SAMR what?

Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.
                                                                                        – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs

Initial teacher education (ITE) does give you a lot. I certainly feel like it’s given me more than some of my peers indicate that it’s given them. But one thing that I don’t feel like it prepared me for was meaningful deployment of technology. Oh, certainly, we were told about SMART Notebooks, and to use ICT meaningfully, but we weren’t told what this actually meant in different contexts or how to ensure we were doing it.

Then, this year (2014), I walked into my Internship classroom; a Stage Three combined year five and six class with a trial 1:1 iPad BYOD system in place. Awesome I thought to myself, iPads! But then I realised that I had no framework for actually enacting pedagogical strategies through an iPad, no point of reference for how it would work in practice, or what could actually be done on iPads other than what I do on my iPhone.

I’ve written previously about why I teach, but why I teach does not prepare or assist me to make technology integration meaningful in and of itself. Fortunately, my classroom teacher (CT) is rather progressive, and very much driven by research-based best practice. He introduced me to the SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura and a way of thinking about EdTech that had never occurred to me before.

The SAMR model outlines four ways in which technology can be used in an educational context, with two tiers of use which can be likened to lower and higher order thinking  tiers in Bloom’s Taxonomy. The first two ways of utilising technology in the classroom are akin to Bloom’s lower order thinking skills, and are where technology is used only as a substitution to traditional pedagogies, or to augment traditional pedagogies. The second tier of the SAMR model is where technology is used to modify or to redefine the learning activity. This blog post will deal with the first half of the SAMR model, substitution and augmentation, which my CT likened to the lower order thinking components of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The way that my CT described SAMR to me was in comparison to the recent laptop program Australian high schools, formally known as the Digital Education Revolution which, amonsgt other things, saw every year nine to twelve public high school student provided with a laptop. Whether it was a success or failure seems to depend on who you talk to (I know some teachers and administrators who are completely against laptops and tablets on the back of the laptop program).

My CT said to me that if you ask parents buy a tablet/laptop as part of a BYOD program, such as is being trialed in his classroom, and all you do is used it as a substitution for a writing book or a textbook, that you won’t necessarily have improved the learning outcomes, but you will have made the learning outcomes more expensive for the parents.

That made perfect sense to me, and I can see that using them with no added value, substitutionally, would annoy parents. I see using interactive whiteboards (IWBs) purely for their projector as a substitution for an overhead projector/tv and VCR or DVD player, and yes, this does happen.

Substitution is an easy trap to fall into. You feel that you are using ICT, so you feel like you are contributing to 21st Century Teaching. But you are not actually changing anything, other than the medium being utilised. Changing the medium is in itself not necessarily a bad thing, but if that is all you are doing, then it is not enough.

The next stage after Substitution is Augmentation. This is where the deployment of the technology only utilises a small portion of its potential. The technology is acting as a direct substitution with some functional improvement. An example of augmentation, I believe, would be using the often built-in functions of many e-textbooks available on digital devices, such as dictionary definitions, bookmarking, chapter hyperlinks etc. You have gained some functional improvement, but not really any pedagogical or learning outcome improvement.

I have already mentioned that CT likened substitution and augmentation deployment of technologies as being akin to the Lower Order Thinking phases of Bloom’s Taxonomy because they serve a purpose are useful, but you will fail to challenge students much by doing so.

Next weekend, I will examine the top half, or to continue the Bloom’s Taxonomy analogy, the ‘higher order thinking’ components of the SAMR model; modification and redefinition. I’d appreciate any feedback on this or my previous blog posts, but thank you for reading.

EDIT: The next article in this series is available here.

6 thoughts on “SAMR what?

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