MySAMRHave you ever asked yourself if all of these new digital tools are just a bunch of smoke and mirrors distracting us from the skills we have already mastered over many years of successful teaching? Is technology just a new way of doing what we’ve always done? Is what we’ve always done enough? How much of teaching and learning is changing in the 21st Century? How much is the same?

As we reflect on our teaching in the Digital Age, we should be considering how the tools that we have at our fingertips can transform the nature of teaching and learning to improve student outcomes. There are many frameworks for thinking about this topic. One of the most popular is the SAMR model of teaching with technology. You may have heard about SAMR in your professional learning or from the data your school is receiving from the BrightBytes Clarity program.  Having a working understanding of what SAMR is, and how it can be applied to your classroom planning and lesson design adds another tool to your toolbox as a reflective educator.


What is SAMR?

Here are three great videos that summarize the concept of SAMR:

The SAMR Model Explained by Students


SAMR in 120 Seconds


SAMR: Explained


I also recommend the video explaining SAMR at this link that was created by Common Sense Media.


 How to Get Started with SAMR

While SAMR isn’t a digital tool, it is an important framework for assessing and using digital tools in the classroom. Having the language to explain why the tools you use make a difference to your students’ learning is critical because the education landscape is shifting to new measurements of success in the classroom. We hope you will find the resources below to be a great starter kit for applying SAMR to your professional practice:

Suggested 1st Steps

  • Learn the Language of SAMR and imagine how it plays out in your classroom.
  • Discuss SAMR with your colleagues and Personal Learning Network to bring more perspective to your reflection.
  • Consider SAMR as a means to assess the tools and strategies you are already using in your classroom.
  • Use SAMR as inspiration for future lessons, and as a measuring stick for the amount of higher order thinking skills that your lessons include.
  • Work with your colleagues to find new ways to modify and redefine learning tasks using the technology that you have at your disposal.
  • Invite your students to consider how they use technology for their learning and in what ways, using SAMR as a guide.

Why it Matters (Teaching Rubric)

Designing lessons that increase student engagement, that are well-structured, and that meet learning goals is an essential part of teaching (Domain 1). Additionally, effective teachers integrate the use of digital tools and resources that are appropriate to the learning tasks at hand (Competency 2.1). Finally, reflective teachers are ones who examine their professional practices, assess their lessons, and seek new ways to implement new practices into their instruction (Competency 4.2).

Additional Resources

As mentioned above, there are many frameworks for considering how best to incorporate Digital Age technologies into our daily practice. Tomorrow, we will take a look at the ISTE Standards as another tool to drive reflective teaching and professional conversations. Beyond that, you might want to consider looking at the TPACK framework and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Framework (P21 Framework). Each of these adds a slightly different view of how we teach and learn in the Digital Age, but each can generate great questions to help us design better lessons for our students.

Your Challenge

Today’s challenge is to spend some time getting a sense of how SAMR can inform our professional conversations about incorporating digital tools and resources into our teaching. Then, please share in the comments below your thoughts about how you have incorporated SAMR into your practice, how you imagine you could use SAMR to support your lesson design and delivery, or what you see as the strengths and limitations of models like this. Feel free to use one of the other frameworks mentioned above if you have experience with those instead.

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  1. I’ve never thought about teaching this way. I think I’m at the substitution and augmentation area with my third graders. I would love to see how they would grow if I could have them after school to “play”. I do like the visual of SAMR because it really forces tough questions. Am I challenging my students enough? Are they really going to be prepared for the world in which they live?

  2. I have grown up in the digital age and so integrating technology into my classroom has always been easy for me. After reviewing some of the resources, I did notice, however, that many of the features that I use are just for substitution or augmentation and I have not done as much as I can to make technology transform student learning into something that they thought could not be possible before. I have been so focused on integrating technology that sometimes I don’t think I do it purposefully but instead just for ease of use. Kids these days are so finicky about technology. They want to integrate what they are used to, but when things change, they do not want to use them because it is more difficult. I think if we can show students that they can actually transform their learning into something completely new and at the top level of the SAMR spectrum, they may be more receptive.

  3. My school district, Scott County School District 2, is a 1:1 school district grades K-12. We are blessed to have a wealth of digital tools and information available to use. We recently were introduced to the SAMR model during a PD day. I think it is a very useful tool and it completely changed my mindset when it comes to my lessons. I used to use a lot of substitution, basically putting worksheet online and my students submitted them online. But now I’m beginning to choose a few of the things I do everyday and trying to move them into the deep end of the SAMR pool. For instance, I do a daily geography mini-lesson with my students with a PDF map. Now I’ve tried integrating some of the tools of Google Earth into that daily mini-lesson so students get more of a real world feel for what they are studying. I also have found online tools they can use to draw their own maps and share with each other. For my history lessons, we sometimes use MBC discussions to collaborate on our lessons. We also create and share Google docs, where students are free to discuss and share ideas about what we are working on. Next week we will be using the Trading Card app to create and share trading cards on the Explorers. The more I reflect on what I’m doing and focus on how to engage the students, the easier it gets to create lessons that are high on the SAMR model. I may not have all “R” lessons yet, but hopefully that will come in time.

