Using Theoretical Perspectives in Developing Understanding of TPACK
University of Amsterdam & Windesheim University
National Institute for Curriculum Development
University of Ghent
Johan van Braak
University of Ghent
Corresponding Author: Joke Voogt, University of Amsterdam, Department of Child
Development and Education, P.O. Box 15776, 1001 NG Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Using Theoretical Perspectives in Developing Understanding of TPACK
In this chapter complementary theoretical perspectives are elaborated. The theory of
technological mediation studies the teacher-technology relationship and accentuates the
material dimensions of technology integration. This theory postulates that teachers and
technology constitute each other. The theory of situated cognition features the social
dimensions technology integration and premises that teachers actively construct their
TPACK through experiences in practice. We argue that both social and the material
dimensions are needed when teaching is considered a design science. If teachers take the
designer’s role and design and enact technology environments for learning they develop
their TPACK, in particular when they do so collaboratively.
In 2005 Koehler and Mishra (2005) introduced the term Technological Pedagogical
Content Knowledge (TPCK, currently referred to as TPACK) as a conceptual framework
to describe the knowledge base for teachers to effectively teach with technology. Since
then TPACK was embraced by many scholars and practitioners. Although TPACK is an
intuitive concept that easily resonates with practitioners, it is considered a complex
concept by many scholars and gives rise to academic discourse. An extensive review of
the literature on TPACK (Voogt, Fisser, Pareja Roblin, Tondeur & van Braak, 2013a)
showed that the widespread use of the TPACK framework has lead to different
interpretations of the framework and questioned some of the underpinnings of TPACK.
These differences in interpretations concern 1) the way technology is understood,
resulting in different approaches for measuring a teacher’s TPACK and 2) how TPACK
relates to current understandings of teacher knowledge, in particular questioning how
TPACK as a form of teacher knowledge interacts with teacher beliefs. Although there
seems agreement that TPACK can best be developed through ‘learning by design’
(Koehler & Mishra, 2008) we know little about what makes ‘learning technology by
design’ successful in developing TPACK and under which conditions.
The purpose of this chapter is to advance our understanding of TPACK and how TPACK
can be developed using three theoretical perspectives. First, to understand technological
knowledge we use insights from the philosophy of technology about the relationship
between technology, humans and the world (Ihde, 1993; Verbeek, 2005). Second, we use
insights from the theory of situated cognition (Greeno et al., 1998) to develop a rich
understanding of TPACK as a form of teacher knowledge. Third, we follow Laurillard
(2012) by positioning teaching as a design science. In this way we give room to
understanding teachers’ learning of TPACK by design. The common denominator of the
three theoretical perspectives elaborated upon in this chapter is the active and
constructive role of the teacher. Based on the theory of technological mediation teachers
and technology actively constitute each other. The theory of situated cognition postulates
that teachers actively construct their TPACK through formal knowledge and experiences
in practice. By positioning teaching as a design science we put the teacher in the role of
designer of technology-enhanced learning. We see these three perspectives as
complementary to each other. Based on the considerations this chapter offers, we finish
the chapter with suggestions for future studies.
Mediation of technology and Technological Knowledge
Technology is based on the Greek word technè, which means ‘craft’ or ‘art’ and the
Greek word logos, meaning word or discourse. It refers to concrete concrete artefacts,
designed and produced by humans and the use of these artefacts by humans. In addition
technology also concerns the knowledge necessary to generate new technological
solutions, and refers to the knowledge about the technology design process and its
applications in practice (Berting, 1992). All three meanings of technology are relevant for
the role technology may play in education. The first two meanings of technology
(technology as concrete artefacts and how we use them) will be addressed in this section,
while the latter meaning of technology is relevant when discussing learning technology
by design, which will be dealt with later in this chapter when we develop the third
perspective, teaching as a design science.
Mediation of technology
Technology is often seen as an extension of the human body (e.g. the microscope) or the
human mind (e.g. the World Wide Web, Artificial Intelligence). While in such an
instrumental perspective technologies are perceived as (neutral) means to an end, recent
studies on the relationship between technology and people are based on a post
phenomenological approach and grounded in an understanding that technology and
humans constitute each other (Ihde, 1993; Verbeek, 2005, 2011). This theory emanates
from the assumption that things matter, emphasizing the material dimensions in the
technology-human relationship. The theory of technological mediation assumes an active
role of both, technology and people, in shaping their relationship. In this approach
humans do not solely define if and how a specific technology is being used, but the
technology itself helps to shape action as well. This notion is in line with social agency
theory that also postulates that persons form relations with technology (Gell, 1998). It
implies that people do not surrender themselves to the technology (Heidegger, 1977, in
Kiran & Verbeek, 2010), but take responsibility for the way they are affected by the
technology. It is through this active relationship that one can trust oneself to the
technology (Kiran & Verbeek, 2010).
