That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble

There’s a lot of talk out there about SAMR these days (the model, not the rifle, although both are kind of cool). See what I mean?


Combined with other models, you might even end up with this:

Bloomin SAMR

Or this:

SAMR Wheel

Problems occur, however, when educators instinctively attempt to the climb the hierarchical ladder. In one such moment, Susan Oxnevad energetically wrote:

Researchers have determined that technology integration typically moves through specific levels. The higher the level of an activity the greater the educational benefit.

Because I’m a simpleton, I just don’t buy it. When should technology integration ever be typical, and what does educational benefit really mean?1 Does it mean higher test scores? Does it mean lots more fun?  Surely balance is in the equation somewhere, and hopefully today’s lesson is engagingly different than yesterday’s. If we, as educators, are shooting to be typical, then it’s little wonder why our kids are so bored.2

In well-meaning fashion like Susan, others have pushed the term “life-cycle,” when referring to technology adoption.3 All the while, countless others insist that the only right way is up.

We’re all in this together, though, so you tell me: Must our teaching and learning goals always linger in the lofty realms of redefine and create? Is there really no glory in enhancement?4 Or are there legitimately times when it’s OK for students to remember, understand, and apply? I contend that there are. Higher order learning tasks, maybe not; but sensible and important skills, nonetheless. Teaching at higher SAMR levels doesn’t guarantee greater educational benefit. Instead, it more likely results in different educational benefit.

But different doesn’t always mean better.

A few days back, Darren Kuropatwa live-tweeted a Ruben Puentedura presentation entitled Building Transformation: Frameworks and Practices. My ears perked up when I saw the claim that empirical evidence suggested that upper SAMR levels have greater effect (on student achievement?) than lower:

So immediately I dug in and quickly learned that Dr. Puentedura had used a study from 1989 to illustrate that when technology allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable (SAMR‘s beloved R), then relatively high effect sizes result (r=1.53, see slide 8 here). Now, I’m a fan of 1989 as much as the next guy, but is this really the best we can do? Why must the creator of one of our field’s most prolific models rely on research older than Netscape Navigator?

Our answer may sound a little like this: HYPE.

SAMR + Hype
SAMR + Gartner’s Hype Cycle

The hype of technology’s bling – combined with well-intentioned pushes for more meaningful experiences of learning – have produced a field ever-eager to jump on the bandwagon. We love a good echo chamber when we find one, but owe it to our students to do better.

In SAMR-ry,5 I think many of us in education are frustratingly stuck in Gartner’s trough of disillusionment, trying to understand why million dollar purchases are only being used as textbook and bubble sheet alternatives (SAMR’s beloved S!) Here’s to the day when research catches up with vision, and greater enlightenment more fully translates into more meaningful transformation.

Show 5 footnotes

  1. Does typical technology integration mean talking your way through your eight-year-old slide deck? Should it?
  2. While we’re at it, who in the world are these “Researchers,” anyway, and why are they moving so much cheese?
  3. But when does the cycle ever end? After redefining, is it appropriate to then substitute?
  4. The Makers might say, “NO!”
  5. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
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28 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

