Enhancement or Transformation?

Avoid the $1000 Pencil
Avoid the $1000 Pencil

Being that we are in the second year of a 1:1 program, we all know that adding technology to education comes at a cost – money, time, and effort.  If it’s done well, technology can transform teaching and learning.  If it’s done poorly, our students are left holding a “$1,000 pencil” according to George Couros (@gcouros), a Canadian principal and education speaker.  As I said last week, our pedagogy must drive our technology.  Don’t use tech just because our kids have an iPad; instead use tech to create a learning experience that would not have been possible otherwise.  Remember, we want to integrate tech where it works.  Hopefully the rest of this post will provide some ideas about how to transform education for our students.

SAMR Model
SAMR Model

Most of us have seen the SAMR model (to the left) as a framework to help you evaluate the best technology in your classroom.  This framework is developed from the bottom up.  As you see in the graphic, the creator of SAMR places Substitution and Augmentation in the Enhancement group (think of enhancement as the most basic change – it may improve the lesson, but maybe not the thinking).  Then there is a dashed line before you get to Modification and Redefinition which fall in the Transformation group (think of transformation as a thorough change in the form of education – it will improve the lesson and the thinking).  Many teachers find that dashed line to be a tall fence to climb.  In essence, to get over that fence, teachers sometimes have to throw previous activities out the window and create something new, and other times it requires a complete redesign of the activity.  In order to make that jump from augmentation to modification, here are some ideas:

  1. Know your goals – don’t think task or app, think learning outcome.
  2. Think about things you’ve done in the past and identify their strengths – what experiences were important for students, and what were the areas of growth from those experiences?
  3. Find a tool that can meet your goals and has similar strengths – with a quick Google search you can find websites and apps that might work. Scan their features to see if something does what you need it to do.
  4. Keep an open mind – don’t eliminate a tool just because you’ve never used it before.
  5. Generate several ideas for activities – make a list of possible tools. Cross out the ones that you don’t think will work.
  6. Put the plan into action – remember that the best way to learn new tech is to play with it. If you don’t know a tool yet, don’t feel like you can’t let students use it.  I have yet to have a student tell me “I can’t use this, we haven’t had PD on it!”  Students are just as capable of playing with an app or website to figure out what it can do, and if they’re really stuck, they’ll use Google or YouTube to help them figure it out.  Plus, if it’s new, students will be more excited and engaged!
  7. Be ready to adjust on the fly – remember, failure is part of the learning process. If something doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board.  Sometimes our willingness to model failure will help our students accept the idea that we learn and grow in times of failure.

One other idea that may help you to transform education for your students is through collaboration.  Don’t feel like you have to redevelop everything you are doing on your own.  Get together with others who teach the same subject as you and pick a topic.  Bring some of your favorite activities that fit that topic, and collaborate to find a way to make the jump from enhancement to transformation.  Then, after you try something, come back together to talk about what worked well, what didn’t, and what you would do next.  And if meeting together is not possible, use tech to collaborate – create a shared planning document in Office 365, or Facetime with your colleagues to plan when you both are free but cannot be together.

On Matt Miller’s website there is an excellent article titled 10 ways to reach SAMR’s redefinition level.  Follow the hyperlink for some great ways to take it up a notch!

Where are you in terms of the SAMR model with the tech you are using in your room?  Do you feel you are sticking to the enhancement zone, or have you jumped the fence into the transformation zone?

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