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The 4 Stages of Technology Integration: Supporting Student Growth

Jordan Catapano


Blackboards, textbooks and lectures seem to have gotten the job done in education for an extremely long time – but a fundamental shift in the way our society learns and communicates is happening. Although the classic tools definitely retain an important role in education, they are no longer the only tools available. Now so many different technological mediums of learning are readily available, and many schools are taking advantage of the diverse array of learning tools for introducing technology in the classroom.

From iPads to blogs, from apps to social media and far beyond, countless opportunities for expanding the learning experience now present themselves to the modern classroom. However, many teachers – especially those accustomed to the blackboard, textbook, and lecture tools – cringe at the prospect of introducing new tools for learning and using technology in the classroom. They ask, “Why should we adopt new methods when the old ones work fine?”

It’s a good question, and the answer might surprise them: New methods of using technology in the classroom can be adopted, but they don’t necessarily need be. Instead, technological integration in the classroom takes place along a sliding scale, a spectrum of integration.

Instead of completely redefining instruction, technology in the classroom can be incorporated in any range of ways that suit an educator’s comfort level. That spectrum is summarized with the letters SAMR, which stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. These represent four different degrees of technological integration into learning, from slightly supplementing instruction to completely redefining what it means to teach.

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By being aware of the degrees of technological incorporation, teachers both new and experienced can better understand to what extent they can leverage these new learning mediums to best support student growth.

Substitution. At this stage of technology integration, technology acts merely as a replacement for previous by-hand methods of instruction or organization. This means that while technology is being used, it does not actually functionally change the method of teaching.

For example: Word processing is a great example of substitution, for while it replaces the old pen-and-paper method of writing down information, it does little to fundamentally change the manner of recording information with words. Another example includes the use of a projector in the classroom for presentations. With this, instead of using the blackboard for illustrations and ideas, that can be transmitted with a savable electronic tool.

Augmentation. Augmentation takes the advantages of technology a little further; instead of merely substituting a traditional tool for an electronic one, it also includes the functional changes those substitutions can provide.

For example: The above example mentions word processing as a type of substitution. However, it becomes augmentation when the tools unique to the word processing program – like copy and paste, search, spellcheck, and graphics – are incorporated into the use of the application. Unlike traditional paper and pencil, the technology offers these additional tools to augment the recording and disseminating of information. Similarly, a presentation with a projector allows for sounds, graphics, animation, and other features that augment traditional presenting.

Modification. Now instead of merely adding augmented features to instruction, modification represents the level at which teaching tasks are partially or entirely redesigned based on technological tools.

For example: The “flipped classroom” – where teachers have students watch instructional videos at home and application of that instruction occurs during class – becomes available with tools like and blogs. While the lecture and discussion components of teaching remain the basis of instruction, the technological mediums offer brand new opportunities for how those methods are integrated.

Redefinition. Beyond modifying existent teaching methods, technology offers the opportunity to completely create brand new methods of instruction. These tasks may have been completely inconceivable prior to technological integration.

For example: A teacher may create a class project that requires connecting with other classrooms around the globe via video conferencing and social media. The classes may be required to work together to find a solution to a common problem, utilizing one another and web-based resources for gathering information.

Teachers, no matter their comfort level with incorporating technology, need not feel overwhelmed at the prospect of entirely altering their instructional methods.

Those teachers who are comfortable with the more advanced tools available to classrooms may more readily embrace redefining their instruction; however, many others may feel it more appropriate to substitute, augment, or modify their approach. There are endless opportunities for technological incorporation, and each teacher should do so at the degree to which they feel they can maximize their students’ learning.

In what ways have you incorporated technology into your classroom? Where on the SAMR spectrum would you say your instruction falls? Leave a comment and we’d love to dialogue with you!

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