Goals for 2014-2015: Working Towards Redefinition Using the SAMR Model

This video gives a great overview of SAMR:

“If you have  (21st century elements integrated into lessons and throughout the year) then you have the necessary conditions for teachers to mesh their work together, and for the institution to be transformed not just at the level of the individual classroom, but at the level of teaching practice as a whole.” ~Ruben Puentedura

One of the problems with being a technology evangelist is that teachers often think that I will always “have a tool for that” or “know the latest app” when they approach me for help. While I do try to stay up-to-date on the various tools that can be of assistance in the classroom, I do so with the mentality that the individual tools are nearly meaningless. The power of technology does not lie in the individual bits of software or hardware we provide to students, but in the methods we use to implement its use effectively in our classrooms.

If the best tools to create an engaging lesson are a piece of paper and a pencil, there is nothing wrong with that. However, if the same lesson can be completely redefined and expanded in a way that uses technology to engage students in higher-order thinking, should we not aim to do so? Historically, as new tools have been introduced teachers have been eager to find creative uses for them in their classrooms. This spirit of innovation and creativity is what drives us educators to create engaging lessons, but when we do so we should always stop to think about the way in which the technology will be impacting our instruction.

I love Ruben Puentedura’s (@rubenrp)  SAMR model for precisely this reason: it creates a simple framework for measuring the quality of technological integration in a given lesson or course. SAMR Model

At the most simplistic level, technology is used merely as a substitute for the traditional tool. Like having students type an essay using an online editor like Google Docs rather than Word. Although this is a new technology, the use presents no functional change in the way the student is completing the task. This is often where teachers who are new to using technology begin, but even pros can end up in this category if they don’t have clear objectives and a great lesson plan.

On the other end of the spectrum is redefinition. When teachers reach this level of instruction their students are actually using technology in novel ways complete tasks that would have been impossible without the technology.  Kathy Schrock (@kathyschrock) has an amazing blog post in which she delves into this more deeply. She aligns the SAMR model with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and more specifically, she draws a comparison between redefinition and creating or evaluating.

As I reflect on my time as a teacher, I feel like have slowly moved along this continuum; I have moved from simply using technology to replace an older tool, to a place where I’m striving to empower my students to do something that was previous unthinkable. One example  was when they used their phones to gather GPS data on invasive species in South Seattle, then mapped these data points to Google Earth and  put all of this into a presentation they then shared with the Seattle Parks Department (Full disclosure, a project of this scale was not a one person job. I was collaborating with Ms. Dresler and Ms. Hitchcock on this).  I can also remember far too many times where I have fallen into the trap of using technology where it was not necessary.

As I begin my new role as an Educational Technology Coordinator, I hope to help teachers see the value in working towards redefining how they use technology. My goal for this year is to always keep a copy of the SAMR model handy when working with faculty, and help them try to push the boundaries of their practice. What’s more, I’m excited to support them as the put these plans in action, and celebrate their successes when they do so.

Here are some additional links that I found interesting:

SAMR in 120 Seconds

Every Classroom Matters Podcast: Using the Four-step SAMR Model to Update Your Teaching Practice

Ruben Puentedura’s Blog

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