Sunday, August 21, 2011

From Substitution to Redefinition

When I attended the "Challenge Based Learning Group Think" in Cupertino last year, I had the opportunity to meet a really bright guy-- Reuben Puentedura.  Reuben had already made a great impression on me, but I was still surprised when at the end of our conference, several Apple Education employees waiting outside our conference room descended on him like a rock star.

Not long ago, while I was listening to an Apple conference call, I came to understand why.  His SAMR model has been a centerpiece of Apple Ed briefings and presentations.  As he writes,

The SAMR model is a model I developed starting in the late 80s, early 90s, to answer the question of what types of technology use would have greater or lesser effects upon student learning. The name comes from the four levels of technology use that I've found could be related directly to results in terms of what happened on the student side. 

Here are the levels:

1. Substitution: the computer stands in for another technological tool without a significant change in the tool’s function.

2. Augmentation: the computer replaces another technological tool, with significant functionality increase.

3. Modification: the computer enables the redesign of significant portions of a task.

4. Redefinition: the computer allows for the creation of new tasks that would otherwise be inconceivable without the technology.

I think that this model offers excellent markers for how well a teacher or school "gets" the power of instructional technology.  In my own case, my disdain for tech used to be so great that I did not even explore substitution through PowerPoint for example.  In my film class I was interested in augmenting my students' experience with superior technology (dvd for vhs; LED projectors for tv screens).  

After I developed my "bookless" course in government, I began to be recognized at MHS for being quite the techie.  When Will Richardson led our in-service three years ago, I was introduced to him, more or less as Mercy's techie exemplar.  However when I told him what I had done, he gently urged me to explore ways to use the technology to empower my students or even engage them in creating the curriculum.  At first I was annoyed, but then took it to heart.  Looking back, I see that he was essentially nudging me toward "redefinition" and that Challenge Based Learning was my path.

It was with pleasure that I spoke to Will in June at ISTE.  I thanked him for challenging me, and told him that some teachers at Mercy were using our powerful technologies to do more that communicate information from teacher to student.  As we move into the school year, this is what I believe puts Mercy way ahead of the pack.  We have teachers who are redefining their students' experience.  Yes, our tuition is high, but I think this sort of "redefinition" is will truly prepare them to be successful in their futures.

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