    22 February 2014 at 3:02pm
    Very Good Read - ...
  • @ClintonBreau
  • 22 February 2014 at 9:02pm
    […] Teaching at higher SAMR levels doesn't guarantee greater educational ...
  • That Time When SAMR Gets Us In To Trouble - Dra...
  • 23 February 2014 at 8:02pm
    Lots of mention of SAMR tonight, but must be critical and careful with that too ...
  • @jeremyinscho
  • 23 February 2014 at 11:02pm
    That time when SAMR gets us into trouble @ddraper #edchat #edtechchat -yes, I see this. ...
  • @lynhilt
  • 24 February 2014 at 3:02am
    @dkuropatwa FYI You are mentioned in this post: ...
  • @ptaylorsjr
  • 24 February 2014 at 9:02am
    Good ideas to consider! That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble ...
  • @DrSmartEd
  • 24 February 2014 at 9:02am
    Good discussion in the comments! RT @gcouros: That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble ...
  • @cehyde9
  • 24 February 2014 at 10:02am
    […] Teaching at higher SAMR levels doesn't guarantee greater educational ...
  • That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble - Drap...
  • 24 February 2014 at 1:02pm
    @SixRedMarbles And now for the other side of #SAMR … ...
  • @SixRedMarbles
  • 24 February 2014 at 5:02pm
    @TranquillityIW @jimtarber @ThatTupperKid Last diagram combines SAMR & hype cycle. ...
  • @rivenhomewood
  • 24 February 2014 at 7:02pm
    Interesting read regarding #SAMR. It is true that many make of ...
  • @cashjim
  • 24 February 2014 at 10:02pm
    I'm thinking abt SAMR-Don't set your expectations to high to often on the levels. ...
  • @mskawilson
  • 25 February 2014 at 1:02pm
    […] I said, I like SAMR because it’s tangible. However, as Darren Draper ...
  • In Response to “Redefinition” | Beth Holland
  • 25 February 2014 at 2:02pm
    Challenging SAMR via @shareski: When SAMR gets us into trouble. ...
  • @KeelerMS
  • 25 February 2014 at 5:02pm
    That time SAMR gets us into trouble via @ptaylorsjr great read ...
  • @Louisephinney
  • 25 February 2014 at 8:02pm
    @proteanteacher you might find last part of this interesting #samr ...
  • @ajmccarthynz
  • 25 February 2014 at 10:02pm
    Interesting to consider after this week's 'slam' Reality? ...
  • @jburla
  • 26 February 2014 at 6:02am
    […] Darren Draper explains there is a lot of hype surrounding using technology to ...
  • Redefine tasks or redefine the system?
  • 27 February 2014 at 12:02pm
    That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble - Drape's Takes Tags: ...
  • @VirtualGardner
  • 02 March 2014 at 7:03am
    That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble @ddraper ...
  • @sferrebenedicto
  • 05 March 2014 at 2:03am
    Critiques of the SAMR & TPACK models & ...
  • @edtechdev
  • 05 March 2014 at 10:03am
  • @TechChef4u
  • 05 March 2014 at 1:03pm
    Great post from @ddraper: That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble ...
  • @actionhero
  • 05 March 2014 at 9:03pm
    […] what defines their success in technology integration. Darren Draper wrote an ...
  • Is Education Technology Worth The Hype? | The Tech Rabbi
  • 06 March 2014 at 9:03am
    @jeffnugent @sanamuah Critiques of the SAMR & TPACK models … ...
  • @yinbk
  • 09 March 2014 at 12:03pm
    SAMR can get us into trouble says @ddraper #edtech #edu #educhat ...
  • @art_cathyhunt
  • 09 March 2014 at 7:03pm
    That Time When SAMR Gets Us Into Trouble ...
  • @AnnaPower_
  • 11 March 2014 at 4:03am
    […] the process. And I’m stuck. And then I think about that great article by ...
  • ‘We Don’t Wanna Change the World’ (Song inspired blog post #1) | Technically Speaking
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  • Patrick Woessner

    Great post, Darren. I’ve had SAMR shoved down my throat in the past year; this is a great critical response.

    • Thanks, Patrick.

      Why do you think some feel so strongly about SAMR, insisting that transformational use is *always* best?

      • John Maklary

        I think folks are intoxicated with clever and colorful charts that seem to point them toward the next best thing. A lot of the learning innovation I see doesn’t always build on a foundation but rather replaces it. We are in a hurry up culture everywhere and in education, it is no different. That said, I have jumped on this bandwagon too many times as well.

        I remember (vaguely), several years ago, someone (you) had these Wednesday afternoon learning sessions and the lack of sound foundation was frequently discussed.

