In the world of technology, it can be easy to gravitate towards what is new and shiny. The latest and greatest gadgets, apps, and platforms captivate us with updated features and functionality, just-in-time content, and oh-so-clever design. It’s hard to ignore the buzzes, chirps, and flashes! The same can be said of edtech in the classroom. Edtech, or educational technology, is growing and changing at a rapid pace. And while we don’t want to slow or hinder adoption, we, as educators, do need to be ever-thoughtful in not only what we bring into the classroom, but why.
In the world of Wiggins and McTighe’s backward design, you begin by identifying the desired results. The decisions around activities and resources comes last in this 3-step instructional design process. Ergo, just because a tool is novel or popular, doesn’t mean that you should begin your lesson planning with the possible resources.
Too often teachers feel pressure to throw out their tried and true practices in the name of edtech. Just as with good instructional design, edtech should support the various elements of your lesson planning. How might you mix and match edtech resources to your anticipatory set, direct instruction, group and individual practice needs? Just as your pedagogy and methodology shifts, the resources you use should shift as well. How might you weave technology through your instruction?
One framework that many find helpful in assessing your own adoption and implementation of edtech is the SAMR Model from Dr. Ruben Puentedura, founder of a consulting firm Hippasus. “SAMR” stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Dr. Puentedura urges educators to evaluate the “why” in adopting edtech. How would the lesson objectives change, or ultimately be redefined, because of these new opportunities technology affords?
For instance, if you had students write a story using pen and paper versus write a story using a word processing program, would the goals of the lesson change? Not really. Students are still learning and practicing how to craft an expository or narrative piece. He would say that in this case, the word processing tool, therefore, falls under SUBSTITUTION — you are substituting one method for another without any significant effect on the learning outcomes. However, if you used the word processing program to aid in the editing phase of the writing process, using spell and grammar check, then the goals shift, and the edtech is enabling AUGMENTATION.
Yet this use of edtech doesn’t really push the envelope at all. Puentedura would challenge us all to try to appeal to those higher-order thinking skills outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy. To do so, we need to strive towards the M and the R, which stand for MODIFICATION and REDEFINITION in his acronym, “SAMR.”
Take a look at this video, Introduction to the SAMR Model (4:12), from Common Sense Education, which walks through a similar example, illustrating how a teacher might aspire to redefine a lesson’s learning objectives using technology effectively.
Puentedura likens his model to that of a ladder; you need to step up rung by rung — it is a learning process even for us, the educators! And his metaphor also emphasizes that this change in thought takes time. Teachers can’t be expected to change their practices all at once. Edtech needs to be thoughtfully woven into classroom practices and pedagogy. And don’t forget, sometimes good old pen and paper suffice for a learning experience! However, the M and R steps of the SAMR Model speak to those Bloom’s Taxonomy higher-order thinking skills, which we should all aspire towards when creating learning experiences.
So, where should you start? Take a look at your current plans. How might edtech make your plans more efficient, more engaging, and more effective? Take a look at the ever-changing world of edtech (sign up for EdSurge!). What is most exciting to you? Now marry the two efforts by mixing and matching your resources and plans thoughtfully with the goal of creating learning experiences that challenge your students with each and every assignment.
Ask your team members:
Ask your school leaders:
Darri Stephens is a former member of Teach for America and a seasoned educator, with more than 10 years’ experience in Los Angeles and New York City public schools. She’s a published author, who has also worked for education-focused media companies including Nickelodeon, IMAX, EdSurge, and Discovery Education. With master’s degrees in education from both Harvard and Stanford, she’s passionate about creative curriculum development that pushes boundaries, especially considering the influx of today’s technologies. Her most recent positions as Senior Director of Content at Common Sense and Director of Education at Wonder Workshop underscore her love of instructional design, writing, and the ever-changing edtech world — so much so that she has now founded her own content consulting agency, Darrow Ink.