Five Ideas to Go Beyond SAMR: How Deep is the Learning in Your Technology Integration?

Five Ideas to Go Beyond SAMR: How Deep is the Learning in Your Technology Integration?

Every school I visit that is attempting to integrate technology into instruction are also having conversations on SAMR. As I have talks with these schools, I tell them that SAMR is a wonderful place to start. At the same time, if we are to look at technology integration that promotes rigor and deeper thinking we must integrate multiple concepts together. Please enjoy and share my five ideas I think all schools should think about as they go beyond SAMR. First, to ensure you do not miss one of these valuable posts or other resources covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, Web 2.0, STEM, 21st-century learning, and technology integration please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS. As always, I invite you to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on. Have a great week – Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech)

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Five Ideas to Go Beyond SAMR… How Deep is the Learning in Your Technology Integration?

As I travel the country l come across numerous schools providing PD and supporting teachers with the SAMR Model. SAMR is a wonderful model to begin with, as teachers learn to integrate technology into their curriculum. For those unfamiliar with SAMR, this is a model that allows teachers to see different stages of technology integration. Take a look at the quick SAMR definition below, or read a prior article from my “Going Beyond The Tech Shine Series” based on the SAMR model at 21centuryedtech.

SAMR – Quick Definition

S = Substitution: As the word states, this is a substitution of digital technology for past analog methods. (Example – A word processor instead of the typewriter or pen and pencil.)

A = Augmentation: Technology goes beyond mere replacement and focuses on new things that are possible because of the substitution realm. (Example – Technology now allows for the word processor to have a spell check or even a thesaurus.)

M = Modification: Technology allows learning to begin to transform the learning experience. Students can now take a step outside the word processing box and discover possibilities that could not be done before augmenting the learning experience. (Example – Students can now write in a collaborative manner on the same document using Google Docs or Microsoft 360.)

R = Redefinition: Technology allows the learning experience to be redefined so that the word processing document is not the only form of expression…. or perhaps a beginning foundation for a different form of student production. (Example – The word processing document becomes something totally new, as students create videos or web pages relating information that may have been typed.)

SAMR Is One Tool and a Great Place to Start… However,

It is wonderful to see that SAMR is a great place to start. It provides the teacher with some definitions and an understanding of how technology can both facilitate learning while also expanding it. In fact, teaching teachers about the line in between SA and MR allows teachers to see if they are on the road to transformation. This is often referred to as teaching above… or below… the line.

I am certain you are waiting for that “however”… so here it comes. SAMR is one model, and perhaps a first step, in helping teachers understand technology integration and transformational learning. Do not stop with SAMR! Try to understand that a lesson at the top of SAMR may not be the ultimate learning opportunity in technology integration. As you facilitate teachers on a best practices journey it will be important to look at lessons with some other filters, SAMR, after all, is only one. Let’s take a look at some other concepts we must keep in mind as we help educators understand SAMR. Please enjoy the ideas below, and by now you must know that in future posts I will be building upon these important ideas.

Ideas to Consider Beyond SAMR

  1. Don’t spent too much time focusing on which category a lesson is aligned to in SAMR. Just take a quick guess and move on. You will find that too much focus will blur the already moving lines.
  2. Keep in mind that the letter placement in SAMR is a reflection on a lesson… not the teacher. A teacher who is an expert at Redefinition may spend some time in Substitution because they understand good technology integration. Some learning activities only require Substitution and may advance to Redefinition later. In fact, a lesson at Substitution level could provide more transformational and higher order learning than one at Redefinition. It all depends on the content and skills of the lesson as supported by the standards.
  3. Learn to recognize good and bad Substitution. Some teachers when they are beginning a one to one initiative feel an expectation to have students use the device all the time. Sometimes the pre-device ways are better. Why finger paint with an app and miss the experience of having one’s fingers in the paint? Be careful of those Appy Hours! Have a wonderful old fashion Socrative Discussion in class and extend it with technology in a discussion forum for later in order to create a blended learning environment.
  4. Understand that the highest level of SAMR is not always filled with deep learning and rigor. Sometimes it is just transformative technological in action, not representing real transformative learning. Imagine an entertaining and polished green screen presentation summarizing route content, with no higher order thinking. Th technology has gone through a Redefinition… but has the learning?
  5. Examine technology integration using multiple learning models. Where is the technology integration for a lesson in relationship to SAMR? Also, where does that same technology integration line up with Bloom’s, Webb’s DOK, and TPACK in the lesson?


By now you can see where I am going with future posts. Please continue to use SAMR as one way to integrate technology. At the same time realize it is just one model and if we are going to engage the idea of real learning transformation then a few other filters must be part of the plan.

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Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education. His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at