From the perspective of the theory of technological mediation it is not enough to only
study the intentions of technology users, but we also need to understand the intentions of
technology itself. The term affordance, coined by the perceptual psychologist Gibson
(1979), is often used in this respect. Affordance refers to what the physical environment
in terms of properties offers to the organism (Gibson, 1979 in Goldstein, 1981). These
properties are present in the physical environment, whether perceived or not by the
organism, and often have to be learned (Goldstein, 1981). In the frame of technology,
affordances refer to the properties of the technology and their meaning for its users. And
similar to the properties of the physical environment, the properties of technology have to
Recognizing the relationship between technology and its users helps to understand the
affordances of specific technologies. Ihde (1993) distinguishes between different types of
relationships between users and technology. The embodiment relation is captured in
technologies that can be considered an extension of the human body. A microscope is a
good example, because it helps us to see the world at a much more detailed level. The
hermeneutic relation refers to technologies that offer representations of the world that
needs interpretation before they are meaningful to us. A world globe or a simulation
provides a different representation of the world. Users of the globe or the simulation have
to interpret this representation and give meaning to it. To help students understand the
world through different representations is a core aspect of teaching and learning. In the
alterity relation technologies relate to people as the ‘quasi-other’. Automated learning
systems, such as simple drill and practice software and digital games ‘communicate’ with
people and provide feedback on their actions. Finally technologies can be on the
background of people’s lives, the background relation. We don’t notice these
technologies, unless they don’t work as expected. For instance, in the Western part of the
world we cannot think of classrooms without the availability of the blackboard, tables
and chairs. Wifi on the other hand is not yet commonplace everywhere.
The mediation of technology affects how the world is present for us and how we
experience the world. Technology is therefore never neutral. Through mediation of
technology our experience of the world is transformed: Some aspects are revealed while
other aspects are concealed (Ihde, 1993). For instance, a microscope reveals the details of
the cell, but conceals the organism as a whole. Thus the design of the technology
determines how we experience reality. In automated learning systems the kind of
interaction is determined by the design of the system, which does not allow for the
spontaneous interaction between teachers and students or students and students available
in face-to-face settings. Thus the way specific technologies represent reality provide
limitations but also offers new possibilities to understand the world that could not be
realized otherwise. For instance a simulation provides us with the possibility to study and
understand the effect of climate change on glaciers in a nutshell, while this process takes
years in reality.
The relationship between technology and its affordances is not straightforward, because
whether and how the affordances of a specific technology are being used depends on the
actions of the user (Kiran & Verbeek, 2010; Webb & Cox, 2004). The design of a
specific technology may invite users to specific action. Digital storybooks, for instance,
invite students to ‘read’ the story. Drill and practice software designed to train simple
math skills invite students to practice math. These examples seem to imply that
technologies prescribe their use, which seems somewhat contrary to the idea that
technology and humans constitute each other. However many technologies can be used
beyond the intentions of the designers. The use of playing 3D digital games though of
virtual reality have never been designed as a means to relief pain, hence they are being
used as such now. On the other hand the game play in digital games is designed to invite
the user to continue playing, but as a consequence this may unintentionally lead to
addiction. Most technologies are not developed for education per se and hence when
applied in educational practice will be used beyond the initial intentions of the designers
of a specific technology. Koehler and Mishra (2008) refer to this as the need to repurpose
technology for educational use. Yet, when a technology stabilizes in its use in a specific
context it may direct how people experience and interpret the world (Ihde, 1993). The use
of the blackboard, for instance, can be considered stable and shapes our understanding of
teaching and learning to a large extent. The resemblance of the interactive whiteboard
with the conventional blackboard has lead to a fast uptake of this new technology, but
also to use that is often very similar to the use of the blackboard. Because of this, initially
the affordances of the interactive whiteboard (Higgins, Beauchamp & Miller (2007)
remained hidden. Finally, whether and how a technology is being used also depends on
whether the technology is easily accessible and available for its users. Using a specific
technology should not require too much effort (Borgmann, 2006).
