SAMR I am!


SAMR I am!

caption: I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, SamR-I-Am.

  • Coetail Course 4 Week 1: Technology Integration
  • Assignment 1:  Using one or both of the frameworks presented (TPACK and SAMR), how would you evaluate your own practice of technology integration?

The photo above is of me, a few days ago, at our school’s  Primary Halloween Party.  I think I got more smiles from grown-ups than from children.  Maybe the children are recognizing Dr Suess less and less.  You can guess which framework I’m going to talk about today, from the pic 😉

I think we were introduced to the SAMR model in the early weeks of Coetail as a way of looking at Technology Integration in education.  Since those early days, I do go around evaluating the tech I see through this framework.

SAMR stands for “Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition” and it is a continuum moving from using technology to Enhance our learning to using it to Transform our learning.


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Langwitches

I’m not going to define the stages for you.  The infographic from Langwitches will do that nicely for you.

A Continuum

It is a continuum and I know one of  Coetail’s mission is to challenge us to push the envelope on what technology integration in the classroom looks like.  For those of us in Coetail and for those of us already on board with technology, it is a challenge for us to land near the high-end more.

At the same time, I remember it’s a continuum and we’re allowed to be somewhere on the continuum.   In my idealism, I try to imagine what it would be like if I dropped “Substitution” and tried for  “Modification” or “Redefinition” the complete time.  It would be an interesting challenge but I’ve no opportunity to try that, for the time-being, as I’m not actively holding a teaching-post.  I’ve already decided that I will  give that a try one day when I’m back in the classroom, though.

Gartner Hype Cycle

I came across this interesting graphic from Tim Klapdor and he also explains the graphic more fully in his blogpost.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Tim Klapdor

He has overlaid the Gartner Hype Cycle over top of the SAMR continuum.  The Gartner Hype cycle shows the progression of maturity, adoption and social application of technology.  His point (I believe) is that as we travel along the continuum towards Redefinition that we’ll go through cycles of excitement and great expectations–as well as times of disillusionment and discouragement.

My first introduction to 1:1 was when I taught at Renaissance College in HK (2007).  It was a brand new school at the time.  We were generously resourced.  In Primary, we had a set of Macbooks shared between 3 classes.  We also had 3 Mac desktops in each classroom. Each year group shared a technology hub (a fancy word for the hallway outside our classrooms) where there were 12 more Mac desktops for our 3 classes.  From Year 1, we had all of this.   The way I see it, if I use desktop/laptop softwares at their most complex levels, I’m automatically reaching towards transformative levels.  I’m sure the software engineers did not spend all that money in development just so we can substitute  their tech-tool, in exact place of another non-tech tool.  Software engineers are artists themselves.  They must have a vision for what their software will do.  We don’t always have to invent our own vision.  We can try to see their intentions and take-off from there.

Because I came from a 1:1 environment outfitted with laptops and desktops from the youngest grades, I am not all that happy seeing schools ditch them for tablets.  I think tablets have their place, but they are not a substitute for a computer.  Renaissance College has gone 2:1 now (tablets + laptops).  I think the staff must feel the same way as I do.  Once you’ve spent time working on laptops, you can’t go back to just tablets.  Tablets have their strengths but I want to see both in the classrooms. Each occupy their own niche.

In the meanwhile, as we are running towards the apps, I worry about the software developers.  Will they economically survive this?  I don’t want to see my favourite software companies disappear in our rush towards free apps.   I bought an iPad at the start of Coetail and my kids at home use it to play games and to watch videos.  When they want to do something more complex, they reach for the computer.  Sometimes I have the app on the tablet, but they still go for the computer version (ex. Comic Life).

So, when I saw that “hype curve” on that diagram, the first thought that came to me is that tablets are on that upward curve of inflated expectations.  I’ve seen SAMR for iPad apps but I can see teachers really having to work to make sure their use of apps fall along the higher end of the continuum.  I just think working in a laptop/desktop context with full software and its full capabilities makes it much easier to hit the high-end.

Evaluation of SAMR in my practice

Our assignment this week is to evaluate our own practice in light of SAMR.  My most recent teaching posts were Music Specialist and EAL posts.  I do try to take software to their limits so I feel that I was doing pretty well back then, when I didn’t know about SAMR evaluation.  This is despite the narrow scope in which I operated in, as a subject-specialist, because I only saw the same children a few times a week.  I also had to fit-in with the classroom teachers’ expectations of how I supported them in their UOIs.

