What are TPACK skills? And why do librarians need them?
TPACK refers to Technological Pedogogical Content Knowledge. A mouthful, I know. To help you understand it better, I’ll break it into parts:
Technological Knowledge (TK): This is technology literacy. Having technological knowledge means understanding how to use and apply technology tools in your job and everyday life. No one is expected to be all-knowing when it comes to technology. Instead, ask yourself what are the most important technology tools you need for your job? What technology tools will improve your ability to do your job?
Pedagogical Knowledge (PK): These are the instructional theories and practices needed for teaching and learning, and a knowledge area that many librarians lack. The two primary avenues for learning pedagogical knowledge are formal courses or mentorships. Outside of the that, a good start is a book called Human Learning by Jeanne Ellis Ormrod.
Content Knowledge (CK): This is your subject area of expertise.
You’ll find TPACK at the intersection of TK, PK and CK. TPACK skills are necessary for effective integration of technology into learning. But, just because you are competent in each of the separate knowledge areas does not mean you automatically have TPACK skills.
TPACK means asking yourself:
- What is the best technology tool for helping my students learn this content?
- How will this technology help my students achieve the learning objectives?
- What are the best practices for teaching with this technology tool?
Anyone who teaches with technology benefits from TPACK skills. That includes librarians.
Developing TPACK skills requires a certain amount of training or professional development. Instructional designers and educational technologists are best equipped to teach these skills, so if you are interested in training for TPACK, ask about it at your institution’s Teaching and Learning Center. The more you know, the better you get.
I believe TPACK has some important implications for blended librarians beyond information literacy instruction. Blended librarians who have either a certificate or masters degree in instructional design and technology (IDT) are uniquely suited to serve as TPACK advisers for classroom faculty. Consider the opportunity that this creates. If a blended librarian is serving as a TPACK adviser, then suddenly the possibilities for integrating information literacy into a course increases tenfold. This is the kind of role I see for future librarians. But, it means that blended librarianship will need to become a formal specialization – a specialization that requires quite a bit of training in IDT.