Thursday, November 21, 2013

The SAMR Model Is Not Bloom's Taxonomy

The SAMR Model for Technology Integration is just that: A model for technology integration. It allows teachers to bring technology into a lesson at their readiness level, and while it does help increase the meaningfulness of the activity, it does nothing to make the lesson more rigorous from a cognitive perspective. To make a lesson more rigorous, one must use Bloom's Taxonomy.

But SAMR and Bloom's are not the same thing.

To review, here are the four levels of the SAMR Model:

  • Substitution: The teacher simply "substitutes" a new technology for the old. When I was in high school, the equivalent would be instead of writing my English paper by hand, I would use a word-processor. In today's classroom, this might be having students write their English paper using Google Docs rather than Microsoft Word.
  • Augmentation: In this level, we are starting to use some of the features of that technology to bring more meaning to the process. For example, the old way of writing an English paper was to write a rough draft, hand it in, wait for a few days to have it marked up by the teacher, and then re-write the whole thing. At the Augmentation level, students would share their Google doc with the teacher and the teacher would use the comments feature to provide feedback. Then the student can make the necessary modifications within the original document. Pretty slick, huh?
Please note that in the Substitution and Augmentation levels, the original task of writing an English paper has not changed. It is still one student writing a paper.

Unless you go to the next level and let technology make it possible.

  • Modification: This level begins the transformation of the task in an effort to build greater meaning and to enhance the learning. Let's take our English paper example. Instead of having each student write a five paragraph essay, the teacher could put the students into groups of three and have them collaborate on a paper using Google Docs. Each student would be responsible for a body paragraph and they would have to write the introduction and conclusion collaboratively. All the while, the students are having to organize together, know what the others are writing so that transitions and references are clear, and they are getting multiple opinions on the subject. 
  • Redefinition: This level uses the technology in ways that were not previously possible. Collaboration on a paper within a classroom has always been possible; Google Docs just makes it easier. What hasn't been possible is collaborating with a class in another school, town, state, or country. Moreover, teachers can now expand their classroom beyond the four walls and utilize Khan Academy, Google+ Hangouts for "office hours" or study sessions, or just simply using a learning management system, such as Moodle, to create an online classroom.
At no point did we make this higher-level thinking.

Here is another way of looking at it. Here is a Social Studies task:

This is obviously at the upper end of Bloom's Taxonomy as it is an Evaluation question. Without changing the task, here is how the SAMR model works:

  1. The student could write a paper answering the question. Instead of handwriting the paper, the students will use a word processor. (Substitution)
  2. The student could write the paper as a blog post and allow readers to comment. (Augmentation)
  3. Students could be put in pairs and they collaborate on a "Point/Counterpoint" paper. (Modification)
  4. Classrooms in different schools have the same assignment. In one class, each student writes a paper in support of the argument, and in the other class, each student takes the opposing view. The teachers then use Skype or Google+ Hangouts to have a virtual debate where students are members of congress debating the issue. (Redefinition)
At no point did I change the level of thinking. I used technology to enhance and bring deeper meaning.

To make a task or question more rigorous, in terms of Bloom's Taxonomy, requires no technology at all. It requires the teacher to create tasks that move them through Bloom's.

Here are some objectives from a Social Studies class learning about the U.S. Constitution at each level of Bloom's Taxonomy:
  1. The student will be able to identify the sections of the U.S. Constitution. (Knowledge)
  2. The student will describe, in his/her own words, the duties and responsibilities of the Legislative Branch. (Comprehension)
  3. The student will use the Bill of Rights to explain the current Assault Weapons debate. (Application)
  4. The student will analyze the flexibility of the U.S. Constitution by tracing the effects historical events have on the amendments to it. (Analysis)
  5. Students will write and propose a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Synthesis)
  6. Students will use the U.S. Constitution to explain whether or not the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. (Evaluation)
All of these objectives are aligned to the student's learning of the U.S. Constitution. There are no mentions of technology.

How do you use technology to bring deeper meaning and enhance these objectives? That comes from the SAMR model.

Have a happy day!

Monday, November 18, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Active Participation

Hi all!

Here is your iTIP of the week!

Active Participation

Madeline Hunter called it "Active Participation." Today, people are using the term "Engagement." My grandmother, for years, called the thing I was sitting on a davenport, when I knew quite well it was a couch. It doesn't matter what you call it; they are the same!

And whether you say "Active Participation" or "Engagement," the important thing is that it is present throughout your lesson.

What is it?

Active Participation is the continual involvement of all students throughout the entire lesson. Their involvement can be overt (observed) or covert (thinking) but it cannot just be assumed. Students should be "doing the doing" and thinking and learning should be visible. This is why covert AP should always be followed with overt AP. They need the think-time, but you can't get inside their heads.

As a matter of fact, I think Active Participation is a better phrase than "Engagement." The reason for this is that people often misinterpret politeness as engagement. Just because kids are staring at you and not talking doesn't mean they are listening to a word you are saying. This video totally makes my point:

Why is it important?
The US Department of Education, along with the National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance, published a report in 2008 "Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices." In this report, they listed five recommendations for increasing literacy in adolescents:
  1. Provide Explicit Vocabulary Instruction
  2. Provide Direct and Explicit Comprehension Strategy Instruction
  3. Provide Opportunities for Extended Discussion of Text Meaning and Interpretation
  4. Increase Student Motivation and ENGAGEMENT in Literacy Learning
  5. Make Available Intensive and Individualized Interventions for Struggling Readers That Can Be Provided By Trained Specialists.
This report listed the level of evidence for Increasing Engagement as "moderate" yet it is still powerful enough to reach the top five!

Further, John Hattie identified Engagement with a .48 effect size on student achievement in his meta-analysis, Visible Learning.

Some Strategies

How do you increase student engagement so all are "doing the doing?" Here are a few:
  1. Add a pair/share element to every question and draw Popsicle sticks to choose the answerer. Be sure to ask the question FIRST, provide the pair/share, then draw the stick. This way, EVERYONE is accountable for the answer.
  2. Power Sentences: One sentence "journals" using complete sentences and academic language. Have them pair/share their answers verbatim for more power!
  3. Graphic Organizers for notes, videos, lectures.
  4. Cloze Reading
  5. Choral Responses (both verbal and physical)
There are so many more! Just remember that Active Participation/Engagement is students speaking, writing, creating, or DOING!

Have a happy day!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Sponges

Hi all!

I have two questions for you:

1. When do most discipline/classroom management issues arise?


2. What is the commodity of which teachers do not have enough?

Here are the answers:

1. During Transitions

2. Time!

I was a band director for 15 years and I took my bands all over the country on trips. We bused or flew to places like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and many other destinations that small town Nebraska kids might never get to see again. Many times, parents and community members would be in awe that we didn't have discipline problems on those trips.

"What's the secret?"

Pack the itinerary. Give them lots of interesting, structured things to do. Kids always want to just hang out at the hotel and swim. Nope. Not gonna happen.

We would run them until they were nearly dead by 10pm. Once bed check would happen, many times we would be waking them up. We controlled the minutes and hours of the day!

The same is needed in the classroom. Video your class some day and keep track of the wasted minutes due to transitions. Transitions are everywhere! You might be opening a new slide deck, having kids get books, or just changing activities. All of those transitions, while necessary and unavoidable, are eating away at that precious commodity known as TIME!

So what do you do about it?


Sponges are activities that "sop up" the wasted minutes and turn them into instructional time that might otherwise be lost. They are activities that could be used to:

1. Review material

2. Act as closure for the previous activity.

3. Prepare them for the next activity (Anticipatory Set)

Sponges should not require additional set-up, materials, or anything that will waste the time you are trying to save. KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Some ideas:


  • Count to 100 by 2s, 5s, etc. (written or spoken)
  • List things you can touch, things you can smell, big things, small things, etc.
  • "I Spy" - find something in the room that starts with the letter "M."
  • Think of animals that live on a farm, in the jungle, in the water, etc.
  • Put spelling words in alphabetical order.


  • List as many states as you can. 
  • List all the foods you can think of that contain protein.
  • Why were these dates important: 1492, 1606, 1776, 1812?
  • Share with your neighbor the steps to solving quadratic equations.
  • Write 3 things you have learned so far today, 2 questions you still have, and 1 thing you would like to know more about.
Obviously, these activities are not for learning new information and they might not be aligned to the day's objective (if they can be, all the better!). They are for creating set, closure, or review. Most importantly, however, they help in reducing discipline problems and getting the most out of instructional time.

Go ahead! Video yourself and find out how many minutes go by. Then, see what you can do to "sop up" those moments!

Have a happy day!

Mr. S

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Create Videos Using Your WebCam and YouTube!

Hi all!

I had a friend ask me today if it was possible to record videos with the WebCam of a Chromebook. I looked into it and the answer is YES!

