Dr. Ruben Puentedura has developed what he calls the SAMR model, which provides a framework to show the impact of technology on teaching and learning. The model moves through various stages, beginning at a basic level of learning in the substitution phase through to a level where learning is transformational at the redefinition level.
The SAMR model is powerful because it enables us to think about how learning can be extended through the use of technology. I have summarised the four stages of the SAMR model here:
SUBSTITUTION – Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change. For example, students may type up notes on a word processor instead of writing by hand in an exercise book.
AUGMENTATION – Technology still acts as a direct tool substitute, but with functional improvements. Taking the example of typing on a word processor, augmentation means that the learning process can become more efficient and engaging. Images can be added, text can be hyperlinked and changes to the text itself can be made quickly.
These first two stages of the SAMR model represent enhancements of existing ways of working. Digital technology is not necessary in order to carry out the learning task. The technology simply provides a digital medium for learning to take place, which may enhance learning.
MODIFICATION - By this stage technology not only enhances the learning activity, it also significanly transforms it. An example might be students setting up a blog in which they open up their work to a worldwide audience. The blog means that students are much more accountable for the work they present, so will tend to spend more time refining their written work. In this way, both student learning and literacy improve.
REDIFINITION - This level requires the teacher to think about learning activities that were previously inconceivable without the use of technology. This could be for instance, a Google Hangout session that takes place between students from different countries in order for students to swap information about their home countries in real-time. Likewise, the use of Google Docs for students in different parts of the world to collaborate on a shared assignment facilitates learning opportunities that would be impossible without such technology.
The modification and redefinition levels represent transformational stages in terms of student learning, as the technology is actively helping to transform the way in which learning can occur.
The SAMR model is essentially a planning tool that helps to design better learning activities for students. The framework provides pedagogical insight into how technology can and should be used in the classroom. I would make the following recommendations in light of the model:
- Always consider whether or not the technology improves the learning process. I have already written about what makes technology ‘appropriate‘ in a learning context. If the learning process is enhanced through the use of technology, then it’s appropriate to use – if not, more traditional (analogue) methods can work just as well (if not better).
- Collaboration is extremely important, particularly if you’re looking at learning from a social constructivist perspective. Consider how you can use technology to facilitate collaboration.
- Ensure that you use technology to expose students to the outside world. This not only helps to improve their cultural understanding and international-mindedness, it can be great for building key literacy skills.