Assessing Your EdTech Use With SAMR

SAMR Model

I often see posts and get questions from educators asking whether or not a product is good. Or if what they are doing is right. Sometimes it’s phrased in the form, “How do I know if what I’m doing is better?” All of these questions revolve around a simple fundamental question, “Should I do (or use) this or not?”

For many years, I’ve pointed educators at the SAMR model created by my friend Dr. Ruben Puentedura. And, over the years, I’ve learned that the model is often used in ways other than what I intended when I pointed at it. As such, I wanted to take a moment to look at how SAMR can be used to help answer the question “Should I do (or use) this or not?”

First, we’ve all heard the clichés like “It’s not about the technology, it’s about how you use it” or “Technology is just a tool.” And as much of a cliché as they are, there is truth behind them. As we consider answering “Should I do (or use) this or not?” keep these clichés in mind because SAMR is most useful when we ignore the tool, and focus on the use.

In addition, for SAMR to really help us, we need two tasks or activities, and we apply SAMR to the comparison of them. Implied in question, “Should I do (or use) this or not?” is that there exists a prior practice, and in consideration now is a new one. Those are the two tasks or activities we need to examine, and to do so, let’s first ask ourselves a simple question, “Is the new task the same or different?” Next, we should ask ourselves, “How is it the same/different?”

SAMR Decision Tree

The most important part to answering these two simple questions is to focus on the differences in the old and new task. Remember the cliché “It’s not about the technology, it’s about how you use it,” and focus on what you (or your students) are doing as compared to the old (or prior) task. As you seek to answer the foundational question, “Should I do (or use) this or not?” remember that any given task or activity that you and your students may do will likely include more than one use of technology in different ways, some of which are core and central to the learning, and others which may seem tangential at best. While it isn’t important to try and tease out each and every instance where technology plays some role and to assess it against SAMR, you may find that sometimes what seemed unimportant actually becomes important — for good or perhaps bad.

Further, it is important to know that Redefinition isn’t by definition better than substitution. In some contexts, substitution is the best way to accomplish a task. However, remember that it is only when you modify or redefine a task that you should expect to see different outcomes. Often times when introducing a new technology (at least new to you and/or your students), it is easier to implement in ways that you deem as substitution or augmentation to gain confidence and comfort with the new technology before you begin to also change processes.

Please see more resources below including an article I wrote for THE Journal that provides a more concrete example of the SAMR model!

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