Two years ago, I participated in a district professional development for teachers and school leaders. The summer institute lasted three days. During this time, we took the opportunity to dig into our school performance data and school survey results. We also participated in several workshops that covered curriculum, teamwork, and new classroom tools, all of which were embedded with technology.
It’s no surprise that the district emphasized technology throughout the trainings. Who doesn’t stress the use of technology in the classroom now? One of those sessions focused especially on technology and the SAMR Model. And it was interesting to see teachers’ perceptions (including my own!) about how they were using technology in comparison to the SAMR Model.
What is the SAMR Model?
The SAMR Models is a tiered framework of technology integration that was created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Many people like to compare it to Bloom’s Taxonomy or Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, but this could be misleading. A higher level on the SAMR Model does not necessarily correlate with cognitive complexity.
The SAMR Model consists of four stages: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Substitution and Augmentation are considered “Enhancement” stages, and Modification and Redefinition are considered stages of “Transformation.” You can think of these stages as “buckets” or levels. However, I like to think of the entire model as a spectrum because some strategies clearly fall within a particular stage while others can be argued. No matter how you see it, the SAMR Model can be used to effectively redefine the use of technology in the classroom.
SAMR in the Classroom
Technology at the level of substitution is exactly how it seems. Some form of technology is being used to substitute a traditional method or practice. Think about the lecture portion of a lesson. How does a teacher present information? I remember chalkboards and dry erase boards full of notes to copy. When I started teaching, classrooms still had whiteboards, but I did not have to write notes on them. There were interactive boards that I could use to present my notes via Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezi, or any other presentation program. The method here is still the same, but technology has been substituted for the traditional board.
Another example of substitution is having students write an essay about a novel using computers instead of pen and paper. Students might also write lab reports and print them. They may answer math problems on a worksheet using the computer instead of writing all of their work on printed copies.
Moving into augmentation essentially means you are saving time and becoming efficient with technology while still only substituting traditional methods with technology. One of the major benefits for teachers is with different forms of assessments.
For example, teachers may utilize a program that allows them to create an assessment, electronically administer the assessment to students, and collect grades as soon as the assessments are submitted. If I had a dollar for every minute I could have saved with something like that, I could retire early! It is also efficient because the teacher can spend more time planning for remediation and support instead of grading.
Teachers might also poll students to check for understanding. Students may also share ideas or questions by submitting in a survey. Another enhancement with technology is through games. Instead of creating game cards and pieces, teachers can use online games to use in the classroom. These take less time to prepare and provide feedback as they are completed.
To transition from enhancement stages to modification, technology must significantly change the student outcome. Modification can even result in a redesigned classroom. Technology changes the tasks they are able to complete and the manner in which they work. It offers students a way to collaborate, problem-solve, create, and so much more.
When I taught biology, I gave students the chance to collaboratively create their own lesson about plants using Google Slides. They created the content by researching information, adding images, and even including video clips. By the end of class, students had compiled a complete presentation that would be used for other collaborative activities involving technology.
My favorite thing about Genius Plaza is that is provides tools for modification through Sparks. Instead of answering discussion questions on a worksheet, students can respond through a video. Students can also record a video to explain how to solve a math problem. It can provide more feedback for a teacher than a set of problems because the teacher is able to see the process and result.
The ultimate phases of technology transformation occur with redefinition. At this stage, it would be impossible to complete the task without technology. The task itself would be inconceivable.
I like to think of redefinition as students getting out of the classroom and exploring the world. For instance, I had a student working on a marine science project. He had gathered his research, but I was able to connect him with a research professor from a university in another state for an interview. At one school I was at, a teacher took his 5th graders on a virtual field trip to different planets. The students then worked in groups to create videos of them giving guided tours of certain planets. Another teacher was able to take her students to places they didn’t even know existed during their studies of the Middle East using interactive map tools. Advances in technology are enabling teachers to transform learning and engagement more and more!
Use All Stages of the SAMR Model
When I think back to the summer institute, there were so many teachers that thought they were spending more time in the Transformation stages. As it turned out, very few had spent more than a couple lessons in either Modification or Redefinition. That does not mean that teachers should never use strategies that fall under Substitution or Augmentation. Sometimes the most effective and efficient approach is through one of the Enhancement stages.
My takeaway from that training was that we should strive to transform the classroom with technology. There is so much potential for teachers with constant advances in technology. All we have to do is figure out how to take our students’ learning experiences to the next level and beyond!