I’ve just read “Distributed TPACK: Going Beyond Knowledge in the Head” by Di Blas, Paolini, Sawaya, and Mishra, a paper that is being presented at SITE 2014 in Florida. It has caused me to think thoughts I would not have thought before. (I think that’s what’s called distributed cognition – or viral sentences that you can catch.)
So… distributed cognition means that all knowledge does not reside in the head of the individual. To teach a course, one has ever more access to lots of content, to technicians, librarians, and experts in pedagogy to help one create one’s course: “Distributed cognition challenges the idea that cognition is centralized within an individual’s head. When performing a certain task, an individual is part of a performance system alongside other individuals, artifacts, tools, and so on.”
Now, these people are saying (along with others) that TPACK is the critical knowledge mass today, too: Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge need to be possessed by the instructor, and they get it through “distributed TPACK.” In other words, different people have different areas of expertise to help get the ship (course) up and sailing. All the knowledge to run a course is no longer in the head of the teacher/professor alone.
OK, so far. I guess it’s really always been that way, if in a smaller way. My grandmother had her almanac in the drawer next to her rocker for quick reference – a kind of technology as well as human beings (the authors) outside of herself that helped her frame her thoughts and arguments. Today, however, it has sped up and differentiated itself, this distributed cognition, this distributed way of knowing, and finds itself in other human beings in your organization or on the internet or across the world — and books are not the only way of getting needed research and information. Indeed, visuals, videos, social media, collaboration, and all sorts of methods, tools, means, and materials exist now to inform or confuse. (Back to the “confuse” in a moment.)
But what really startled me was their summary of their research, which contends that teachers in their study possessed neither Technological Knowledge NOR Content Knowledge – but Pedagogical Knowledge alone made them successful, because they learned along with their students.
So is BS detection (critical “reading” – whether it be reading, watching, viewing, seeing, or hearing) going to be more important than Content Knowledge? And where will the Content Knowledge come from?
Will the teacher or professor of the future be an expert in harnassing the vast power and wealth of resources that the web offers, sift through them at the expert level (the BS-detection level), — and help students learn how to do so — and use that wealth of resources on the web – both human and social media and traditional media including print media – to the goals of a course: for the development of understanding, and the application of various levels of thinking: synthesis, argument, analysis, creativity, connection, comparison/contrast, etc.? (Whew, what a long sentence! It must be my German language background.)
How much Content Knowledge will be enough? Within that expertise will the teacher hold a higher degree of expertise in appropriate pedagogy? Will content and technology serve pedagogy, and no longer the other way around? Again, how much Content Knowledge is enough for the expert to have?
Is this scary to educators? YES. What will content expertise mean? What knowledge will have to be inside of the person/expert/scholar/teacher/professor, and what knowledge will be accessible “in” the heads of others and “in” the head of the web?
This completely flies in the face of what I call the traditional professorial mythology: “Content Knowledge makes one a great teacher.” In response to all of the above, some would say: “Them’s fightin’ words.”