Re-Imagining Effective Work – the SAMR Model

Ruben Puentedura developed the SAMR model to categorise how educational technology can be used to enhance education. There are four levels of potential impact:

– Substitution is the first and most basic, where new technology is used to replace a current approach, but with no functional improvement. For example, instead of printing lecture notes and handing them out to students, a substitutionary approach would see the teacher saving the notes as a PDF and providing a download link.

– Augmentation is the second level, and represents a good step beyond mere like-for-like substitution. It introduces one or more functional improvements, based on what the technology could enable. For example, lecture notes could be published for access online, but now contains in-line surveys or quizzes to check comprehension and understanding. Quiz answers are aggregated and reported to the teacher, who can then modify his or her lesson plan to address the areas of low comprehension.

– Modification steps beyond the enhancement level at which both substitution and augmentation exist, and into a transformation category. In Ruben’s terms, it represents a “significant task redesign”. For example, let’s say a student keeps getting the quiz questions wrong, even after going through the material a couple of times. One modification option could be the dynamic inclusion of new learning materials, such as videos and animations to explain the concept in a different way, based on the specific areas the student is struggling with. If multiple students are struggling with the same concept, perhaps the content baseline is dynamically updated so the next students in the class received better first-time teaching. As another idea, if the lecture notes are based on a book, areas of low comprehension across all students across the world are aggregated for the original author, who then revises his or her material to make it more fit-for-purpose for future students. This last idea may even slip into the next level.

– Redefinition is the fourth and final level in Ruben’s model, and by its very nature, the most challenging to imagine. Redefinition is where “tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” For example, imagine redefining a lecture as an adventure in a mixed reality world, where students have challenges to accomplish in a limited time. Or imagine redefining a lecture as a collaborative co-learning and co-teaching activity that brings together students from different schools around the world to share learnings, experiences, and resources.

Ruben’s model applies more broadly beyond his domain of interest (educational technology). All efforts to introduce change through technology can be classified using Ruben’s model. In my opinion, however, the really interesting way to use the model is as a thinking and design prompt in advance of introducing change, along the lines of “If we did X, what level would we reach?” and “Given what’s possible with the technology, what options do we have for a redefinition move?”

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