Thursday, August 18, 2016

Using the SAMR Model to Improve Learning with Technology

This is a guest post by my friends at GoGuardian. Special thanks to them for the post, especially Alex Wagner & Dan Russ. Thanks.
Using the SAMR Model to Improve Learning with Technology

SAMR is a way to understand the progression of technology adoption and usage in the classroom, and is a great way to think about how best to implement technology in your own classroom or district.
SAMR has four distinct, sequential stages: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and finally, Redefinition. Each describes a different stage that, intentionally or unintentionally, most classrooms find themselves in when using technology. First conceptualized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR Model provides an outline that can help school districts maximize the benefit and return on investment from technology investment by encouraging them to take advantage of new approaches in pedagogy.

Explaining the SAMR Model

Let’s go over each of them in order, and use the student task of writing a persuasive essay and how different tools change the nature of the task:

Substitution is when a new technology, like a basic word processing device, is used in place of a pen and paper for writing a persuasive essay. Although writing and editing text is easier thanks to being able to replace text without having to manually erase anything, the student cannot use the word processor to add to or significantly modify the essay.

Augmentation occurs when an adopted technology, like Microsoft Word, allows students to more easily complete their persuasive essay than with a pen and paper. However, although students can use spell check, access a thesaurus, and see a word count to improve their essay, the nature of the task does not fundamentally change.

Modification is when new technology tools allow for the nature of the task itself to start changing. With the advent of Google Docs and other cloud-based word processing tools, students are now able to collaborate on the same essay in realtime, request feedback from teachers in the form of inline comments, and share documents instantly and globally.

Redefinition is the final stage of the SAMR Model, and occurs when tasks can include new and previously inconceivable components. For example, students could interview subjects for their persuasive essay over Google Hangouts or Skype and include the video in their essay, or build a 3d model of their subject’s village and show it to their teacher using a virtual reality (VR) headset like the Oculus Rift.

Why Is It important to Understand the SAMR Model for My School?

Simply put, it’s a question of not wasting money and squandering limited resources. If a science class continues to require students to write text-only research reports, and does not incorporate multimedia and live, multi-student collaboration tools, was it really worth investing in 1 to 1 laptops for each student instead of using a single computer lab? If classroom assignments -- and learning opportunities -- do not grow and change after spending hundreds of dollars on a device for each student, could that money have been spent better elsewhere?

The problem of squandered technological investments is not new to the 21st century, and did not even come with the advent of widespread personal computer adoption. In fact, this problem was understood as early as 1971:

The phrase, “technology and education” usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way. Moreover, if the gadgets are computers, the same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased towards its dumbest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a skinner box.

Seymour Papert, from “Teaching Children Thinking”

That’s a great theory! How does it pan out in the real world?

Okay, I Get It -- Lessons Should Take Advantage of New Technology. How Have Schools Adapted?

In 2007, the Munich International School in Germany initiated a rollout of Apple devices for its students in a 1 to 1 program. The rollout included a series of workshops for students that were focused on not only good digital citizenship, but also what being a good digital citizen meant now that each student had their own laptop and ready access to the internet.

The Munich International School approached the challenge of their technology rollout with a revised version of an old adage: “Good things come to those who plan — not wait.” To help ensure an effective rollout and better learning opportunities for students, the school followed Dr. Puentedura’s SAMR Model carefully, arguing that “All educators involved in technology-rich learning environments understand the need to be clear with faculty about the expectations of technology use and learning.”

Each student at the school was asked to examine the internal and international migration patterns in the Americas during the early 20th century, and what influenced whether or not an individual might migrate. Students were tasked with creating a fictional, but plausible, person whom may have lived during this period, and to answer a question: what types of events would force such a person to leave their home?

Before Adopting New Technology

Before the initiation of the 1 to 1 device program, students presented their findings with an oral presentation, with some students using an overhead projector for images, and handing in a printed script to their teacher. While they may have substituted the use of an overhead projector to help improve their presentation, the nature of the assignment was essentially the same.

After the Adoption of a 1 to 1 Technology Policy: Using Technology to Redefine Learning

Teachers at the Munich International School radically redesigned the project, leveraging the unique advantages provided by a 1 to 1 technology policy. Although the goal of the project was similar — to create empathy for migrants in order to understand migratory movements — the actual project was dramatically different.

Now, students were tasked with the creation of a short digital story, of which they were the directors, producers, and actors. Instead of reciting a presentation in front of a classroom, students recorded video, added era-appropriate music, and used old images that “were able to invoke empathy for their story’s characters.” With the addition of multimedia and the ability to step into their character’s shoes, students “created a product that invoked in the viewer strong emotions."

“These powerful stories remain with us, and could not have been produced had it not been for the intentional user of the technology alongside a solid understanding of the learning outcomes of the unit of study (Redefinition in the SAMR model)."

So how does this apply to my school?

There is an important lesson to be learned here: that it is not enough to replace notebooks with laptops, or ink pens with Evernote. Teachers and administrators must constantly evolve their lesson plans, how they approach using technology, and what their educational goals are to produce successful and well-rounded students.

This quote from David Geurin summarizes SAMR nicely:


Further Reading & Learning about SAMR

10 ways to reach SAMR’s redefinition level, A collection of ideas to modify lesson plans to more fully take advantage of technology and the internet.
The SAMR model: engage in deep learning and authentic contexts, A concise overview of the SAMR Model, with a different take on using word processors in the classroom.
SAMR Model Musings, Includes an interesting, non-technology based shift from regular note taking to sketchnoting.
SAMR - Belongs in a School Near You!,

What is the SAMR Model and what does it look like in schools?,
SAMR in 120 seconds,

“A Learning Story from the Foothills of the Alps,”

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