SAMR is a framework developed by education researcher Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura that outlines best practices for implementing technology into the classroom.
The SAMR model specifically focuses on four tiers of tech integration: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition:
- Substitution: Technology acts as a direct substitute, with no functional change.
- Augmentation: Technology acts as a direct substitute, with functional improvement.
- Modification: Technology allows for significant task redesign.
- Redefinition: Technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.
The SAMR model is intended to progress almost like a staircase or a ladder, with Substitution as the starting point and Redefinition as the end goal. Substitution and Augmentation are also referred to as Enhancement Stages, whereas Modification and Redefinition are the Transformation Stages.
One issue with viewing SAMR as a progression or a staircase is that sometimes Substitution is best for the assignment. Sometimes it just makes the most sense to use tech to replace a non-digital lesson, and there’s no need for transformation.
Sometimes you just need to keep it simple. And that’s okay.
In terms of Enhancement vs. Transformation Stages, I read this great analogy that breaks down the differences in a digestible way (pun, unfortunately, intended):
“Think of the difference between seasoning an old family recipe (Enhancement) and creating an entirely new, original dish (Transformation).”
Now that we’ve covered the SAMR model broadly, let’s take a look at each of the stages, along with some examples.
“Substitution” means replacing traditional assignments and activities with digital versions. The go-to example of “substitution” is having students complete digital worksheets, rather than printed ones.
Example: Students create science reports about cells in Google Docs.
“Augmentation” takes “substitution” up a notch, incorporating multimedia and interactive digital elements. Though the lesson is not too different than previously imagined, “augmentation” does allow for students to utilize and benefit from interactive digital elements.
Example: Students create science reports about cells in Google Docs, incorporating multimedia elements like videos and images.
Modification, as we previously covered, is a part of the Transformation portion of the SAMR model, meaning that this stage focuses more on redesigning a lesson. For many teachers, Modification looks like using a learning management system (LMS) to distribute, collect, grade, and provide feedback on assignments.
The Modification Stage can also consist of having students collaborate with each other.
Example: Students create science reports about cells in Google Docs and provide peer feedback using Comments. Students submit their work in Google Classroom, and teachers provide feedback using the rubric feature in Google Classroom.
Redefinition is all about completely reimagining a lesson with the use of technology. An example that is often discussed in the context of the SAMR model is taking a virtual field trip to a place students otherwise might not be able to visit: the Great Barrier Reef, Machu Picchu, or the Egyptian pyramids.
Example: Students are given the choice to select their preferred content creation tool, like Minecraft or Stop Motion Studio, to create a digital model of a cell. Students upload an image or video of their work to Padlet, and give each other feedback via comments. Students create their final reports in Google Docs, incorporating multimedia elements and peer feedback. Students submit their work in Google Classroom, and teachers provide feedback using the rubric feature in Google Classroom.
SAMR Model Benefits & Drawbacks
The SAMR model has its benefits, most of which, in my opinion, are tied to helping us examine and reflect on how our lessons integrate technology. The SAMR model prompts us to think about how we can improve our lessons and amplify learning through the use of technology.
For this reason, the SAMR model might work best as a framework for teachers to reflect on how technology is used, instead of relying on the model to design lessons and curriculum.
Another benefit is that the SAMR model also provides us with a shared language to discuss the role that technology plays in the classroom and in our lessons.
This model, however, does come with its criticism.
The biggest drawback that I notice is that the model seems to (whether inadvertently or not) emphasize technology over learning goals. In my mind, technology improvement or transformation isn’t the priority when designing lessons.
Instead, I prefer to focus on learning goals first. Then, I try to find ways to embed technology into the lessons in order to amplify the content and actual learning that takes place to consequently meet those goals.
At the end of the day…
As a teacher of your students at your school, you are the expert. I’m not. The SAMR model might work well for you. It might not. Or, you might find that some parts work for you, and that’s great too.
SAMR does remind us that we don’t need to be, what one author calls, “app-tastic.”
We don’t need to use all of the tools, all of the apps, and all of the tech, all of the time.
We can be intentional with our use of technology. We can use a framework to guide us. And we can aim for transformation – for modification and redefinition – but we can keep it simple when we need to.
If you are interested in learning more about the intersection of technology and pedagogy, next week we’ll be discussing TPACK, another tech integration model that focuses more on content.
What do you think about the SAMR model? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, DM me on Instagram @edtechclass, or leave a comment down below.
I used several resources when conducting research for this post. I am grateful for all the authors who have shared their wisdom with us online! I was inspired by the following posts: