Moving To The Fourth Step

quillHow technology is helping us redefine education


In today’s rapidly developing world, the use of technology in education is increasingly accepted as a standard tool for both teaching and learning.  The majority of Australian schools now have access to varying numbers of ipads, lap tops and interactive white boards (to name a few key examples). Yet, no matter how much we accept that technology is a part of modern schooling, trying to keep up with the possibilities that technology has to offer can seem overwhelming and unrealistic. What’s more, it seems that technology is moving so rapidly, we not only have to be open to new educational advances, we have to be open to educational advances that are not yet even developed.


With the above thoughts in mind, it is of little surprise to find that many technology experts believe that there is a distinct gap between the optimum use of technology and the actual role it takes in the classroom.  For example, a dyslexic child may be offered the use of a word processor to record class notes or to read text.  This means that she is using the word processor as a ‘substitute’ for a pen and paper, and/or a book etc.  This simple strategy of substituting one tool (a paper book) for another (a computer) can support a diverse learner, but is very limited in improving classroom engagement and learning outcomes. Mere substitution does little to challenge traditional teaching or to engage creative learning. The potential of the technology remains greater than the role it is given in the classroom.


In 2004 Dr Ruben Puentedura developed the SAMR model to describe the progressive integration of technology into teaching and learning.  SAMR is an acronym representing a four step process: ‘Substitution’ to ‘Augmentation’ to ‘Modification’ to ‘Redefinition’. The model has been found to be incredibly useful in helping educators to embrace a more functional and multifaceted view of developing classroom technology.


As we can see, ‘substitution’,  is the first step in this four stage  process. It is the most basic step as it involves the use of technology as a direct substitute for another education tool, with no functional change. My example of the dyslexic child taking notes on a word processer is a great example of basic substitution.


The dyslexic child who has changed the font size of the text, or the background colour of the electronic page of text, to make reading easier, has moved to the second step of SAMR.  This is ‘Augmentation’.  The computer is still a substitute for the book (step one) but now it is also a tool that enables the learning process to be strengthened, or augmented, to further support learning. The child’s reading is augmented with improvements to the presentation of the page.


Similarly, the same child may augment a project typed on a computer with spell checking, grammar checking, appealing formatting and inserted graphics.


The third step forward is ‘Modification’.  Dr Puentedura defines ‘Modification’ as the process of significantly redesigning a task with technology.  The original task is modified to create a more effective learning process and a better learning outcome.


A great example of modification involves using technology to make a homework task collaborative.  Tools like ‘Dropbox’ and even email enable students to work collaboratively on projects out of class time.  Furthermore, work can be shared online enabling access to a wider audience and greater opportunity for extended collaboration. A class project aiming to promote environmentally friendly packaging for school lunches could be presented to the wider school community with the use of a class blog.  Students could then reap the benefits of direct collaboration and the intrinsic rewards of producing a project that is genuinely valuable in a wider context.


The fourth and final step in the SAMR model is ‘Redefinition’.  Redefinition refers to the ability of technology to support the creation of completely new tasks that were previously inconceivable.


If a dyslexic child creates a movie to present a book review (using movie making and editing apps etc) then they have redefined the concept of a book review as specifically being a written task.  Redefinition is the ultimate fourth step in embracing technology in the classroom.  It is the step that asks ‘Is there another way of teaching this?’  ‘Is there another way of learning this?’ ‘Is there another way of engaging students in this task?’


The joy of redefinition is in the fact that as well as offering opportunities for everyone in a class to learn information and skills on a more equal footing; it offers untold opportunities to be creative and engaged in the learning process. No longer is learning about facts and figures, rather it has become an opportunity to be an active participant in a learning journey. Unlike most of us adults, young people are growing up with technology.  They are growing up with a sense that it is ‘normal’ to find diverse and collaborative solutions to learning; it is ’normal’ to present information in increasingly creative formats and it is ‘normal’ to know that the next step in the process has not yet even been developed…


Apple will be supporting this year’s Positive Schools conferences and as such, the events offer a valuable opportunity to understand how technology can help teachers to redefine education for diverse learners in their schools and classrooms.  For now, it is powerful food for thought to think that there are so many alternative ways of doing things in today’s changing world.  ‘Reading’ can now mean listening to an audio book. ‘Talking’ can mean playing music or even interpretive dance. ‘Close collaboration’ can mean sharing ideas with someone the other side of the world…


For those who are interested here is a summary table of Dr Puentedura’s SAMR model (as presented on the Queensland Government Classroom Connection site).  A Google search will unearth many examples of how each step can aid classroom practice for everyone involved in education.


Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition
Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement Technology allows for significant task redesign Technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable


Dr Helen Street has an extensive background in social Psychology with a passion for wellbeing in education. She presents seminars and workshops for schools ( Helen is also chair of The Positive Schools Conferences ( in WA in May 2014.



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