Monday, April 19, 2010

The SAMR Model - From theory to practice

Last month, while at the Apple Education Leadership Conference, I went to a presentation about the SAMR model. This weekend the IT department went on a retreat to our school's chalet in the Alps and one of the issues we were considering was how to raise the level of technology from enhancing the curriculum to transforming the curriculum. Often we attend planning meetings where teachers suggest using technology in a way that is merely enhancing what they are doing (the S and A in the model) - we have decided that if they want to do that they should book the lab themselves and do these activities, the ones shown in blue on the above diagram - and that this will free us up as IT teachers to go into the classrooms to concentrate more on the M and R to transform the learning experience (shown in pink on the diagram).

We have discussed just what skills the teachers will need to take on this new role. In the case of substitution we felt that teachers themselves should be able to lead lessons that involve simple data handling - adding information into spreadsheets to produce graphs for example. They should also be able to support students using a simple graphics programme, have students take photographs and transfer them onto the computer, use a digital microscope to view images, access the internet for research and use word processing software.

Once we move onto augmentation, we felt that we might need to give teachers some inservice so that they will have the confidence to lead lessons, with us supporting them, where students can do the following to show their knowledge and understanding of the concepts and content they are covering in class: record audio using a variety of devices and then save a sound file; use formulas on spreadsheets to perform calculations and to sort and organise data; edit images they have captured from various digital sources; follow a storyboard when filming and to use keywords and other search methods to find information and assess its validity. We would want them to be able to support the students to include bibliographical information on their creations for the sources they have used. We would also assume they could help the students to use the spelling check and thesaurus if they are wordprocessing and that they can help them to insert images, use page set up and other layout tools. We would expect them to be confident helping students to create slideshows and other methods of presentation.

We then went on to consider the things that we, as IT teachers would be expected to introduce and lead. Here we would be using the technology to redesign the tasks the students are doing. For example we would like students to be able to use layers of sound and loops to create an audio presentation or music and we would like students to be able to create graphics with multiple layers. If students decide to make a movie we would want to show them how to do multiple takes and use different camera angles and then edit them into a movie or perhaps to record time-lapse or video with the digital microscopes. We would also like the students to be able to create animations and to be confident in using the software on the interactive white boards.

Our ultimate goal, of course is redefinition. The sort of things we would like to work with the students on here would include them being able to publish a movie or podcast to share with others and to be able to contribute to online collaborations such as wikis, threaded discussions, forums and so on. We want the students to be able to post to their own blogs and to comment on the blogs of others and to use a variety of Web 2.0 tools to collaborate with and communicate with the world outside of school.

We went on to consider the Horizon Report for K-12 which indicates the technologies that are likely to become increasingly important over the next few years. In keeping with the trends indicated in the report and in order for us to concentrate our energies as teachers on the M and R levels of the SAMR model, we felt that next year it will be important for us to concentrate on cloud computing and collaboration amongst the students both within the school and world-wide. We will be using many more Web 2.0 tools and will try to introduce more Google Apps - which should become possible with the improvement in bandwidth planned for over the summer.

It was great to have this weekend away at our beautiful school chalet in Wengen to discuss all these issues and we are excited that we will be offering more professional development to our teachers next year in order to empower them to move forward on their learning journeys and to take more control of the technologies their students are using in their classrooms.

I would like to acknowledge the work of Dr Ruben Puentedura who has been the force behind SAMR.


  1. Wait a got to go on a retreat in a chalet in the Alps?! I am so jealous! :) It looks like it was amazing! Even more importantly, you had some great discussions and break down of the role of technology, teachers and IT in your school. All around important work. The conclusions that you came to are fantastic in regards to the SAMR model.

  2. I would love to have a retreat in the the Alps for our Ignite teachers in Birmingham, Michigan!

    The role of technology in our PD sessions continues to be a topic of discussion that help our teachers grow and learn how to create lessons that are meaningful to their students. This model is one of many that we have incorporated into our PD. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This would be GREAT to use as a discussion point with our teachers (not to mention that chalet in the Alps!)

  4. Hi Maggie,

    Vicki and I are teacher facilitators in Birmingham, MI and would like very much to engage our teachers in a discussion surrounding this post. Would you mind if we referred our !gnite team to this page and asked them to respond directly to your blog?

  5. Hello Sara and Vicki,
    I'm glad you found this useful - for us too it was great to have this time to discuss the ideas presented to us at the Apple Education conference and to see how we could move forward and implement them in our school next year. Feel free to use anything you like from the post.
    As for the chalet - I've just started working at a school in Switzerland and this is our outdoor pursuits' centre. It's about an hour and a half drive from the school followed by a 15 minute train ride up the mountain as cars aren't allowed in the village. It's amazingly beautiful and very conducive to sorting out your thoughts away from the hustle and bustle of school.

  6. Thanks so much for your response. I so want to visit Switzerland and see that chalet. My daughter had the opportunity to go to Switzerland. She loved it!!!

  7. I love the idea of your team rethinking your delivery and developing incremental change. Critical to this change is the prof. development/training that needs to take place -- and then revisiting the process before moving on to the next level.

  8. My "aha!" moment...

    "We went on to consider the Horizon Report for K-12 which indicates the technologies that are likely to become increasingly important over the next few years..."

