If you aren't familiar with the SAMR model, it's a fairly basic method of determining how we are using technology at an educational level. There's a visual and a brief description below:
|image by @timklapdor|
- Substitution would occur when you have students complete a multiple choice worksheet online
- Augmentation would occur when you have students play a multiplication review game online
- Modification would occur when you have students play a game that adapts to each student, presenting them with appropriate challenge levels.
- Redefinition would occur when students work together with another classroom over Skype to develop online lessons to share with one another and teach the concept.
As the graphic shows, disillusionment tends to set in with the earlier two concepts, where we are using technology only at its most basic level. Now, that doesn't mean we should never use technology for substitution or augmentation, only that there are some basic things to consider to help us determine when and how to use technology.
Step One: Determine what level the proposed activity is at
Some questions to help you determine what level you're at:
- Could you do the exact same lesson without technology? If so, you're working at substitution.
- If you changed the activity just a tiny bit, could you do it without technology? For example, if you're playing a multiplication game, are there similar board or card games? If so, you're working at augmentation.
- Is the activity something that would be difficult to do without technology, but possible? In the example above, you could give each child a multiplication quiz, analyze the quizzes, and develop lessons structured for each individual based on the results -- but it's sure easier to have the technology handle it. If so, you're at modification.
- Is the activity something that would be almost impossible to complete without technology? In the example above, you have students using the internet and tools to utterly revolutionize their thinking about a concept. This is redefinition.
Step Two: Determine why you're using technology
If you're at modification or redefinition, it will probably be pretty obvious why you're using the tech. If you're at the first two levels, you might have to think it through.
Although redefinition is kind of the holy grail of technology use in education, it's not going to work for every single topic. I know there are some teachers who will argue that you should never use technology for substitution. I disagree -- I think that as long as you understand why you're using technology in this way, it's perfectly acceptable. If your answer to "why" is "because my students stay focused longer when I give them an iPad than when I give them a worksheet," that's perfectly fine. As long as you're aware that you're using technology at a very basic level, if you can dictate to yourself why you've made that choice, it's not a problem.
Step Three: Determine if technology really is the best option
If you're working at one of the first two levels, do consider whether you're just using technology for technology's sake. There's a reason that trough of disillusionment slips in at the tail end of augmentation. If you've never used technology in your classroom and you start, your students will definitely be engaged -- at first. But as they realize this is just the same thing in a new hat, their engagement will slip dramatically.
In addition, consider whether the technology really does offer an equal opportunity to offline activities. Would your students benefit more from something with hands-on manipulatives? Or just the chance to disconnect from their devices and connect with another student?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally using technology for substitution, but I think that we as teachers need to be mindful about our practice and the reasons for what we're doing.
Question of the Day:
How often does your tech use get to redefinition?
My goal is for 75% of my technology use to fit into the categories of modification or redefinition. Like project based learning, I find that redefinition often involves more complex units of study that I might not be willing to undertake just for a simple concept or review, so I'm perfectly happy if I hit modification in those instances.