Harnessing the power of EdTech: SAMR or TPACK

Whether you consider yourself an EdTech enthusiast or skeptic, the reality is that our educational system is already saturated with technology in one form or another. Technology is so deeply integrated in our day-to-day routines and our lives in general, that it would be naive for educators to continue debating whether or not technology should be used in the classroom. In the interest of educational progress and innovation, true value lies in a different debate: How can teachers effectively and responsibly harness the power of EdTech? If they haven’t already, your district and/or administrators should be hard at work developing a multifaceted plan which will proactively tackle this question. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when there already exists numerous models and frameworks to help provide a common language and practice around educational technology integration and evaluation.

SAMR vs. TPACK: Which is best for you?

If you work in education, you know that teachers and administrators are fluent in the vast language of acronyms. Perhaps this is a nostalgic holdover from our days of learning the order of operations using PEMDAS (insert Aunt Sally’s mnemonic device here) or studying metric conversions with good ol’ King Henry through the acronym of KHDUDCM. You get the idea... Well, in keeping with the tradition of educational acronyms, there are two approaches to guided EdTech facilitation which stand out: SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) and TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge). Each offers a different set valuable aspects. The question is, depending on your specific goals, which is best for your situation?

SAMR vs. TPACK: A quick side-by-side comparison


Main points:

-Developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura who says, “A continual re-examination of practice allows me, as a teacher, to make the best possible use of technology to accomplish my goals.” (Common Sense Education YouTube video)

-Basic model

-Straightforward implementation

-Guides teachers through process of evaluating and improving their use of technology

-Potentially easier way for reluctant teachers to dive in

-Moves teachers from Enhancement (via Substitution & Augmentation) to Transformation (via Modification & Redefinition)

-Through its very existence, SAMR distinguishes between teaching and integration of technology in teaching

-”Official” website is Dr. Puentedura’s blog and was last updated in 2014: www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog

My takeaways:

-Beauty through simplicity. There's something to be said about the lack of prescription and the straightforward design of SAMR. However, by defining technology as a separate entity to be incorporated into education, I believe that SAMR creates a pigeonholed way of thinking and furthers the divide between technology and education.


Main points:

-Developed by Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Keohler who describe “the basis of [their] framework [as] the understanding that teaching is a highly complex activity that draws on many kinds of knowledge.”

-"It's truly an intricate combination of content, pedagogy and technology that make for innovative teaching and learning." (Common Sense Education YouTube video)

-Complex, in-depth framework

-Fosters a cognizant culture of self-assessment and personal growth

-Places equal weight on Content Knowledge (CK), Pedagogical Knowledge (PK), and Technological Knowledge (TK)

-Professional, well-curated website full of information and resources: www.tpack.org

My takeaways:

TPACK values technology’s place in the classroom by placing it on the same level as content and pedagogy. By incorporating technology into education in a natural way, TPACK helps to further the idea that tech is not some separate entity which should be added onto an existing lesson. Finally, since TPACK encompases pedagogy and content in addition to technology, it empowers teachers to reflect on themselves in a more holistic way.

I appreciate you taking the time to peruse my insights. However, as with any publication you read (and especially blog posts), I hope that you will be a critical consumer and do some more research of your own. Formulate your own opinions. Do you think SAMR deserves more credit? Is there a glaring flaw in TPACK that I’ve failed to mention? Am I doing the world of education a disservice by disregarding the existence of another framework or model out there? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks!