Teachers tend to take different approaches when it comes to integrating technology into the classroom. For example, teacher A might be constantly searching for new ways to utilise technology in order to deliver a modern and effective learning experience. Teacher B, on the other hand, ‘has technology figured out’ and is quite content with having students type instead of writing assignments by hand.
Teacher B causes the most concern for those running technology workshops in education. This teacher realises that it’s essential in the modern job market that students be technologically proficient. But the problem lies in the fact that teacher B is confident that enough moves have been made to integrate technology into assignments. Teachers should consider the quality of these applications and so, in failing to do this, teacher B hasn’t really got technology ‘figured out’. This is an important point to keep in mind when integrating technology into any classroom.
Dr. Ruben Puentadura designed the SAMR model to help teachers reflect on the integration of technology into learning. The goal is to create meaningful lessons that prepare students for a rapidly changing job market. This is done by balancing an assignment with a range of different types of tasks. Some tasks should involve basic skills like memorisation, while others should require higher order thinking skills such as critical analysis. SAMR provides a framework for the creation of assignments that address all levels of skills.
SAMR stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. The idea is that by incorporating a variety of elements into an assignment – each of which represents a stage in the SAMR model – the overall learning experience can be enriched. SAMR works like a scale, where substitution is the most basic step, the mere replacement of a previous method in favour of technology.
The typed assignment described by teacher B above serves as an example of substitution. Substituting writing for typing is a step that is easy to implement and requires little innovation. But it is only when an assignment reflects all the stages of SAMR that the learning experience is truly elevated to new levels.
The second stage of SAMR is augmentation, which involves technology being used as an effective tool to perform a classroom task, while also having some functional benefit. In order to augment the typing task, the teacher might instruct students to use more complex word processing tools, such as source citation or tables.
Modification serves as the first step between enhancing the traditional dynamic of the classroom and transforming the way learning occurs. To modify the typing activity, the teacher might ask students to work collaboratively, sharing their work online and receiving feedback from peers.
A redefinition of the same task could involve the use of an online collaborative tool, such as an interactive document that includes web links and graphics. This enhances the meaning of the written work by allowing the integration of technology to spark higher level thinking. True transformation of the learning experience occurs when the assignment is the creation of something that would have been impossible without the use of technology.
Teacher A embodies the ideal mindset for the effective integration of technology. This teacher approaches conformity to SAMR with optimism. Excitement and tech-ambition naturally result in looking for ways to adapt assignments to meet the needs of the modern classroom. Teacher B, on the other hand, doesn’t fully appreciate the opportunities that education technology can provide. Teacher B runs the risk of falling behind the global development of education.
Adherence to the SAMR model ensures that any steps taken to integrate technology, however small they may be, are meaningful in the sense that they actually enhance the learning experience. Simply ticking the box, without reaping the countless benefits, defeats the purpose of technology integration. It prevents teachers from launching their teaching into the 21st century, and allows them to perform their profession in ignorance, at the expense of students who are deprived of new ways of learning. Technology integration only has a limited intrinsic value; in order for it to achieve its true potential it needs to be implemented properly and provide students with meaningful moments.
While there are no shortcuts on the cumbersome but necessary road to successful integration of technology, SAMR is an effective step-by-step way of reflecting upon current classroom practices and recognising areas needing improvement. The task of integrating technology into the classroom may seem daunting. But remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and together the teaching community can create change. One small step at a time.