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The SAMR model in education

What is the SAMR model?

A powerful conceptual tool to think about technology integration—and edtech’s best uses—is the SAMR model, developed in 2010 by education researcher Ruben Puentedura, who was the 1991 recipient of a Phi Beta Kappa teaching award.

Ruben R. Puentedura has an excellent example of how this is used in geography;

  1. Substitution, Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change.  Google Earth
  2. Augmentation, teach acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement. My maps editor
  3. Modification, Teach allows for significant task redesign. Gapminder
  4. Redefinition, Teach allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable, Kiva ( see my use here)

Here’s a closer look at good classroom practices at each level in the model:

Substitution” means replacing traditional activities and materials—like in-class lectures or paper worksheets—with digital versions. There is no substantial change to the content, just the way that it is delivered.

Augmentation; This level involves incorporating interactive digital enhancements and elements like comments, hyperlinks, or multimedia. The content remains unchanged, but students can now take advantage of digital features to enhance the lesson.

Modification; At this level, teachers can think about using a learning management system like Google Classroom, Moodle, Schoology, or Canvas to handle the logistical aspects of running a classroom, like tracking grades, messaging students, creating a calendar, and posting assignments.

Redefinition; Learning is fundamentally transformed at the “redefinition” level, enabling activities that were previously impossible in the classroom.

For example, virtual pen pals can connect students to other parts of the world, whether it’s with other students or experts in a field. Virtual field trips enable students to visit locations like the Amazon rainforest, the Louvre, or the Egyptian pyramids. After reading a book in class, you can invite the author to chat about their work and answer questions. Source: Edutopia

The SAMR Ladder:  Questions and Transition

Research articles on the SAMR model

SAMR is an abbreviation of Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition. It is is a four-level, taxonomy-based approach for selecting, using, and evaluating technology in K-12 settings. The model is popular among practitioners and is widely used in research publications to describe and categorize the integration of digital technologies in educational practices. The SAMR model is used by researchers to categorize educational practices with digital technologies; specifically, that categorization is based on the actions and roles of teachers and students. Instances of apparently similar actions that are categorized differently using SAMR indicate factors that may influence the model’s application. SAMR does not acknowledge teachers’ familiarity and prior practice with digital technologies, nor does it acknowledge the educational context. This article is written with references to the following studies; A scoping review of the application of the SAMR model in research. Christopher N. Blundell, Michelle Mukherjee , Shaun Nykvist  and The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use Erica R. Hamilton1 & Joshua M. Rosenberg2 & Mete Akcaoglu


The processes that teachers use to integrate digital technologies are described in many models. Perhaps one most widely known is the TPACK model. Technology, Pedagogical and content knowledge.

How is the SAMR model applied in research to categorise practice with digital technologies in formal educational settings?

Collectively, enhancing teachers’ actions with digital technologies more frequently involved improving established practices, and the small number of instances of transformation involved exploring new pedagogies and associated professional practices.


Thematic analysis of the dataset indicates that innovation of educational practice with digital
technologies is characterized by changes in teachers’ and students’ actions and roles relative to established practice within the respective educational setting at a point in time. As evidenced by this scoping review, integrating digital technologies in educational practice involves improving current actions and roles or exploring different actions and roles relative to established practice. We propose, therefore, that if teachers and researchers choose to use SAMR, they explain changes in practice in terms of teachers’ and students’ actions and roles relative to a baseline. Source: A scoping review of the application of the SAMR model in research.

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