Whilst Subject and Pedagogy are adapted from the TPACK framework it is the introduction of and integration of Modality into the framework that is the unique and distinctive element of this work. A key driver for the The SPaM framework was this emergence of “modality”, something which I had been referring to for a number of years as part of my work on blended learning, but which really came to prominence during the pandemic. The changes in our approaches to learning and teaching highlighted the need for us all to think more rigorously about the “teaching mode”, and beyond the pandemic how we might use each mode for certain circumstances in learning and teaching.
In the context of TPACK, Modality is a direct replacement for the Technological Knowledge domain. My decision to remove this knowledge domain in it’s entirety comes from my criticism of the term ‘technology’ which often results in focussed conversations on tools & technologies and can leads to ‘techno-centric’ discussions.
Modality is fundamentally technology neutral and mainly focussed on the way in which students will access learning (of which digital tools may be a factor depending on the teaching mode).
Over the years I have drawn my own various diagrams for teaching modes (Modality) but now nearly always refer to the wonderful diagram by Sue Beckingham (see below).
In the context of SPaM ‘modality’ requires us to more explicitly consider how our students will be accessing their learning and the extent to which that will be online / on campus / synchronous or asynchronous. We need to begin to really understand the value of each mode and how we can make use of the mix of them to improve the learning (and teaching) experience.
For example, in the context of on-campus teaching do we really need a lecture every week for each module? When is it of value to have on-campus lectures (and I do think there is) as opposed to pre-recording short asynchronous videos presenting the same information?
In Paul LeBlanc’s article titled “The Human-Technology Intersection: A Framework” he suggested we ask three questions:
- What human interactions are most critical for student success?
- How can technology enable better versions of those interactions?
- Where can technology replace people so that human resources can be redirected to accomplish more of those interactions?
In the context of the SPaM framework and campus-based education I think we should be asking ourselves these questions:
- What in-person (on campus) interactions are most critical for student success?
- How can we make use of other teaching modes to enhance the value of in-person interactions?
- How can we use other teaching modes to free up time for more of these high value in-person interactions?
The role of technology.
In the context of SPaM I have used modality as a replacement for what was the “Technological” knowledge domain in the TPACK framework, which Koehler and Mishra (2006) added to Schulman’s original Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework, but in my experience having used the TPACK framework with academic staff, this often meant that in discussions with them technology became the focus of the conversation as if encouraging a technocentric approach to education.
Of course, that’s not to say technology and digital tools are not an integral part of the learning and teaching landscape, but that they should be framed around the need for digital tools and systems based on the curriculum design and teaching mode. Therefore I consider that “Modality” is a better starting point from which any technological decisions can be made (including the need for no technology if the teaching mode allows for it) but that ultimately all three domains will influence each other.
The Value Proposition
It is necessary for us to identify the value of each teaching mode, design curriculum around that value, articulate that to our students and identify appropriate tools and technologies to support that. Hybrid education is wholly predicated on mixed-modal teaching and it’s imperative we design our learning experiences through valuing each mode.
In the context of hybrid education it is modality which both makes this framework distinctive but more importantly is the critical domain in the sense that it is specifically this domain which requires us to think critically and deeply about the modes that we teach in and that students learn in. The challenge for us now is how we begin to articulate the value of these modes so that when we are making decisions about which mode to use and when these can be clearly articulate to learners and inform the design decisions for the learning. The ‘value’ might be functional, but also emotional and we shouldn’t shy away from the way in which different modes add social value, not just educational.
Finally, as a has emerged from the pandemic, we have seen how much more accessible learning potentially is through certain modes and as such this should additionally influence the modality. Modality choice is about balancing those educational, social and accessibility benefits and in some cases it may be possible to offer a multiple modes of learning for maximum flexibility, but in the context of on campus programmes we need to embrace the sense of belonging that physical spaces can support. This THE article on ‘treasured spaces‘ is a beautifully insightful perspective on what our physical spaces should be doing.
I am always seeking to more clearly articulate the “value” of each modality. If you would like to help me with this work please do feel free to add to the Padlet(s) below or get in touch.
Since developing SPaM I have been pointed in the direction of other useful resources which help support the concepts of the SPaM framework. This article linked below in the Educause Review is a particularly useful reference point for understanding modality.
And this post by Alexandra Mihai really helps to consider why our physcial spaces might be devoid of students: https://educationalist.substack.com/p/you-want-your-students-back-in-the
Terminology – If you want to read a bit more about why I’m using certain terminology read this: https://spam.digisim.uk/uncategorized/hybrid-defining-in-the-context-of-spam/
Note: I am using the term “mixed-modality” or “mixed-modal” for when we use a range of modes in the design of curriculum. Not to be confused with the term “multi-modal” which has an association with the debunked concept of “learning styles”!!!!
You can find a full list of references for this work on the references resource page.
To cite this work:
Thomson, S. (2022, February 3). SPaM – A Framework to support the Development of Hybrid Education. SPaM Framework. https://spam.digisim.uk