21st Century Tools: The Role of the Teacher

Once again, I refer to Dr. Matthew J. Koehler's model of TPACK to conceptualize the interconnected and overlapping realms of teacher knowledge. The question posed is concerning the role of the teacher as it pertains to learning and understanding 21st century tools. 

The TPACK model shows a breakdown of the areas of expertise teachers are expected to know, including content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge. According to this model, teachers should strive to reach the middle area where all three realms overlap. 

Content Knowledge: this is the information on the subjects we teach.
But I think we can all agree that being an expert in a field does NOT necessarily equate to being a good teacher.

Pedagogical Knowledge: this is ‘the art of teaching’.
It includes such things as taking into consideration learning styles, differentiating instruction, creating a classroom environment and assessment practices. Basically, its your philosophy of education.

Technological Knowledge: this is the tools used to teach.
Today, many people’s immediate thoughts are of modern technologies. However, it can also includes things as simple as a pencil or a calculator.

The overlapping area between content and pedagogy covers the core business of teaching. It is what to teach and the best way to teach it. However, it is often the third realm of technology with its overlapping areas that tends to be the most challenging for teachers.

It’s true, that technology is advancing at exponential rates and there’s no way any one person could keep up with it all.

So how should teachers face the daunting task of learning and teaching with 21st century tools?

First, teachers should remember that technology (including new computer-related software and hardware) are merely tools to use to support student learning. The foundation of teaching still lies in a teacher’s knowledge of the content and their own personal teaching pedagogy. Effective technology integration does not consist of using it as a gimmick or reward for students. Instead, technology should be utilized as a teaching tool for lessons firmly rooted in calculated pedagogy and closely linked to content and curriculum outcomes.

Second, it’s important for teachers to realize that they only need to know enough about new technologies to integrate it into their specific classroom - the same way that we only use teaching practices which fit our pedagogy and content knowledge which relates to our subject. Teachers do not need to be tech experts to effectively use technology in the classroom. Instead, the best 21st century educators know of a tools which fits the context of their teaching, some basic skills of how to use and tool, as well as the courage to try it out!

Third, teachers should remember that a proper education in the 21st century must include teaching and learning with new technology. Educators must equip students with technological skills to be digital citizens and successful in the world. It is the role of the teacher to learn alongside his or her students as technology advances to guide students on their journey and model self-sufficiency when learning about new technologies.


  1. Fantastic Post Cris. You shared a great model to explain how and why educators need to adopt 21st Century teaching and learning methods. I wonder, as a fairly new teacher, what has your own experience been (as learner) with using the strategies that you discuss here? Have you had teachers integrate this model into your learning and if so, can you give an example?

  2. For me, I believe pedagogy lies at the centre of my teaching approach. My idea of teaching and learning guides how much I learn about the subject content and what tech tools I integrate in the classroom. Though I still see this model as a valuable visual, as sometimes I create a lesson beginning in one of the other circles. For example, a tech tool may grab my attention and I think of a way to integrate it within the context of my situation.

    Within a school, the circles can be used to represent various groups of people in the institution: Technology is represented by the IT Department, Pedagogy is the rules and methods implemented by the Administration team, and Pedagogy is represented by Teachers as they know the content of their particular subject the best.