Welcome Back. Time to SAMR!

I really felt that I had to start my first blog of the year off by gushing about the enthusiasm that I have seen so far from staff and students for the use of Chromebooks in the classroom!

I have been an Educational Technology Coach now since we launched the pilot in April of 2017. Back then, people were excited about using technology but there were lots of worries about how everything would work (and even if it would work — or last).
Flash forward to September of 2018 and it’s great to see the excitement in the schools as more and more students receive their devices and we move ever closer to becoming the board that is one to one for technology from Grades 7 to 12!

I am lucky to be the coach for three great schools with amazing staff and students. I am also lucky enough to have two of my schools already be one to one from Grades 9 to 12. To say that I have been swamped in my position as Tech Coach so far this year is an understatement! However, it’s the kind of busy that I love! Teachers are booking me for one to one coaching and I am visiting classrooms, working with both staff and students, helping them to understand how they can use these technological tools to not only enhance their teaching and learning but also, ultimately, to redefine it.

There is an acronym that is used in educational technology known as “SAMR”. It stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. When we first started this project, and some teachers were just getting their feet wet, there was a lot of substitution happening. Teachers were making their assignments digital. This is not a bad thing at all. It’s a start and a way to open up the learning space to make it available to students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. It also cuts down on all the wasted paper and costs associated with keeping photocopiers working. Literally, for teachers using some type of technology whether it be Onenote, Google Sites, Google Classroom, Moodle, or D2L, learning is now at the students’ fingertips whenever they need access to it. And this is awesome!

That being said, SAMR is a continuum. In the past few weeks, I have been really excited to see teachers thinking about their technological best practices, reflecting on them, and looking ahead to take the next steps forward along that continuum. As an English teacher I always use the idea of writing an essay or a research paper as my way of explaining the various stages of the SAMR model. Given that the “S” (Substitution) is putting the assignments online, how can the “A”, “M”, and “R” be described?

If you are going to Augment the learning you could show students how to use Read & Write to work on their essays and papers. They would learn about the ways to organize ideas, collate research, and use Talk&Type or Word Prediction to get their ideas down. They could even use a board-approved Add-On such as EasyBib as a way to correctly document their sources.

If you were to take that next step to Modify the assignment, you could make formative assessment an important part of the mark, through electronic peer feedback using apps such as Padlet or Flipgrid, or even simply just sharing drafts of student work through Google Docs or on Google Classroom and allowing students to leave each other comments and feedback. All of these ideas make the learning richer and allow students the opportunity to reflect not only on the work of their peers but apply their own ideas to their personal work. Frequent formative assessment showing the work in progress (best used with Google Classroom above all other learning management systems) also seriously cuts down the chance that the assignment is plagiarised because teachers can see the writing gradually develop over time.

In order to truly Redefine the assignment, teachers would allow students to take all of their writing and ideas and showcase these in ways additional to the final written format. Students could create a video of their ideas using WeVideo. They could create a Podcast outlining the development of their ideas through SoundTrap. Thus, they would be thinking about and sharing their ideas through various multimedia tools in ways that could not have been possible before, without having access to the internet and their own Chromebook.

We are in exciting times as educators and I am both thrilled and proud to be part of the Innovative Education team working with staff and students to make learning richer and more transformative.

If you are an educator who is excited to be moving along the SAMR continuum, and you like both learning how to use technology better and sharing the great things that you are doing with your classes, why not think about joining me and two of my tech coach colleagues as we explore and share best educational technology practices on the October 22 Professional Development Day? We will be in the library at Brooklin High School and sign ups will soon be available through PD Place for our sessions.

Until next time, keep exploring technology and becoming a better teacher by both learning and sharing!

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