SAMR Ceiling?

Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

Is Redefinition really the top of the Slope of Enlightenment? Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

I have taught the concept of SAMR to teachers for years. We’re like old friends. But if I was honest I’d have to say SAMR and I have had a few fights and attempted to make up over the years. I think many educators are misunderstanding the stages of SAMR. One particular PD session I helped with years ago made this clear. We asked teachers to read educational scenarios and decide where they fit in the model. Some scenarios were simple to figure out but many of them were tough to slot into “S” “A” “M” or “R”. When we reviewed the “answers” teachers pushed back, giving great reasons why certain scenarios fit in various categories. “Do they just not understand?” I wondered, or was the model broken?

I’ve seen blog posts over the years that reinforce these wonderings. Excellent, well-meaning educators have blogged about SAMR, some even with examples of work that fits in the four different levels. But at times they seem to be saying conflicting things. Have a look at this article published in Edutopia where they tout shared Google Slides as “Redefinition” Wow. If that is Redefinition then I am left feeling like there is nowhere else to go. But have I, among many others that do things like share presentations online, really maxed out on the SAMR scale? Reid Wilson has a new take on this and I’ll have to say, I am in total agreement with his article and I could not have said better myself.

“At the redefinition tier, we are not really imagining and conceptualizing as much as we are applying what has already been thought of before.”

Wilson, I believe, is saying that the SAMR model limits us by steering us to think about the tools. The higher level, he calls it conceptualization, is another space above redefinition that allows for people to not just put the same old technology together in new innovative ways, but rather to think of things at a whole new level. We can conceptualize things. It’s beyond putting things together. It’s conceiving of ideas and it has a much higher ceiling than redefinition.

I chose the above image because its creator added this element that shows progress over time and I like this new dimension in the SAMR. Take a look at the line. Once we get into the “Redefinition” area we enter the “Slope of Enlightenment” but notice it is just a slope.

This diagram is begging for a new level but I am cautious about suggesting one. I almost want to leave the model behind and talk about this new “conceptualization” idea of Wilson’s, separate from the SAMR model. It leaves the troubles of the model behind and takes to to a new place where we can stop talking about tools and what we do with them and start talking about ideas and concepts.

Actually I like this concept of a revised Blooms’s taxonomy from Kathy Schrock of all the parts working together. There is no hierarchy, no top or bottom. All the processes work together like a machine.

My goal is to push my teachers to the next level or to an entirely new place if it is not a level. Will you join me in this healthy challenge of the SAMR model? Will you join me in liberating teachers from the idea that they must figure out new ways to “do technology” in order to climb to the top of the SAMR model?


Disclaimer: Like Reid I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject and certainly not even close to Puentedura himself. I am just a heavy user with quite a bit of hands-on experience working with teachers and talking about this model.


Side note: there are some very entertaining versions and modifications of the SAMR model out there, many inspired by iPad apps. Check this one out. May I make a general plea to the ed tech world? Please don’t create any more of these iPad app charts, wheels, diagrams, etc. It’s a bit like getting a tattoo on your arm of the number one song on iTunes. It’s going to be out of date by the time it’s done!

3 thoughts on “SAMR Ceiling?

  1. intoHi David, I am one of those teachers currently in EdTech catch-up mode and, though SAMR is new to me, I am a relatively old-hand at teaching. SAMR is the model I find most user-friendly as I work to evolve my classroom practice through the incorporation of technology, but I have to admit I was having problems with the notion that our students’ work is done when they reach the Redefinition stage. Adding Conception into the mix recognises the value of and adds much further scope for innovation and I am looking forward to the discussion generated by yours and Reid Wilson’s blog posts… the mix adds much further scope for innovation and I am looking forward to the discussion generated by yours and Reid Wilson’s blog posts…

    • Nicola,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and contribute! I’m glad to have added to this discussion that Reid started. I don’t mean to go on a rant and hope my post does not do so. I just wanted to challenge myself and others to dig a little deeper.

      Have you found any models that work well for you?

  2. Hi David,

    At my school, we have been having many conversations around SAMR lately, and they often seem to end with the idea that SAMR is a moving target. Once we seem to reach the “R” we are able to do something and need to readjust our scale, which would seem like your conceptualizing, if I am reading your remarks correctly.

    I agree with you that it’s very easy to fall into talking about the tools rather than the tasks. When I look at a lesson, I can easily dismiss a tool because it has been around “a long time” (maybe two or three years) rather than using fresh eyes to consider in what way the tool can be used to do something new.

    It’s always a process and not a destination.

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