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Unpacking T-PACK: What is it and how does it work?

By: The PAVE Academy


As technology becomes a bigger and bigger element of the modern-day classroom, there are education specialists who have developed technology specific pedagogical approaches to for the use of digital technologies in educational programs. In another series of articles, we have explored the SAMR model by Dr Ruben Puentedura, a popular and very powerful digital pedagogical approach to technology in the classroom however the SAMR model is not the only framework that is designed to help schools and teachers integrate technology into their classrooms to create effective learning experiences. Therefore, in this series of articles, we will unpack another popular and powerful approach to digital pedagogy – TPACK.

Before we dive in it is worth noting that TPACK, Like SAMR is a large model and as such we would not do it any justice in trying to tackle all its elements in one single article. So, like our approach to unpacking the SAMR model, we will explore TPACK over a series of articles so that we can gain a strong understanding of this model and how it works in the classroom – but today we are going to gain an understanding of the framework, its components and how they intersect to help teachers develop their teaching experiences.

What is TPACK?

Put very simply, TPACK is a framework that is designed to tackle the nature of knowledge that is required by teachers and educators for the successful integration of technology into their classrooms. Divided into 3 domains of knowledge (TK: Technical Knowledge – PK: Pedagogical Knowledge – CK: Content Knowledge), TPACK explores how their complex interplay and intersection of these 3 domains allow them to effectively teach and engage students with the learning using technology. Combining the ideas of what teachers know (Content Knowledge), how they teach (Pedagogical Knowledge) and the role that technology plays in the learning (Technological Knowledge), TPACK aims to assist teachers to improve student learning outcomes and better impact student learning that is occurring in their classroom

What is the difference between SAMR and TPACK?

Well to put it simply, SAMR is designed to provide a high-level gauge of the degree of technology used in learning activities and lesson units where as the TPACK model is designed to provide map for the integration of technology into classrooms more effectively. To read about SAMR please review the series of articles on our online educational journal that unpacks the SAMR model in detail.

The first level of TPACK is looking at each knowledge domain individually to understand what the focus on.


This can be very easily explained as “the WHAT” or your understanding and expertise of subject you specialise in. This could be an individual specialisation like music, arts, or physical education, or all the core curriculum areas like literacy, numeracy, science, and humanities. It is the knowledge, facts, concepts, and theories that are related to a specific discipline.


This can be very easily explained as “the HOW” or the art and science of teaching itself. Including theories and models for teaching, pedagogical knowledge is about the understanding of how people learn and the different tools, theories, instructional designs, and strategies that teachers use to ensure that they are learning is effective to the student undertaking it. Pedagogical knowledge also includes methods of assessment, so not only is it for the transition or ‘consumption’ of knowledge but also the ability to assess if understanding has taken place, and the depth of understanding that has occurred.  A teachers understanding of a variety of pedagogical approaches will ensure that they can successfully design and implement effective learning experiences for the students in the class, tailored to the ways in which they learn.

The first two domains were based off American educational psychologist Lee S. Shulman’s study where he identified that “teaching at its best” lies at the intersection between a teachers Pedagogical Knowledge and Content or ‘Subject Matter” Knowledge intersection. Building upon this idea, education scholars Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehlr from Michigan State University in 2006, added a third domain of knowledge to bring Schulman’s method into the 21st century – Technological Knowledge.


TK is the knowledge that the teacher has about the tools that are used to deliver effective teaching and learning in their classrooms. This includes how teachers select, use, and integrate technology into the delivery of content and curriculum in your lessons. TK also includes the assessment of quality of content that students access through the internet, software applications, games and other digital resources that are used for learning.

Now that we have an understanding the 3 knowledge domains and how they came about, we now can explore a brief overview of the second level of TPACK – intersection of 2 domains


The intersection of the pedagogical and content domains, this knowledge is the specific knowledge that a teacher has in engaging students in learning that is specific to their own specialised content area. For example, a music teacher has specialised content knowledge around music theory and its application on an instrument, and as such, their knowledge and skill as a musician can allow them to tailor the pedagogical approach to either differentiate or scaffold the learning style to ensure a deeper learning experience and to assist the student to achieve a successful outcome.