The theory of technological mediation assumes that both teachers and technology take an
active role in shaping the learning environment. The affordances of a technology need to
be recognized and considered useful by teachers. In addition teachers may use technology
in ways different from its original design, allowing for undesirable, but also for creative
uses of a technology. We argue that teachers need a deep understanding of the
affordances of specific technologies (cf. Brown, 2009) to help their students learn a
specific topic or skill with the help of technology. We refer to this as Technological
Knowledge. From this perspective Technological Knowledge does not only refer to the
instrumental skills needed to operate the technology (e.g. being able to use the
technology, sometimes including simple trouble shooting), but also implies knowledge of
the affordances of technologies to achieve personal and professional goals (cf. Jamieson-
Proctor et al., 2011). This view has implications for instruments that aim to measure
Technological Knowledge. There is no use in measuring Technological Knowledge when
technology is operationalized as a general concept. What is needed are instruments that
aim to measure knowledge of the affordances of exemplary technologies relevant for
education on the one hand while ignoring the details of all possible available applications
for realizing this goal at the other hand (see for instance Christensen et al., 2015).
TPACK as a form of teacher knowledge
Knowledge of the affordances of specific technologies (Technological Knowledge) is not
enough to teach with technology. Teachers need to use their technological knowledge in
concert with content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. The integration of these
three knowledge domains is known as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge
(TPACK). In this section we will develop a broad and in-depth understanding of TPACK
by discussing TPACK from the perspective of current understandings of teacher
When preparing their lessons teachers decide if and how they make use of specific
technologies. They often have several options to choose from. For instance to help
students understand the effect of climate change on glaciers a teacher can decide to tell
students to read a text about glaciers in their textbook, tell students to use a simulation to
explore the relationship between the amount of snowfall and the temperature on the
behavior of glaciers or present to them a video clip showing the same process and ask
questions afterwards. In these three options the learning goal is mediated by different
technologies. When considering these different options the teacher uses his knowledge
of the affordances (technological knowledge) of the three technologies (the textbook, the
simulation and the video clip). However, the teacher’s decision is not only based on
technological knowledge, but in relation with his knowledge of content and pedagogy
(TPACK). In addition the teacher has an in-depth understanding of the context, such as
the kind of students in class, the accessibility of the different technologies, the amount of
time available and other curriculum requirements. Besides, the teacher has beliefs about
good teaching and the use of technology for teaching and learning. We refer to these
considerations as professional reasoning, which concerns not only de preparation, but
also the enactment of teaching practice (Brown, 2009; Voogt et al., 2013b; Webb & Cox,
2004). In teachers’ professional reasoning knowledge, beliefs and interpretations of
practice are intertwined (Brown, 2009) and affected by experience and feedback (Webb
& Cox, 2004). Greeno et al. (1998), when introducing the theory of situated cognition,
argued that we only can understand individual teaching behavior in the context of larger
social systems, including the environment. Thus, we need to understand how a teacher’s
professional reasoning is affected by its social dimensions. Explication of the
professional reasoning of teachers provides insights in teachers’ knowledge and beliefs.
We will elaborate on teacher knowledge in the next section.
Verloop, Van Driel and Meijer (2001) defined teacher knowledge as ‘the whole of
knowledge and insights that underlie teachers’ actions in practice’ (p. 446). It is a multi-
dimensional concept (e.g. Calderhead, 1996, Verloop et al., 2001) that not only consists
of formal theoretical knowledge derived from scientific research as acquired during pre-
service education and continuous professional development, but also of the knowledge
gained through day-to-day experiences in the field (Calderhead, 1996). This latter type of
knowledge is often referred to as a teacher’s practical knowledge (Van Driel, Verloop, &
De Vos, 1998) or ‘wisdom of practice’ (Shulman, 1986). From the perspective of situated
cognition a teacher’s practical knowledge develops through the interactions with social
subsystems (students, peer teachers, parents etc.).
While a teacher’s formal knowledge is explicit public knowledge, based on accepted
theory from scientific research, the accumulation of experiences from practice is often
implicit, or ‘tacit’ knowledge (Eraut, 1994). We consider TPACK, similar to Pedacogical
Content Knowledge (Shulman, 1986, 1987) and in line with the theory of situated
cognition, as a form of teacher knowledge. Following Verloop et al. (2001) TPACK then
can be defined as ‘the whole of knowledge and insights that underlie teachers’ actions
with technology in practice’. Because of the interaction between formal and practical
knowledge, teacher knowledge is highly personal (Conelly & Clandinin, 1985) and
intertwined with the practicality of teaching (Boschman, McKenney & Voogt, 2014;
Doyle & Ponder, 1978).
TPACK as personal knowledge
As elaborated upon in the previous section a teacher’s TPACK is formed by explicit,
formal knowledge and practical experiences. Pajares (1992), in his landmark study about
teacher beliefs, found that beliefs play a critical role in teachers’ actions. TPACK is
therefore highly personal and impacted by a teacher’s psychological attributes and
Several scholars studied the relationship between teachers’ use of technology in practice
and beliefs about pedagogy and/or technology. Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik,
Sendurur and Sendurur (2012) studied the relationship between beliefs about technology
and practices of award winning teachers, selected for their student-centered practices.
