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. 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 :)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 :)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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