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