They found that the teachers were able to enact practices that were aligned with their
beliefs about technology, but they did not make explicit how these findings refer to a
teacher’s knowledge and insights that underlie teachers’ actions with technology in
practice, or their TPACK. Several studies (e.g. Niederhauser & Stoddart; 2001; Tondeur,
Hermans, van Braak & Valcke, 2008, Voogt, 2010) studied the relation between
elementary teachers’ use of technology and their pedagogical beliefs. These studies found
that teachers who used open-ended software were more likely to have learner-centered
pedagogical beliefs, and teachers who used only skill-based software were more likely to
hold teacher-directed pedagogical beliefs. However, it should be noted that these studies
also reported that the majority of teachers show practices representing a mix of student-
centered and teacher-directed beliefs, which indicates a much more subtle relationship
between a teacher’s practice and their beliefs. While these studies provide insights in the
complex relationship between beliefs and practice, they do not reveal how knowledge
and insights (TPACK) interfere with practice and beliefs. Further research in
understanding the interaction between knowledge, beliefs and practice is warranted to
develop a better understanding of TPACK as personal knowledge.
TPACK and the practicality of teaching
The theory of situated cognition emphasizes the need to focus on understanding the
behavior of social systems in order to understand the behavior of individuals in the
system (Greeno et al., 1998). This has lead to an understanding that a teacher’s TPACK is
always embedded in the (social) context. For this reason Koehler and Mishra (2008)
added context to the conceptualization of TPACK. A teacher’s TPACK is therefore
situated and to a large extent determined by the practicality of educational practice with
the demands, opportunities and constraints of the social system (Janssen, Westbroek,
Doyle & Van Driel, 2013). The practicality of educational practice is determined by its
ecology, the environment that fundamentally shape educational practice (cf. Krug &
Artzen, 2010; Trinidad, Newhouse, & Clarkson, 2004). These ecologies vary. The
ecology of a face-to-face learning setting in a classroom with 20-25 children differs from
the ecology of an online course where teachers and students have never met in person.
Within their ecology teachers develop an understanding of the probabilities of what might
happen in the learning situation they create and develop heuristics for action. Such
heuristics help teachers ‘to achieve the simplification and smoothness necessary to meet
the design, interpretation, and performance demands of getting their work done
efficiently’ (Janssen et al., 2013, p.9.). Studying how different ecologies shape the
context (their constraints and opportunities) of teaching with technology is important in
understanding how a teacher uses TPACK in practice. Baran, Correia and Thompson
(2013) studied how teachers had to change their teaching heuristics when the ecology
changed from face-to-face teaching to an online teaching setting. In the transition process
the teachers used their experiences and views on teaching developed in face-to-face
settings, in particular their understanding on how students learn. However, they had to
make many practical changes when designing and enacting the online course, in
particular by providing detailed structure, organizing teacher presence, providing
feedback and building student-teacher relationships. While constituting a learning
environment with the technology they had to develop a new professional identity. Koh,
Chai and Tay (2014) studied how the ecology of elementary school teachers in Singapore
impacted the planning of technology-rich lessons in terms of intrapersonal, interpersonal,
cultural/institutional and physical/technical components. They analyzed the discussion in
teams of elementary school teachers while planning lessons and found that discussions
about practical concerns hampered the teachers to talk about the pedagogical use of
technology. Similarly, Boschman, McKenney and Voogt (2014) analyzed design talk
during the collaborative design of a technology-enhanced module for early literacy. They
found that discussions on practical concerns (e.g. how to organize classroom activities)
outweighed deliberations about existing priorities (knowledge, skills, beliefs) and
external priorities (requirements set by others). Only at that start of the design process
existing priorities were important, but also quite narrow in scope. These studies suggest
that the practicality of teaching (Doyle & Ponder, 1978) impacts and even dominate how
teachers use their TPACK in educational practice.
TPACK and pre-service teachers
Teachers engage in a dynamic process of knowledge construction, which is fueled by the
use of formal knowledge and further developed by experiences gained in day-to-day
practice (Verloop et al., 2001). Teacher knowledge thus is dynamic and changes over
time (Webb & Cox, 2004). How this process of knowledge construction develops in
individual teachers is highly personal, because intertwined with teachers’ beliefs, and
affected by the ecologies that shape educational practice.
