Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SAMR: How are You Using Technology?

Teacher, do you use digital technology in your teaching practice? Perhaps a silly question for those teaching in the 21st Century. How about another question then: how are you using technology in your teaching practice?

You have a SMARTBoard? How do you use it? Is it basically the same as the chalkboard I remember from my childhood in school?

You have a document camera? How do you use it? Is it basically a fancy overhead projector?

You have a cart of iPads? How do you use them? Have you digitized the worksheets you used to assign?

I realize I sound a little snarky here. (I am a little snarky here.) I know that in my own teaching practice, there have been times when I was so enamored with a particular technology (like when I first got an LCD projector back in 2001) that I used it indiscriminately--just because I could. I replaced writing with a wet-erase marker on the overhead projector with displaying PowerPoint slides on the screen.


Look at him go, Mr. Technology-fancy-pants.

(Note: sarcasm here. ^^^)

I think we can do better with technology integration. I think we need to do better.

Enter the SAMR model.

SAMR is a model for understanding different levels of technology integration. It was developed by Ruben Puentedura in 2006, and I find it to be a helpful way to think about not just what technologies I might bring into my teaching practice, but how I am using them.

SAMR is an abbreviation for the four levels of technology integration outlined in this model:

  • Substitution - Using a different technology to do the same task as before. 
    • For example, instead of having students hand-write an essay, have them use a text editor to word process it instead.
  • Augmentation - Using a technology that provides some functional improvements, but the task remains unchanged. 
    • For example, having students use a word processor that has functions such as spellcheck and copy & paste--functional improvements!
  • Modification - Using technologies that allow for significant possibilities in redesigning the task.
    • For example, using Google Drive to allow students to collaborate on creating and co-editing an essay.
  • Redefinition - The technologies allow for entirely new tasks that were previously unimaginable.
    • For example, having students use a blogging platform to share their writing with a wider (outside of school) environment, and include not just text, but graphics, audio, and video to communicate their ideas. 
The other day, I came across this great graphic to illustrate the SAMR model in a way that really speaks to me: coffee! (This was created by Nadine Gilkison, who is a pretty awesome person, and readily gave me permission to share this graphic here. You should check out her website if you are interested in technology integration.)

Image by @nadinegilkison. Used with permission.

How often are the technology tools I choose at the "substitution" or "augmentation" level?


But I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing. If the task resulted in great learning, do we need to redefine it? I would say no. There are times I still prefer a cup of black coffee--no one wants pumpkin spice all the time, right? (Okay, maybe some people do...?)

Likewise, I think using a range of educational technologies for a range of learning tasks makes the most sense to me. I try to be very mindful of how I'm using technology, because the key for me is to keep good pedagogy first, and then use technology when and where it can be a value-add.

Reflect on your technology use in your teaching practice--where do you land most often?


  1. As a lover of rich, dark coffee, I find that all the add ons detract from the real flavor of coffee. Might that also apply to technology if we use your analogy?

    1. Great point! I suppose that's where this analogy breaks down. :-D

      Though I think it's true; we (I) often get pretty enamored by the bells and whistles without thinking about the actual learning that happens. And in that case, maybe keeping it simple is the better option.

      Thanks for the pushback!