“User inspired upper-level technology literacy; collaboratively coupled with the ability to apply knowledge and skills effectively to perform or complete a task.” In a wordy, complicated nutshell that is my definition of what we are all aiming at when we talk of technology integration. It is the ideal we strive for as teachers, in the modern world of education. A grandiose idea of best practice; which we continually try to apply to our daily learning outcomes and objectives for students.
Redefinition is a complicated and complex web, which helps us to outline elements which might contribute to achieving our goals. Reaching the redefinition level is more complicated than just a teacher progressing through the levels by deciding to change their in-class practice. A quick overview of what goes into reaching redefinition on the SAMR scale follows, starting from the big picture and working our way down the digital wormhole.
As educators, we are on the front line; closest to the student who is the end user or beneficiary and ultimately responsible for the final product. But we do not arrive at the upper levels without careful planning way back at the beginning by others. True redefinition starts on a much more macro level. An educational institution needs to align its school mission & vision to maximize their instructor’s capability. Far from the classroom, the impact of decision making at the Board of Governors, Head of School or Principal level sets the course. SAMR starts with budgets and strategic planning, or in the hiring practices and training & development of staff. All of these factors outside the classroom allow us to be successful when interacting with students. Other important building blocks such as a scope & sequence of skills, enable students to build a repertoire of competencies over years to make redefinition possible.
Once all factors out of control of the practitioner are taken care of; then the role of the educator comes into play. By changing in-class practice and pedagogy, through sustained effort in planning for learning experiences; allow the final pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. What must be remembered, is that it is often a process and it can be tough to jump from one level to the other, without at least some struggle and significant scaffolding. Although the SAMR model, in many ways, is more applicable to Middle or High School, I have found success in Upper and Lower Primary. The Google Apps for Education (GAFE) platforms have helped transform learning enormously. GAFE brings the collaborative aspect to the classroom and within various curated digital communities. GAFE’s greatest strength is the ability to easily mimic best practice and to learn from others who encountered the same issues or successes.
Activities such as collaborating on presentations, or creating and editing shared texts are just the beginning. A few best practice examples can be found in Heidi Neltner’s SAMR Smash – Integrating iPads into Teaching & Learning Practices. I found this to be a very important resource, guiding me through my own SAMR development. The article helped guide me through Language and Math in my first year with iPads in Grade Two. Several graphics in the article contain verbs for each SAMR level, to embed in your teaching and also have clear parallels to the New Bloom’s Taxonomy. In our classroom we are fortunate to be a part of the Global Book Project by Heather Simpson’s Grade Two class in Canada. My students have contributed to the publishing of three informational eBooks about Switzerland. An Introduction to Switzerland, Swiss Holidays & Celebrations and Recreation in Switzerland. Schools from 10 different countries have participated creating 30 grade-and-reading level appropriate resources for over 200 students. Not only do the students learn about the characteristics of a country, their global understanding and mapping skills have become very developed for their age.
Another example of practice that I have adopted is highlighted in Kelly Walsh‘s 8 Examples of Transforming Lessons Through the SAMR Cycle. As a coach of the school’s Girls Softball teams the redefinition outline of “Phys Ed – Learning To Hit a Baseball Well” describes our integration of technology perfectly. The article’s example is: “Students watch video examples and practice the techniques, then the coach/teacher videos them hitting balls and provides feedback about their technique”. We do that. The students love it. I have had the most success in Varsity Boys Basketball, where we are building a individual player’s video library to track skill development over the course of the season. Our team manager Beatriz records statistics on a Google Sheet and we have found that having access to this information has created much more ownership and given focus to our training for the athletes.
After reading Walsh’s “Learning Fractions” lesson, she inspired last year’s Fifth Grade to create in collaboration a Google Sheet with the characteristics of 2D and 3D shapes. This acted as our class’ Mathematical reference dictionary and included a link to the student explaining and modelling the shape in a video.
SAMR on paper sounds much more complicated than it really is in practice. The students have the ability to lead the lesson, as they are the ones who are currently pushing the technology boundaries in terms of time, content and accessibility. Once the students are turned on to what is possible, they create a vortex, driving their own progress forward. Just be sure to enjoy the journey.