While formal learning during initial teacher education provides a teacher with a basic
understanding of TPACK, TPACK develops at a more in-depth level during teaching in
practice. So and Kim (2009) studied the relationship between TPACK and practice in a
study with pre-service teachers. They found that in pre-service teachers a teacher’s
knowledge and skills (which they referred to as espoused TPACK) are not necessarily
related to using this knowledge and skills in practice (referred to as in use TPACK). So
and Kim provided two explanations for this finding: 1) a mismatch between knowledge,
beliefs and practice, and 2) pre-service teachers’ lack of repertoire for teaching with
technology. While we already elaborated upon the first explanation earlier in this chapter
(see TPACK as personal knowledge) we will elaborate on So and Kim’s second
explanation in this section. Niess (2005) studied how student teachers that followed a
technology-enhanced mathematics and science curriculum developed their TPACK.
Niess’ study confirmed the limited TPACK of beginning teachers and the importance of
classroom experience in developing TPACK. Her study showed that student-teachers had
to expand their understanding of the interactions between their knowledge of technology
and their subject matter knowledge, they had to learn to focus on students’ understanding
when involved in technology-enhanced learning activity instead of their own teaching,
and finally they had to adapt their view on a science and mathematics curriculum that is
infused with technology. Niess showed that this was a highly personal experience for
each student teacher in her study. Tondeur, Pareja Roblin, Van Braak, Voogt &
Prestridge (under review) studied how the use of technology of beginning elementary
school teachers is impacted by the way they were prepared for technology use in their
teacher education program. This study showed that beginning teachers value the use of
technology for teaching and use a wide range of technology applications. However, they
mainly use technology to structure their own teaching (teacher-directed), more than to
facilitate their students’ learning (student-centred). Beginning teachers that are prepared
by a teacher education college that focused on learning how to integrate technology in
content areas seemed to be best prepared. The concrete experiences the beginning
teachers had gained during student internships were found critical in their use of
technology as beginning teachers. In particular feedback and encouragement from their
mentors during their internship practice helped them to gain confidence in teaching with
technology and developed their TPACK.
Attention for teaching with technology in pre-service education is important to develop
understanding of TPACK. These studies also underpin the importance of integrating
TPACK in subject matter method courses (cf. Hofer & Owings-Swan, 2005, Jimoyiannis,
2010). When subject matter is taken as starting point for designing technology-enhanced
teaching and learning the alignment with pedagogy and technology becomes easier and
more appealing to many teachers. However, we should also realize that in pre-service
teacher education student teachers develop a basic understanding of TPACK. A profound
understanding of TPACK is only developed through profound experience in educational
The knowledge base of teaching with technology
We started this chapter with positioning TPACK as a conceptual framework for
describing the knowledge base teachers need to effectively teach with technology. We
argued that it is important to understand how a teacher’s use of technology is not only
affected by understanding the affordances of technology (technological knowledge) in
concert with knowledge of content and pedagogy, but also by beliefs and by the social
and material dimensions of teaching with technology. Our conceptualization of TPACK,
as a form of teacher knowledge, provided us with an understanding that TPACK is a
highly personal form of dynamic and situated knowledge. In this section we discuss what
this understanding implies for positioning TPACK as a framework for describing the
knowledge base of teaching with technology.
To develop insights in an individual teacher’s knowledge and beliefs about teaching with
technology we postulated that it is necessary to explicate a teacher’s professional
reasoning (Webb & Cox, 2004). Several studies attempted to unravel teachers’
professional reasoning for using technology while designing and enacting technology in
practice. Voogt et al. (2013b) used the concept of professional reasoning in a study aimed
at eliciting teachers’ use of technology in classroom practice. In total, 157 teachers
provided a video clip to demonstrate their use of technology in a specific lesson. The
teachers’ professional reasoning was elicited by asking them to explain 1. the reasons and
nature of using technology for this purpose; 2. their specific choice of pedagogy,
technology and content; 3. how this lesson would be different when technology would
not have been used; and 4. how they evaluate if lesson objectives were met. Teachers’
reflections were analyzed using Meijer’s (1999) eight categories of teachers’ practical
knowledge: (1) the subject/domain, (2) students characteristics (either individual or in
general), (3) learning processes and conceptualization, (4) educational goals, (5) the
curriculum, (6) instructional techniques, (7) interaction (either student-teacher interaction
or student-student interaction) and (8) class management (e.g. time management or
dealing with disturbances). The findings of this study revealed three major reasons
teachers had for using technology: technology helped them to reach their educational
goals, technology facilitated learning processes and technology motivated students to
learn. However, the researchers also found that teachers used general language to reason
about the use of technology and were not able to explain in detail why they used this
specific technology in this specific setting.
