How to Use SAMR Model in Designing Instruction (An EdTech Integration Guide)

How to Use SAMR Model in Designing Instruction (An EdTech Integration Guide)

At least 75% of educators perceive educational technology (EdTech) as an essential and helpful aspect of their pedagogical toolkits, according to a 2019 survey focusing on the 21st-century classroom (Vega and Robb, 2019). At its onset in early 2020, COVID-19 showed that schools cannot provide in-person education at all times. While this health crisis brought massive challenges to teachers, it also provided an opportunity to refine their craft when it comes to integrating technologies, such as LMS in education. The SAMR model, a practical guide for EdTech integration that can amplify teaching and learning, is one of the tools used by educators

It has been established that interactive EdTech tools help drive student engagement. As a planning and reflection tool, the SAMR model technology 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. It will also have the SAMR model explained, and defined. The utility of the SAMR model in EdTech, the framework's benefits and drawbacks, as well as SAMR examples, are included in the discussion.

SAMR Model: A Practical Guide for EdTech Integration Table of Contents

  1. What is the SAMR model?
  2. Why use the SAMR model for EdTech integration?
  3. How to use SAMR in Designing Instruction
  4. SAMR Model Benefits and Drawbacks

What is the SAMR model?

So, what is SAMR model? As defined by the SAMR model proponent Dr. Reuben Puentedura (2014), the SAMR model will help 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.

SAMR model Image 1

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.


Why use the SAMR model for EdTech integration?

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

How to Use SAMR in Designing Instruction

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:

  • What will my students gain by replacing the older technology with the new technology?

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 benefit of technology at the substitution stage can also spill over into the teacher’s favor. Consider the works done on teacher burnout research, indicating a correlation between teacher burnout and poor student performance (Daniel, J. et al 2021). Where EdTech can unburden some of the administrative teaching work (ex. grading), teachers can expect a less stressful job. Teachers with more energy can engage their students with more fervor.


The following guide questions can be used to transition from substitution to augmentation:

  • Does this new technology add an improvement to the task process that could not have been accomplished with the older technology at a basic level?
  • How does this feature contribute to the task goals/outcomes?

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.

SAMR model Image 3


The following guide questions can be used to transition from augmentation to modification:

  • How is the original task being modified?
  • Is the technology essential to the modification of the task?
  • How does this modification contribute to the task goals/outcomes?

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 PowerPoint and other presentation tools, 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:

  • What is the new task?
  • Will any portion of the original task be retained?
  • How is the new task uniquely made possible by the new technology?
  • How does it contribute to the task goals/outcomes?

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 SAMR model of technology integration. 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


SAMR Model Benefits and Drawbacks

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 levels 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."

SAMR model Image 2

Design Effective Instruction Through EdTech Tools

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 interactive 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.



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