Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Taking a Hammer to SAMR

An earlier article defined Dr. Ruben Puentedura's SAMR model as a tool teachers can use to measure the effectiveness of technology integration in their lessons. In a "Taking a Hammer to SAMR" series, beginning with this post, we will unpack the specifics of the SAMR model in terms of best practices in instruction and assessment.

The SAMR Model:
Image Rights Free

SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The SAMR Model resembles a ladder with a clearly delineated top and bottom half. The bottom half includes Substitution and Augmentation, labeled as instructional Enhancement. The top half includes Modification and Redefinition, labeled as instructional Transformation.

The lower Enhancement rungs of the ladder allow students and teachers to add small, useful benefits to the curriculum and instruction of daily lessons. The higher Transformation rungs of the ladder afford teachers the opportunity to empower students take ownership of the learning of the lessons.

SAMR is a great model meant to define how technology is integrated. However, using the SAMR model requires teachers to truly understand the role of technology in education.

It's not about the technology. It's not about Google Drive or iPads. It's about good, quality instruction and assessment. To best meet the learning needs of each student during a given lesson, a teacher needs to know what each student knows about the content, how each student best learns new material (in order to plan and execute the lesson plan), and how each student can demonstrate knowledge gained as a result of participating in the lesson.

A teacher may approach me and share, "I need to talk to you about Glogster! I want my students to make a digital poster, but I am having trouble with Glogster."

Using technology in a lesson should be no different than the integration of any activity, manipulative, or other tool into a lesson. Technology integration does not need its own curriculum because it's not a curriculum. Technology is one tool that teachers and students can use to present new ideas, learn those ideas, and demonstrate learning.

Rather than focus on the tech tool, such as Glogster digital posters, the first question to consider is, "What is the learning target the students will meet today?" The answer will reference a standard, not a tool. Then technology tools can be considered to help bring each individual student to demonstrate their understanding of the learning target through the assessment.  Technology is one of the tools available for teachers to use. Technology is not the learning target.

In the example above, the teacher aimed for first grade students to demonstrate knowledge of themselves; that was the learning target. The tool she wished to use, Glogster, allows students to create a poster digitally. In this case, the use of technology was a tool, not the learning target.

We have begun this discussion of SAMR by stating the need to clearly define learning targets as the first step of planning technology integration. In the next issue of bsd220tech, I will clearly define the first rung of the SAMR ladder: Substitution.


  1. Well said, Joe! I have been having this conversation a great deal with teachers as we approach various activities. I'm looking forward to your perspective and examples for each rung as I think it will provide nice discussion points for conversation.

  2. I really like your, "What is the learning target the students will meet today?" I like to add having my students ask "How can I show others that I understand what I have learned?"

  3. Great addition, Tim. That will automatically put the ownership of the learning on the students and motivate them to use creative ways to express what they've learned.


Summer Tech Support In...and Out...of Barrington 220

Although our current weather may not belie this, summer is, indeed, coming! I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that our tech sup...