There are a couple of ways to do it, but I really liked how one can do this with YouTube!

So here's how:

1. Go to YouTube and sign in with your Google account.

2. Click the "Upload" button at the top of the screen. That one, there...right next to the search bar.

3. Here you will be given some options. Click "Webcam Capture." Be sure to check out the other options as they help YouTube to be awesome!

4. Next, you will be asked to give permission for YouTube to use your webcam and microphone.
  • Click "Remember" first! So you don't have to ever again :)
  • Click "Allow" second. Otherwise, this whole venture is pointless.

5. Your browser might ask your permission again. Click "Allow." The definition of redundancy is listed twice in the dictionary :)

6. Now you are ready to record! Click "Start Recording" at the bottom of the window and off you go! Click "Stop Recording" when you are done.

7. When you are done, you will be able to Start Over or upload it. Click "Upload" and YouTube will ask for some metadata and settings so that others can take enjoy your glorious creation!

There you go! Look at you getting creative with YouTube! Pretty cool, right?

Have a happy day!

Monday, May 6, 2013

ITIP of the Week: Games in the Brain Friendly Classroom

Hi all!

I am continuing my trek through Marcia Tate's Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites and I keep thinking about "Everything I Need To Know In Life I Learned In Kindergarten." Really, it doesn't start there...we could learn SO MUCH about learning by watching babies, toddlers, and even young animals.


Our earliest learning situations are engulfed in game-play, aren't they? We learn physical skills, shapes, letters, words, social skills, and much more through games. Take a minute and think about the skills being honed when playing Monopoly, Life, Pictionary, or Scrabble. Don't worry...they will still be fun even though you know, now, that you are actually learning something.

So why does it stop when we get older and as we go through school? Playing games makes the learning environment positive and fun which lowers stress and allows for greater memory-for-content. As a matter of fact, when the environment is stressful, the body produces cortisol which actually inhibits recall. Playing games also increases motivation, focus, and cognition.

As teachers, we operate in an environment that is one huge Trivial Pursuit game! Why don't we take advantage of that? Transform your content from a boring PBS show (no offense, PBS. Go Big Bird!) to an exciting and fun game show every now and again. The research is there to back up that game-play is effective in learning. Don't feel guilty about it!

Do you want to make it even more powerful? Research shows that game-play is even more effective in the classroom when the students not only play the game, but also create the rules and content. Make them owners of their learning and it will be longer-lasting and more meaningful.

So if you were going to lecture today, play a game instead! I need to start another Words With Friends game with my dad.

Have a happy day!

Monday, April 29, 2013

ITIP of the Week: Creating a Brain-Friendly Classroom with Field Trips

Hi all!

Sorry I have been away. I am juggling a few books right now and I got away from Marcia Tate's Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites. I'm back at it, though!

Today's topic: Field Trips

I remember many of the field trips from elementary school. I remember the trip to the Nebraska State Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, the Kennard House, the one-room school house on the fairgrounds, and McDonalds. Yep...we went to McDonalds. That teacher was genius!

These trips are very clear memories. According to Marcia Tate, "the brain has but one purpose--survival in the real world," and real-world experiences stick with us for a long time. So, any time we can get our kids into the real-world and out of the theoretical-based classroom, the more life-long connections will be established. Pair that fact with Daniel Pink's "Motivation 3.0" idea that today's learner wants autonomy, self-determinacy, and purpose, and you will find real-world experiences are a must for the 21st Century student.

Here are just a few reasons why this works:

  • Leaving the normal daily classroom will assist better recall.
  • Field trips help kids to develop better observation and inquiry skills.
  • Authentic and experiential learning build greater connections.
  • The 21st Century learner needs to know how the content relates to their life. Creating life-experiences centered around the content will help build a sense of purpose.

I realize that budgets are tight all around, but studies show that virtual field trips can be just as effective. Here are a few to check out:

  • Google Art Project: Here you can visit 230 of the world's galleries using Google Street View technology. It is pretty awesome! 

  • World Wonders Project: This, too, is by Google and takes you to the World's natural and architectural wonders using Street View technology.

Of course, with the advent of Distance Learning, Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts, kids can be taken to practically any location we desire. Get them out of the classroom!

Have a happy day!

Monday, March 25, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Drawing for Learning

Pictionary is fun! Many of us have played it and had a blast! But if you start thinking about it from a teacher's perspective, the words you had the most difficulty drawing and conveying were probably the ones you didn't know very well yourself. The ones you could draw easily are the concepts and words you knew very well.

