Transforming activities


The SAMR Model is a useful scaffold when considering the impact of technology upon a learning activity. While such impact can be broadly categorised as Enhancement or Transformation, SAMR stands for each of the four broad, desirable outcomes when embedding the use of learning technology:

Substitution - Augmentation - Modification - Redefinition.  

Below are definitions of each of the outcomes with the degree to which a typical activity – note-taking – can be changed by technology.

Enhancement: Substitution

Where technology acts as a direct tool substitute but offers no functional improvement.

Note-taking is traditionally a solitary, paper-based task.  At the Substitution level, the practitioner should consider what is being gained by the use of technology.  Digitising the practice of Note-taking using a laptop with a word processing programme (MS Word) or a tablet with a cloud-based service, such as Evernote would provide the following, clear benefits:

  • ease of editing & reformatting
  • sharing
  • portability
  • retention
  • access

Enhancement: Augmentation

Where technology acts as a direct tool substitute and offers functional improvement.

At the Augmentation level, there is a substitution of tools, but with some change in student engagement and outcomes.  A progressive alternative to solitary and private note-taking is to publish notes to a course discussion forum or a wiki page, to allow the cohort to view and comment upon the posted notes.   This could provide the following benefits, in addition to those accrued at the substitution stage:

  • increased student engagement
  • exposure to the thoughts and idea of others
  • the development of valuable transferable skills – writing for an audience, online collaboration
  • opportunities for immediate feedback
  • student-centred learning – where the lecturer/tutor shifts from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’

Transformation: Modification

Where technology allows for significant redesign of the task.

At the modification stage, the learning activity can be transformed through redesign.  Achieving this generally requires further momentum along the ‘teacher-centric / student-centric continuum’. 

Note-taking in class could become a truly social activity whereby live, group-based mind-mapping could replace solitary note-taking.  Groups could work together on different topics / parts of the lecture.  The mind-maps could then be uploaded to Moodle to provide access for the whole cohort.  This could provide the following benefits, in addition to those accrued at the substitution and augmentation stages:

  • the further development of valuable transferable skills – writing for an audience, group-working, peer-review
  • student-centred learning - taking responsibility for creating and curating content
  • lecturers would have a clear indication of the extent of student learning – ahead of assignment hand-ins and examinations
  • the mind-maps can be re-used for revision purposes

Transformation: Redefinition

Where technology allows for the creation of new tasks.

At the redefinition stage, the emphasis is on student-centred learning.  A key part of this stage is that students take greater responsibility for their learning, while developing and demonstrating new skills as part of the redefined activity. 

Further to the shared note-taking, live mind-mapping, and publication to Moodle, students could vote on the veracity and quality of the group notes, and then edit and pull together a definitive and consensus-driven set of revision notes. 

In those courses which record and provide VLE access to lectures, students could annotate notes with links and timeline locations of recorded lectures to guide reviewing and to reinforce learning.  This

The group-gnerated resources could be published to a blog; to break out of the confines of the institutional VLE, and invite comments from experts and learners around the world.  This could provide fresh perspectives, and help build extended personal learning networks.

These approaches, in addition to those benefits accrued at the previous stages, could:

  • further develop valuable transferable skills - networking, digital literacy, editing group work, writing for an extended audience
  • student-centred learning - where students decide on the platform and content of their resources
  • the use of portfolios where students could evidence their formal learning and the development of valuable transferable skills

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