  4. The SAMR model caused me to step back and consider how I use technology in my classroom. The substitution and augmentation stages are an everyday part of my lessons. Embracing a “paperless” classroom isn’t possible without substitution and augmentation. Modification and redefinition have followed. After attending a break-out session on the Tom Romano’s multi-genre research paper many years ago, i had always wanted to implement that research project; however, it wasn’t until technology became an everyday presence in my classroom that I was able to bring my dream into reality. My junior Shepard Academy students used a variety of creativity tools to show what they learned through their research of a topic and created a Weebly website to present their components.

  5. I can get to the modification and redefinition levels by having student create their own problems by making a video to explain the topics in math. An Algebra student can show himself hitting a baseball to model quadratic functions. I think my students can teach me to use the SAMR model by modeling it to me in their use of technology.

  6. I just heard about SAMR at ICE. I liked how they referred to it as being in a swimming pool. Being a swimmer I could really relate. Some lessons are better suited for one end of the model than the other but we should visit both ends of the pool. We have been one to one in our 6th grade and just this year with our 5th. We have strong teams willing to learn new techniques and an awesome e-learning coach to help guide us. It is nice to have a model to follow for when we are planning lessons and the coach isn’t available. This is my second year teaching keyboarding and technology to the students. I can already see myself swimming towards the deep end of the pool since the students are more comfortable with the technology. I don’t have to spend so much time teaching them the parts and pieces and can spend more time on the concepts and using the technology in the deep end of the pool.

  7. I started teaching in ’12-’13, so I never experienced teaching without technology. However, I’ve often reflected on the differences between assignments I completed in high school, and the assignments I create now. Most of my assignments and projects seem to hover around the Augmentation and Modification levels. Some tasks simply involve me uploading a document to my Weebly, and the students highlight, take notes, and type answers. This type of assignment replaces making paper copies for students to write on in pencil. Other times, I embrace more of the capabilities of technology by including collaborative aspects and multimedia.

    I think this model is worth thinking about. Much like teachers aim to use a mixture of “what” or “who” questions along with higher order thinking, teachers should also consider the quality of their technology-driven assignments.

  8. I have to admit, ICE was the first time I really had seen SAMR. Although I use technology and feel I use quite a bit of it, I realize through this I am way below where I could be. This will be a great resource to further evaluate my use of technology.

  9. Using the SAMR model makes teaching and learning more exciting and rewarding all at the same time. I find it helpful to reflect on my questioning strategies with my students, which lends itself into creating a SAMR environment. Kathy Shrock, as mentioned above, has great Blooms Revised Taxonomy for iPad apps, Windows PC, Google, Web 2.0 tools and more!!

    This is a great reference guide when creating lessons designed to promote higher level thinking as described in the SAMR model.

  10. What, why, and how? These are the questions that the SAMR model push you to consider. In the Academy we are always told to make things “look different’. When Mrs. Coy and I being working on a lesson or project we start with the basic question, what do we what the students to learn. Using the SAMR model it helps us achieve that “look different’ quality by pushing us to continue asking, what else can it be? In a government lesson we wanted the students to simulate what running a political campaign would be like. We began with the idea of having them make yard signs and bumper stickers but the SAMR model pushed us to ask what else can it be? After asking this question over and over and investigating the tech that was available our project had grown from simply poster-board yard signs to twitter accounts, movie maker videos, on-line polling. These helped us move up the ladder and use the technology to allow the students opportunities for differentiated experiences and products.

  11. I have never heard of the SAMR model before. I feel like at our school,, we are at different levels. For the most part we are at Substitution. We need to do more Modification in lesson plans and in what the children are using as for as technology goes. Being the technology tech, I really don’t use these things, but will definitely introduce SAMR to our teachers.

  12. My Business Law class was learning about the trial procedure. I divided up the procedure among the students. My artistic bunch of kiddos created sketches of the trial procedure using an app called paper by 53. My outgoing kids, created reenactments of the trial procedure using a green screen app called veeoscope. The remaining kids, my researchers, found real world examples of the trial procedures on YouTube. We put all of this together in one Google Presentation that was shared with the entire class. We then went through and each student was asked to add a comment, question, or observation after looking at the sketch and watching the clips. Currently this would only be at modification. We still need to share it with the world. Maybe we could then conduct our mock trial, film it, post it on the class blog, and share it with legal professionals and ask for feedback. I love the idea of SAMR. Currently the drawback is just re-working lesson plans. Also, the students in my school are not used to this type of learning yet. We are moving in this direction, however.

