Friday, September 5, 2014

Teaching above the line: SAMR

I have been helping teachers integrate technology into their curriculum for the last 12 years, first as an Educational Computing Strategist and now as a Digital Learning Coach. In all those years I have frequently been asked how to integrate technology with this lesson or that theme. Even within the last several weeks I have been asked to come up with a technology rich lesson based on selected standards from the Common Core. Many times it seems we are trying to force technology into a lesson where it is not the best tool. We are trying to use technology for the sake of using technology.

I believe that we need to rethink this approach and use technology when it can significantly change what we are doing. Dr. Ruben Puentedura created the SAMR model to help teachers integrate technology better into teaching and learning. The idea behind using technology is not just do the same old thing, but with a technology twist. The purpose of introducing technology is to enhance or redefine the teaching and learning in ways that are not possible with analog tools.
Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.

As an example of applying this model to a typical classroom assignment, picture a teacher giving the assignment for students to write an essay responding to a piece of art, music, or poetry.

At Substitution the students would use a word processor to write the essay instead of paper and pencil. They are simply substituting one tool for another. There is no functional difference and it wouldn't affect the outcome of the assignment one way or another.

With Augmentation the technology allows the students to add hyperlinks, graphics, significantly change the layout, etc. They can do more with the essay than they typically could with paper and pencil.

At the Modification level the technology allows for a significant redesign of the assignment. Rather than just writing a static essay, students can share their writing using a blog so that students can receive feedback from multiple peers in order to make edit cycles richer.

The Redefinition level allows for the creation of new tasks. Instead of writing a response essay, students convey deep analytic thought using visual and text rich creations such as a video production.

This model meshes with my vision of technology in the classroom. I don't believe we should be shoe-horning technology into a lesson just for the sake of using technology. If it doesn't change the way teachers are teaching and the students are learning, then it may not be the best tool for the job.

I realize that teachers need to start using technology somewhere, and maybe that is by using a word processor. But teachers can't stop there and call it technology integration. Teachers need to teach above the line - use technology to teach and learn in ways that otherwise could never happen!

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