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Book Review: The Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) for Educators, 2008, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 326 pages, ISBN: 0-8058-6356-7.

Reviewed by Dorian Stoilescu and Douglas McDougall


Dorian Stoilescu is a PhD Candidate in education at the University of Toronto. His research expertise includes: educational technology and mathematics teaching and learning. Comments regarding this review can be sent to dstoilescu@oise.utoronto.ca

Douglas McDougall is an Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. His research interests are school improvement in mathematics education and the use of technology for the teaching and learning of mathematics. He can be reached at doug.mcdougall@utoronto.ca

This handbook offers a collection of thoughtful essays about integrating technology in various pedagogical areas, by using the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) framework. The 13 chapters in this book are primarily concerned with viewpoints of integrating technology in different educational areas: literacy, social sciences, arts, mathematics, science and physical education. Different perspectives, from the fundamentals of the framework, equity issues of using technology, professional development (inservice and preservice), and collaboration across educational associations are discussed from the point of view of systematically integrating technology in schools. These chapters require intensive reading sometimes by assuming a reader is familiar with the philosophy of integrating technology in teaching and learning. The book is thematically divided into three parts: a) theoretical foundations of TPCK, b) TPCK applications on specific areas, and c) implications of TPCK in teachers’ professional development. The chapters are very well-written, focused, and well integrated. Often the TPCK chapters are discussed only from a theoretical perspective and less from a practical point of view. This is somewhat understandable since the authors are university professors and not teacher practitioners and, also, because TPCK is still a novel framework in educational research.

The first part consists in two chapters dealing with theoretical aspects of TPCK. These chapters discuss fundamental interpretations of the framework and are systematically discussed in the remaining chapters. In the introductory chapter, Mishra and Koehler, the originators of the framework, present the theoretical foundations of the TPCK framework. As the researchers wrote in other several articles (Koehler & Mishra, 2009; Mishra & Koehler, 2008;) TPCK “is an emergent way of knowledge that goes beyond all three components (content, pedagogy and technology)” (p. 17). A fundamental problem is discussing the intersections among these three bodies of knowledge and their role in the TPCK framework:

  • Pedagogical knowledge
  • Content knowledge
  • Technological knowledge
  • Technical Content Knowledge
  • Pedagogical content knowledge
  • Technical pedagogical knowledge
  • Context(s)

Obtaining and separately working with each component is an analytical process that is difficult to achieve and is impractical. Instead, a holistic orientation should be considered in order to provide to each component of a framework a dynamic equilibrium.

In the second chapter, Kelly gives an extensive discussion about equity, barriers and opportunities in using technology. Although Mishra and Koehler discuss some sociocultural viewpoints about equity in their introductory chapter, this chapter is focused on these problems. Because technology might be used to increase achievement for all or to exacerbate existing inequities, the author advocate breaking the digital divide, making technology accessible through a systemic social effort. For Kelly, digital divide in education could have three forms: 1) access to technology, 2) access to adequate technological instruction, and c) access to culture sensitive to technological pedagogy. The author mentioned that, currently, people are focusing more on technology accessibility, which makes the equity efforts remaining only at the incipient stage. Instead, teachers should cautiously manage how technical resources are used in classrooms and how these fit with children’ background. Equity should be integrated in any particular context in any classrooms and school. By inserting equity as being an integral part of the TPCK context, Kelly provides detailed discussions about context as is described as an important part of TPCK framework. An interesting discussion takes place when different components of the context are discussed as being the following: a) characteristics of students and teachers, b) physical features of classroom, c) teacher knowledge, skills and dispositions, d) cognitive, psychological and social characteristics of students and teacher, and e) school philosophy and expectations.

The second part of the handbook describes applying TPCK in several specific content areas of education such as K-6 literacy, English, science, arts, mathematics, social science, and physical education. These chapters describe some pedagogical ways of integrating technology in various educational contexts.

Chapters three to six present different contexts of integrating technology in teaching English language arts. Schmidt and Gurbo (chapter 3) describe modalities of integrating technology for K-6 classrooms when, due to the incipient level of students’ technological skills, challenges posed by integration technological remain complex as the concept of literacy itself is dynamically changing by new technologies that change the practices of reading, editing and writing. Hughes and Scharber (chapter 4) redesign TPCK from their previous studies from E(nglish) – TPCK. They provide an empirical qualitative study by presenting two qualitative case studies of teachers’ E-TPCK. In the next chapter, Olphen describes technological aspects required for teaching second and foreign language in order to offer a knowledge base for teachers engaged in the world language teacher education (WLTE).