The intersection of Technology and Content knowledge explores how teachers and students have used technology in specific content or subject areas, like music, art, or science, for deep and lasting learning. Examples like this would explore the use of technology in the use of data collection, analysis, and presentation in a learning lesson. Application of the technological tools can help students deepen their inquiry and understanding within a lesson or unit of work.

While teachers have a need to bring their classrooms into the 21st century, there is an entire new layer of knowledge and expertise that is required to be able to do this effectively.


This intersection is about how teachers choose and manage the technology being used by students in a lesson to achieve the learning intentions and outcomes. What tools will benefit their workflow and learning journey through the lesson? How can technology be used to share their work with others, fostering collaboration both in and out of the classroom and how can technology assist with the chain of feedback on the students progress to assist their development. The understanding of technology and how it intersects and interlocks with pedagogical decisions will assist teachers will advance a teachers practice.

Now that we have covered the first two levels of the TPACK framework, we can now explore the final stage, the TPACK model as whole…


The third and pivotal element of the TPACK framework is the centre area, where the 3 domains collide – the centre of the model which supports teachers understanding of how tools can enhance teaching and support students learning in more deeply and effectively. The core of TPACK is how students can use technology to dive deeper into the exploration of a topic, allowing them to develop they ways in which they display their knowledge and then connecting to source and experts outside of their classroom to validate their work and support their findings. This “dynamic interplay” of the 3 knowledge domains is TPACK and is argued to be the heart and soul of innovative teaching.


In any classroom and in any learning situation, regardless of where you are around the world, context is the key to ensuring that any framework or model fosters effective learning for students. The TPACK Model acknowledges this difference, symbolised by the dotted frame, it outlines how the TPACK framework applied in a classroom will change from one classroom to another, in the practical sense impacted by teacher and student skill, knowledge and ability, classroom and school climate, and available resources.

So how can you use TPACK?

This framework is designed to scaffold how you can build effective lessons for your students, starting with your content and pedagogy knowledge and then layering in technology

You can use TPACK as a basis for your professional practice review, to assess your own knowledge and understanding of the 3 key knowledge domains, Content, Pedagogy and Technology and identify areas of strength and weaknesses in your practice. Alternatively, you can use the TPACK framework to create professional learning communities (PLC’s) with other teachers to combine your strengths. This approach can allow you to create PLCs with members who have expertise in each domain, or across multiple domains, to ensure that the lessons you are creating are powerful, engaging, and effective. Too often student learning objectives are missed when lessons are designed around a piece of technology and lesson activities become more showcase and “fluff” then effective learning experiences. The TPACK framework reminds teachers that technology is just part of great teaching, an element that helps us achieve the learning outcomes we design for our students and that true innovation in education lies in the intersection between the 3 knowledge domains.


Now that we have formed an understanding of the framework and how it is designed to work, we will spend the next couple of articles unpacking examples of how TPACK is applied to the classroom, to help you have a better understanding of each stage and to model examples of how this can assist you and the learning that is happening in your own classroom.

Questions that can drive your exploration of the T-PACK framework and how it can impact the learning in your classroom


How can you use the TPACK model to reflect upon your own teaching practice? How can it be used to inform your Professional Development Plans and review documents?


In what ways has the exploration of the TPACK framework made you question the ways in which you are incorporating technology into your classroom and pedagogical practice?


Has this article, and in turn understanding the TPACK model changed the way in which you think about technology integration in your classroom? How?


What are some areas where the traditional method of teaching this lesson that could stretch and extend the students learning? By using a digital learning solution, can you use this framework to redesign the task to take the learning in a brand-new direction that extends the learning experience.


Could this framework assist others in your school / teams? How?

What is TPACK?
BY: Teaching Teachers for the Future

The TPACK Framework

Image References
All images used in this document were created by the PAVE Academy for the purpose of publishing.