Climbing the SAMR Ladder with iPads


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After several years of sharing several iPad carts in Grades K through four at SCH Academy, Division heads, along with the Innovation and Senior Leadership Teams of the school, made the decision to implement a 1:1 iPad program in grades three and four. This decision materialized as a result of considerable planning—most importantly answering the critical question of Why iPads? The determination was pedagogical, not technical, made solely with student learning in mind. In his role as Community Manager for Discover Education Canada, Dean Shareski writes The iPad is generating more discussion about the role of technology in learning than any tool or event to date. In trying to understand the reason for this, I’ve come to believe that the design and tactile experience of the iPad are primarily what make this device different and enable these conversations (Tech and Learning). The iPad offers opportunities for haptic learning experiences that move beyond the consumption phase afforded by other technological devices. In other words, students become creators, innovators, and global collaborators.

Prior to the 1:1 student distribution in November, SCH Lower School teachers had already begun the process of assimilating their use into existing lessons as well as those newly designed.  As cross-grade level teams, they had chosen to develop a collaborative approach toward increasing their existing knowledge and sharing it with one another.  As a result of conversations with Twitter colleague Beth Holland of EdTechTeacher, the addition of the SAMR model for assessing and implementing new technologies has fundamentally provided a platform for the transformation of iPad pedagogy within existing classrooms.

In her Edutopia article Redefining Learning Through Screencasting, Beth writes At the most basic level, new technologies are used as a substitution for something that could previously be achieved with an older tool — for example, a typed report, a digital poster or a PDF worksheet. However, this is only the first step. As we progress from using technology as an enhancement to focusing on its power for transformation, we recognize the potential to redefine learning.

More than anything else, the SAMR model has allowed Lower School teachers to retain the best of what they do—create dynamic, skill-based lessons for their students while implementing the creative opportunities that use of iPads can offer. They are modeling exactly what they want for their students, building on prior knowledge while using available tools in newer and more innovative ways. Curiosity abounds on the part of the teachers, some more immersed than others, but all deeply committed to the creational approach that use of ipads offers to their own thinking as well as that of their students.

After-school workshops along with smaller classroom work sessions demonstrate the forward motion of the ipad integration.  In Martha Valciukas and Allison O”Neill’s third grade classrooms, students were busy working on geography projects. In the past, each student would have chosen a state and posted five facts next to a self-created paper map.  Using the SAMR ladder as a model for structured change, students created digital books with Book Creator.  Each book includes self-taken pictures, web images, state facts, and an embedded Tellagami video—all done using iPads.

The iPad work in the SCH Lower School has made it clear to me that the SAMR model provided the kind of a lens for viewing technology integration in the classroom from which many teachers benefited.  This step-by-step approach supported the efforts of teachers to move through the stages of substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. What teachers want for their students had not changed as they have integrated technology tools:  to be able to demonstrate deeper levels of thought and understanding. Use of iPads has only served to stretch the meaning of that understanding.

Be sure to take a look at third grade student Marina Higgins’ digital book about Nevada as well as an alphabet scavenger hunt video where Kindergarten students took photos and created an iMovie on their iPads.

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3 responses to “Climbing the SAMR Ladder with iPads

  1. Very interesting read – look forward to watching it progress – if the ipad will allow students to write clearly on it, then it could become very useful in mathematics. Have heard about one program that may make it possible.

  2. Thanks, Paul. What app are you talking about? I may have some experience with it…Notability? Penultimate? I’d love to test some apps out with you. I’m going to start sending weekly links out to a Haiku iOS Resource page that will help out with some of this work moving forward.

  3. Pingback: SAMR: From Climbing To Swimming | Daytime·

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