I hope to spend most of my time using technology at Modification and Redefinition levels when I return to the classroom teaching and not waste time at the Substitution levels. Moreover, I hope to be a mentor by modelling and being an example to those who are not aware of the SAMR model.   The best type of PD are personal “pass by your classroom and saw this and wanna try it too” conversations.  I love hearing invitations like that. 🙂

The SAMR model is a tool to challenge oneself and not one to bash other people’s efforts. Others will be challenged when they see what we’re doing in our classrooms if we’re not being judgemental towards them. The best evangelization tool is not to force the horse to drink water, but to add a pinch of salt.  Conversations around the water-cooler are often where the pinch of salt is added. 🙂

I decided to create a chart to list down examples of SAMR in my life, with no green eggs or ham.  This was more to clarify in my mind what the different stages really mean. While I was doing this, I realized that I was struggling to conceptualize what a Redefinition stage would look like.  It’s hard to reach for something when you’re not too sure what it looks like.  What a good exercise! (The ones on the chart in Italics are what I have not yet attempted…but can imagine being the next step up.)

I apologize for the wonky table but I am still “table-challenged” and will probably forever be…


  • Garage Band for song composition

  • Clicker 6 Software for writing activities

  • Sewing, Machine- Embroidery, Quilting
  • playing melodies through the Garage Band piano keyboard
  • scribing down a score to print-out
  • students use Clicker 6 as a word processing tool
  • students use Clicker 6 paint software to illustrate a story they’ve written 
  • laying down several traditional instrument or percussion tracks to test the effect for songwriting purposes
  • students can check their spelling by clicking on a word and hearing it read back to them
  • onscreen writing activities where students can access a personalized wordbank I made ahead of time, to help with constructing sentences and spelling. The personalized wordbank is a pop-up tool in the writing screen
  • the ability to lengthen or widen stitches in ranges impossible on a mechanical machine
  • extra stitches (that are not possible on a mechanical machine) to suit different fabrics
  • ability to decorate by stitching out letters of the alphabet
  • students publish their compositions onto a CD to share with the school (see my video of this project).
  • publishing to iTunes & iPods
  • taking different parts of pre-existing Clicker 6 books shared on the Clickr 6 Online Resource Bank to create new ones
  • turning written stories into talking books via record and playback tools
  • The appearance of a quilt in a quilt show with machine-embroidered pictures is seen as admirable (see discussion and example below)  
  • composing music with electronic sounds they’ve created themselves through re-mixing, distortion, compression tools in the software
  • swapping sound bytes of unique sounds they’ve created with each other to create new songs
  • Students embed video clips of themselves, pop-up pictures they’ve drawn, and sounds bytes they’ve recorded into the text of their books to create a multimedia experience for their readers
  • draw something and use software to digitize it so a computer sewing-machine embroiders out the picture (see discussion and examples below)
  • Sewing has traditionally been about making garments and quilts. Now, with a computerized sewing-machine,  3D embroidery objects can be made. The public is all excited about 3D printing.  Well, “Quilting Ladies” have been stitching out 3D objects on sewing machines for over a decade now. See the software files to make baby shoes with a computerized sewing-machine. See a 3D fabric bowl and be sure to click to enlarge the photo 


Creating and your passions

I think when we’re passionate about something, we naturally want to take it to the highest levels of creation.   It’s an inevitable part of the design cycle when we have the tools & materials on-hand to explore our passions.  We also need to have time to ask questions, problem-solve, and to learn from others.  Besides my sewing and quilting, I’ve seen this continuum unfold in my children’s lives in music composition and book publishing.  “The sky’s the limit” in project-making, these days.

Vivian's Quilt-Third Place Ribbon Calgary Stampede 2005

Above is  my embroidered quilt that won a third place ribbon at the Calgary Stampede.  I  didn’t stitch out these beautiful motifs in the middle of the squares.  I bought the embroidery software files and loaded it up on my machine and the machine did it.

Vivian's Embroidery Block

I was very surprised that the judges would accept a quilt whose surface decoration was done by a machine.  You see, traditionally, hand-quilting was prized far above machine-stitching.  We’re only talking about a straight stitch here.

