Monthly Archives: October 2015

Repurposing a Spatula and Exploring TPACK

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

This week I had a chance to spend some time thinking and learning more about the TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) framework, created by Dr. Mishra and Dr. Koehler (2006). You can watch this video for an in-depth overview of the model and here’s a quick two minute breakdown of the model.

I had to do some “cooking” with TPACK this week to experience the need to repurpose a tool, as we often do with technology to use it in the classroom. I asked a friend to randomly choose one kitchen utensil, one plate, and one bowl and then pick a number 1-5 that corresponded to what I needed to make. I ended up with the task of cutting cheese with a spatula! I discovered that the handle was probably more effective for really cutting up the deeper, harder parts of the cheese while the spatula itself could work for shaving off messy chunks. You can see my experiment in the video below.

While trying to complete my cheese task, I thought about how difficult work and learning can be when we are not using the right tool. I think it is easy to get caught up in wanting to use a specific tech tool because it is new or looks cool and we forget to assess whether it will really serve a valuable purpose in supporting our pedagogy and the content students are learning.

At the same time, having to repurpose a spatula reminded me of how important it can be to think outside of the box and get creative. I want students to develop a sense of which tools might best help them learn and also experiment with using technologies in ways that they were not originally designed to be used in hopes of hacking/facilitating the learning process.


Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. Retrieved from download .pdf


The Little Red Hen: a Kindergarten Robot Story

Dressing up Dash

Dressing up Dash

This past week, I had a chance to design a “21st Century Lesson Plan” for my Teaching for Understanding with Technology course. It was inspired by Renee Hobbs’ five core competencies (i.e., access, create, analyze, reflect, act), as outlined in her book Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011). As I created my lesson, I tried to ensure that the digital tools and skills that were woven into it were not the sole focus of students’ learning. Instead, I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to use different technology tools, like iPads and robots, to generate creative content and also reflect on how they could use their tools to communicate ideas to others.

I decided to design a lesson (available in this Google Doc) for our kindergarten students that builds upon an existing unit they do on The Little Red Hen and the topic of helping others. This unit is already very robust because in addition to reading various versions of The Little Red Hen, students also take a field trip to a local mill and get to see how bread is made. Then they have a chance to bake their own bread at school and engage in classroom discussions about kindness, friendship, and helping others. They discuss whether they would help the Little Red Hen if they were part of the story and finally, they have a chance to write their own version of The Little Red Hen.

With all of that exploration into the literary and social aspects of the story, students develop a strong foundational understanding of the different characters and their roles in teaching the moral of the story. They have a chance to access relevant books related to the story using Scout, our picture-based digital library database, which is designed to meet their developmental needs.

So I created a project that would invite students to analyze, create, reflect, and act, as Hobbs’ suggests, to extend their learning using digital tools. The goal would be to have students take their co-constructed class version of The Little Red Hen and program a few Wonder Workshop robots to act out the story. This would allow them to deepen their knowledge of the story, apply their written work in a real-world context, and explore ways to utilize code to tell a story in a new medium. Through experimental play, students will learn and discover more about both the characters in their story and how to tell a story using various blocks of code (Thomas & Brown, 2011) .

The core focus of their work would be to create their own authentic content, using Blockly code, so that the Dash and Dot robots we have at school could tell their story in a tangible way that other audiences could enjoy. They will have to take action and work collaboratively in teams to build a successful program, using the knowledge of their group to identify various code blocks and as a team, create a sequence of code that can tell the story of a single character in The Little Red Hen.  

After designing different programs for each robot, students would have a chance to put the robots together and analyze and reflect on how the story looks different when acted out by their robots. They will be documenting their work so that they can both teach others what they learned and how they programmed their robots and also to share their own version of The Little Red Hen, as performed by the robots, with their families, other classes at our school, and classes in other countries.


Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.