I have been doing a lot of thinking for a presentation on technology in the English Language Arts classroom I am planning for the end of January. In the course of my preparation I came across the SAMR model developed by Ruben N. Puentedura It provides a framework for how technology impacts pedagogy. This YouTube video does a great job briefly explaining each of the stages. As such, the SAMR model can help teachers think about their own implementation of various tech tools in the classroom.
While thinking about the best way to present the model to teachers, I came across a blogpost by Tim Holt that compared the various levels of tech implementation to ordering coffee from Starbucks. A person ordering from Starbucks can simply substitute its coffee for the homemade version or order a Pumpkin Spice Latte, which truly redefines an espresso drink. This metaphor gave me the inspiration to create the following slide (included here as a stand alone image) for my presentation. The comparison is between the drinks a person could order from Starbucks and the coffee he or she could make at home.
But I also came across this blogpost by Catlin Tucker about the limitations of the SAMR model. The mistake would be to assume that the SAMR captures the typical journey of tech implementation in the classroom, beginning with substitution and ending with redefinition. Instead, she suggests, tech implementation involves a transformation to the teacher. Most teachers get connected with other teachers using technology, and through that influence begin to teach with engaging online tools. This observation also fits with the Starbucks metaphor since people also start drinking coffee and espresso drinks by connecting with others who do the same. The SAMR model can help such a teacher evaluate his or her use of a particular tool as technology continues to transform the teacher and classroom.
Finally, this blogpost, especially the comments, made me realize that SAMR can not be read hierarchically or be used as a way to look down on other less tech savvy teachers. At different times in the classroom the substitution level of technology implementation can be just as valuable as the redefinition level. Indeed, a redefinition of a task may later turn out to be less valuable than the original task. In addition, many teachers are already teaching at high levels even before technology tools are used in the classroom.
In conclusion, the SAMR model, in conjunction with the coffee metaphor, can help teachers think about technology implementation in the classroom. But it can not take the place of connecting with other technology using educators and thinking about how these levels impact the high level of teaching that is occurring in so many classrooms across the country.