The below two quilts were hand-quilted.  You can see and feel the 3D “puffiness” of the design because it is hand-quilted:

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Colleen Greene

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Sara-Jane Smith


Contrast this with an example of machine-quilting below, which is flat:

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Victhor Viking

I can’t describe to you the big debate and the arguments in quilting circles (in the 1990s?) when people started moving towards machine-quilting.  Was it cheating?  Was it crass? So, you can see why I was amazed when the judges deemed my embroidered quilt in 2005 worthy of a ribbon.  I felt a bit undeserving of the ribbon as I did not quilt those designs on the surface.  The machine did it all.  I essentially pushed a button (though I did choose the colours of the threads). I think the judges were making a statement to the quilting community that we’re moving onto new forms of quilting and design. Evidences of technology-use in our creations are now acceptable, because the advance of technology has changed our tastes.  The change in the culture of the quilting community to accept machine-quilted and machine-embroidered quilts are examples of Modification in my life.

From Crayon to Garment

I leave you with some images that are examples of Redefinition of  drawing. My children (ages 4-8)  or  I used embroidery software to draw and then used the software to digitize the drawings.  The children drew right on the computer screen with a mouse.  For my projects, I would usually draw on paper and scan into the software to trace with the mouse. (I learned about vector and raster files while learning all this.)   I loaded the embroidery files onto the machine and the machine stitched it out.  What fun we had!

Vivian's Jacket

The embroidery design at the back of my garment is my name in Chinese (won a first place ribbon and a third place ribbon in two separate shows).


Daniel's Dinosaur

My children are literally painting with thread.  Above: 4 year old Daniel.  Below: 6 year old Lyndon.

Lyndon's Dinosaur


Below: 8 year old daughter

Jocelyn's Cat

We stitched out their designs on blank t-shirts and enjoyed them for a number of years.

With technology, their drawings took on a level of enjoyment and permanence completely different from a 2D flat drawing.  Their drawings became a piece of textile that could be touched and felt.  Their creation could be shared with the rest of the world, if they wanted to because it was also a software file.  Because it was a software file, there was potential for re-mixing as it could be cut, copied, and pasted.  It could have been an enterprise if they wanted to sell their files.  (Did you remember that we’re talking about 4-8 year olds? 🙂 )  To me, this was Redefinition of “drawing”.

I’d forgotten about these until I was going through my picture library, today, for examples of our sewing.  My children are teenagers now.  They’d forgotten them too.  I showed them the pics and they went into peals of laughter.  They now use CAD— Autodesk at school in Design & Technology but the foundation for their currents studies was laid years ago.

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?


About Vivian

Vivian @ChezVivian is a Canadian-born Chinese, currently living in Switzerland. She has also lived in Hong Kong and Indonesia. She holds a M.S. (focus: Educational Technology Integration), B.Ed and a B.A. and graduate studies in Kodály and Orff music pedagogy. She is an elementary school classroom generalist, but has also taught as a music specialist, ESL/EAL and also in Learning Support. Most of her teaching career was in International Schools in Hong Kong. She is excited about the IBPYP and the possibilities of using technology to Inquire. Recently, she has been looking at the opportunities that computer programming gives to put #TECHXture back into the hands of children. In other words, technology need not be just about looking at screens. It can be about building things with our hands; and computer programming levels-up what children can do with the things they build---encouraging higher thinking skills. She is a Coetail Post-graduate Certificate grad ('13-'14), a former Coetail Coach and one of the co-founders of #CoetailChat. Her blog home curates her assignments for Coetail and her M.S. graduate studies about Educational Technology integration and anything else educationally-related that she feels inspired to write about. Her twitter tagline sums it up: "Mom to 4, Mentor, Educator, Musician (in that order)".
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6 Responses to SAMR I am!

  1. I like how you related using tech to your own interests. I was thinking the same over the weekend.

  2. Vivian says:

    Hi Thomas @thammerlund

    If someone asked me if I was interested in computers or studying computer science, I would say “no way!”. Yet, we reach for Tech without thinking about it when it’s to help us do something we’re interested in.