    • You make such an important point here. As we move to change teaching and learning, we often talk about our ability as educators to make the adjustment. In reality all stakeholders (parents, community, legislators, administrators) have to adjust their understanding of what learning looks and feels like, and that is especially true for the learners themselves. Change takes time.

  13. I really like how the SAMR Explained video described and gave examples between each level. It’s tough to get caught up in the “that’s cool” idea with technology use in the classroom but how high up the ladder does that tech get you is something I’ll continue to ask myself. I’ll definitely be sharing this first with staff as I share other tech tidbits from the 30 day challenge with colleagues because it’ll get them thinking how to use each piece of technology to its highest level.

  14. I had never heard of the SAMR Model before now. It is an important way to justify why we are using the technology in the classroom and this helps a teacher evaluate themselves to make sure they are using the technolgy appropriately.

  15. Our administrators ask that we mark our lesson plans each week to detail which level of SAMR we will implement. That said, I have talked with my principal about the truth that we will not always be operating at the Redefinition level…just as we do not always operate on the higher end of Bloom’s or DOK. For instance, I need to have knowledge of my phone number but may not need to evaluate it…at the same time, there may be steps along the way to redefinition that simply have us substituting ‘old school’ methods.

  16. While at ICE, I recently heard a technology coach clearly articulate SAMR and how it is critical for us to consider as educators. What stood out to me about her explanation is that SAMR should be used to evaluate tasks or lessons or activities, not people. In our district, unfortunately, there is often the misconception that “I” am a ________ level of SAMR. I’ve been working to change this mindset – to get teachers and administrators to focus on what we are actually asking students to do in our classrooms. These resources are very helpful! I’ve already shared one of them with upper level administration in our district!

  17. The survey that we just took in the EVSC was on technology and I kept thinking “man, I don’t use it enough” but then in a conversation later that day I was in a super star status compared to a table full of other teachers in my building. There is SO much out there to use that it is overwhelming for all age levels of learners. While I consider myself at the Augmentation level; there are days that I am any of the other levels too but then if comparing to someone else- I could be at a different level too. I wish teachers would devote a day to learning 2-3 new tools to use; if there was just the want to change/learn; time; and desire.

    • Interesting reminder that our view of our tech savvy changes at any moment. I kept thinking in the survey that I need to do so much more too…and then I worry that I am redoing in new technology just to have the latest tech. Now with the SAMR model, I have a good check to make sure I am not just substituting for the sake of new tech but remembering to at least augment if not more.

  18. This is the first time I believe I have been introduced to the SAMR Model. Although I feel somewhat proficient with technology, I initially feel very inadequate when I become aware of concepts and technology that is new to me. Technology is involved in most everything I do with my students, but I feel I am far below the top level of the SAMR model. Obviously I have done a lot of substitution which is not bad. I believe I have done augmentation. We have a very good support staff for technology in our corporation and although our corporation seems to always have cash shortfalls, it seems money has not been a huge issue in affecting our technology needs. So with the help of our outstanding support staff, I am hoping to reach the upper level and have my students performing higher thinking skills in technology as I become more proficient myself and gain a better understanding of how to go about doing it.

    • I think we all start out at the SA levels. Getting beyond that takes time, resources, collaboration, and the courage to take some risks (and a culture that allows for that). It sounds like you have the tools you need :)

  19. I would agree with Connie that very little effort and training is devoted to how teachers use the available in the classroom. At one point, some teacher’s were marked down on evaluations because they “were not utilizing technology enough”. My guess is that those teachers were just expected to use technology and were never given help to know how to effectively use technology in the classroom. I really do like and appreciate what our corporation has provided, but to leave it there is a mistake. Not all teachers feel comfortable with digging in to find new ways to incorporate technology and go above the line that SAMR describes. Not all teachers have the skills to do so. It takes time to adapt or change lessons as well as skill and desire to change. We are provided with equipment, but not time figure out how to best use that equipment like the SAMR framework challenges us to. I do appreciate the ICATS and I jump for the opportunities they provide like the 30 day challenge, but too few use these opportunities to learn. Thank you ICATS!

    • Glad you find value in the challenge :) I think part of the work ahead is to get a conversation built around frameworks like SAMR and the ISTE standards. I think many teachers can redefine their work, but they need the common language and tools to start the conversation. From there, teachers are amazingly adaptive to new ideas. I also think that administrators need the same vocabulary in order to adequately lead this type of change and assess its progress.

