No More Apps-by-SAMR Infographics!


Seriously, can we please stop doing this?


This is not good.

I don’t want to pick on this poster, and it’s over a year old. This is not the only example of this thinking, though, and this particular picture refuses to die. But it and its ilk need to be retired.

This is, I think, a very bad interpretation of SAMR. Chrome is not an app for “Modification,” and Symbaloo is not an app for “Substitution,” any more than a hammer is a tool which builds “Houses.” I can build a house using, in part, a hammer. I can also use a hammer to build a deck, or a birdhouse or hammer a sign to a tree, all of which have very different levels of complexity. If I’m really in a pinch, I can use it to hold down my blueprints when it’s windy or pry open a paint can.

Looking at the “Redefinition” category on this chart, you would be led to believe that using these apps will result in lessons and units which allow “for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” Exciting stuff, that! I have seen, though, many activities with Screen Chomp or Toontastic or Puppet Pals which have zero functional improvement over their arts-and-crafts analog cousins. If you do the same project with the Sock Puppets app that you used to do (or would have been able to do) with real sock puppets, then you’re still at Substitution (no functional improvement).

You cannot separate the tool from the process when evaluating technology integration. For example: this chart lists iMovie as a “Redefinition” app. Let’s play with iMovie as an app, while achieving:

  • Redefinition. Rather than interview someone and present their report based on that interview, student creates a documentary-style movie featuring the interview with their subject which contains the subject’s own words and the student’s interpretation/questions/discussion of context and relevance. Student submits video to local historical society for inclusion in related museum exhibit.
  • Modification. Student gives presentation to class while including multimedia examples produced using iMovie. This introduces new features only allowed by the technology (i.e. the “task redesign” stage), while still being similar to the original model (give presentation).
  • Augmentation. Student selects images to support or instruct a topic and records their voice/narration. This is a substitution for giving a traditional presentation, but there is functional improvement because the images and visuals can be viewed much clearer.
  • Substitution. Student makes a video of themselves delivering a presentation. No improvement on function or process from delivering the presentation in class, except that it gets the student some experience with iMovie.

SAMR is not a clean, objective rubric, nor is it a cookbook. I would wager that you could take most of the apps on that list and use them to design activities which meet the entire range of SAMR. Simplifying the process of Technology Integration to a checklist of “tools” rather than “process/product, using tools” keeps us in the cycle of technology-for-technology’s sake.

A nod, though, to a SAMR chart which doesn’t make me break out in hives:

@danielbbudd, h/t to iLearnDifferent

The difference in this chart is that it focuses on the student activity rather than the apps. For example, under Note Taking->Redefinition, the key here is “Sharing notebooks and collaborating.” He mentions Evernote as a possibility. Does it have to be Evernote? Absolutely not– could be using a blog, Diigo, Google Docs or a host of other options. The task is what differentiates the level.

The good news is that it is incredibly easy to take a project and elevate it: share it. Notice how many of @danielbbudd’s Modification or Redefinition tasks involve collaboration or publishable products. Publish them, and let the class/school/families/community/world comment on them or discuss them. Collect them together into an archive which the whole class gets to keep and refer to. Jigsaw them so that the each forms a larger class project and the whole become more than copies of the same parts. Just ask: what does this technology let me do that I couldn’t do before? 

What’s Your Take?

Am I being unfair here? Am I the one off-base? Do you use these app-based models in your planning or coaching?

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