Other studies aimed at eliciting individual teachers’ TPACK in use by analyzing the
design conversations of teachers who collaboratively design technology-enhanced
learning environments (Boschman, McKenney &Voogt, 2014, 2015; Koh et al., 2014;
Koehler , Mishra & Yahya, 2007). Koehler et al. (2007) studied how student teachers and
faculty collaboratively designed an online course. They analyzed the design
conversations based on the seven knowledge domains that are distinguished in TPACK
and found that the design conversations started with discussion about the separate
domains (Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, Technological Knowledge) but
emerged over time in discussions about the overlapping domains (Pedagogical Content
Knowledge, Technological Content Knowledge and Technological Pedagogical
Knowledge), finalizing in integrating all seven knowledge domains in Technological
Pedagogical Content Knowledge). Koh et al. (2014) studied how contextual factors
impacted the design of technology-enhanced lessons by analyzing the design
conversations of elementary school teachers. They found that practical concerns, and not
so much a teacher’s TPACK dominated the discussion. Similar findings were found in
the studies of Boschman et al. (2014, 2015). They analyzed design conversations of
kindergarten teachers developing technology-enhanced material for early literacy and
found that discussions on the practical problems that needed to be solved highly
interacted with TPACK .
To be able to develop a knowledge base of teaching with technology we need to capture
the shared components of an individual teacher’s TPACK. Following Verloop et al.
(2001) we defined TPACK as ‘the whole of knowledge and insights that underlie
teachers’ actions with technology in practice’. In line with this definition the knowledge
base of teaching with technology can be defined as ‘all profession-related insights about
teaching with technology that are potentially relevant to the teacher’s activities’ (adapted
from Verloop et al., p.443). While TPACK provides the framework for the knowledge
base of teaching with technology, the specific content of the knowledge base depends on
whether it is possible to explicate the shared components of teachers’ formal and
practical knowledge. The content of such a knowledge base can only be developed in
close collaboration with teachers (cf. Van Driel & Berry, 2012).
Several studies attempted to provide input for such a knowledge base. Harris and Hofer
(2009, 2011) developed taxonomies of learning activities (pedagogy) for specific subject
matter domains and related those to possible uses of technology to support the
instructional planning of teachers. Learning activities can be used as a planning tool for
developing and describing plans for technology-enhanced learning Harris and Hofer
(2011) used their approach with practicing teachers. Angeli and Valanides (2009, 2013)
started from the perspective of technology and used technology mapping to provide pre-
service teachers with a strategy to make use of the affordances of technology within an
authentic design task. Technology Mapping provides teachers with strategies to align
their knowledge about teaching and learning of subject matter in a specific context with
the affordances and constraints of digital tools to develop technological solutions for
A different approach aiming at capturing the shared understanding of what is worthwhile
to teach about technology in teacher education is a study about using technology in
fostering early literacy in kindergarten undertaken in the Netherlands (Belo, McKenney,
& Voogt, 2013; McKenney &Voogt, under review). In this study the components of the
knowledge base of teaching early literacy with technology in kindergarten is determined
though a structured conversation between researchers and practitioners (teachers and
teacher educators) in an effort to bring together explicit knowledge from research with
experiences from practice. Based on a review of scientific studies on technology use in
early literacy, a Delphi study was conducted in which researchers and practitioners
discussed the relevance of findings from research for the teacher education curriculum.
The study resulted in a description of the knowledge base of teaching of teaching with
technology in early literacy in kindergarten (McKenney & Voogt, under review), which
is now being discussed with teacher education institutions. These three examples use
accumulated knowledge about the affordances of technology in relation to pedagogy and
content with the aim to develop a knowledge base of teaching with technology for
specific subject matter content. Such a knowledge base can support (student-) teachers
when they have to design and enact technology in their practice.
Teaching as a design science
We argued, based on the theory of technological mediation, that teachers and technology
actively shape technology-rich environments for learning, featuring the material
dimensions of the teacher-technology relationship. The theory of situated cognition
helped us to understand TPACK development as a dynamic process of knowledge
construction embedded in a teacher’s social environment. These perspectives imply that
teachers have a role as designer of technology-enhanced learning, which leads to the third
perspective discussed in this chapter: the potential of design to learn and develop
TPACK. The view of teachers as designers of (technology-enhanced) learning is not new.
It fits with understanding teaching as a design science (e.g. Koehler et al. 2007;
Laurillard, 2012). This leads us to the third meaning of technology as distinguished by
Berting (1992), technology as the knowledge and practice of the technology design
While we do not expect teachers to design new technologies, we definitely see teachers
as designers of technology-enhanced learning environments. For several reasons we
consider the designer role important for teachers. First, engagement in design, preferably
through collaborative design in teams offers ample opportunities for teacher learning
about TPACK (Voogt et al., 2015). Second, involvement in design fosters teachers’
creativity, in particular when repurposing technology for helping students learn. Third,
active involvement in the design of technology-enhanced learning environments, help
teachers to develop ownership (Cviko, McKenney &Voogt, 2014) with and to trust
themselves to the technology (Kiran & Verbeek, 2010).
