Saturday, December 11, 2010

Moving from S to R

This year we have talked with our teachers about the SAMR model and how we can use IT to transform learning.  Now that we are almost at the end of our first term, I think it is a good time to reflect on how we are doing.  Let's take our Grade 3 as an example.  Grade 3 was the only grade I did not teach last year.  I was therefore curious to see how much transformation of learning, as opposed to enhancement of learning, we would be able to achieve this year.

The first unit of inquiry the students studied was How We Organise Ourselves.  The central idea of this unit is that decisions we make can cause or resolve conflict.  During this unit the students go on a fieldweek where they are involved in various challenges.  Last year the IT activities the students engaged in was to make a PowerPoint on their return from their trip.  This year I wanted to have the IT embedded more in what was going on in the classroom to support the learning.  During this unit the focus was on narrative writing, and as a result of this students used different Web 2.0 tools to explore different ways to tell a digital story that involved the characters making decisions.  Reflecting on this unit I feel we moved from A (augmentation - using PowerPoint) to M (modification - using Web 2.0 digital storytelling) in the SAMR model.

The second unit of inquiry was How the World Works.  The central idea for this unit is that natural and man-made processes can create changes to the Earth and its inhabitants.  Last year the students made another PowerPoint - using the skills they had already learnt in the PowerPoint they had made after their field trip more independently.  This year I suggested using different Web 2.0 tools to support the summative assessment - an oral presentation about a process or disaster.  Yesterday I was involved in assessing some of these presentations - the IT had been used as a tool so the focus was not on assessing the use of IT at all (because all students could use these tools easily).  We focused on evidence that students had used the inquiry process, on their knowledge, understanding and presentation skills.  In this way I feel we moved from A (augmentation - using PowerPoint) to M (modification using Web 2.0 presentation tools).

The next unit of inquiry is How We Express Ourselves.  The central idea is that we express our thoughts and feelings through poetry and song.  Last year the students used Word to write and display their poems.  This year we are starting with blogging to reflect on poems in class, composing music to go with their poems, publishing their artwork on VoiceThread and reading their poems, using Animoto and skyping with both a musician and a poet.  Although we are just at the planning stages of this unit right now (we will actually start blogging next week) I am already confident that for this unit we will move from S (substitution - using Word) to R (redefinition - collaborating with others, publishing to a world audience and getting feedback).

What does this mean for me as a teacher?  At the beginning of the year I anticipated taking on more of a role of a coach and less of a teacher.  I saw myself coaching the teachers more than teaching the students so that the teachers would be more independent in leading the S and the A activities in their IT lessons.  This is because I thought the teachers would choose to take only small steps forward and that they would be able to lead the IT for their classes with my support.  What has actually happened is that the teachers have not chosen to do any enhancement activities at all.  They have gone straight to the M and the R.  I have, therefore, still ended up doing a lot of the teaching, because most of the teachers were unfamiliar with the tools being introduced.  But what I have seen is that the teachers have become very familiar with these tools over the past few months - they have taught themselves and in some cases taught their classes how to use them, or they have followed alongside the students and learnt how to use them during the IT lessons.  What I have seen is a fantastic letting go of the old way things were done, and an excitement about embracing the new.  With our Grade 3s, I definitely feel we have moved very rapidly from S to R.

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

Photo Credit:  The Alphabet by Mathieu Jarry


  1. I love the way you described that, and it makes me happy to see that some of these changes have happened in my classroom and others, despite the fact that we do not have a mentor, or coach, or even anyone designated for technology.
    Thanks for sharing and reminding me again that is is about redefinition. I look forward to the new term and redefining a bit more!

  2. Thanks for this post. It has gotten me to think a bit more about my activities and analyze more about whether we are at the S, A, M or R stage of transforming our activities. I teach Grade 3 and live in a school with a computer lab with the introduction of google apps this year and the coming of several chrome books for our classrooms. Looking forward to those as I think the ability to redefine happens with immediate access to the tools rather than the lab. But, in the meantime, how does one redefine using a 1-2 hour slot/ week in the computer lab?

  3. Thank you for the post Maggie-
    I was pointed here via coetail, a master's program on Technology and Education. I really appreciate the clarity with which you describe the transitions between activities and the clear examples of the different levels of SAMR. Very useful for those of us who are beginning to get acquainted with these models.


  4. Thanks Maggie. I too found your blog through COETAIL. Thinking about SAMR and my personal practice, I had thought that I was somewhere between Augmentation and Modification but the examples you give have shown me that actually I am doing more Modification than Augmentation and even some Redefinition :) We use web 2.0 tools, (e.g. Skype, student blogs and websites) although I still need to work more on making connections beyond our school community.