Guide: Using the SAMR Model to Guide Learning

Technology is an immense tool that can transform the way students learn. One of my favourite quotes which demonstrates this comes from Steve Jobs:

What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

To me, this quote best illustrates the potential impact technology can have on learning. However for this impact to be felt, technology needs to be used effectively. To help with that, there are various models available, one of which is the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model (SAMR for short):
(Image Credit: Jonathan Brubaker (@mrjbrubaker))

The SAMR Model (above) was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. It enables educators to analyse how effective their use of technology is on teaching and learning. The model ranges from Substitution to Redefinition and the supposed impact on learning at the higher levels is greater. It can also be broken down further into two main categories, Enhancement and Transformation:

– Enhancement (Substitution and Augmentation) – technology is used just to enhance a task
– Transformation (Modification and Redefinition) – tasks are designed in a way which would not be possible without the use of technology

How does it work?
In this section, I will describe the characteristics of each stage and give examples of it in action within a classroom context.

– Substitution – at this stage, technology is simply used as an alternative tool for completing the original task with no real change in the tasks function. Whilst there may be occasions where this is appropriate or even necessary, there is no real gains in terms of the teaching and learning taking place.

Example: instead of writing by hand, learners use an app like Pages to type up a report.

– Augmentation – here, technology is still used as a direct substitute like above, however it offers improvements in terms of the function of the task. Again, there may be instances where this is necessary, probably more often than substitution, however it still does not improve the students learning experience.

Example: again using Pages, however making use of features like spellchecking function or importing images to enhance the end product.

– Modification – it is at this point where technology starts to enhance teaching and learning. It requires tasks to be redesigned, in order to make the most of the technology available.

Example: once again, if students are creating a document on Pages, using the collaborative tools available on iWork for iCloud, learners can work on a document together. Peers could add feedback comments to the document in real time which could be responded to, which would improve the end product further.

– Redefinition– this is the point at which technology really enhances the learning experience for students and has the greatest impact. Through the use of technology, educators are able to design tasks that were previously impossible.

Example: like before, learners may be collaborating on a document in Pages. However, this time the end product will be uploaded to a website or perhaps a class blog. Students are usually excited by the prospect of their work being on display in a classroom, so the use of a real audience is huge for them. Furthermore, this builds their literacy skills as they need to consider the audience that they’ll be writing to and adapt their work accordingly. Finally, this opens up the possibility of feedback from this global audience which they can respond to.

Apps to Support SAMR
As demonstrated already, it’s not just the app itself that enables you do develop tasks which are at the Modification or Redefinition stage. In fact, some apps can apply to all different levels. It’s more about the way the app is used as opposed to the app itself. What I’ve put together here is a list of apps which can potentially Transform learning, rather than just Enhance it. It’s by no means definitive and will be updated as I discover more apps. Click on the price listed below to be taken to the apps page on the AppStore:

8D8WBfKsEdPuzzle (Free) – I love EdPuzzle, it’s a great tool for making videos more engaging. Rather than just get learners to watch a video, EdPuzzle’s online tool allows you to embed quiz questions making it a useful AfL tool.
*The EdPuzzle app is for students and supports viewing videos made using the online tool. Currently, the app does not support creating videos.

5f665176657959995e538e62dff7b839Book Creator (Free/£3.99) – this allows users to create digital iBooks including the ability to embed text, images, sound and video. Students can collaborate on producing iBooks using the combine books function (click here for more info).

mzl.qmwgchvfiMovie (Free/£3.99) – iMovie allows learners to create stunning video presentations to demonstrate their learning. It also supports exporting to YouTube, meaning anything created can be published straight away without leaving the app. Create a class YouTube account to showcase students work.

mzl.dprqlfguMorfo 3D Face Booth (£0.79) – Morfo allows learners to upload an image and record a speech, making it appear as if the person in the image is talking: a great way for learners to take activities like role plays one stage further. Just some examples: get learners to speak from the point of view of a person from history, a character from a novel or a celebrity endorsing or promoting a product.

icon175x175Spreaker DJ (Free) – this app allows learners to record, mix and broadcast Podcasts. A great platform for students to verbalise their learning and present it to a world wide audience. An engaging alternative to written tasks.

mzl.vipxdgddWordPress (Free) – WordPress is a free blogging platform. This can be used to create a free class blog which learners can use to showcase their work to a global audience. Invite students as contributors and let them collaborate on posts before submitting.

