A 2019 survey that focused on the 21st-century classroom showed that 75% of educators see educational technology (EdTech) as an integral and useful part of their pedagogical toolkits (Vega and Robb, 2019). Schools cannot always provide in-person education as COVID-19 laid bare before the world at its onset in early 2020. While the pandemic brought enormous challenges to teachers as classes migrated online, it also presented an opportunity to improve their craft in terms of integrating technologies, such as learning management systems (LMS) in education. One of the tools used by educators is the SAMR model, a practical guide for EdTech integration that can significantly improve teaching and learning.
It has been established that interactive EdTech tools help drive student engagement. As a planning and reflection tool, the SAMR model encourages educators to think of ways to promote student engagement. The various stages of the SAMR model allow each lesson to pass through a spectrum where learning and teaching are transformed while enhancing the teacher’s knowledge and skills (Hamilton, Rosenberg,& Akcaoglu, 2016).
This article will discuss the SAMR model as an EdTech integration tool. The utility of the SAMR model in EdTech, the framework’s benefits and drawbacks, as well as SAMR model examples are included in the discussion.
As defined by its proponent Dr. Reuben Puentedura (2014), the SAMR model is a tool that helps teachers think about how and why they use technology in teaching, and how technology can help them evolve pedagogically. The SAMR model stands for substitution (S), augmentation (A), modification (M), and redefinition (R). The framework presents four ways in which technology can be integrated into teaching.
With substitution, technology acts as a simple substitute to classroom tools delivering no functional change. With augmentation, technology is used to improve learning activities. With modification, the use of technology brings significant redesign to instruction, while with redefinition, the use of technology completely alters the traditional way of instruction.
Substitution and augmentation are grouped as ‘enhancement’ tools, while modification and redefinition are considered as ‘transformation’ tools. Puentedura’s framework has substitution at the lowest level and redefinition at the highest level. For educators that are more familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy, the substitution and augmentation methods are typically equated with the first three levels of Bloom’s framework (knowledge, comprehension, and application), while modification and redefinition are perceived as on the same level as the upper three of Bloom’s learning stages (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation).
With the SAMR model, Puentedura suggests that as teachers reflect on integrating technology with the learning experience, they often have questions on how they can effectively use technology. Again, Puentedura pictures these questions in levels like that of the SAMR framework.
The question at each level is typically presented as follows:
Substitution: “What will I gain by replacing the task with technology?”
Augmentation: “Does the technology add new features that improve the task?”
Modification: “Does the task significantly change with the use of technology?”
Redefinition: “Does the technology allow for the creation of a new task previously inconceivable?”
In asking these questions, the educator is able to determine how technology can enhance instructional design to increase student engagement in the teaching and learning process.
Advanced technology is continually transforming the future of education. EdTech tools help drive student engagement and improve the dynamics between teachers and students. EdTech also enables students to adjust their own pace of learning, and through collaboration, students are able to reflect on learning with their peers, which often leads to the creation of new knowledge.
Technological literacy is a required 21st-century skill (Hilton, 2016). The SAMR model can be easily adapted and interpreted in multiple ways, helping teachers reflect as technology is used to achieve specific outcomes. As a planning tool, it enables teachers to design, develop, and infuse digital learning experiences that use technology.
Using the SAMR model, however, does not guarantee effective learning. Effective instruction depends on the instructional design. The skills of the teacher will determine if technology is used in the most efficient way that maximizes its potential to contribute to deeper learning. Moreover, the SAMR model cannot be used in isolation of pedagogical theory.
Source: Common Sense Media
Designing instruction requires a lot of reflection. In making lesson plans, teachers first define the specific learning outcomes, from which the design of instruction will be based. The concept of instructional core posits that change in learning will only occur if there are improvements in three critical, independent realms—the level of content, the teacher’s knowledge and skill, and student engagement (City et al., 2011). The following SAMR lesson plan examples make use of the SAMR model template by using the guide questions as transition ladders.
Start by asking the benefits of the technology to be adopted:
Activity 1: Working in groups, students will be asked to analyze the character in a text. The students will be given the option to do the analysis on paper, or use StoryboardThat, an app for making storyboards.
Activity 2: Students will be asked to write an essay on climate change. Students have the option to write the essay on paper or type it using the computer. Teachers may also ask students to submit tasks online rather than turn in a hard copy.
These examples do not change the nature of teaching or learning. The use of technology, however, facilitated differentiated instruction by enabling students to perform tasks in their preferred method. The use of technology also made it possible for students to submit their tasks online, which also provided the teacher with a faster and more efficient way of providing timely feedback.