Learning TPACK through collaborative design
Through engaging teachers in design they actively shape technology-enhanced
environments for learning. Several studies showed that collaborative design in teams of
teachers offers ample opportunities for (student-) teacher learning about TPACK (e.g.
Agyei & Voogt, 2014; Polly, Mims, Shepherd & Inan, 2010; Voogt et al., 2011). Teacher
involvement in collaborative design typically results in teachers developing the concrete
artefacts that constitute an environment for technology-enhanced learning. Grounded in
the theory of situated cognition (Greeno et al., 1998) and Cultural Historical Activity
Theory (Engeström, 1987; Miettinen, 2013), Voogt et al. (2015) identified three key
features fostering learning in collaborative design processes: situatedness of the activity,
teacher agency, and the cyclical nature of learning and change as key features of learning
in collaborative design processes.
Situatedness of the activity refers to designing technology-enhanced learning
environments for use in their own or their fellow teachers’ teaching. Teachers engaged in
collaborative design solve relevant and challenging problems of teaching subject matter
together with their peers. Cviko, McKenney and Voogt (2014) in a study about roles of
teachers in the design of technology-enhanced learning for teaching early literacy showed
that teachers taking up the designer role developed feelings of ownership of the
technology-enhanced learning activities, because of their engagement in the design
process. In addition these teachers also implemented the activities they had designed at a
level that complied more with the affordances of the technology compared to teachers
who implemented a set of activities developed by others.
Teacher agency refers to the relationship teachers develop with technology when
engaged in the design of technology-enhanced environments for learning (Tondeur et al.,
2011). Agency develops through the active and responsible role teachers take in design.
Literature on teacher professional development (Fishman et al., 2013; Garet, Porter,
Desimone, Birman & Yoon, 2001) suggests that such active involvement, in particular
when teachers are engaged for a certain period of time, is vital for their learning.
Huizinga, Handelzalts, Nieveen & Voogt (2015) showed that teachers that who were
actively involved in a two-year design project in the context of foreign language teaching
took responsibility for introducing the designed artefacts to their peers, that were
supposed to use them. Being involved in the process of acquainting others with the
materials, the teachers involved in the design of the materials developed their
understanding of the essentials of their new materials further. In a large scale project in
Quebec aiming to develop a network of remote schools, teachers’ collaborative design
process resulted in exemplary evidence for student capacity to be involved in inquiry
learning. Teachers used this evidence to convince other teachers to apply inquiry learning
(Laferrière et al., 2008).
The cyclical nature of learning and change refers to design and learning as an iterative
process. It is through reflections on the iterations of the design that teachers learn, in
particular when these iterations include classroom try-outs (Voogt et al., 2011). The study
of Kafyulilo, Fisser & Voogt (2014) showed that teachers involved in the design of
technology-enhanced science lessons developed their TPACK through reflections on the
enactment of the designed technology-enhanced lessons, They realized the importance of
understanding students’ learning problems while designing and improved their lessons
based on students’ feedback. In the Remote Network School project in Quebec,
researchers and teachers collaboratively discussed formative evaluation results in order to
improve the designed artefacts (Laferrière et al., 2008). These studies show that
collaborative design of technology-enhanced learning is a cyclical process that coincides
with the cyclical nature of learning. Active involvement in such process provides ample
opportunities for teachers to development their TPACK. However, teachers often need
support when collaboratively designing in teams, because teachers’ experience with
design diverges. While all teachers are involved in the (re-) design of artefacts, such as
lesson plans, for use in their own context, most teachers have only limited experience
with designing artefacts that go beyond simple lessons and have to be used by others.
Teachers’ design experiences beyond the context of their own teaching vary highly across
contexts and artefacts (Goodyear & Markauskaite 2009). In addition pre-service teacher
education programs hardly pay attention to design beyond lesson planning (Mckenney,
Kali, Markauskaite & Voogt, 2015). Hence there is a need to better understand the
knowledge teachers need to design technology-enhanced learning.
Understanding design: Teacher design knowledge
Similar to teacher knowledge the kind of knowledge needed for design consists of
explicit and implicit or tacit knowledge, usually alluded to answering “know what”,
“know why”, “know how” and “know when/where/who” questions (Lundwall & Johnson
1994) for a specific context. In a recent study McKenney et al. (2015) distinguish among
three strands of studies each providing different strategies and considerations related to
these “know x” questions and resulting in profound insights in the kind of knowledge
teachers need during the design of technology-enhanced learning environments.