TPCK in social studies is presented by Lee (chapter 6). In modern societies, effective citizenship is conditioned by an adequate use of technological abilities in producing and disseminating various perspectives about knowledge. As such, technology represents a tremendous opportunity to reflect the contemporaneous society and devise practical social experiences. For Lee, “social studies are integrated with humanities to promote civic competence” (p. 138).

In chapter 7, Grandgenett presents TPCK in mathematics education. While technology is fundamentally changing mathematics education, TPCK is an important way of affirming the coherence of pedagogy of integrating technology into mathematics. Teaching fractals is a relevant curricular example that illustrates how TPCK connect mathematics and computers. Teachers should be aware of cultural contexts and students’ background; otherwise mathematics education will miss important opportunities. A teacher with strong math TPCK: a) has openness to experiment new technologies, b) focuses to be on-task for the current topic, c) offers a systematic approach from pedagogical perspective, and d) has effective connections with students.

Arts education is presented by DePlatchett (chapter 8) as a great challenge when schools question the role of arts in a world when technology and science have continuously increased their roles. The use of technology in arts education is linked with various theories from Gardner (2006), Goleman (2006) and Csikszentmihalyi (2002). Unfortunately, the use of arts is endangered by reforms such as the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) that do not specify a precise role for arts education to the detriment of focusing on issues related to literacy and numeracy. With all of these challenges, the arts still remain for educators “the magic of education and the foundation of teaching” (p.190).

Science education from a TPCK perspective is presented by McRory in chapter 9. Acknowledging the reciprocal guidance between technology and science, the introduction of computers helps science education by offering more precision of analyses, speeding up experiments and simulations, and sharing data from multiple experiments. The software used in science education is classified in three categories: a) technology unrelated to science but used in the service of science, b) technology designed for teaching and learning science, and c) technology designed and used to do science. This chapter offers some general advice about integrating technology into science education and systematically discusses the components of TPCK as described by Koehler and Mishra.

Chapter 10 presents some pedagogical challenges of integrating technology in physical education. Technology might be used in the process of teaching, to accommodate different abilities, learning styles, and assessments and also to improve students’ performances in processing feedback from the current outcomes. The author pledges that physical educators should have an identical TPCK which for us is somewhat questionable:

The critical question now is whether there is a unique TPCK that physical educators must possess to effectively teach physical education to K-12 students. The answer to this question is probably yes, but this role is limited due to many of the constraints imposed on K-12 physical education and the nature of learning of physical and motor skills. (p. 213)

The last section presents TPCK from different perspectives of professional development. Preparing preservice and inservice teachers to use technology are presented in separate articles written by Niess and Harris (chapters 11 and 12). Inservice teaching is presented by Niess who avouches that learning to teach is not an algorithm. Learning is a dynamic process and therefore inservice teachers need to develop a strategic thinking “that involves planning, organizing, critiquing, and abstracting for specific content, specific student needs, and specific classrooms situations” (p. 248). As Niess noticed, teaching is radically changing and technology represents an important factor of this change. Therefore experiencing technology should not be done in isolation, but included in all courses of training in preservice program. Harris presents integrating technology from the standpoint of inservice teachers. From an experienced teacher, the act of teaching through technology becomes unpredictable as jazz improvisations yet offering clear and logical structures. The last chapter by Bull, Bell and Hammond is another superb essay about integrating technology from a systemic perspective. It shows the TPCK as a sustained perspective as collaborations across educational associations, involving curricular and institutional efforts to integrate technology, curriculum, and knowledge content.

Although there are several distinct definitions for integrating technology that overlap, the handbook still keeps a focus on explaining the multidimensional challenges of integrating technology in various educational subject areas. This handbook maintains a sense of continuity and validation across chapters, which is vital for a handbook. We were somewhat disappointed that much of this book relies on theoretical reflections and sometimes in adaptation of previously published research. Few empirical studies are presented about the TPCK. Also, it should be mentioned that, in 2007, the abbreviation has changed from TPCK to TPACK albeit for some good reasons (Thompson & Mishra, 2007). Unfortunately the book printed in 2008 did not reflect this change. Overall, it remains a solid approach, written by prominent professors in different fields of education, offering a consistent perspective about integrating technology in various contexts of teaching. This book gives us the feeling that, by using TPCK, the use of computers in education might finish its prolonged period of childhood that made practitioners and researchers uneasy in educational technology, and start shaping more significant roles.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness. London: Rider.

Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New horizons. New York: Perseus Books Group.

Goleman, D. (2006). Social intelligence: The new science of human relationships. New York: Bantam Dell Books.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Mishra, P., & Koehler. M. J. (2008). Introducing Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York City, March 24–28, 2008.

Thompson, A. D., & Mishra, P. (2007). Breaking news: TPCK becomes TPACK! Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 24(2), 38.

Copyright (c) 2010 Dorian Stoilescu, Douglas McDougall

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