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