Teaching Digitally: All About the SAMR Model

During online learning, you started teaching digitally with little to no notification. Now that you’ve adjusted and tweaked your online learning plans, it’s time to think strategically about teaching online! Enter the SAMR model. First, this educational technology model stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. It provides a framework for you to bring tech into your online learning classroom or simply integrate technology into your in-person lessons. It’s like “Bloom’s Taxonomy” for technology! Read more to learn all about the SAMR Model!

Incorporating technology has always been a part of our teaching, but now with distance learning and teaching digitally, we have to incorporate more than ever! Learn about the SAMR model and how it affects online learning and the technology you use in the online classroom!

What is the SAMR Model?

Dr. Ruben Puentedura created this model which shares a ladder of ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Teachers of kindergartners through adult learners use this model. Although it’s often pictured as a ladder, SAMR isn’t achieved in steps. Different lessons are at different rungs on the SAMR ladder, and that’s totally fine! In fact, the main purpose for the SAMR model is for teachers to have a common language and understanding when it comes to teaching digitally. Below is one of my favorite images (not mine but credit is given) that demonstrates the levels well.

A look at the SAMR model and the stages. This illustration helps understand just how the technology levels work.
Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

Notice that the levels are deeper- students explore more- when they are in the “transformation” part (modification and redefinition). It’s okay to have students in the “enhancement” part (substitution and augmentation) but, we want to make sure we are giving students a variety of each level. Let’s explore each level.

Enhancement

Substitution

First, the S in SAMR stands for substitution. When it comes to educational technology, substitution means that you’re simply replacing one task with a digital one with no meaningful change. For example, if you upload a PDF to Google Classroom for students to read without any interactive elements, that is substitution. Early ebooks that were just digital text on a tablet, computer, or e-reader were also substitution tasks.

It’s okay to use substitution in ed-tech integration. There are benefits to substitution. Putting a PDF on Google Classroom saves paper and allows you to distribute information to students in real-time, even away from the physical classroom. Even plain ebooks are more affordable and allow access to more students. An example of substitution would be my reading passages, Eating Bugs or Toy Inventions.

Substitution is easy for overwhelmed teachers. You could even use the “create a digital activity” TpT tool by turning a regular PDF worksheet on TpT into a digitized worksheet. ?

Augmentation

Next, the A in SAMR is all about augmentation. Augmentation means that the technology piece is a substitute, but there is some functional improvement. For example, if you’re teaching a lesson about the Civil War, you may augment the lesson with a video from John Green’s Crash Course or a clip from the movie Glory. Videos are an excellent way to augment lessons and provide additional support for the standards and concepts you are teaching. Other examples of Augmentation are activities that use self-checking Google forms (like task cards for examples), Boom Cards, adding in digital dice or a spinner.

Transformation

Modification

Another letter in the SAMR model, M, stands for modification. This is when you begin to see tasks that may not be possible without the introduction of the technology tool. Modification means that the task is redesigned because of the technology piece. Perhaps, your students create an iMovie demonstrating their understanding of density and buoyancy. Students create a collaborative Google Site research project over their home state. Other examples would include escape rooms, using Kahoot, or learning paths. These are modification tasks.

Redefinition

Don’t feel like you have to reach the R in SAMR or redefinition right out of the gate. Redefinition means that the task and final product is not possible without the technology tool. Not every task should be at an R on the SAMR scale. This would be overwhelming for you and your students. However, think of a way that your learning is transformed and redefined with the introduction of a technology tool.

One example is students create an app exploring life cycles of vertebrates. In addition, students form book clubs with other learners from around the world by using online learning platforms like Flipgrid, Zoom, or through blogging.

Using the SAMR Model to Transform Learning

SAMR is not a sequential ladder although it’s often visualized that way. The SAMR model is all about being cognizant of how you use technology in your classroom. Think about how technology tools can transform learning in your classroom.

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