I am always a little skeptical when I come across new ‘models’ of learning.

Having recently covered the History of the Atomic Model in Chemistry class, it is fresh in my mind how models are an interpretation of reality, meant to simplify (perhaps too much at times) what is really going on, to help the average person comprehend a complicated process or idea.

Rutherford's Model of the Atom

Rutherford’s Model of the Atom, not quite the modern model.

Having been introduced earlier in COETAIL to the SAMR Model of technology integration, the concept was not entirely new. However, considering the lengthy required reading list, I had hoped for a little more background information and ‘meat’ to really comprehend this model more coherently. What I did come across was the simplified graphic to establish a baseline requirement of the four categories: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. Thankfully, I came across Cathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything post on SAMR, which included a number of additional resources to pour over. (Her website really does have everything, by the way. It’s amazing.)

At first I questioned the components of SAMR, namely the modification and redefinition aspects. I wondered, do we really NEED to be transforming (redefining) learning? Is it going to add value? What is the end goal? Is it not perfectly fine just to substitute and augment learning experiences?

Then I realized that what the SAMR model is referring to is, in fact, technology use – and not the curriculum or learning in itself.

Someone once suggested that technology is all the new stuff that appeared after we were born. The stuff that was around before we arrived on the planet we often take for granted.

Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler

What a simple but powerful definition of the word! It’s mind-blowing to know what you and your students consider ‘technology’ is entirely different on many occasions. Depending on the age group you teach, even iPads may not be technology! I also recalled Jeff’s point about the stages of technology adoption as he writes about on his blog: 1) dabbling with technology, 2) doing old things in old ways, 3) doing old things in new ways and 4) doing new things in new ways.

When technology is effectively integrated into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of adviser, content expert, and coach. Technology helps make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun.


I have to admit, knowing that I would be taking a look at my own use of technology and the ways in which it is implemented (embedded?) into my science courses had me a little concerned for two reasons: 1) that I would have difficulty in determining exactly which of the four stages my technology-related activities fit in the SAMR model and, 2) that the activities that I was using would end up falling into Substitution. Well, luckily I was able to refer to my classroom blog to refresh my memory of past events as my memory is not the sharp tack it used to be. (Something is actually burning in the kitchen…)

Teachers need to develop a willingness to play with technologies and an openness to building new experiences for students so that fun, cool tools can be educational.

– Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler

When I first noticed the description for Substitution (‘Word process lab report, print and hand in) as well as Augmentation (Type up lab report, use spell check, grammar check, hand in), I was a little surprised at the simplicity of the examples. I was doing these two things when I was in high school myself! Certainly, these types of things are very common in my classroom, which was somewhat of a relief in itself.

I really like the application of Bloom’s to the SAMR model. Some excellent visual literacy skills employed here, too!

So, am I moving from ‘S and A’ to ‘M and R’? I can say fairly confidently that, yes, there have been many activities that have been redefined due to the technology that was embedded in the lesson. One example was right in front of my eyes just today. The grade 7+8 class was presenting their ‘Microscope Instructional User Guides’ assignment, which were videos made to show the upcoming students in future years how to properly operate microscopes. It would be a much more effective way for the students themselves to learn and retain this information than to simply give them a handout with the information in text form (which they won’t read) or, even worse, have them write the procedures by hand into their note books (the horror!). The upcoming students may identify more with video instructions, which were also made by older peers, who they look up to. Below is one example of a student-made instructional video:


I am not completely sure if this qualifies as modification or redefinition, but confident that it is one of those…!

Last year, the Physics class was challenged to determine whether there was a speeding problem on the street in front of the school (a real-world problem) and to find out using video analysis. They recorded themselves signalling when cars passed the start and end points of a measured length of road, then came inside and did timing measurements from the source video. A short clip of this activity can be seen in my Course 3 Final Project Video. So, perhaps modification of a previous activity?

I also found the Technology Integration Matrix quite impressive in itself, but also useful in terms of looking at grade-level specific examples of integrating technology. For personal reference in the future and to any other science teachers out there, they provide video examples of all Learning Environments and all levels of integration. Here are the links to the top-level integration for ACTIVE, COLLABORATIVE, CONSTRUCTIVE, AUTHENTIC and GOAL DIRECTED characteristics. I particularly like how all these lesson/activity examples include a breakdown of the NETS that are covered, also.

There is always more that can be done when embedding technology pedagogically, however at this point in time, it gives me some relief to say that ‘the state of my SAMR is strong.’

Featured Image Photo Credit: marfis75 via Compfight cc