Check out this video to get your brain moving:

Granted, Sheldon is just conveying a set of words, but the game can also have the teams draw concepts. Drawing is a powerful tool to help make the abstract tangible, make connections with previous learning and other disciplines, and personalize notes and ideas. 

How much do you use this in your classes? 

Drawing and Artwork is Strategy 2 in Marcia Tate's Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain. In this section, she makes some very important points about how drawing aids in student learning:
  • Adding drawings to notes helps in future recall and demonstrates a higher level of understanding (Bloom's Taxonomy)
  • Drawing and artwork help to better understand abstract concepts.
  • In math, drawing can help students visualize the problem before solving it.
  • Success in STEM is due to keen observation, spatial reasoning, and kinesthetic understanding. These are all skills utilized in Art.
  • When involved in art activities, different parts of the brain are activated thus increasing connections and engagement.
  • Understanding artistic patterns can help the brain find patterns more easily in other learning.
  • This personalizes the notes and ideas being given by the teacher.
Try it! The easiest way to incorporate drawing and artwork is to have kids add it to their notes. When you give them a definition or concept, have them draw a picture of it. If it is difficult, they may need more instruction as they have not reached full understanding yet.

Here are some other ideas Marcia Tate provides:
  • Have the kids design a "Pictionary" game with the key vocabulary for the unit.
  • Let the students draw on the marker board (or a big piece of paper) a key concept from the unit thus creating a class mural. Be sure to have them explain and defend their drawing.
  • Have kids diagram the steps of a lab much like the instructions we all get for putting together home appliances.
  • Have students design a book cover for the main idea/concept of the chapter or unit.
It does not have to be aesthetically pleasing, a Van Gogh, or anything worthy of displaying. Also, it doesn't have to be what you would draw. It is personal to the student and its sole purpose should be to help he/she learn.

Have a happy day!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

iTIP of the Week: Creating a Brain-Friendly Classroom

Hi all!

There is an awesome series of books out there and you must get them! They are written by Marcia Tate and they are the Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites series. Each book discusses "20 Instructional Strategies That Engage The Brain." Here is a video of Marcia explaining the series:

As with my walk through of the Jane E. Pollack's Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning, I will be commenting on a tip per post.

Today's Strategy: Brainstorming and Discussion

Think about how we learn. We learn from our families, friends, churches, and a variety of other outlets. Learning is a social activity. Very rarely are we left out on our own without any support or learning partner.

Now think about our classrooms. How often do we leave kids out on their own? Don't talk, don't share, don't use your really is unnatural learning. Granted, we are trying to create self-supporting learners, but we don't have to throw them into the deep end of the pool without their water-wings! Even when learning to ride a bike, we first start with training wheels, and then when we take them off, mom or dad holds onto the seat until we gain our balance. And if we start to lose it, they grab the seat again. They don't just push us down a hill and wave.

So we need to provide more natural learning in our classrooms and one method is that of discussion. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Not talking is unnatural. Communication is necessary in learning.
  • Speaking actually sends oxygen to the brain. This will "wake-up" the student and increase engagement.
  • Many of us find it necessary to "talk through" our problems in an effort to better understand the problem and find a solution. This is why brainstorming is such a good technique in the classroom.
  • Discussion and using Graphic Organizers ensure that ALL students are involved and engaged.
  • Kids 10 and younger benefit most from a teacher-led discussion. Students over the age of 10 benefit most from their own discussions in collaborative  groups. The secondary teacher needs to move from the "Sage on the Stage" to the "Guide on the Side."
  • When brainstorming, enforce the DOVE guidelines: Don't judge, One idea at a time, Variety of ideas, Energy on task.
  • Have students in collaborative groups as a rule. During your instruction, give them processing time periodically. Use the 10:2 rule: after 10 minutes of instruction, provide 2 minutes of processing.
  • Use Think-Pair-Share! Make it commonplace. This is a simple and POWERFUL tool to increase engagement.
  • Provide "wait time" before eliciting an answer. Give everyone a chance to wrap their brains around what you have asked of them.

When a brain is deprived of oxygen for more than six minutes, it is considered dead. If you want to increase engagement, get them talking!

Have a happy day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Thought on Engagement

Student engagement needs to be overt.

Politeness is not engagement.

I can't see my students' thoughts.

I can see writing, talking, creating, moving, DOING.

I love The Big Bang Theory! Watch this clip and then think about your students. How do you know they are engaged?

Have a happy day!