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The SAMR model: helping schools improve learning through technology

The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model was developed to help educators improve learning through their use of technology. Here Marc White, Subject Leader Computing Science, Honywood Community Science School provides a practical explanation of SAMR.

When was the last time that technology transformed the learning in your classroom? For technology to truly redefine learning we need to ensure that technology and pedagogy are intrinsically linked in learning design.

The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura helps educators create this link and gain the greatest effect size on learning through their use of technology.

With more schools moving to 1:1 mobile device deployment or a policy of bring your own device, it is important to consider how your learning design can be enhanced or transformed through the use of technology.

The SAMR model’s four levels of task design

SAMR model

Courtesy of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.
hippasus.com/blog/

Possibly the best way to understand the model is to look at existing curriculum tasks and examine what they might look like at each stage:

Task: essay writing

Substitution: Learners use a word processor to write their essay.

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Augmentation: Learners use a word processor to write their essay; however include images, video and sound into the document to support their argument.

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Modification: Learners write essays as blog posts which can be shared with other learners who can leave critique through the form of comments leading to re-drafting.

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Redefinition: Learners can use collaborative tools like Google Docs to contribute towards a joint essay in realtime with learners in other classes/schools/countries.

Task: Demonstrate understanding of proteins

Substitution: Learners create a concept map using an electronic mapping tool.

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Augmentation: Learners are able to link areas of their concept map to other electronic resources, such as videos, webpages or wiki articles.

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Modification: Learners create a video demonstrating their understanding of proteins.

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Redefinition: Learners build protein models in Minecraft which allow the player to explore in 3D and read contextual information within the world.

How to apply the SAMR model

It can often be easy to assume that bringing in a new piece of hardware or using a new app in your classroom will transform learning. Be careful with this as although discrete pieces of technology and software support your task design within SAMR, it is ultimately the pedagogy and the learning design that place the task at different levels. This is especially true for modification and redefinition.

You do not need to feel overwhelmed with the need to design all learning at the transformational level.  This simply isn’t the case.  It’s much better to start your practice where you feel comfortable, which is often at the substitution or augmentation level and alter your task design iteratively as you become more confident in the use of technology. Indeed there are some tasks that see little or no benefit of being moved to a different level. Their current level is most appropriate.  Use the model to examine your whole practice. Which elements could be enhanced that add value?

In my experience, when you start to aim your task design towards the more transformational levels learning becomes more learner centred.  It also becomes easier to flip a great deal of the learning outside of the classroom and encourage more collaboration on tasks.

This post merely scratches the surface of the discussion on the use of the SAMR model. Try using the SAMR model to explore your current task design:

  • Where do your tasks currently sit?
  • What might they look like at the other levels?
  • What changes to your learning design need to happen to facilitate this?

Working collaboratively with others often yields the best results to the above questions.

Written by Marc White, Subject Leader Computing Science, Honywood Community Science School.

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