexts.
Since the late 1960’s a strand of educational research has aimed at understanding and
explaining “how and why the observable activities of teachers’ professional lives take on
the forms and functions they do” (Clark & Petersen, 1986, p. 255; Jackson, 1968). A
primary goal of this research is to understand the relationships between two key
domains: (a) teacher thought processes and knowledge and (b) teachers’ actions and their
observable effects. The current work on the TPACK framework seeks to extend this
tradition of research and scholarship by bringing technology integration into the kinds of
knowledge that teachers need to consider when teaching. The TPACK framework seeks to
assist the development of better techniques for discovering and describing how
technology-related professional knowledge is implemented and instantiated in practice.
By better describing the types of knowledge teachers need (in the form of content,
pedagogy, technology, contexts and their interactions), educators are in a better position
to understand the variance in levels of technology integration occurring.
In addition, the TPACK framework offers several possibilities for promoting research in
teacher education, teacher professional development, and teachers’ use of technology. It
offers options for looking at a complex phenomenon like technology integration in ways
that are now amenable to analysis and development. Moreover, it allows teachers,
researchers, and teacher educators to move beyond oversimplified approaches that treat
technology as an “add-on” instead to focus again, and in a more ecological way, upon the
connections among technology, content, and pedagogy as they play out in classroom
contexts.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1)
68
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Author Note:
The authors contributed equally to this work. We rotate order of authorship in our
writing.
Matthew J. Koehler
Michigan State University
mkoehler@msu.edu
Punya Mishra
Michigan State University
punya@msu.edu
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... Although the TPACK model currently has the essential structure developed by Mishra and Koehler (2006) and Koehler and Mishra (2008), it has been adapted several times in recent years (Angeli and Valanides, 2009;Jang and Chen, 2010;Van Vaerenewyck et al., 2017). These adaptations have been especially important for contextual knowledge (XK) as another element in teaching development (Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua, 2013; Rosenberg and Koehler, 2015;Phillips et al., 2016;Swallow and Olofson, 2017), which was included in the last revision of the TPACK by Mishra (2019). ...
... The TPACK model is based on integrating the knowledge types (Koehler and Mishra, 2008) needed for successful teaching and appropriate DCE. Consequently, the results of this study are presented below on the basis of these knowledge types (CK, PK, and TK), and, especially, of their integration (PCK, TPK, and TCK). ...
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... There are some connections and interactions between teachers and students, along with learners with learners at the same and different levels, including with the outside community (Office of the Education Council of Thailand, 2014;Panit, 2014). Regarding the outcomes, the integration of technology teaching methods and contents by using the TPACK model (Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge: TPACK) is really necessary in the classroom., Koehler and Mishra (2008) state that TPACK refers to the combination of technology, teaching methods, and the contents. It's the basic knowledge to understand technology-based teaching whenever the concept of contents is presentd by using technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2008). ...
... Koehler and Mishra (2008) state that TPACK refers to the combination of technology, teaching methods, and the contents. It's the basic knowledge to understand technology-based teaching whenever the concept of contents is presentd by using technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2008). Problem based learning (PBL) is a student-centered educational method which aims to improve problem-solving skills through a self-directed learning and team work skills (Ali, 2019). ...
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... A három komponens együttesen alkotja meg azt a közös metszetet, melyben a pedagógus képessé válik a technológia alkalmazására a tanítási folyamat során, oly módon, amely az eltérő szükségletű diákokat a leginkább segíti a tananyag megértésében, elsajátításában (Koehler és Mishra, 2008). ...
... In fact, in mathematics education literature, the technological knowledge is integrated as part of teacher knowledge under the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) framework. Teachers are expected to deep understandings of each of the components of knowledge in order to orchestrate and coordinate technology, pedagogy, and content into teaching (Koehler & Mishra, 2008). Reform should include such issues in the 21st century. ...
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... Until recently different frameworks of digital competence have been suggested. Mishra and Koehler (2006) have proposed TPACK framework that contains three teacher knowledge areas: technological, pedagogical and content knowledge. The suggested model shows the necessity of "technology integration at multiple levels: theoretical, pedagogical, and methodological" (p. ...
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... In 2008, contexts were introduced into TPACK as the eighth element. So far, TPACK framework contains three core elements, content knowledge (CK), pedagogical knowledge (PK) and technology knowledge (TK), four interacted knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), technological content knowledge (TCK), technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) and technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK), and context (Koehler & Mishra, 2008), which can be shown in Figure 1. ...
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