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Why educators can no longer ignore the TPACK framework

Seriously, you can’t. Try as you might, you’ll sooner or later need to consider it. Sooner, rather than later. Unless you already do, of course.

What is the TPACK framework?

For those of you lost in acronyms, I can assure you you already know it. TPACK is just a (rather) new name for something you’ve already been doing if you’re a teacher of any grade in any school nowadays.

TPACK stands for Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge.

The core idea behind it is that a great teacher must perfectly know (Knowledge) the subject being taught (Content), how to deliver it so that a student learns it (Pedagogy) and also how to choose and use the right technology in doing so (Technology).

The TPACK framework is being credited to P. Mishra and M. J. Koehler, who co-authored a paper in 2006 and another one in 2008, referring to the above core idea with these exact words. The authors themselves credit the work of Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge to be the base of the TPACK framework.

At first there was CONTENT

Because content is king.

You can’t really teach someone else something — anything — if you don’t know it yourself, right?

A good teacher must know the subject of teaching. A Chemistry teacher must know all the elements and all their reactions when combined; an English teacher must know all the verb conjugations, the rest of the grammar, English literature, and so on; a Maths teacher must know Geometry, Algebra, and the value of X. You get the idea.

Then there came PEDAGOGY

Because context is Queen.

And as history and fairy tales have it, any good king needs a queen.

A great teacher knows not only their subject matter like the palms of their hands, but they also know to adapt its delivery in one context or another.

Context is all about students and their learning needs.

A first year Biology student will have a hard time understanding Genetics before they get a grip of what a cell is made of. Likewise, translating literary texts from or into Russian can be done by students who have a few intensive years of studying the Russian language under their belt, not for those that can barely know how to use “Spasibo” (Thank you) in a simple sentence.

A great teacher needs to adapt the delivery of the teaching content not only based on the grade level of students but also on their different ways of learning. Some students need more visual aids, others need constant reminders and triggers, yet others may only need a different approach of the topic that needs to be learned.

It is therefore up to the teacher to apply the best pedagogy methods in the delivery of the content so that students learn it and recall it successfully.

These two aspects — Content and Pedagogy — used to be enough to define a great teacher. But that was in ‘86, when Shulman advanced his idea. Back then, the PC was a rarity, the mobile phone was humongous and the Internet was in its infancy.

The world in which teachers teach and students learn today is so very different than it was then.

Now TECHNOLOGY won’t go away

Technology has changed so many industries already and education is no exception. Every aspect of teaching and learning is touched by it. Technological developments affect both the teaching content and the pedagogical ways of delivering it.

For example, students of Medicine today may take for granted the stethoscope or the MRI machine, but before these technologies were introduced in hospitals on a large scale (the stethoscope in the 1800s, the MRI in the ‘90s) they had to learn how to diagnose a patient without them. Now they have to learn how to interpret the results.

As for how pedagogy is affected by technology, examples abound and continue to grow in numbers. Teachers have a plethora of technological options to choose from to assist them in delivering a lesson. And I’m talking about both hardware — iPads, Chromebooks and other devices, as well as software — apps, productivity and collaboration tools, learning management systems.

So a great teacher nowadays needs to have perfect command over the teaching content, know which pedagogy method is best in any situation and also what technology to choose and use so that students learn better.

The TPACK framework looks like this Venn diagram:

TPACK framework

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

For more visit about each shade in the above diagram, visit

Why educators can no longer ignore the TPACK framework

Resistance is futile. The use of technology in education will only grow. The challenge for teachers is to identify the right technology and assess its impact over the content and pedagogy.

And that’s a big challenge.

The great majority of teachers became teachers when all these technological advances were non existent or at least not that advanced. The pace of development is too accelerated for too many of them. Adopting technology in their teaching activity is not like jumping in a bandwagon; it’s like jumping in a high-speed train. This is one reason they are reluctant to using technology in the classroom.

Even for the most tech-savvy educators out there, looking for the best educational apps and games, flipping the classroom, or transforming a face-to-face class into an online course is a daunting job.

But avoiding technology altogether is not the answer.

Teachers’ job is to prepare students for the world they will live in, not for the one we are living in now, nor for the one we used to live in. And technology will surely be part of that future world.

In order to get the necessary Technological Knowledge, teachers need: 1) willingness and 2) support from their peers and educational institutions. These may not be easy to get, but they are not impossible either.

One thing is for sure though: educators can no longer ignore the T part of the TPACK framework.

For more articles about education, please visit this section about higher ed.

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