They strands are referred to as the technical, phenomenological and realist strand.
The technical strand assumes that design is a systematic, rational and iterative process for
solving (educational) problems. The approach stems from design models developed in the
frame of educational design (e.g. Jonassen, 1990; McKenney & Reeves, 2012) and
provides designers with powerful design heuristics. Research shows that teachers when
involved in the design of artefacts (be it simple lessons, series of lessons, or whole
programs) often do not follow a systematic approach and need guidance (e.g. Hoogveld,
Paas & Jochems, 2005; Huizinga, Handelzalts, Nieveen & Voogt, 2014). Examples of
such guidance can be found in the taxonomies of learning activities (Harris & Hofer,
2009, 2011) and Technology Mapping (Angeli & Valanides, 2009, 2013) that were
described earlier in this chapter (see The knowledge base of teaching with technology).
Contrary to the systematic strand, the phenomenological strand assumes that the design
process is intuitive knowledge, based on the connoisseurship of the designers, and
consequently allows for flexibility and creativity in the design process (Schön, 1983).
Schön argues that the intuitive knowledge of designers is developed through ‘reflection-
in-action,’ implying that designers reflect on and interpret their experiences gained in
practice to guide their design. This strand very much aligns with the practical knowledge
teachers’ bring to the design process. The study of Koehler et al. (2007) is an example. In
this study faculty and student teachers use the distributed expertise available in the team
to design an online course. Through the conversations in the team TPACK is developed.
The phenomenological strand also sees design as a form of art, and challenges teachers to
play with their knowledge during the design of technology-enhanced learning
environments in order to develop creative pedagogical solutions. Koehler et al. (2011,
p.154) refer to this as deep-play, which “is creative, seeking to construct new ways of
seeing the world, and new approaches to using technology, in order to develop creative
The realist strand has a slightly different nature, because this strand does not hold
assumptions about the ideal design process, as in the other two strands, but studies
teachers’ actual design practice. Design is considered a problem-solving approach for
finding optimal solutions for ill-structured problems. This strands is interested in what
teachers' as designers actually do, why they do it and how they do it, and is particularly
interested in the way teachers cope with the problems they face during design.
The studies of Boschman et al. (2014, 2015) and Koh et al. (2014) referred to early in this
chapter (see TPACK and the practicality of teaching) are examples of this approach.
These three strands provide insight in important elements of teacher design knowledge:
knowledge of powerful design heuristics (technical strand), situated experience and
creativity (phenomenological strand) and the need to have a realistic understanding of the
design process (realist strand).
Conclusions and future study
In this chapter we discussed three complementary theoretical perspectives important for
understanding teachers’ learning about and using of technology in their teaching. We
related these perspectives to TPACK. All three theoretical perspectives require teachers
to actively engage in constructing their knowledge for teaching with technology. While
we used the theory of situated cognition to discuss the social dimensions related to
teaching with technology, we employed the theory of technological mediation to feature
the material dimensions of the teacher-technology relationship. We see value in both
approaches. After all, we believe that both social and the material dimensions are at stake
when teachers’ design and enact technology environments for learning, even more when
they do so collaboratively. Although we fully agree that both dimensions matter and need
each other, we also believe that there is a lacuna in the research about the active role
material artefacts play in education (Lawn & Grosvernor, 2005; Tondeur, Van den
Driessche, De Bruyne, McKenney & Zandvliet, 2015). We argue that to understand
technology use in education we need to develop knowledge about the teacher-technology
relationship. That is, we need to know how teachers (individually and collaboratively)
give meaning to and use technologies, in teaching and learning, what their motives and
expectations are, which routines they develop and how technologies direct their
utilization. From this perspective we advocate research aimed at disentangling teachers’
professional reasoning with the aim to understand the complex relationships between
specific technologies, teachers’ TPACK and their beliefs about teaching and learning
with technology. Having said this, we contend that research on TPACK should focus on
understanding how teachers use their TPACK in what they do with technology in
practice, why they do it and how they do it. This implies that we need to study what
teachers see as the affordances of specific technologies, what they aim to realize with
these technologies in the teaching learning process and what outcomes they expect for
their students and/or their teaching. We contend that such research would result in a
knowledge base of teaching with technology. We adhere to Van Driel and Berry (2012)
who argue that teachers’ need to be involved in this process. We therefore believe that
not only researchers should study the teacher-technology relationship, but that teachers
themselves need to be engaged in exploring this relationship as well. They can do so
while collaboratively and creatively designing technology-enhanced environments for
learning for a specific purpose, guided by powerful design heuristics and a realistic view
of the design process,
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