Beth Holland

Food for thought…


In Response to “Redefinition”

There have been a number of posts circulating over the past few weeks about Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model. I’ve been reading closely as I plan/hope/might incorporate it into my upcoming Leading Future Learning presentation.

I like the SAMR model for two reasons. First. It gives educators who are new to technology integration a tangible model that is relatively easy to understand. There isn’t a lot of pedagogical lingo, and it comes with a nice visual (see below). Second, it provides an excellent opportunity to NOT talk about technology.

Image Credit: Dr. Ruben Puentedura

However, all of that said, recent articles have been a bit critical of the model. I’ve been reading those posts with interest as part of my prep for the aforementioned presentation next week. However, it was this set of tweets that pushed me into writing as I couldn’t figure out how to respond in 140 characters….

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SAMR as tangible model

As I said, I like SAMR because it’s tangible. However, as Darren Draper (@ddraper) states in THAT TIME WHEN SAMR GETS US INTO TROUBLE – the post that started this one, “Problems occur, however, when educators instinctively attempt to the climb the hierarchical ladder.” I don’t disagree. In fact, Carl Hooker (@mrhooker) likes to look at SAMR as a swimming pool rather than a ladder.

Image Credit: Carl Hooker

With this model, he provides supports for teachers’ thinking and also removes a stigma that you can “fall off the SAMR ladder.” I think this is a critical point as too often, when thinking about SAMR, teachers become paralyzed by the notion that everything has to be at the Redefinition stage – exactly the point that Tom Riley (@riley_ed) makes  in Transformational 1:1 learning and SAMR.

One of the major issues I have with SAMR is its place in the conflict between the short and long term. By introducing it at the beginning of a 1:1 mobile device rollout (which admittedly isn’t what it was actually designed for), it wrongly focuses the attention of teachers on how they can utilise the technology to adapt individual tasks in order to reach the ‘redefinition’ stage.

I stepped into this trap several weeks ago in an introductory iPad workshop. By introducing SAMR too early, the focus was immediately on getting to the top. One participant became a bit distraught when she realized that no matter how much she tried to infuse technology, her ultimate objective of writing a 5-paragraph essay would never reach Redefinition. Without the full pedagogy in place of working with mobile devices, she wasn’t quite ready to see the distinction between product and process.

On the other hand, last week, I had the pleasure of working with a group of adjunct professors at Bay Path College. One professor teaches a forensics psychology course and explained that as a final output, her students need to write a paper as that will be a legal requirement should they enter the forensic psychology profession. As we explored the potential for incorporating iPads into her curriculum with SAMR as a framework, we struggled at first to see how she could move beyond using the device as a word processor to generate the final product. This was because the initial focus was on the end result rather than the overall process. When she clearly articulated that her true objective was for her students to “make a justification based on clearly articulated evidence,” then we started to see how different aspects of the overall process could be supported both by iPads and  transforming the associated tasks via SAMR. To summarize a point that Dr. Puentedura made in his Boston iPad Summit keynote, in the path to Redefinition, the technology could serve the purpose of a lively sketchbook capturing pieces along the path to the creation of a final product.

SAMR is NOT about Technology

Richard Wells (@iPadWells) wrote a wonderful response to this dilemma of product vs process several weeks ago. In SAMR success is NOT about Tech, Richard asserts that technology is not- and should not be – the focus when looking at the SAMR model. In fact, he echoes the point that Dr. Puentedura articulated during his Boston keynote – the focus is on tasks and process, not technology. In fact, technology just helps the tasks along their way. As Richard illustrates in his post: how are we preparing students as learners in a world without an all-knowing teacher?


Image Credit: Richard Wells

When I first started teaching and employing the SAMR model, my examples all focused on products: from essay to collaborative doc, to media rich presentation, to published video. I felt that if I continued to layer technology onto the final products, then I was climbing the ladder. However, as I realized last fall after hearing Dr. Puentedura, the technology isn’t really doing anything. It’s the tasks that are changing. It’s the processes that we need to Redefine.

At the redefinition level, common classroom tasks and computer technology exist not as ends but as supports for student centered learning. – Source: Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

I’ve been thinking all day about this post and this idea. Too often, we get caught up in thinking that new = better. If we use a new tool, we will have improved outcomes. If we use a new device, then students will learn more. However, if I take the sum of the points from all of these fantastic posts, if we define the outcomes, use the best possible tools to create the most effective pathways to learning, and think about how to transform our processes in order to have the greatest impact, then we might just hit the elusive Redefinition.