Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Harlem Renaissance Newsletter Project: TPACK at Work


The philosophical foundation for my work as a technology integrationist has been TPACK. TPACK is the instructional design theory that states effective lesson planning must consider the three key aspects of technology, pedagogy, and content, and combine them in logical ways to design powerful learning opportunities. Today I would like to share how we put this theory into practice.



Content: The What

South Hamilton High School has a fabulous approach to teaching its juniors about American literature and American history: a course called America II. English instructor Lisa Pulis and history teacher Jolene Voga collaborated to create a curriculum which examines America through a dual lens; students see it through the eyes of a historian and the eyes of a writer. Hopefully students finish the course with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the United States of America and what it means to be an American. One unit included in the year-long course is the study of the Harlem Renaissance. Mrs. Voga and Mrs. Pulis hope students can recognize the significance and impact of the historical events in the 1920s and 30s--in Harlem and the U.S. in general. They look for clues by examining the art, literature, and music created during that time. Content is the basis for all other decisions when working in a TPACK frame, and our teachers were clear on what was important for students to learn while studying the Harlem Renaissance.

Pedagogy: The How

The next piece in our TPACK puzzle is pedagogy. Our instructors decided that inquiry learning was the best approach to demand critical thinking from their students. The tasks and question posed to them were this: examine the art, literature, and music produced during the Harlem Renaissance. After your examination, what common theme do you find running through these pieces of Harlem Renaissance culture? Next, create a newsletter which shows your audience how you find that theme in specific pieces of literature, art, and music. This inquiry approach demands students think critically and use text-based evidence to support that critical thinking...even if your text is artwork or music. This pedagogical approach is an excellent fit for the unit’s learning objectives.

Technology: Show What You Know

The final piece of TPACK is the technology. We needed a tech tool that empowered students to show their knowledge of Harlem art, music and literature, AND provided a creative outlet as well. Since we are a GAFE district, I always look to Google apps first, and Google Slides was the perfect fit. Slides offers unique drawing tools PLUS makes it very easy to add images, videos, text in various sizes and shapes, word art, and more. Students began by adjusting the page setup to 8.5 x 11, then started creating with the various themes and drawing tools available. Students found SlidesCarnival.com a good resource as it offered lots of new themes and color schemes, but many enjoyed designing an original layout. With a digital newsletter, the information is far from static; audiences can see and hear pieces of the Harlem Renaissance come alive when students embed video and audio files. We compared our newsletters to a newspaper in the magical world of Harry Potter as it brings a whole new level of interaction with a text.



Many skill sets are demanded while completing this project. Students must read and learn about an important time in American history, they must think critically about the entire culture of the time period, they must analyze what the various texts say about the people of the U.S. living during this time, they must use technology effectively, they must collaborate effectively, and finally they must communicate their insight in a creative and clear way. Whew! And our South Hamilton kids did all of this in 5 class periods.

The Results of a TPACK Approach:
Instructors Lisa Pulis and Jolene Voga were very pleased with the digital newsletters they received from the various groups of juniors. The projects reflected critical thinking, clear communication, lots of text-based evidence to support their analysis, and even found some fun! We are happy to share some of our favorites here.

Student Project Links:


 Project #1
Project #1


Project #2


Project #3

Project #4





Catherine M. Hines
Technology Integrationist/Instructional Coach
South Hamilton Middle/High School
Jewell, Iowa
Twitter handle: @CathyHines66
Blog: Hawk-WiredforLearning.blogspot.com

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