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T & L

SAMR is not a ladder, a word of warning

By May 26, 201528 Comments

I’m as guilty as the next person for singing the praises of Puentedura’s SAMR model. I’ve blogged about it many many times, it’s included in my book ‘Perfect ICT Every Lesson’ too. Quite rightly so I believe. The problem I have with it, and others find this problem too, is that it is seen as being a taxonomy, a ladder upon which to be climbed. Redefinition is seen as being the creativity to Blooms or the sharing of Vygotsky’s Zones of Proximal Development – the top rung of a difficult ladder to climb.

The problem for me is, like any tool, technology is only as good as the person using it. Redefinition makes it a very exclusive club and if you’re looking to support those people in your establishment that aren’t confident using technology, asking them to ensure they aim for redefinition at every step; chances are they won’t be too keen to use technology.

The trick is, technology use is at its best when it is purposeful. When its use is linked closely to the learning outcomes of the learning sequence so that it enhances the learning experience.

App smashing is a great way to help young people hit redefinition in the work that they create. The problem with that is however that given time constraints and the fact that technology should serve the learning process – not dictate it; asking students to App Smash all the time can be simply a waste of time. For the avoidance of doubt I will say it clearly again; the use of technology should serve the learning process – not the other way around. That’s not to say that App Smashing shouldn’t happen. Purposeful learning can happen by compounding work created across different Apps. And it’s fun, thus engaging learners in the learning process. Just be mindful that if it isn’t purposeful – should we as educators be doing it?

PCK from Paper

I’m not the only one who is saying this. Take Mark Samberg’s recent post, “Why I’m done with SAMR“. He correctly identifies some worrying trends about education districts in the states and their desire to push educators to teach ‘above the line’. He also talks correctly, in my opinion, about where technology is dictating the learning. Technology can, given the right conditions, support educators to create transformational learning experiences. As noted in the diagram above with PCK, Mark goes on to talk about TPACK being a much better fit. Like Mark, I’m a big fan of TPACK too.

Miguel Guhlin compiles a number of these ‘anti-SAMR’ posts together in his post, “Tearing Down False gods: SAMR Pushback Begins” and it is a good read. Please do check it out, especially the link to LeiLani Cauthen’s article, “What’s Wrong with SAMR in Education?

I do think that SAMR has its place. Absolutely. As LeiLani mentions, SAMR is a great “springboard” to inspire your thinking about learning using technology. Certainly it has helped me and I know it has helped countless others. It shouldn’t however be thought of as the holy grail and certainly not something where you should aim to hit redefinition every time – after all – SAMR is not a ladder! 



Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.


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