SAMR has been an incredibly useful framework for conversations around, and implementation of, educational technology in schools and districts. I mean, goodness, just look at a Google image search on the term. But there’s something about it, or rather, the way it is often promoted, that has always given me that feeling like a piece of food is stuck in the back of my teeth.
I’m wondering if it’s a mistake to suggest that technology integration in education is a linear, hierarchical quest. I believe this may be an issue for a few reasons.
It sets many up for failure
If there’s a sure fire way of setting up a defeatist scenario for the reluctant or new technology integrationist, it’s by suggesting that there are levels to ascend to. In order to ‘achieve’ a state of consistent redefinition, you need not only a personal resolve as an educator or leader, but an incredible amount of support, resources, and collective vision. My students and I? We’ve had a lot of that. But, in some ways, this has been because we’ve regularly won the educational lottery, so to speak. What if some schools or classrooms are truly limited to using tech in ways that only substitute other tools?
It is evaluative
When you are a teacher, you see evaluation everywhere. Every time you look at a mirror, an honest and reflective teacher sees their deficiencies in planning, assessment, instruction, time management, and helping that child who went home crying the other day. Models and acronyms like SAMR can be incredibly appealing to people who only need to contemplate its utopian wonder but are rarely pressed to apply it in reality. When you walk through the bright flourescent lights of a school and listen to the echoing voices Monday to Friday, the simplicity often dissipates.
‘Redefining’ is hyperbolic
I feel we have become overly consumed by grand pronouncements in #edtech. Words like ‘revolutionize’ and ‘transform’ are thrown around in ways that belie their true meaning, and regularly reflect consumer discourse as opposed to a pedagogical one. There aren’t any SAMR charts for arts integration or healthy school initiatives. In my classroom, I seek to make the tech figuratively invisible. Thus, in some ways, the antithesis of redefining.
It just isn’t true
If you are committed to merging progressive pedagogy with powerful technology, you are always sliding to and fro on the SAMR continuum. There’s no “Well, I’ve made it to Mount Redefine, so I guess I’m like the Sir Edmund Hillary of Silicon Valley High School” or something. This is because when you are trying to use new tools in innovative ways, you have no idea if you will actually end up substituting, augmenting, modifying, or redefining learning. You usually just have to try it out, and sometimes you are completely stunned at how ridiculous or wonderful it turns out to be. Moreover, a tool that was once redefining suddenly turns into the epitome of substituting, and vice-versa. I feel we need to move away from linear thinking in this realm, not unlike the way many are contemplating a new, non-hierarchical Bloom’s Taxonomy.
I am willing to bet that whoever gave birth to SAMR didn’t intend for it to be as all encompassing as it has become in the #edtech world. I would also fully agree with anyone who says that there are many positive aspects of SAMR, such as the way it admonishes us against gimmickery when using these expensive tools. I simply feel it’s important for us to gaze a critical eye on any framework that becomes as ubiquitous and, ironically, definitive as SAMR has become. I would love to know what you think.