I’ve always thought that education frameworks are a bit of a double-edged sword. Yes, they often help us to simplify complex processes by making them easier to understand, but at the same time we run the risk of dumbing down or compartmentalizing what we’re doing by taking something that’s complex (but valuable) and turning it into concrete steps or stages.
In the world of educational technology, the most popular framework is easily the SAMR Model (read about it here), which I was first introduced to back in 2011. Three brief thoughts on the model:
- On many occasions I’ve heard educators heatedly debate where their lessons fall on the SAMR Ladder. For me, this is splitting hairs. We should simply be asking ourselves, “Are we first and foremost meeting the needs of our students, while using technologies to accomplish what we couldn’t otherwise do without the technology itself?”
- When we obsess over SAMR, we’re potentially doing wrong by our students. Just because a lesson is “above the line” (modification or redefinition), doesn’t mean worthwhile learning is happening. (For an example, see one of my previous posts, The Problem with App Smashing.)
- If we focus our professional learning on solid pedagogy (without overemphasizing technology), educators will usually find their own ways to leverage technologies to enhance what they’ve learned. As I mentioned in a post on student-run Edcamps:
Christina [first grade teacher] was able to incorporate various technologies into her classroom, despite the fact that none of our Writing Workshop professional learning explicitly focused on technology. We learned about the Writing Workshop framework (along with the Units of Study), and once she developed a deep understanding of these practices, the natural next step for her was to enhance what she was doing with a combination of technologies that (1) were already available to her, and (2) she explored through a webinar. Furthermore, several other teachers have also taken it upon themselves to do the same.
I do believe the SAMR Model is a fine starting point for those who are at the early stages of regularly integrating technologies into their instruction. But, I have found that an overreliance on a technology framework places too much emphasis on technology (surprise, surprise), and not enough of a focus on the actual learning that’s taking place. One way to view this problem is that there’s nothing wrong with the model; it’s how you use it.