Grasping the distinction between blended learning and ed-tech integration is critical for teachers in the process of enhancing their lessons and classrooms with tech. Simply put, blended learning always includes tech integration, but tech integration does not necessarily mean blended learning.
There is in fact a model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, called SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) that defines the various stages of tech integration, specifically with regard to teaching.
The SAMR Model
The Model is helpful as it shows a progression that technology adoption usually follows in a classroom environment, and helps teachers to identify and visualize their stage on that continuum.
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I find it a helpful exercise to explain the SAMR model, as it is a clear, graphic representation that teachers can use to better understand whether they are merely at the tech integration phase, or closer to a blended learning phase. It is not necessary to see the Model as a continuum, although for digital teaching practitioners the ultimate goal is for technology to Redefine their teaching practices.
First stage: Substitution
Substituting a teaching practice with technology is defined as the first step. Here computer technology is used to perform an identical task in a similar way prior to computers. The printer is probably the best example here, the pen or pencil was replaced by a keyboard and printer. The task, output and process are the same. From a teaching and learning point of view, nothing has changed, and no functional enhancement to learning has been made. At this level of technological integration the class is still very much in a traditional un-flipped format.
Second stage: Augmentation
At this stage technology becomes more effective, as well as efficient. An example would be the use of Google Forms to create, distribute and grade tests and quizzes. Here paper and time is saved, as teachers can automate the grading process. The time saved, and the immediacy of the feedback (on a student’s level of understanding) helps move the learning process forward more quickly. At this stage of the continuum the student still remains passive in the overall learning process.
Third stage: Modification
This is the first step over the engagement line, where technology truly begins to enhance learning. Here technology modifies the actual outputs of students. Teachers are reaching and engaging students in ways that were not possible prior to computer technology. A good example would be using group chat, Google docs-type technology to write, and create group projects or essays. In this example, the technology enables discursive learning over multiple locations, providing shorter edit cycles and immediate peer feedback. Learning and engagement is greatly enhanced.
Fourth stage: Redefinition
At this stage computer technology allows for the creation of entirely new tasks, that were not possible prior. The task set by the teacher would be simply impossible without the use of technology. At this stage technology is indiscernible from the students’ inputs and outcomes, the entire process is blended with the technology. An example would be the above essay or project, with an additional task - to create, shoot, edit and narrate their essay as an online video. Here the speed, accessibility and wealth of apps and platforms available have a new impact on learning outcomes, one that was not achievable before.
The SAMR model adds a level of clarity and comfort to whichever stage you may find yourself at in terms of including technology in your classroom. It defines technology integration as a process (we needn’t feel overwhelmed if we are not completely blended), and it highlights how simple adjustments to our current technology integration could gear us up further along the scale of engagement.