A Singular Affordance Model for Emerging Technologies

A Study Grounded in Participatory Action Research.
Carmean, C. & McGee, P. (2008)

Please contact the model authors for more information on current research regarding technologies being explored.

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Authors of research study:

Colleen Carmean -
Arizona State University

Patricia McGee-
University of Texas, San Antonio

 Influenced by the  early work of Gibson (1977), the SA model of evaluation quantifies usefulness of technology through story and case study to create evidence of value in application. By limiting the exploration of all actions possible explored by Gibson to consensus on relational value (Norman, 1988), the authors hope to encourage a conversation that moves emerging technologies to thoughtful application and usage. The SA Model uses collective evidence to create a singular understanding based on alignment of purpose with effective use.

Using a cycle of deduction (one understanding to many applications) and induction (many applications to one understanding), the SA Model fills a severely needed gap in assessment of emerging technologies.

Inherent to any technology used in education should be thoughtful assessment. A milk crate can be successfully used for years as a step stool, and thus perceived as the right tool for replacing books on a high shelf. It is a mistake to conclude that this is an intentional characteristic of the milk crate, or that a better and safer tool is not available. Although we continually discover affordances that were not initially intended for a new technology, it is becoming more imperative that the community determines the use, meaning and value of tools now being adopted in the construction of knowledge.

It is not the intention, in building this community-constructed body of evidence, to limit the creative uses of emerging technologies in application to learning. There will always be innovative uses of milk crates (step stool, bookshelf, cage, bumper, weapon...)  but effective use of emerging technologies requires assessment that rests not in endless possibility but in sustained application. The SA Model ties this application to evidence for meaningful, ecological use (Norman, 1988).  

Emerging technologies and social media have created great possibility and new practices in shared knowledge creation. The challenge is to understand these affordances well enough to transform education and respond to the demands for outcomes responsive to the digital age. 


Gibson, J.J. (1977). The theory of affordances. In R.E. Shaw and J. Bransford, eds., Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing, Erlbaum Assoc., Hillsdale, N.J.

Norman, D. (1988). The Design of Everyday Things. Doubleday, NY.