I had the pleasure to co-facilitate two full-day Microsoft Technology Enriched Instruction workshops in the last week – one at William & Mary and one at the University of New England in Sydney. TEI Workshops (http://pil-tei.com) are designed to help college and university faculty find ways to integrate technology in their teaching in a way that both helps them to teach their content more effectively and to simultaneously find ways to engage their students in 21st century learning skills (21CLS). These workshops are very participatory, discussion-based, and action-oriented. By the end of the day, each participant develops the outline for a revised course activity, experience, assignment or project that they can take back to their teaching. They are lively and fun experiences, and I really enjoying helping to facilitate them.
Despite the technology focus for the workshop, one highlight for participants is a simple sorting/matching game that can probably be easily adapted to a range of different learning activities and content foci. In the context of the TEI workshop, this game is designed to help the participants match a content topic that they teach with learning activities and technologies that “fit” to create a powerful learning experience. In the game, participants are provided with blank white index cards, on which they write content topics for the courses they teach. We then provide them with a set of yellow pedagogy cards – each with a different type of learning activity (e.g., group discussion, simulation, demonstration, etc.). Finally, a set of green cards include different technologies that may be used in the classroom or online (e.g., presentation software, video recording, wikis, etc.). Through a series of rounds, participants are direct to either randomly draw or strategically combine sets of cards (content, pedagogy, and technology) to learn to identify and generate good “fit” among the three. This is called the TPACK Game and was originated by Judi Harris, Punya Mishra, and Matt Koehler back in 2007 at the National Technology Leadership Summit. Punya provides a good history of the game along with other variations. This is always one of the participants’ favorite activity of the workshop. It generates great discussion, which often extends beyond the 1:15 minute time block that we allocate for it.
While this experience is focused on a particular learning goal with specific reasoning processes in mind, this kind of simple sorting game can be extremely helpful in two respects. First, as one Australian history professor noted, considering a range of different teaching approaches and learning activities helped him to consider new possibilities. It’s only human nature to fall into routines, but this game can help you to break out of your normal practice and consider new ideas. Another way it can be helpful is to consider new ways to use familiar tools. OneNote is one of the applications we work with in the workshop. Many of the Australian participants were already using OneNote for their own notetaking and organization. When the encountered this technology in the context of the TPACK game however, they began to see applications for group work – particularly research projects. There were similar insights related to the use of Skype and Padlet as well.
In my mind, however, these aren’t the primary benefits to the TPACK game. I think the most powerful aspect of the game is the conversations that are catalyzed as participants discuss their choices and alternatives. Groups often become quite animated as they discuss different possible combinations of content, pedagogy and technology. They share their unique experiences and insights as they discuss the cards they are dealt. It is in these collaborations that some of the most transformative new approaches are developed. In the academy, we often don’t have the forum to discuss our teaching practice. The TPACK game is one way to drive this discussion. How else might we encourage these conversations on teaching practice in higher education?