SAMR for Ontario Teachers: Should it be the Preferred Model for Tech Integration?

Lately, my colleague Leigh Graves Wolf and I have been thinking about the ways that the SAMR model, developed by Rueben Puentedura, has been used to frame technology integration practices for teachers in K-12 schools. As I prepared a lesson for my teacher education students on technology integration, I started reading more into the foundations of the SAMR model and the claims that have been made about the impact of technologies used in ways that align with its definitions.

As I reviewed the OSAPAC website (the organization that reviews and purchases licenses for software applications for use in Ontario’s public schools) I was a little bit surprised to find that SAMR received privileged focus. SAMR appears in the rolling gallery of images on the site. Also, OSAPAC has provided access to lesson plans that show teachers how to use diverse digital tools in ways that align with the four categories of the model — Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. The plans demonstrate a range of uses for a range of technologies and are surely incredibly useful to teachers.

All of this said, I wrote this note on a comment form at the OSAPAC website and hope that it might lead to a rich dialogue about the ways that the province is supporting teachers’ professional development as technology integrators.

Short version: I think that SAMR is a very useful framework. However, a few critical indicators suggest to me that we need to learn more about its’ value as a model for technology integration in schools.

Dear OSAPAC Members,

I’m a new member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa with specialisations in educational technology and digital literacies. I am very curious about the rationale you used as a committee to promote the SAMR model as a province-wide approach to technology integration. I have certainly seen SAMR grow to become an incredibly popular model for describing the ways that teachers can use technologies. On face value, it makes a great deal of sense and it gives teachers very useful language for their technology integration choices. However, I would encourage you to consider the research foundations for Puentedura’s work and the ways that SAMR puts technology at the center of the conversation. To my knowledge, Puentedura’s analysis of the impact of methods that could be considered more “transformative” is speculative. I’m not saying he’s wrong — but I am saying that we need to apply very critical lenses to the claims he makes about approaches to technology integration and their impact on student learning outcomes.

For example, in an often cited presentation that he provides at his blog (see slide 20) ( Puentedura shows how a set of 20 studies in a meta-analysis by Pearson, Ferdig, Blomeyer and Moran (2005) could be mapped onto his SAMR model — and how the effect sizes of studies that used methods that seemed to be “modifications” or “redefinitions” were larger.

There are, potentially, a few problems with this. First, he is applying his definitions, post hoc, to methods of technology integration in studies that may or may not have actually used methods that align with his definitions. Secondly, he doesn’t provide any statistical analysis of the effect size differences — on the graph, the differences look large — but he doesn’t show if the effect sizes, by category, differ from one another statistically. If you look at the spread of effect sizes in the “Redefinition” category, it looks like there is a very big difference — but really, there is just one study that has an effect size close to 3 (which is huge) and the others are really not that much higher than the effect sizes in the other three categories.

When we look at data like these, we have to resist the temptation to focus on the outliers and really look at how most of the data are actually really close in terms of their effect sizes. This interpretation, by the way, has not appeared in any peer reviewed journal articles that I know of. A brief Google Scholar search turns up lots of references to Puentedura’s blog and to the writings of others about the model — but I don’t see any evidence of studies that demonstrate why we should tell teachers that this framework should be privileged above others, as they come to think about the complexities of their technology integration choices. Food for thought. I’d be happy to discuss further. I’m genuinely interested in the rationale you have used to promote this framework for the province’s teachers. Interestingly, the creator of the video you share (SAMR in 120 seconds) is by Candace Marcotte who is a close friend and former student. I love Candace’s work — but if you called her directly, I’m sure she might also say that SAMR is just one framework among many that teachers should think about as they learn to integrate technologies in thoughtful, strategic ways.


P.S. Two other Frameworks for consideration:
Mishra & Koehler’s Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)
Kolb’s Triple-E Model

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