  20. Wow. It is amazing how this challenge is following our professional development at my school. Just last week we had a in-service for our teachers regarding assessment. Very little was spoken of assessing the tools we use, and in our school required to use, for technology. I’m hoping to get an opportunity to share this with our administration and our academic council. We are a school that uses a great deal of technology teaching tools hopefully we can use this to make sure we are using them correctly, more efficiently, and getting rid of the tools that are a waste of time.

  21. I came across SAMR last year during IBOT class with the IDOE. It is a great scale to measure your effectiveness and student technology achievement. By providing the template, we can measure the start and also growth of our students. I have it imbedded in my ProtoPage.

    • You raise an interesting point. It isn’t enough to just know about models like SAMR. We need to use them purposefully. I find that takes action and habit-forming before it really takes hold. The more we return to a model, the more easily we incorporate it into our daily planning and teaching.

  22. In general, I would say I frequently end up in the Augmentation stage, jumping the line occasionally to Modification. There are a number of ideas I have that would be ‘above the line’, but due to technology constraints, they are simply not feasible. We are supposed to move next school year and have a huge bump in our infrastructure, this I believe will really give me a chance to go swimming in the deep end. I have begun to introduce SAMR to the teachers in my building in order to help them begin thinking more about how they use technology.

    • That’s awesome, JD. I think the best things we do as educators is to drive each others’ learning. Collaboration has certainly been ramped up to a high level in recent years in our district, and I believe we are growing more because of it.

  23. I was first introduced to SAMR this past September at the ISRA Conference, in a break-out session, given by Nadine Gilkison who is the technology guru for Kristina Smekens. She compared the SAMR model to going to Starbucks. Substitution was like buying plain coffee, augmentation like buying a latte, modification a caramel macchiato, and redefinition like a pumpkin spice latte. So, substitution is technology used as a direct tool with no change. Augmentation is where technology acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement. Modification is technology allowing for a significant task redesign. Finally, redefinition is technology allowing for the creation of new tasks. Even though I believe I have improved in using technology in the classroom over the past few years, this model has shown me that I still have room to grow. I am especially interested in moving toward the redefinition/modification of the model which is transformative and deep end and trying to move away from augmentation/substitution which is merely enhancement and the shallow end.

    • I just ran across that metaphor the other day. I love that we all have room to grow, and that ideas like SAMR give us a framework to reflect and discuss that. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of doing what we always did.

  24. True. It’s also important to know that every day we can teach at all four levels. One great metaphor lately has been the SAMR swimming pool. Even great swimmers spend time enjoying the shallow end. It depends on the nature of what we are doing :)

  25. As an eLearning Coach, the SAMR model has been a great way to our teachers thinking about how they are using tech in their classrooms. It’s been powerful to have a conversation with a teacher who feels they are struggling with integrating tech and give concrete example lesson and discuss what level they reach. Some of the biggest “aha” moments have been getting teachers to realize they have been substituting or augmenting lessons!

    Our next big step is getting our teachers to really stretch themselves to reach the final two levels. I definitely agree with Tim, teachers have to be planning on purpose.

  26. I love this model. I feel the largest challenge to this model is the money available to your corporation. The redefine level would need the resources necessary (website memberships, cameras, iPads, etc.). I could see that level being the most expensive, but the most rewarding. Unfortunately, it seems that our public school focus doesn’t fully evaluate the decisions on where money should be allocated, or maybe they are told where the money should go. Either way, SAMR seems very valuable, but having the ability to reach the top levels are more challenging.

    • I certainly agree that money can be an issue, but there are some really great resources that are available for free and that can certainly be used to reach re-definition. Hardware can be a challenge depending on where you are, but a lab setting can be a start. Beyond that, consider harnessing the tools that students already carry with them (smart phones, tablets, etc.) At the end of the day, I think the message of SAMR is that regardless of which tools we have, it’s how we put them to use that determines the level of our teaching. It’s like the master chef. It may be easier for him to make amazing meals in a fully-stocked kitchen, but even with limited resources and ingredients, his knowledge of great cooking will guarantee a delicious result.

  27. I’m glad to see this because I never really thought of it that way. My focus was always at substitution, maybe augmentation. It is a bit more difficult for me to use since I am a math teacher. I’m currently implementing for my Algebra 1 with Enrichment courses. I’m also looking at Renaissance which uses STAR Math and Accelerated Math. Both websites allow for more differentiated instruction. I’ll have to get more acquainted with each to figure out how I can move to the modification and redefinition levels.

    • I agree. One of the things I really like about SAMR (and models like it) is that it challenges me to think about my practice. Ideally, we would all be using technology at all four levels of SAMR, but I don’t think any of us get there without a mindful effort.

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