    I just learned the current stuff, I wasn't even thinkig what is on the horizon! haha! Can't wait to check out that link.

  9. I would like to move more of my lessons redefinition and modification, but I am having a difficult time grasping how my lessons using a variety of technologies is actually changing the lesson to something new. I am now having the kids complete many assignments for a variety of audiences not just me which is helpful. But many of the activities or push activities I did before just in a new way.

  10. Terry said...To quote "with us supporting them" and eventually, " we want them (teachers) to be able to support the students, " brings it all full circle for me.

  11. I am intrigued by this idea because we do not track our students by ability (except in math. The SAMR scale would help teachers and students to consider this when differentiating the curriculum for less able or more advanced students.

  12. Outstanding! I love the comment "enhancing the curriculum to transforming the curriculum"... what a simple shift, but difficult shift!

    Great perspective!

  13. Communicating with the world at large is key to meaningful teaching in whatever we do.

  14. Karen Said.....

    I like the way that the SAMR breaks down the use of technology. It helps me to better understand the framework of how technology can be intergrated. Its very helpful when it comes to sorting ones thoughts and at breaking down information. I think a trip to the Alps sounds great. With this experience, I can see my PD soar:)

  15. Interesting article. A there still value in students being taught content 'all the same way at the same time'? If 'redefinition' is the ultimate goal will/should the afore mentioned method be lost?


  16. This blog post definitely helps to show these SAMR levels in real world situations. I feel that as an Ignite teacher this year, I have become very proficient in utilizing the substitution and augmentation levels, and I am beginning to dabble in modification. I like the idea of modification being students commenting on each other's work and adding to each other's work. That is going to become my focus for the last few weeks of the school year.

  17. Having a getaway chalet sonds like a great PD idea.
    As we are moving more into the 21st century learning and gaining the use of more technology tools, we as teachers should remember that we do not have to re-invent the wheel, take a look at what we have been doing and now how can we apply technolgy to enhance our curriculum.

  18. Wow! Thanks for all the great comments!
    At my last school (in Thailand) we had a tablet programme. This was rolled out to the students with very little PD for the teachers. What I saw happening was that teacher assistants were being used to scan the old maths worksheets, for example, and once they were digital the students then used the stylus on the tablet to write in their answers. For me this was a total waste of time (they might as well have been doing it on paper), and the only difference was that the students then added them to their ePortfolios, rather than putting them into a portfolio binder as had been done in the past. This was, essentially, still doing old things in old ways - the substitution in the SAMR model. Throughout the secondary school pages from books were digitized so that students could have them on their tablets - again not much difference from just giving them the books (except all the books could be stored on just the one tablet). I have seen IWBs also used in a way that didn't really transform what was going on.
    For me the real key to moving forwards is professional development and ongoing support. I am hoping that in my new school we are not going to make the same mistakes that were made in my old school. It's great to have this hindsight and this time round we are trying to get things right first time.

  19. Hi Maggie,
    I am so appreciative of your posts about SAMR- it's something I've been looking into over the last few months.
    We are using TPACK as a means of getting our teachers to understand that they need to incorporate technological understanding into their pedagogical and content knowledge. We are starting to use the SAMR model to redefine curriculum, and we are using the ISTE NETS and curriculum planning tools they are providing to help us set benchmarks. It sounds like your school and mine are on the same path. If you are keen on making connections email me at I am the Head of information Services (Library) at Toorak College in Melbourne, Australia.

  20. Hi Maggie,

    As I do more reading on the SAMR model, I'm begging to feel as though the the M and R stages usually head in the direction of the child being able to broadcast their work and maybe teach others. The explosion of online portfolios points towards this, as previously portfolios were very one sided - learners would make them, parents would look at them, but that's where the learning kind of ended. Technology allows us to communicate with a world wide audience and allows children to produce work in one place to be consumed in another. What's beautiful is that work can be commented on and ongoing feedback can be given to the creating students. I don't know if I'm missing something, but I feel like this is the ultimate "R" in SAMR. It's students producing work for others, and others giving feedback - not just students producing work so a teacher can give them a grade.

    I'd like to know if there is a network of classrooms that produce online portfolios and set up so international classrooms can comment on other classrooms' portfolios - like a pen-pal type of network where students from China can comment on your students' work in India, or my kids in Ukraine or another class in Germany. If you know of any, please let me know…I'd love to get my school involved in it.

    Mike Nonato @nonatoman

  21. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for your very thoughtful comment. In fact Silvia Tolisano has further developed the SAMR model to include amplification, which is what I believe you are referring to when you mention students sharing their work with others - see her blog post on this:
    As for finding an authentic audience, I have had great success with quad blogging and would certainly recommend it.
    Here is a link to the quad blogging website: Currently this has involved over 100,000 students in over 40 countries. Last year I was involved in action research to see how quad blogging could improve student writing. You might be interesting in reading the findings here:

  22. Hi Maggie,

    I stumbled on your earlier post because SAMR came up at a recent CEESA IT Directors meeting and I had no idea what they were talking about. Your posts on the topic are a fantastic resource! I had been wondering about next steps and I feel almost like I'm cheating to get such wonderful information. Thank you for taking the time to post and share - I'm going to go and design some PD right now!