Get More Awesome from your Technology with SAMR

Using technology in the classroom is becoming more and more routine, but what improvements are we making with it? Is it making changes in our teaching, or is it just giving us a new way to do the same things we’ve done for years? Unfortunately, it seems like it’s just more of the same. SAMR can help you change that in your classroom.



For a classroom with technology to have more impact than a classroom without, teachers must adopt a new way of thinking. Just giving the same assignments on a computer is not going to generate the motivation we expect from students using computers. Teachers need to understand that their attitudes toward implementing technology will play a part in their students’ outcomes when they are using it. If teachers feel like it is just one more thing added to a jam-packed day and they are using it to complete the same work, the technology is not worth the cost put into it.

You may have heard of the model known as SAMR. This model helps teachers integrate technology into the classroom in a meaningful way. The letters stand for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition, and they identify the level of technology integration into the curriculum. The first two are considered basically “More of the same” while the M and R represent integrations to make changes to the learning. As a result, the goal for teachers is to create lessons with technology that fall into those higher two categories.

The Four Levels of SAMR

Let’s learn a little more about each of the SAMR levels. The first two, substitution and augmentation, are the basic levels. They are called “below the line.” They integrate technology without changing the experience in any significant way. I like to think of them as the starting levels. If you’ve never used technology in your classroom, these types of integrations will help you increase your comfort level. Don’t stop at these levels, though. The goal is to build lessons above the imaginary line.




Substitution is when you take something you would normally do in a traditional classroom and put technology in its place. For example, taking a worksheet and putting it on online and having the kids complete it and turn it in.

When you are planning a lesson using technology, these are the verbs you can use to recognize an augmentation lesson:

  • Identify
  • Describe
  • Label
  • Explain

An example of apps you could use would be using to look up vocabulary words.


Augmentation is still considered a lower level of technology integration. However, it takes the activity and adds technology to improve them. If you want your kids practice their math facts with flashcards, and you give them a site or a program to use to practice, it augments the experience, usually by giving the kids instant feedback as to their progress.

When you are planning a lesson using technology, these are the verbs you could use to recognize substitution:

  • Demonstrate
  • Classify
  • Compare
  • Infer

One app you might want to try would be Flashcard Machine. It’s not just for math!

By comparison, the other levels, known as modification and redefinition, are “above the line.” These two levels take the teaching and learning from “what we’ve always done” to making a change in the way our students are learning.


The modification level is where the technology begins to make a change to the typical lesson. You can use technology to modify activities in many different ways. Imagine you want your students to make a brochure about an animal for science class. Instead of a traditional paper brochure, the students could produce a digital one with links to other sites and a student made movie. The kids are still doing everything they normally do for this project. However, you have changed the product and therefore made it very different from its paper counterpart.

When you are planning a lesson using technology, these are the verbs you could use to recognize a modification lesson:

  • Persuade
  • Collaborate
  • Plan
  • Critique

Some programs to try out to will help you modify your students’ products are:

  • Google Apps like Docs or Slides especially using the sharing feature for collaboration
  • Popplet
  • PicCollage


The highest level of the model is “redefinition.” At this level, the changes made by the technology create an entirely new student product. The changes made would not be possible without the technology. In the last example, the brochure was modification because if all the technology were gone, the students would still be able to produce a brochure. 

This level of SAMR seems to have a larger component of 21st-century learning strategies than the other levels. Let’s think about something we all want our kids to do, present their information. Instead of having them come to the front and give an oral report, they could write something like a poem or a song on the topic, record themselves presenting it, post it on their blog, and allow others to listen and evaluate.

When you are planning a lesson using technology, these are the verbs you could use to recognize a redefinition lesson:

  • Design
  • Invent
  • Develop
  • Defend

Also, these apps may work well for redefining a lesson or student product:

You want to effectively use technology in your classroom, but you aren’t sure what you should do differently. Build your technology knowledge skills with how-to sheets for you and your students.  Subscribe to my mailing list and receive access to free, student-friendly how-to sheets for many different online apps and Google tools to make your dream classroom happen.

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