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The SAMR model of tech integration and mobile apps

Back in the early days of my informal tech integration training, I heard Alan November share his thoughts on how schools could begin the process of embedding technology into instruction.

At that time, he talked about three different levels of integration that seem to make sense to me:

  • automate
  • informate
  • innovate

The goal was to move from using technology to complete tasks we’ve always done to using technology for tasks that have never before been done. From using a computer grading program to speed up the scoring of multiple choice tests to using a mobile app to create an interactive and collaborative e-book.

November suggested that we need to move beyond thinking about the tool and think more about the task. Decide first what we want to accomplish and then select the tool:

No one who ever bought a drill wanted a drill. They wanted a hole.
Perry Marshall

It’s the end result that matters, not the tool.

So when I found the handy SAMR poster highlighting mobile apps, I had a tiny little Alan November flashback. SAMR was created by Ruben Puentedura and is another method of thinking about tech integration levels.

SAMR stands for

  • Substitute – technology acts as a direct tool substitute without functional change
  • Augment – technology acts as a direct tool substitute with some functional improvement
  • Modify – technology allows for significant task redesign
  • Redefine – technology allows for the creation of previously inconceivable tasks

And the people over at the Apps in Education site have created a sweet little poster that lists a variety of apps that fit the SAMR model.

Nice list.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m very thankful for these types of lists and graphics, but I’d love for the creators (or the people that espouse them so fervently) to give some explanation – you know what I mean?

    I look at “Puppet Pals” for example, and wonder why that’s labeled as redefinition. I’ve used the app. You choose a background, choose some puppets and record voices. How does that redefine anything? How is it “previously inconceivable?” I’m guessing WAY more learning would go into making your own puppets & background and then presenting in front of the class. Think of the SKILLS acquired doing both of those.

    What do you think, Glenn?

    November 27, 2012
    • glennw #


      I do agree that we need to be more concerned about what we want kids to do and what sorts of things are happening in their heads than the coolness factor of apps.

      Put another way, we need to worry less about finding social studies apps and more about using the mobile device to actually impact learning. The EdTechTEacher folks have a nice site that does the same sort of thing that the poster does – ask people to think about the end result and then find an app or tool that fits the instruction / learning goal.

      I don’t have much experience with Puppet Pals but I would use it by having kids focus on the content of their script – the content rather than the tool. Part of the question I have with this sort of activity is that the focus is on the puppets and the background and the “flashy” stuff and the bells / whistles rather than the history stuff.

      Part of what this sort of app will let you do is to share the final product with multiple people, to have kids collaborate with other kids besides the ones in their classroom, with outside experts.

      To me, that is the part that “traditional” sorts of activities can’t do. Apps and mobile devices increase the size of both the creation team and the audience. And research is telling us that when that happens, learning and motivation increase.

      So I agree with you – don’t pick an app because it’s flashy and looks “fun.” Choose an app because it helps support youe end goal and because it provides a way to get your kids working with others outside your classroom.

      Thanks for the comment!


      November 27, 2012

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