Monday, December 19, 2016

Beyond SAMR Ladders & Pools: A Framework for Teaching & Learning

Last week at the Minnesota state technology conference, TIES, I co-presented a session with our Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Eric Schneider, entitled "Beyond SAMR Ladders & Pools: A Framework for Teaching & Learning." The slide deck and a 4 minute video overview is below, as well as links to a draft Framework Overview document and the draft guide for Authentic & Real World Learning. For those of you who weren't there, here's a recap:

Although the SAMR scale has really gained popularity over the past few years, the concept of differing levels of technology integration and stages of use in education is not new. Back in 2003 when I first left the classroom and started in my instructional technology career, I referenced the ACOT Stages of Integration with teachers (Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Appropriation, Invention). By 2011 when we first started our 1:1 iPad program, we began using the RAT scale (Replacement, Amplification, Transformation). As SAMR gained in popularity, we stopped referencing the RAT scale, but we never really shifted to SAMR. In fact, I don't believe many teachers in Minnetonka are familiar with it. Here is why: 

What's Wrong with SAMR?

There are many iterations of SAMR, from ladders to coffee to wheels and pools. Creating a catchy analogy helps, but the focus of each of these variations still is on the technology. I asked the attendees and now you to think about what is wrong with SAMR. What is it missing? How does it fall short? 

Around 2014 we stopped referencing the RAT scale and began evaluating the benefits and results of using these various scales in our efforts to help teachers integrate technology more meaningfully into their teaching. Each of these scales was helpful, but also left some voids. Sometimes the delineation between the levels was hard to pin down (is that use Amplification or Modification?). As we worked with teachers on how to use technology in their teaching, we didn't want the focus to be on the technology itself. Instead we found great benefit from and a need to reflect on many other areas of teaching and learning, too. Talking about how students are thinking critically, communicating, what they are creating, if their experiences were authentic, personalized, collaborative, and global in nature is just as important as talking about technology. It all fits together as part of the conversation and bigger picture of instructional best practices.

Each of these other areas of instruction and learning have their own levels and stages, too. For example, you can say that your students are collaborating, but is it at the basic level of talking with a neighbor about their answer to a problem or a higher level of collaborative skills involved in negotiating and resolving decisions about what information is most important for a group presentation? Because of this, we developed a larger framework for instruction overall. There are eight dimensions on our framework, and each has its own levels of complexity (similar to SAMR levels). 

As stated in the Framework Overview document, the Framework shows "how often modest adjustments to lesson design and learning environments can significantly elevate students’ opportunities to learn. It provides educators with a launching point for planning meaningful, engaging instruction for learners who already live in a complex information society in which the nature of work is rapidly changing. Teachers can create places of learning that engage students at high levels and lead to deeper understandings by intentionally planning learning experiences with these strands in mind."

The Minnetonka Framework for Teaching & Learning

To develop this comprehensive framework, our Director of Teacher Development, Sara White, coordinated the work and efforts of teacher and administrator teams who worked to identify and compose the definitions and levels for each level of complexity on the Framework, as well as write an overview document and create guides of about 10-15 pages that detail each of the Framework's eight dimensions. 
(View the draft Framework Overview document and draft guide for Authentic & Real World Learning referenced in the presentation.) Sara also scripted an overview video that we showed our staff this past August during back to school workshops:

Our Framework now guides our curriculum writing with dimensions and levels being identified in our UbD units. It also is the focus of our staff development, including technology. Our instructional technology coaches meet with teachers and do trainings focusing on strands of the Framework. Teachers meet in roundtables to discuss how they are designing instruction around different dimensions of the Framework and how technology integrates with these other areas. They also discuss the progress they are making on their technology goal for the year which is tied in with another Framework dimension. These goals are shared with the instructional technology coaches and their building principals. The Minnetonka Framework for Teaching and Learning has helped us move beyond SAMR ladders and pools to designing student experiences for meaning, engagement, and deeper learning. 

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