As technology becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, we begin to see its benefits in the classroom as well. When used purposefully, technology can truly transform the learning experience for both students and teachers.
Consider these two classroom scenarios:
In one class, each student is assigned their own Chromebook and they complete most of their activities on the device. Students have access to online textbooks, they use a word processing program for all of their writing assignments and note-taking and then email each assignment to their teacher. There is little to no collaboration among students, and it is almost always silent in the room. Just down the hallway, in contrast, is another classroom where each student also has access to a dedicated Chromebook. In this classroom, however, there is a mix of cooperative group work going on in person, and students are currently collaborating with a class from another school on a research project and building an informational blog about what they learn. How are these two classrooms different?
There is quite a contrast between the technology integration in each of the two described classrooms. In the first example, while the students may be using their devices more often, their work does not appear to be purposeful, and the technology did not enrich their learning experience. In the second class example, however, they are using technology to collaborate with another class and create a real-world product that can be shared with others about what they learn. In the case of educational technology integration, MORE is not always BETTER.
Dr. Ruben Puentedura developed a 4-tier framework called the SAMR Model to help educators classify the varying degrees of technology integration. In this framework, the letters “SAMR” stand for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Here is a brief explanation of each level:
- Substitution – Teachers are integrating technology when they substitute a classroom method and replace it with a piece of technology, with no functional change to the lesson or activity.
- Augmentation – Teachers are integrating technology at this level when they are still substituting something, but this time, it augments the task or lesson in some way.
- Modification – Teachers are integrating technology at this level when technology is used to enhance the lesson and significantly change it.
- Redefinition – Teachers are integrating technology at this level when technology is used to accomplish something that was previously inconceivable.
Within both the Substitution and Augmentation levels of the SAMR model, technology is not necessary, and instead, it merely provides a digital medium in which to complete the task. Within the Modification and Redefinition levels of the SAMR model, technology is used for transformational changes in teaching and learning.
As teachers shift from a more traditional instruction model and begin to use technology devices in their classroom, or offer some form of online learning, they must choose those technology pieces with intention. Otherwise, it just becomes another item to check off of their to-do list. A teacher’s focus should always be on using instructional technology to enhance learning. It can be used in many ways, from a simple convenience to make a task more manageable, to a more complex transformation of the learning experience. Let’s look at three examples of what technology can look like in a classroom as it progresses through each of the four SAMR levels.
Elementary Reading Example
A reading teacher might begin her technology transformation by simply providing ebooks for her students through a resource like Epic or MackVIA as a simple substitution for a physical book. She could then take that technology to the next level of augmentation by allowing her students to use a built-in text-to-speech feature. This technology resource augments their learning experience by allowing them to hear the book read aloud. She could modify her students learning experience by encouraging them to create a book trailer using a tool like Animoto or Pixton, which allows them to create engaging media-rich presentations. She could reach the final level of redefinition of the SAMR model by organizing virtual book club meetings with students in another state (or even country!) through a video conferencing tool such as Google Meet or Zoom. By sharing their opinions and viewpoints with others, students have a completely transformed and redefined experience while engaging with the book.
Middle School Science Example
A middle school science class is learning about interdependence within ecosystems. Their teacher has them work in cooperative groups to research an assigned ecosystem, and they use online databases for their research instead of books from the school library. This technology usage is an example of the substitution level of technology integration. To bring their technology use to the augmentation level, the teacher requires students to take notes with a word-processing tool and use additional features within the word-processing assignment. At the augmentation level, students include color-coding or text or the addition of images to augment their note-taking ability beyond what they could do with traditional pencil and paper. Once the research is complete, the class moves to the modification level of technology integration as they present what they have learned about their assigned ecosystem in a screencast video where they narrate and share a slide deck. Creating a slide deck to demonstrate knowledge could be considered just an augmentation, but by rehearsing their presentation skills and narrating through a screencast video, they have significantly changed the outcome of their lesson. Finally, the teacher arranges for her students to share their videos with local environmental experts through a live video conferencing meeting. Students then receive feedback from the experts and have some of their lingering questions answered. This culminating activity has redefined their entire learning experience into something that would not be possible without technology.
High School History Example
In a high school World History class, students are studying World War II. As their teacher begins to gradually integrate technology, he starts by substituting his typical lecture with a pre-recorded lecture shown in class. There is no real benefit to doing this, as it is a simple substitution of one form of lecture for another. However, he creates a slide deck with embedded comprehension questions for his next lecture, using Google Slides and the Pear Deck extension. Now he has reached the level of augmentation because the students’ learning experience is augmented by the incorporation of the embedded questions, which increases their level of engagement, and gives the teacher some formative data on their level of understanding. This same teacher truly modified their learning experience when he shares a Learning Map (which can be created with resources such as Lucid or Zen Flow Charts) with students to follow along at home. This learning map includes several interactive elements, such as videos, audio clips, maps, charts, and a built-in quiz. Students can work through the Learning Map at their own pace, reviewing content they might need to see again, truly modifying their personal learning experience. Finally, he culminates his unit on World War II with a virtual field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This 3D enhanced tour uses the Google Expedition application and VR headsets so that students feel as if they are there. What a powerful learning experience that truly redefines and changes the typical-focused study of war within the classroom!
In each of the three given classroom examples, you can see how technology use gradually moved along the SAMR continuum until true redefinition occurred and the learners’ experiences were transformed. You may have also noticed how the integration was intentional and purposeful, particularly at the modification and redefinition levels, where learning was enhanced and deepened through the use of technology.