SAMR Model: Pushing Educators’ Thinking

In thinking about the two technology theories, SAMR and TPACK, the model that resonated the most to me was the SAMR model. The question of which model made the most sense to me came down to the comparisons of student-based versus teacher-based. The SAMR model leaned more towards a student-based learning way of thinking. As an educator, when I think about effective practice in the classroom, I typically tend to consider the most effective classrooms to be the ones where students are the driving forces behind the learning.

SAMR, standing for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition, refers to the way in which technology is used in the classroom to instruct students. Substitution refers to direct substitution of one technology with another with no functional improvement. Augmentation refers to substitution of technologies where there is a functional improvement. Modification refers to changing the presentation drastically, while keeping the activity addressing the same message at its core. Redefinition refers to the redesign of a task to the previously thought inconceivable. The SAMR model takes the approach of providing educators with a model of the “HOW” to incorporate technology into their classes to create student-centered learning than seeming theoretical.

Image result for samr model

In understanding the applications of what this may look like in the classroom, I found Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Background and Exemplars (2012) presentation to be helpful. In this presentation, Puentedura provided visual exemplars of varying technologies for teaching specific content areas. Because my background is not in science, the exemplar in how to follow the model with literature was particularly helpful. It led me to reflect upon my usage of technology in the classroom and which categories it fell under.

In reflecting on the categories, I’m reminded of a comment made in Susan Patterson’s podcast (2017) by Sue Cusack, assistant professor in the STEM division at Lesley University, about ensuring that technology isn’t used for the sake of saying you’re using technology. In my experience, I have observed that teachers rarely use technology beyond academic practice programs on computers and utilizing projectors and doc cams for projecting class notes. Much technology usage in the classroom can be haphazard and remains in the substitution category. Cusack made an interesting point: If you’re going to use substitution, own it. I thought this point was particularly viable because, if a teacher is going to use substitution in instruction, let it be purposeful substitution. To me, this brings up the concept of reflection-in-action; As educators we need to continually reflect upon and refine our craft. Purposeful substitution requires much reflection and consideration in the purposes of activities.

When I began to reflect upon my own practice, I began to think about what other educators have been able to do with this model. In reading the social studies classroom case study by Hilton (2016), I was looking for how this model impacted their practice. I found it interesting that, in the discussion, there was much discussion surrounding the perception of SAMR as a hierarchal model. I had initially thought that SAMR would work hierarchal, with redefinition as the evolutionary final form. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Yes, the goal of technology integration is to create a transformative experience, however, this does not need to be a linear progression. In reading the case study, it appeared that the primary limitation of full implementation of SAMR was the misconception that it is a linear, hierarchal model. This makes sense: with knowing transformative integration is the end goal, why wouldn’t it progress from one step to another? In thinking realistically, however, the step of the model we use must be appropriate for the activity. It may not always be practical or make sense to use modification or redefinition. Sometimes, a simple substitution is effective. Going back to Cusack’s point, it’s all about owning it and using it purposefully!

I see the benefits and practicality in the SAMR model, if it’s not thought of as linear. With technology constantly changing, different and new technologies may shift between the levels as time progresses. That’s the beauty of technology: it’s ever-changing to expand to fit our needs! However, I wonder about the implications of encouraging this model as a school leader. As educational leaders, if we use the SAMR model of technology, how can we ensure there is meaningful use of technology and assurance that teachers are adequately supported to maintain this model? Additionally, where can resources come from to ensure that technology can be used in a redefined way?


Hilton, J. T. (2016).  A case study of the application of SAMR and TPACK for reflection on technology integration into two social studies classrooms

Patterson, S. (Producer). (2017). TPACK & SAMR [Audio podcast]. Retrieved

Puentedura, R.R. (2012) The SAMR model: Background and exemplars.

1 Comment

  1. Mykayla, much like you I prefer the SAMR model for many of the same reasons. It just has a much more concrete application to classroom design, lesson planning and student engagement. However, I greatly appreciate the question that you posted because it forces us to approach this work from a leadership perspective, which is the core purpose of this course. So for a leader I think the best way to utilize the SAMR model it through modeling, observations and for school planning. From a modeling perspective, I think it is critical for school leaders to model use of the SAMR model when delivering professional development. Leaders should explicitly walk their teachers through their thought process via the SAMR model when explaining how they designed the professional development experience. Second, the SMR model should be a regular element of teacher observations that should help guide teacher feedback on their lessons. Lastly, leaders should be taking inventory of the technological tools that teachers have at their disposal and ensure that teachers have the resources necessary in order to transform the teacher learning experience.

    No as for the resources question, that’s a tough one to answer because as argued in Bennett and Oliver (2011), many forms of technology that have been designed to be used in the classroom setting have been designed “based on popular perception rather than theory or evidence arising from specific examples.” Therefore, it is hard to know whether or not the technological tools that you purchase as a school leader are actual valid, reliable and/or best in industry. I think the best thing that you can do as a school leader is ensure that you are doing extensive literary review and being as thoughtful as possible as you explore what new forms of innovative technology to purchase for your staff and students.


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