Applying the SAMR model to ExploreLearning Gizmos

Technology in the classroom can aid students in learning and aid teachers in classroom administration and monitoring, proving, and celebrating progress. But understanding what specific technologies offer and what can be accomplished with them can be daunting, as can determining how they fit into the classroom.

The SAMR framework—Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition—is an effective way to assess and evaluate the technology teachers use, or are considering, in their classroom. Developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the model has gained significant traction in recent years with the rise of classroom-friendly technology such as tablets, smartboards and online learning tools and apps.

According to Technology is Learning, SAMR “offers a method of seeing how computer technology might impact teaching and learning. It also shows the progression that adopters of educational technology often follow as they progress through teaching and learning with technology. As one moves along the continuum [from Substitution to Redefinition], computer technology becomes more important in the classroom but at the same time becomes more invisibly woven into the demands of good teaching and learning.”

The four steps of the SAMR model include:

Substitution. Technology acts as a direct substitute, with no functional change. This might involve students coloring in blocks on a spreadsheet created in Excel to demonstrate their knowledge of fractions.

Augmentation. Technology acts as a direct substitution tool, with functional improvement. In this stage, students might color blocks on Google Sheets and receive immediate feedback from their teacher.

Modification. Technology allows for significant task redesign. At this stage, the technology has the opportunity to really change the look and feel of what students do. A student might still be using Google Sheets to color in blocks, but now the teacher can offer feedback and direct students to online examples and supplementary learning materials for areas that they might struggle with.

Redefinition. Technology allows for creation of new tasks that were previously inconceivable. Students use an online app or simulation like Gizmos to explore fractions, letting them practice extensively and learn at their own pace.

ExploreLearning Gizmos and the SAMR model

A great example of a technology tool that fits with every step in the SAMR model, from Substitution to Modification, is ExploreLearning Gizmos. One of more than 400 math and science Gizmos in the library, Chemical Changes, helps illustrate the model.

In Chemical Changes, students observe and measure a variety of chemical reactions. Along the way they learn about chemical equations, acids and bases, exothermic and endothermic reactions, and conservation of matter.

First of all, the Chemical Changes Gizmo is a Substitute for actual lab work that would involve costly and dangerous chemicals. With this simulation, students can experiment and combine different chemicals without danger to themselves, others, or school equipment.

Chemical Changes also Augments teaching and student learning by allowing students to answer assessment questions online, while still using the Gizmo. This allows for quick just-in-time feedback.

Modification is present in all the different ways a Gizmo like Chemical Changes can be used. The teacher material supplied with the Gizmo guides learners through different experimental scenarios. Instead of simply mixing one chemical with another and noting the reaction, students can use different tools in the Gizmo to learn about not only chemical changes and reactions, but physical reactions, changes in mass, acids and bases, and more.

But it’s in Redefining what is taught and how where Gizmos really shine. In the Chemical Changes Gizmo, students can not only experiment with chemicals at length, safely, and in a number of ways, but as with every Gizmo, teachers can immediately assess what their students have learned, steer them to other resources to help fill in gaps or expand their understanding, and share lesson plans and ideas with other teachers.

There is good technology and bad technology out there. And there are right ways and wrong ways to use technology in the classroom. By using Gizmos, you’ll know you’re aligned with the SAMR model and bringing powerful new—and effective—learning experiences to your classroom.