SAMR is Not a Ladder

The SAMR model, developed by Ruben Puenterdura, provides teachers with a framework to help them move from an introductory (substitutional) use of technology to a level that is more transformational. It is based on Puenterdura’s research from observations of 1:1 laptop integration. The SAMR taxonomy enables teachers to think about how learning takes place in their classroom and how technology can be integrated to provide deeper and more extensive learning. There are four different levels – from substitution and augmentation to modification and redefinition. As you move through the four levels of SAMR, there is a shift from teacher-centered to student-driven learning.

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At the bottom level, substitution, one thing is simply exchanged for another. An example would be having students type an essay instead of writing it. This level of ICT is obvious very common in classrooms and has been utilized for many years. When substituting, there is no real functional change. At the level of augmentation, learning tasks are expanded through technology. If we take the previous example of typing and move it to the level of augmentation, some examples would be: adding speech bubbles to each paragraph to explain the meaning, adding images next to key words, hyperlinking text to information online etc. The next two levels, modification and redefinition, are where the really interesting and exciting applications of technology take place. These levels include activities that would not have been possible a few years ago, given the limitations of technology at the time. Some examples are: videoconferencing, movie narration, screencasting, global collaboration and networked blogging. While redefinition may be a bit of a hyperbole, it puts the emphasis on creative applications of technology and not simply just consuming it. It seeks to ensure that we don’t just employ these tools for mindless “edutainment” and busy work.

Using the SAMR framework as a planning tool is an effective way for teachers to map out and plan their usage of technology in the classroom. It focuses on pedagogy and moves away from the notion of allowing the technology to drive the curriculum. The use of technology becomes more purposeful. Teachers shouldn’t approach the SAMR model as a linear progressive ladder, but instead think of it as pool to wade in. As teachers become more comfortable with each level, they can seamlessly and fluidly move among the different levels.

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