The following guide questions can be used to transition from substitution to augmentation:
Activity 1: Students will be asked to illustrate a mind map of their lesson by capturing images that will represent their learnings. Applications such as Skitch or Seesaw can be used for the task. Using online tools, students will be asked to record, annotate, draw and caption anything that will represent the student’s learning experience.
By giving the students a variety of ways to respond to a single question, the teacher is empowering the students and, at the same time, the teacher is also able to monitor the learning progress of each student on one platform. This method also gives the teacher an entirely different picture of each student’s learning.
Activity 2: Students will be asked to submit exit tickets using Mentimeter or Kahoot. The teacher will ask a parting question, and students turn in tickets before leaving the classroom. Instead of writing their answer on a piece of paper, students can submit their exit tickets through the app.
In the Augmentation examples mentioned, technology improved the task by enabling the students to use different types of media to document their learning. This enables the teacher to assess the extent of learning, while at the same time having the ability to respond to each student and identify the particular areas that they are having difficulty. In these examples, technology offered functional improvement because the teacher is able to view learning in a different way through the use of apps and tools. Technology added new features and improved the task.
The following guide questions can be used to transition from augmentation to modification:
Activity 1: Using Google Workspace or Office 365, each group of students will be asked to perform research on a particular topic during class hours. The final output should include a research write-up, a presentation using slides, and an infographic. The objective is to facilitate real-time collaboration within the group, while at the same time making each member responsible for specific requirements.
This task involves significant redesign because instead of working on tasks individually, students learn to collaborate in real-time using technology. Without technology, the task would require more time. The technology significantly changed the task by providing new features of creation.
Activity 2: Using Flipgrid, each group of students will be given topics for discussion. Students will be required to share their thoughts on the topic, and respond as well to the thoughts or ideas of their peers.
Since this app allows teachers to facilitate video discussions, facilitating this activity can improve the discourse skills of students, while at the same time teaching them to respond or give reactions in a polite and constructive manner. This practice also teaches critical thinking as students reflect on the topics and think of ways on how to respond to points raised by their peers. In the activities presented, it would be difficult to achieve the learning objectives without the use of technology.
The following guide questions can be used to transition from modification to redefinition:
Activity 1: Using music production apps such as Bandlab and video creation tools like Quik, students will be asked to create a multimedia presentation or a short film about the lesson by integrating video and music.
Activity 2: Using Skype, the class will have a virtual field trip to a museum in Egypt. The museum curator will give the students a tour of the museum as an enhancement of the current lesson on ancient Egypt. After the tour, the students will be required to share insights on the topic.
Both examples are learning experiences that can only happen with the integration of technology. Both activities are previously inconceivable in the confines of the classroom. In using different EdTech tools, students are empowered to apply concepts learned and create something as a result of the learning experience.
Souce: Common Sense Media
In designing instruction, it is important to carefully consider the affordances and limitations of various technologies. The SAMR model, a practical guide for EdTech integration, is both a planning tool and a reflection tool. It benefits teachers by providing a framework from which they can assess how they are using technology in teaching, and how technology can enhance instruction.
The SAMR model also benefits students because technology drives engagement. In using technology, students are given control of their learning process while at the same time giving them the freedom to express their understanding of particular topics through creative channels. This empowerment also benefits the teacher because an entirely different perspective of learning is often presented by students that teachers might not be able to discover had it not been for the use of technology.
On the other hand, scholars in the field of education have identified three challenges of the SAMR model—the absence of context, rigid structure, and the model’s focus on product over process. Context includes social economics of the school or the community, the teacher’s technological knowledge, administrative support, as well as other factors that have a direct effect on technology integration in the classroom. The SAMR model is also perceived as rigid, as it does not reflect higher levels of learning outcomes as presented by Bloom’s Taxonomy. Some educators also observed that the SAMR model is too focused on technological adoption.
Hamilton et al. (2016) in their work “The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: A Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use” provided a critical review of the SAMR model using theory and prior research. Published in Tech Trends, the authors concluded that “the SAMR model may underemphasize the multi-faceted and complex nature of teaching and learning with technology. Instead, it emphasizes the types of technology teachers should use to move themselves up the hierarchical continuum of SAMR, giving primacy to technology rather than good teaching.”
The use of technology in teaching and learning has undoubtedly delivered many benefits, as with the case of the SAMR model. This framework helps teachers assess the usefulness of technology in different learning contexts. As emphasized, EdTech is used to enhance the process of instruction with the objective of promoting engagement and deeper learning.
The use of EdTech, however, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The concept of the instructional core remains, and the pedagogical skills of the teacher, as enhanced by further training on EdTech, remain the most crucial if learning is to become effective. EdTech tools, such as the SAMR model, are part of the teacher’s toolbox. As every technology has affordances and limitations, it is the teacher who will decide how to use each tool to design the best learning experience.