Considering “Audience” in TPAK

Inserting "audience" in TPAK
Inserting “audience” in TPAK. “Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by”

School’s out but I’m just revving up. Right now I’m teaching an ABQ course at Queen’s University while taking my Librarianship Qualifications at OISE. The lack of sleep and pots of coffee cause my mind to wander and stumble upon topics I just can’t stop mulling over in my mind. The latest obsession falls on the TPAK model for technological integration in education. “There’s something missing!”, I think to myself. The interconnection of pedagogy, technology and content needs to have some sort of glue that holds it all in place. After 2 cups of my morning brew, I can finally pinpoint what it is. It’s the people element. The missing “A’ in TPAK is “AUDIENCES”. It’s the intersection of representation and interpretation of communicated messages.

Now, this should have been an obvious addition for me, coming from a media background. I’m reminded how Stuart Hall’s theories of dominant and oppositional readings are all shaped by the various filters each one of us carries with us. And aren’t those filters really central to how we use content, implement pedagogy, and construct media representations with technology? Of course they are. It’s all about our own bias. Take a moment to view the list of filters and think about how each may affect each of the three current elements of TPAK.

  • race
  • gender
  • culture and hegemony
  • ability/disability
  • geography
  • politics
  • economics
  • religion/beliefs/values
  • power and authority
  • media bias

TPAK creator Matthew Koehler recognizes that the transactional relationships between the elements is unique due to the various contexts that interplay. Koehler says, “Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between these components of knowledge situated in unique contexts. Individual teachers, grade-level, school-specific factors, demographics, culture, and other factors ensure that every situation is unique, and no single combination of content, technology, and pedagogy will apply for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching.” I can’t help feeling that this is of most significance and it’s been buried and hidden from the graphic representation. It’s really the place where we all need to start.

Why do we need to start with audience? Audience defines our purpose for communicating. How and what we say is shaped and interpreted by our own filters and those of others. The purpose here is not to strip away at those filters to create a uniform equalization. It’s to acknowledge that the filters create a unique perspective. This is personalization.

So let’s put it into application.

Students in my grade 12 college level English class did a guided research and inquiry project for their summative that allowed them to focus on communicating for a specific audience but allowed them choice in production of a media representation. The project was presented to them as a question so that they could focus on their personal connection and a targeted audience. “If you could go back and tell your grade 9 or 10 self one really valuable piece of advice, what would it be?” The students were to leave their legacy by presenting in small groups to rotating groups of younger grades (thank-you to Karen Blaak for creating the project). The topics students came up with were varied and included (to name just a few):

  • how to use technology to organize your high school life of academics, activities, social lives, and after school jobs
  • maintaining a healthy teen lifestyle through diet and exercise
  • how to save money to buy a car and your independence
  • maintaining good attendance and punctuality in the school setting
  • avoiding social isolation and depression

These topics may seem very simple, but each presentation had a personal story that supported the authenticity of the purpose behind the presentation. These students were sharing their experiences and coming up with solutions through experience, discussions with others, and research. Not only that, but these experiences and solutions are transferrable life hacks.
Though the focus was on communicating with an audience, TPAK was applied to the project. Here’s a quick overview of the three areas that needed to be combined so that transformation learning could take place.
Technology (as tools/support):

  • The assignment was posted on Google Classroom so that students could have 24/7 access to any needed documents.
  • Video tutorials and online guides were made available for using the various technologies
  • Google Docs, presentations, and forms were used for 24/7 accessible collaboration, gathering and enacting active research, and representation

Pedagogy: Inquiry based, project-based, problem solving

Content/Knowledge: English curriculum expectations on reading, writing, research, representation, presentation skills, combined with personal experience/connections

Now, here’s where the exciting transformation takes place as the elements of technology, pedagogy, and content/knowledge combine. Students selected the medium that best suited their targeted audience, researched topic, perspective, interest, personality, and skill level to communicate their message. Here are some example of the types of media presentations students produced:

  • a video of a series of interviews conducted of experts, youth, and parents; followed up with an online survey
  • a fictional diary that was read to the younger students and used for a guided discussion
  • a series of games the students played to initiate problem solving in the selected topic area
  • a series of pamphlets and posters providing information and tips, along with an online poll to gauge impact and opinion
  • pecha kucha style presentations, followed by online quizzes and verbal discussion

Students really bought in to the project as they were able to express themselves with media in whatever way they wanted to. They followed the guidelines of a research-based inquiry model and English curriculum expectations, kept the targeted audience in sight, and used technology to analyze and synthesize content, produce media representations, and personally express themselves. The wide variances in topics and representation serve to highlight the overarching impact that the “people element” makes in this personalized learning process. Place any of the filters listed above over the media products and the personalized voice of the author shines through. As mentioned at the start of this post, the missing “A’ in TPAK is “AUDIENCES”. It’s the heart of representation and interpretation of communicated messages.