The SAMR Model: A Tool for Teacher Reflection in the Elementary Classroom


The SAMR Model
The SAMR Model, popularized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, helps educators embed technology into teaching and learning for the purpose of deepening and enhancing student learning and improvement in student outcome.

In addition, it is a tool that helps teachers reflect on their own practice and the level of technology integration in their class.

This video by Common Sense Media gives a very clear explanation of the SAMR model.

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Here are some of the learning experiences that I have given my students this year and where I think they fit in the SAMR Model.

Substitution and Augmentation

At the substitution level, tech acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change. The augmentation level is very similar except that the tech allows for some functional improvement.

Marc Prensky in his Edutopia article refers to this as doing old things in old ways.

Some learning activities in my classroom where technology acts as direct substitute with little or no functional change:

  • Spelling City (some improvement in that teacher can individualize assignments and save paper and time by allowing the students to do activities and take tests online)
  • IXL for math and language practice
  • TCI Social Studies online program
  • Writing in a google doc or slide
  • Front Row Math (some improvement in that math practice is adaptive and teacher can individualize assignments)
  • Raz Kids (some improvement in that reading can be assigned according to student levels and there is feedback for teachers)
  • Research websites (Newsela, Ducksters, Kids National Geographic, Simple Wikipedia, Time for Kids, etc.)

For teachers new to using technology as an everyday tool to enhance learning, starting at the substitution/augmentation is a valid way to start. It is at this level that we can become comfortable with the digital tools themselves. But, the goal is to push ourselves to  towards modification and redefinition.


At the modification level, tech allows for significant task redesign. This is the idea of doing old things in new ways.

There is a distinct line between Substitution/Augmentation and Modification/Redefinition. This line is crossed when the students take responsibility for their own learning. The flow of information no longer comes only directly from the teacher but  from multiple sources, often through the use of technology. In addition, students have multiple ways to share their learning among themselves within the classroom and outside the walls of their classroom.

Some learning activities in my classroom where technology allows for significant task redesign: 

  • Students sharing writing in google docs and slides and receiving feedback from peers through commenting.
  • Students collaborating on stories and other types of writing.
  • Students reflecting and responding in shared docs and spreadsheets (as in this activity)
  • Poetry shared in google slides and voice recorded with Screencastify (see example)


At the redefinition level, tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable. This is the idea of doing new things in new ways.

In this video, Dr. Ruben Puentedura talks about how learning activities at the redefinition level are marked by increased student ownership. At this level, the technology supports student choice in how they want to demonstrate their learning. Students are deeply engaged, excited about what they are learning, and wanting to share it with the world.

I would say at this point, I have few examples in my classroom that truly demonstrate redefinition, but I am hoping to grow in this as I revise units of study with my teaching partner next year.

A few months ago, I participated in the Ditch that Textbook Digital Summit organized by Matt Miller. and heard a podcast by the Hyperdoc Girls (Lisa Highfill, Sarah Landis, and Kelly Hilton).  See this website for examples and an explanation of Hyperdocs. I am now building my units as hyperdocs that I can share with students to give them multiple ways to share their learning. I think the following hyperdoc units are a good first attempt at using technology to redefine. They are not complete units and still works in progress.

Some learning activities in my classroom where technology allows for the creation of tasks, previously inconceivable: 

It was good to take time to step back, look at some of my units and learning activities and evaluate where I’m at. I am looking forward to choosing a unit of study to redesign with the SAMR model in mind.

Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions about how I categorized my current learning activities according to the SAMR model.


Image by By Lefflerd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons