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!

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