You could even combine, or AppSmash to take it even further. Like creating something in Morfo, before exporting it to iMovie and using it as a feature in a longer movie sequence.

The SAMR Model is a great way to self evaluate just how effective technology is on teaching and learning. For me, what makes SAMR so great is its simplicity: it’s easy to understand and follow. However, it’s worth remembering that this still needs to be grounded in sound pedagogy in order to be most effective. IMG_1021
(Image Credit: Ruben Puentedura)

Naturally, quite often tasks at the Transformation (Modification and Redefinition) stage will require higher order thinking skills according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, like analysing, evaluating and creating. Although achieving this was also possible before technology integration. Furthermore, in my opinion whilst we should aspire towards tasks at the Modification and Redefinition stage, it is important to not forget the value that Augmentation and to a lesser extent, Substitution, can have. For example, I have a learner who really takes pride in the presentation of their work and as a result, when creating a mind map will put down points they know are definitely right but will not take any risks. Introducing an app like SimpleMind+ to them, despite being an example of Augmentation, has been transformational to their learning as they are now more willing to take risks as they know they can easily delete or move items about without compromising on presentation. Another example where simple substitution has had a massive impact has been observed by our librarian. During library lessons, students with a lower reading age may feel under pressure to choose a book that is beyond their reading level through the unfortunate fear of the stigma attached to choosing a book that is more suitable for them. However, by using the iPad to read an iBook, nobody else is aware of the book the student is reading. This gives them confidence to choose a book that is appropriate for them, without having the fear of what their peers may think.

So whilst there is no doubt that technology can enhance teaching and learning, simply adding technology to a badly designed task does not necessarily make it better: it’s not magic after all!


17 thoughts on “Guide: Using the SAMR Model to Guide Learning

    • Thank you for the feedback. Firstly, I think SAMR is always going to be open to interpretation. Also, it’s not necessary to incorporate all 4 elements into a lesson. Teachers should be aspiring more towards the Transformation end of the model (Modification and Redefinition) however I think Augmentation definitely has it’s place at times and perhaps substitution to a lesser extent. Finally, there’s a bit more to it than just doing a task that wasn’t possible before and calling it Redefinition: as educators I think we understand it’s more about the pedagogy behind it. Using the example in your post, how did learners benefit by sharing their math problem on Twitter? Why is it better than just asking other people in the class?


      • The class that responded was a grade 7/8 class I believe. They responded to the question by providing an equation for the pattern rule which was 3n-1 students typically write pattern rules as multiply the first number by 3 and add 2 to get second number. From our sharing of the question and collaborating my students learned/ were reinforced another way if expressing pattern rules. As well, my students did not use calculators while the class from S Ontario did which prophets a whole discussion around efficiency vs struggling with the math to fully understand the problem. Would either of these two learning opportunities have happened without us creating a tweeting out our k cup problem to the world? No. Dedefinition?
        Again appreciate the discussion!
        Would you mind posting your comment on my page as there is quite a discussion evolving there as well.


      • Sounds great! I think that it’s knowing the context is important. The fact you were able to interact with others is such an effective way to engage learners. I like how you used it as a basis for discussion, especially since the methods were different. That’s what makes this useful since without that it’s possible that they would have just been aware of the one way to address the problem. Again though, my one question is, has the task itself really changed or are you just doing the same thing differently? Twitter is such a powerful tool for things like this, I think though its important to err on the side of caution as, like anything, it loses its effectiveness in terms of engagement if it becomes overused.

        By all means I’ll add a comment to your post: I’ve been working on something recently with my learners which you may find useful.


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