SAMR: Don’t Get Stuck On “S!”


Remember when you learned how to ride a bike, practicing in the driveway for hours, until suddenly you got it! Balance was achieved, and with a little more pedaling you were off and riding down the road, exploring places your little feet had never taken you before!

One of the things you realized while learning to ride, was it is essential to look up, to look forward, to look where you were going. Looking down at the front wheel inevitably led to loss of balance, or worse yet a crash.

A model for tech integration developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, is called SAMR: Substitute, Augment, Modify and Redefine.

I see educators struggling to use technology because they do not keep their eyes on where they are going, or worse yet, don’t seem to realize there is a journey to be made at all. A few tries with using an I-pad as a substitute for pen and paper and soon enough the teacher is unhappy as students are inevitably lured into distraction by this portal-to-the-universe in their hands. Substitute is just the beginning, the gaining of balance and acquisition of steering skills. It is crucial to start going somewhere as soon as possible!

You did not learn to ride a bike so you could circle around your family’s driveway. You learned to ride a bike so you could ride to town, or to your friend’s house, or across the country. Do you remember that heady, exhilarating sensation of freedom?

Likewise, the goal of learning the basics of operating an I-pad is not so you can use it as a fancy three ring binder. Don’t get stuck there, in the family driveway. You will soon find the bike itself is preposterous in that setting, difficult to turn so sharply and dizzying to operate in circles.

The I-pad has the potential to take students anywhere in the world, and deeply into any field of knowledge. It also empowers students to create and do things things us older folks cannot even imagine, our minds being well trained in the boundaries of what has been possible up until recently.

New technology empowers us, enables us, indeed forces us, to redesign our curriculum. With nearly infinite knowledge at their fingertips, our students do not need us to download all the data from our own heads into theirs anymore. It is still essential that as teachers we have a body of knowledge about our subject matter, not because students need to hear the details directly from us, those are google-able, but because we understand the big picture of our subject.  What students need is our guidance in navigating this brave new world. They need our help organizing information around key concepts, understanding systems and seeing connections.

Redesigning how we teach with the new tools now in hand is a formidable, essential and of course completely unavoidable task ahead for all of us educators.   There is no good reason for delay, and many reasons to begin now.

What are the possibilities out there once students and teachers learn how to ride this virtual bicycle? Imagine students publishing their English papers on their own blogs, gaining a readership of peers around the world. Imagine science students connecting with actual scientists out in the field who are doing current research on Climate Change. Imagine Social Science students having a UN style summit with young people from other nations.  Imagine Language students communicating in the target language in real time with kids their own age  on the other side of the planet. There are many ideas we can think of off the top of our heads, and certainly many more our students will discover as we launch on our journey together.

Let us ride!


Photo Credit: Lisa Drummond


About Sue Houston

I've been teaching high school science for over 25 years. The more I learn, the more questions I have about how good education really works. This blog is an attempt to explore the fundamental question of "How do Kids Learn?" This blog will include posts related to technology in education, neuroscience, behavioral science and real life experiences in the classroom. Please, I invite you all to join the conversation in the comments sections. Perhaps together we can find more insights into how kids learn! If you are a student, educator, or past student (that covers everyone, right?) you have something to contribute! :)
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2 Responses to SAMR: Don’t Get Stuck On “S!”

  1. maisymak says:

    As always, good stuff. I think I’m a little stuck on S…but I’m moving slowly forward. Slowly, slowly like a turtle, slowly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Adam Jones says:

    YES Sue, YES! Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself. And the Godfather of SAMR himself, Ruben, is coming to Proctor in March to teach about his model (with lots of examples of what M and R look like)! Going to be great!

    Liked by 1 person

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