    My online quilting friends are generally all older ladies than myself. The youngest of them would be in their 50s. Some are in their 70s. They wouldn’t jump out as being computer geeks, but they all are–because of their love of sewing and quilting. If you do a search with the term “embroidery files”, you’ll see a million websites of such ladies who have gone on to sell the embroidery files they’ve created. They’ll talk file formats, dongles, wacom drawing tablets, software updates, copyright, licensing, raster/vector files with you– like they’re swapping recipes. 🙂

  3. Vivian,

    I love the Gartner Hype Cycle because that describes exactly how I feel very often. Just today I discussed one idea of an iPad app integration with a colleague and we agreed that the augmentation phase is quite easy to describe and realize. The tool provides us more features and that is great. The next step is more difficult because how does a redesign of a task really look like? It is not about the tool anymore, instead we think about the task itself and why we are using a tool It needs more thinking about the actually reason and benefit of the use of technology. Yes, like you said, my goal is redefinition and I know that I’m getting there but I need to reflect on it more often. Unfortunately I don’t have another COETAILer at school like for you it is a pity not to be in school, isn’t it?

    Btw. you are looking great in that picture at the beginning.

    • Vivian says:

      Hi Verena

      Thanks for dropping by. Yes, it is a pity that I’m not in school. It would also be ideal if you had another Coetailer (or someone like-minded) to brainstorm with.

      It isn’t easy to imagine what “Redefinition” might look like. (That’s why it’s called “Redefinition” 😉 ) I think the children might be able to approach discovering what that might be if they had a lot of time to explore and try different things. The problem is the lack of time. I recall that Jeff said that quality activities deserve the time (ex. 20% time or Genius hour for students, 20% time for teachers). I completely agree with that…but an entire school needs to be onboard with that or they would think we were wasting our time.

      Honestly, I took technology in sewing and quilting as far as I did because I was a stay at home Mom (house-bound and desperate for something creative to do). I had the time. I took technology quite far in my part-time teaching roles–as I had the time. My own children have taken technology as far as they have because it’s their hobby, and they have a supportive parent and guide (me).

      So, it’s back to the discussion that we need time and we need the “guide on the side” and sometimes the “sage on the stage” too.

      I haven’t had a chance to use iPads in the classroom but I see some apps that are just a fraction of the power that they used to be when they were a software. Many of the software developers have jumped on the bandwagon and taken their robust software and focussed on one or two things and turned it into an app. I don’t know how this is an improvement in terms of encouraging us to move to the higher levels of SAMR. Well, I’ve not had a chance to try it in the classroom so maybe I’m talking rubbish…

      In the rush to not be left behind, software companies are leaving their software development and turning them into apps. If the tablets/iPads turn out to be a trend (the crash in the Gartner Hype Cycle), they will have lost time in developing their software. They might have gone bankrupt in the meanwhile. I don’t want to see them go. That might be because I was 1:1 in 2007 with Apple laptops and had the experience of 1:1 with solely computers. I would miss those software companies. (I’m talking about the educational software companies).

      RCHK was a 1:1 school in 2005 when they opened. They were pioneers for being 1:1 so long ago, and their experience as pioneers is significant. The fact they went 2:1, instead of ditching the laptops in favour of iPads says a lot.

      Of course, I know that many schools choose the iPad option for economic reasons. I understand that. I’m talking in idealistic terms if we could choose any hardware we wanted 😀

      Thanks for the very interesting discussion. It would be great if we had a forum debate about tablets and the Gartner Hype Cycle.


      ps. I cringe when I look at that picture, but I thought it would be funny, so worth the embarrassment factor. Thanks for the compliment! I wonder how many people have lost total respect of me because I am actually the “Cat in the Hat”? 😉

  4. You know how much I love the discussion on hype and SAMR. And I’m thinking there is power in realizing that disillusionment is going to come before the epiphany. I might need to blog about it myself.

    And I really love the quilting discussion. I actually think it ties to flipped classroom. If we are passionate about a topic, then we want to learn and we’ll turn to technology to help us. The “need to know” is a powerful incentive and technology has made it so much easier to learn and to do. Thanks for sharing and all the visuals. And I respect you a little more for sharing the Cat in the Hat pic!

    • Vivian says:

      Hi Rebekah @rebekahm

      It’s great to see you here in my comments’ section and to have you as an instructor for Course 4.

      It would be great to speak to people heavy into the iPads (like what is happening in the iPad summit in India) and to ask them where they think iPads are on the curve.

      I want see both tablets and laptops in the classroom. I’m greedy but I know there are others that are wondering the same things about iPads (including Jeff Utecht—not that I’m name-dropping to build my argument 😉 )