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This week’s content and resources were good reinforcement of the work I’ve been doing for my ISTE certification classes lately, so it’s nice to have a chance to reflect and blog about these parallel experiences.

Same, Same but Different

I’ve noticed that these 2 models are the dominant ones used when planning for and evaluating technology integration in an educational setting, and that’s not really a surprise given how valuable they are in discussions and decision making. While it’s true that both are generally introduced together and connect to teaching and learning with technology, they are actually quite different in their purposes, in my humble opinion. 

I find that the SAMR model is more useful as a reflective and evaluative tool for educators when using technology in their classrooms. It looks primarily at the task in which technology is being used and asks viewers of the model to determine where on the continuum the task fits. I think it’s important to note here that I don’t think it’s meant to be used in a linear way, nor should there be any element of judgment attached to it, as some people might assume. Not every task involving technology needs to be transformative in nature. Not all technological tools and resources have the power to transform teaching and learning experiences. And that’s okay. To me, it’s about being able to accurately identify where the task fits and recognizing opportunities to move across the spectrum in a day or unit of study. It’s nice to have variety. It’s nice to understand how technology fits with different learning goals. 

The TPACK model, on the other hand, is far more dynamic. Again, that’s just my opinion, but I’ll tell you why I say that. Unlike the SAMR model that only looks at tasks involving technology, the TPACK framework recognizes that technology is only powerful if grounded in best practice (pedagogy) and standards (content knowledge). I find the TPACK model to be of particular use during the planning process because it offers a broader lens and it is easier to see if these dimensions are all represented, or more importantly if one is missing. Rather than be excited about a specific tool or task, this helps educators keep content standards and instructional strategies on the front burner. That being said, it kind of irritates me that they’ve put the T in the front and in the top circle because there’s almost an assumption that it’s the most important of the 3, where I would argue that it’s the least important.

TPACK vs. SAMR

My Role & Work

In my current role as an Innovation Coach, I am actively involved in aspects of planning, teaching, coaching and professional development across the school, so these frameworks are really useful to me in each context. In planning meetings, I am often asked how technology can be integrated into a unit to help achieve learning goals, so it’s nice to have the TPACK handy for reference because it helps guide that work. Occasionally, a teacher will ask me about a specific technology tool or resource, and in those cases, the TPACK provides support in redirecting the conversation to the learning objectives. My motto has been to ask these teachers, ‘what is it you’d like them to know or be able to do?’ It’s only when I really understand that, that I can recommend a tool or resource. 

When I’m in a classroom working with a group of students or leading a whole-class lesson, I use both tools as a way to plan and evaluate my use of tech. If parts of the task can be done offline, I generally like to start there and move into a tech-focused task. The transitions are helpful for both myself and the students, and I like people in the building to understand that I’m a teacher before I’m anything else. My experience of stepping back into the role of a classroom teacher last year helped me approach these conversations in new ways now that I’m back in a coaching position.

As a coach, I like bringing both of these frameworks forward when I meet with teachers because it usually helps support them in achieving their SMART goals as well as their ISTE educator goals. Thankfully, most of the teachers I now work with are familiar with both of these models and regularly refer to them in their work. For example, we held a tech conference here at AISG last weekend and a few of the workshops were facilitated by teachers in the elementary school and ALL of them introduced their audience to the SAMR model to preface their sessions. I can’t take credit for any of that, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see this level of knowledge and experience be second nature to my colleagues. Just awesome!

Finally, in my work with administrators planning professional development for faculty, I’ve taken to practicing something my ISTE Certification facilitators call ‘managing up’. This refers to actions that I take in my role to upskill admin on things they need to know to make informed decisions and support staff with regard to technology. Essentially, it means they empower and trust me to be the expert in this area so it relieves some of their stress and workload. This week has prompted me to print these 2 models out and add it to the agenda for our next IT/Admin meeting because it’s that important.

Final Thoughts

As I move through the remainder of this and my ISTE Certification courses, I hope to return to these frameworks often and continue to use them as a foundation for transformative teaching and learning with technology. And until next time, let me know all the ways you use these in your classroom or context. Do you prefer one over the other? Are they helping move your practice forward?