A Guide for Bringing the SAMR Model to iPads

A Guide for Bringing the SAMR Model to iPads

When used effectively, iPads can develop thinkers and problem solvers. They can be used to transform learning inside and outside of the classroom, and offer limitless opportunities. Many educators are effectively integrating technology in the classroom using iPads to achieve the 4C’s, or “super skills,” that digital learners need to compete in our global society.

But in order to do that, the focus has to shift from apps to content: that’s when true redefinition takes place. When my district rolled out our iPad initiative in 2012, teachers thought they needed specific apps for every content area. Eventually, we ended up with literally thousands of apps in our portal. This was extremely overwhelming, difficult to manage, and eventually, a turn-off for teachers.

Are you ready to adjust your teaching for this new learning revolution? Let me take you inside the idea of SAMR with a helpful metaphor: Starbucks. The simplest way I know to describe the levels in the SAMR model is using a visual created by Tim Holt, who uses Starbucks as a unique way of looking at the model.

Image created by Patricia Brown.

What’s the SAMR Model?

The key to powerful and authentic technology integration is selecting digital tools that are appropriate for the task. One way to measure this is through the SAMR Model, which was developed by Ruben Puentedura to provide educators with a framework for successful technology integration. SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The SAMR model allows you the opportunity to evaluate why you are using a specific technology, design tasks that enable higher-order thinking skills, and engage students in rich learning experiences.

SAMR is like looking at a menu. You have so many choices: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. Sometimes you want a latte, sometimes you just want that plain cup of coffee--you have the opportunity to pick a new menu choice as often as you like, depending on the task, the content area, or the level of student engagement.

Image created by Tim Holt.

Substitution: Same Task, New Tech

At the substitution level, you are substituting a cup of coffee that we could make at home or school with a cup of coffee from Starbucks. It’s still coffee: there’s no real change. Reading a book on the iPad would be considered substitution, as you are simply substituting a handheld book for a digital book. Taking notes or writing an essay using Google Drive or Evernote instead of using paper and pencil are other examples of substitution. Although these activities engage students and enhance learning, the level of tech integration is low: teachers are just substituting technology for things you could do without technology.

Augmentation: Improve the Task with New Features

At the Augmentation level, you are taking regular coffee and making it better by adding ice, or a little cinnamon on top. We didn’t change the coffee, but it tastes better because we augmented and enhanced it with additional ingredients. With a digital book, students can click on a word and get a definition, synonym, or a link that may take them to more information about that subject area. While writing, they can highlight a word, spellcheck, customize and format font.

Skitch or PicCollage are both great apps that allow you to augment learning by annotating images. Students can find objects in the classroom, take pictures, then label their work, whether it be math, word work, or science. Using a video camera app students could complete a fluency bootcamp, where they would record themselves reading a passage, and play it back checking for fluency and expression. Although these examples enhance learning, the tasks do not change.

Modification: Changing the Task

At the Modification Level, we add some bells and whistles to the augmented coffee. We add a little whipped cream, caramel, and some special flavoring, and we now have a salted caramel mocha with a fancy design. At this level, technology allows for significant task redesign, like collaborating in real-time using Google Drive. Students are motivated to write for their peers and engage with a global network. To use technology to modify learning, we add multimedia through video, sound and audio. Students could create a soundtrack in Garageband for a multimedia presentation. Students could use iMovie App to create iMovie Book Trailers, or digital stories using the Videolicious app. Modification involves changing the task, and personalizing the project.

Redefinition: A Whole New Task

Finally, at the Redefinition level, we are ordering a pumpkin spice latte, redefining a regular cup of coffee to something you can only get at Starbucks. We are completing a task that cannot be done without the use of technology. I compare redefinition to the higher order thinking levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy like analyzing, creating, and evaluation. The students are researching, sharing, collaborating, and connecting with not only their classrooms but with classrooms around the world. They are generating questions, and exploring topics and content using current technologies available to them.

Teachers are going beyond the four walls of their classrooms through virtual book club discussions through Hangouts, taking Virtual Field Trips to visit the white House kitchen to learn about nutrition, or talking with astronauts from Nasa to complement their space unit through Google Connected Classrooms. Students are developing mapping, critical thinking, and problem solving skills through Mystery Skypes, completing collaborative writing through Kidblog, and connecting to the world through social media like Twitter.

Our school used QR codes and Augmented Reality to make our annual art show interactive. Using a whiteboard app like Educreations, a teacher created an Array Hunt lesson to help her fourth grade students make a real-world connection with arrays by finding arrays around their school, then created a video to show their learning. Students are using iBook Author, or Storybook Maker to create their own digital books are more ways students can reach redefinition levels.

Using the SAMR Model in Your Classroom

As I studied more about the SAMR model, I learned that as we travel through the four levels of integration, the goal doesn’t have to be to reach the redefinition level with every lesson. Sometimes all we want is the plain cup of coffee, and sometimes we want that Starbucks-only pumpkin spice latte.

Authentic learning does not fit in a one-size (or one beverage) fits all type of learning environment. The role of the teacher changes in a modern classroom, as our students can be curators and producers of content too. This involves a mindshift on both ends.

When you think about how you will use technology in your classroom, ask yourself these questions to determine where it lies on the SAMR Model.

Learn more about active learning, and the SAMR Model, here.

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