Technology for learning: Redefining learning through the SAMR framework

by Staci Kalmbacher (Dulwich College Suzhou)


Staci is from Texas, USA, and enjoying her first international posting at Dulwich College Suzhou. She earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Missouri before earning a Master’s in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University. Staci has enjoyed serving students and teachers for over 20 in various leadership roles. She is certified in Distance Education at Texas A&M. Staci was selected to participate in the NASA Classroom of the Future program and a recipient of the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Fellowship. 

Staci is serving as the Director of Educational Technology as well as teaching ICT. She loves learning, technology, gaming, travel and leadership and looks forward to sharing these with and learning from the Dulwich College Suzhou community.

In Redefining Learning Through the SAMR Framework Staci Kalmbacher (DCSZ) introduces Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Substitution - Augmentation - Modification - Redefinition model to considers how we can effectively transition the use of technology from substitution of traditional practice to novel and powerful applications that redefine how and what we learn.


From the Guest Editor:

Learning is personal. Students and teachers have personalised plans, personal inquiries, personal support and personal devices. Individual educational plans, action research and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes all work toward creating a personalised learning experience for each student. A BYOD programme enables students to bring learning tools to school that are familiar, linked and accessible. How do we effectively leverage and integrate technology to personalise learning?

Advancing pedagogy, not just technology

Advancing our access to technology is not enough. Pedagogy has to be advanced as well. A traditional classroom that digitises materials and allows students to take notes on laptops will not help children achieve better learning results than before technology was introduced to the learning environment, because the pedagogy and learning are the same as they were before technology. Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model uses the term “substitution” to describe when technology is a direct tool substitute with no functional change (2).

In a learning environment where technology integration is at the substitution level, students primarily work alone when using technology and the teacher is their primary source of information.  Students may receive information from the teacher through digital resources while the teacher directs students to work alone on tasks involving technology. Alternatively, the teacher may be the only one using technology, such as presentation software to support a lecture. In the substitution classroom, students are consumers of digital content with no connection beyond content.

Dr. Puentedura describes the augmented level as students using technology in mostly procedural ways, as directed by the teacher. Students often use the same technology in the same way and usually in a step-by-step manner. The teacher controls the type of technology and how it is used. For example, the teacher may lead the class through the creation of individual concept maps using technology (see Each student creates his or her own map while directed by the teacher. Students may use information literary skills while researching on the Internet, sometimes on sites predetermined by the teacher.

Slight changes may push this learning plan to Dr. Puentedura’s next level: modification.  For example, students may collaborate online to create a whole class concept map that students continue to modify as their understanding changes.

The “modification” level in the SAMR model occurs when technology allows the pedagogy to transform and redesign the learning. The teacher directs the choice of technology tools but students use the tools on their own, and may begin to explore other capabilities of the tools. Students work independently with technology tools in conventional ways, such as researching or consuming information. Students are developing a conceptual understanding of technology tools and begin to consider contributing to the broader online learning community.

In Dr. Puentedura’s model, technology integration reaches the “redefinition” level  when it “allows for the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable” (2). Digital tools should be strategically integrated with pedagogy to enable learners to:

  • Connect beyond the boundaries of the classroom and the school day with peers, experts and others throughout the world.
  • Engage in a line of inquiry that is important to the learner.
  • Challenge themselves to generate new ideas, products or processes.
  • Investigate and solve real problems.
  • Reflect using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify conceptual understanding and their thinking, planning and creative processes.

In a learning environment where technology integration is at the redefinition level, students are digitally migrating beyond geographic boundaries. Through projects like Mystery Skype students are engaged in a global learning community through technology to foster cultural understanding. Each year for the D’Oscars, a Junior School film-making and awards event hosted by Dulwich College Shanghai, learners use technology to compose, create, record and perform. As models of blended learning grow in Dulwich campuses, students are developing a strong understanding of digital citizenship as they learn how to express themselves successfully and responsibly on a world stage.  

Creating creators

Meaningful learning occurs when the learner is engaged in personal inquiry, not passive listening. Learners create and publish their ideas and learning to the world using digital resources. Students have moved past simply consuming content to creating and exchanging learning resources. Technology is a catalyst for creativity, innovation, and critical thinking.

To facilitate the shift from consumers to creators, the learning environment should nurture and share innovative learning practices. Professional learning communities offer an inquiry-based, collaborative, and action research oriented learning experience for educators.  What if the same philosophy were applied to student learning?  Personalised, problem-based models of learning would become the norm. Students would go beyond being problem solvers; they would be problem finders.  A one-to-one technology device program, preferably BYOD, coupled with problem-based learning provides the optimal learning experience for creative confidence. The maker movement in education promotes problem finding, design, engineering and creativity.  The most well-known sources for maker inspiration for learning are:

As Michael Fullan often states, pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator (19).  Technology offers a wide variety of tools to help learners to explore, create and invent. Technology also enables educators to become collaborators in learning as they engage in active inquiry alongside their students. Using technology as a catalyst, educators and students can become collaborative, intellectual problem solvers within a self-improving learning community.


Works Cited:

Fullan, Michael. "Change Making It Happen in Your School and System." Change Making It Happen in Your School and System. Motion Leadership, 2013. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.

Puentedura, Ruben R., Ph. D. "Building Transformation: An Introduction to the SAMR Model." Building Transformation: An Introduction to the SAMR Model (n.d.): n. pag. 22 Aug. 2014. Web. 25 Aug. 2014. .