While there are many different frameworks to choose from when it comes to the effective integration of technology, SAMR is typically the one that most people and schools leverage. At face value, it is relatively straightforward while conveying how the use of technology can move from enhancement to transformation. The SAMR Model has provided us with a good lens to observe firsthand the need for proper planning prior to investing large amounts of money on technology. This by no means is a perfect framework to guide the effective implementation of technology initiatives, but it does give us a good idea of what should not be taking place.
Substitution – tech acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change
Augmentation – tech acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement
Modification – tech allows for significant task redesign
Redefinition – tech allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable
While I don’t outright discount the value of SAMR, it does, in my opinion, have a dramatic shortcoming. I shared the following in Uncommon Learning:
For many educators, SAMR is the preferred model often associated with technology integration. It’s a catchy model and does have some value, mainly in the form of what we shouldn’t be doing (substitution). Take a close look at the tech-centric language used in each category and ask yourself what does the SAMR model really tell you about the level of student learning? This is why I love the Rigor Relevance Framework as a means to ensure that technology is integrated effectively. It provides a common language, constitutes the lens through which to examine all aspects of a learning culture (curriculum, instruction, assessment), and helps create a culture around a shared vision.
The value of SAMR is that it can inform you what NOT to do with technology. However, the rub, though, is that it is a bit vague when it comes to the pedagogical shifts that need to occur to improve student learning. Here is where the Rigor Relevance Framework comes into play, as there is an emphasis on what the learner is doing as opposed to the technology. It is broken down into four (4) quads:
Quadrant A (Acquisition) - Students gather and store bits of knowledge and information. Students are primarily expected to remember or understand this acquired knowledge. The teacher does most of the work by instructing.
Quadrant B (Application) - Students use acquired knowledge to solve problems, design solutions, and complete work. The highest level of application is to apply appropriate knowledge to new and unpredictable situations.
Quadrant C (Assimilation) - Students extend and refine their acquired knowledge to automatically and routinely analyze and solve problems as well as create unique solutions. They are doing most of the work.
Quadrant D (Adaptation) Students have the competence to think in complex ways and apply knowledge and skills they have acquired. Even when confronted with perplexing unknowns, students are able to use extensive knowledge and skill to create solutions and take action that further develops their skills and knowledge. They work and think.
While there isn’t a seamless alignment, I have made an attempt to connect them both.
(S) Substituted acquisition (A) Teachers use tech to make tasks digital or elicit low-level student responses
(A) Applied augmentation (B) Students apply learning in relevant ways
(M) Modified assimilation (C) Students demonstrate high levels of thinking through the purposeful use of technology
(R) Adapted redefinition (D) – Students work and think to innovatively redefine what is possible
The overall goal, both with and without technology, should be to empower students to work and think. Another critical strategy is to focus on the purposeful use of technology when appropriate. Just because it is available doesn’t mean it can or will improve every lesson or project. Thus a focus on pedagogy first, technology second, if appropriate, will help ensure success, something that I emphasize extensively in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms. While SAMR is a solid starting point, it is not the end all or be all. The multi-dimensional aspects of the Rigor Relevance Framework can be used to guide you in developing better questions and tasks as part of good pedagogy. In the end, this will lead to developing critical competencies to thrive in a disruptive world.