        Good pushback Darren.

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  • micwalker

    My problem with SAMR is that it is looked at as a ladder to climb or rubric. I agree with you that there are times when students should “remember, understand and apply.” Not every lesson is going to be authentic and “redefine.” Given that, I like this model of the “pool.” I think the important thing right now is getting teachers into the pool, helping their students make sense of and learn to curate content, collaborate, and create. Thanks for pushing the thinking.

    • josh

      I’ve attended a lecture with Dr P. I think the value in what he’s saying lies in how SAMR helps us evaluate our use of technology. I see teachers using $1000 laptops to support classroom activities that would be more intuitive for students if done on paper. This kind of substitution is a waste of time and money. If we are to use technology to support learning, it should not just be adding another hurdle to existing tried and true activities. The tech should support better learning, or better and different learning that isn’t available without the tech.

      Also – while the body of research does stretch way back, I don’t believe it ended back there. He certainly had more recent references in the presentation I saw.

      I really like the Pool article mentioned above 🙂

  • Typical of most research or ideas, people take a useful idea, framework and try and make it some type of standard. I think it’s a great way to discuss practice and appreciate that technology provides many opportunities for change. We have a unquenchable thirst to simply education to formulas and recipes. Few leaders and districts are comfortable accepting the complexity and messiness of real learning because it’s hard to put in a framework. We waste an awful lot of time trying to put learning into boxes.

    • David Jakes and I were discussing this very thing yesterday.

      Containers seem natural and beneficial to many, but also tend to cause additional, often ugly problems. Don’t prejudice and privilege begin by fabricating containers?

    • micwalker

      It’s all about accountability and standardization, Dean! On the one hand, I see the equity angle and understand that every student deserves a good experience.Unfortunately, once you start standardizing, creativity, autonomy and innovation go out the window.

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  • What Dean said. Trying to formulize learning is like trying to formulize love.

    Also, define “student acheivement,”

  • Brendan Murphy

    Nice little discussion on effectiveness of technology on G+

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  • Brian Crosby

    Yes, look what is happening with “close reading” and all other reading, math or other teaching strategies that Marzano or the CCSS folks say has a high multiplier effect on learning. It leads to focus on that activity beyond reason … principals want to see it during walkthroughs, and teachers keep doing it until the principal walks through when it is happening in their room so they can get the “golden checkmark” on the walkthrough form and maybe even get called out during a staff meeting for doing it. Also leads to the,” if it is a good strategy then do it lots to get the most bang from it thinking.”

    In addition, many are at that point in integrating tech or even just embracing a new pedagogy and are unsure of what to do, so they rely on models and steps to follow like SAMR – then follow the model to a fault … and who can blame them … its what they were told is good stuff in the 50 minute session or training they had. 🙂

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  • Great to see some criticism of SAMR at last, (I prefer the RAT framework) I think Bloom’s is a little overdue for critique as well, so to see both in the same space made me laugh. The idea that somehow remembering is inferior to creating is ludicrous, especially when the act of creating is likely to facilitate better retention anyway …

    If you’re interested, see these, RAT framework:

    Bloom’s and redundancy:

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  • Jonas Lindqvist

    Interesting. There is a open letter to Mr Puentedura from a swedish professor here:
    Yet to be adressed.

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  • Rick Anthony

    Thanks for the post. Great teaching is HARD. I think frameworks such as Blooms or Depth of Knowledge or SAMR serve the purpose of helping us see and think beyond what might come easiest or most natural. If they are not HYPED, my worry is they are easily forgotten. From my limited perspective, through observations, I don’t see the “upper levels” enough. At the same time I also acknowledge that the level of collaboration, communication, and professional learning needed to incorporate those into one’s mode of operation is not supported well enough by our system. Where I think we agree, is one needs to have perspective. Oftentimes we can get caught up in our area of study or experience and hype something without seeing the boots on the ground reality. There is value in the reality.

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