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Educating Educators: How to Use the SAMR Model in Teacher Professional Development

Educating Educators: How to Use the SAMR Model in Teacher Professional Development

It is October; school is flowing, and educators have settled into the groove of the school year. It’s time for ongoing professional development for teachers because student achievement is tied to how teachers are trained to use computers in their curriculum (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). Additionally, professional learning that is “ongoing, intentional, reflective, goal-oriented, based on specific curricula and materials, focused on content knowledge and children’s thinking, and situated in the classroom” can be the most effective (IOM & NRC, 2015).

To fulfill this need, there is one approach I have had success with in the past, and that is the technology plan known as substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition (SAMR). SAMR is a professional development model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, that provides a technique for moving through degrees of technology adoption (Hamilton, Rosenberg, & Akcaoglu, 2016). When used in teacher professional development sessions, you can help your teachers overcome some hurdles they may have in technology implementation, as well as learn some new strategies along the way. 

To better understand a SAMR approach, consider the following examples:

  • An English class is reading a Shakespeare play in a traditional format. At the substitution level, students could read the text online. At the augmentation level, students can utilize online dictionaries, study guides, and history sites to supplement their reading. At the modification level, students could use multimedia resources with text, audio, and video tools to jointly construct their understanding of a portion of a play or a character. At the redefinition level, the assignment could pose the question to students, “How did the culture at that time impact the writing of Shakespeare’s plays?” Students could utilize an online content-mapping tool and construct a mind map that answers the question through words and images found online. 
  • In a high school mathematics assignment with the SAMR model applied could have students completing a worksheet on graphing functions. At the substitution level, instead of printing off paper copies of the worksheet, an instructor could make the worksheet available online. At the augmentation level, students could complete the same questions on a Google Form, and the instructor could capture the answers for individual students to check for understanding. In this situation, technology is a direct substitute for the worksheet, but the activity was enhanced by the immediate feedback available. At the modification level, the technology allows for significant task redesign. To investigate graphing functions, students could work in groups to analyze the different characteristic of functions as they graph them. Then, students could video record the characteristics and steps of how to graph functions. The video could be uploaded to a classroom website so that students can use it as a tutorial or study aid. At the redefinition level, students could create an online portfolio of all types of functions, and their graphs could include real-world applications that are modeled by the functions.

While teachers work on different levels in the SAMR model, schools could be strategic in how they further teachers’ progressions of learning about classroom technology in an effort to support the importance of ongoing professional development. One idea is specific tech training during planned professional development days throughout the school year. The tech-admins in charge of training could create a list of potential sessions that can occur during mandatory professional development days. Then, teachers could sign up for the sessions, depending of their level of current technology expertise. Some session topics could include “troubleshooting a student’s device” and “where to start when teaching with laptops in the classroom.” The sessions could be taught by administrators and teachers who are particularly enthusiastic about or comfortable with the technology integration.

Another program in which I have had success with moving teachers along the SAMR model is implementing weekly professional development trainings. Our school created what came to be known as “Technology Tuesdays.” These trainings took place after school for one hour, and they were offered two times per month. Teachers and administrators had the opportunity to attend these sessions that explore ways in which students’ laptop use could be incorporated into the curriculum. I was constantly collecting data from teachers about what they needed to see during Technology Tuesdays to ensure that what was being done in those sessions added the most value.  

These are simply a few examples of creating a community that inspires confidence in educational technology. Effective ongoing professional development incorporates asking teachers what they need and focuses on those items in training. “The schools that do it well tie professional development around technology into a larger framework of learning goals and the mission of the school. They’re looking for growth over time as technology is integrated into the classroom. They don’t look at it short-term, even if they’re training for a specific tool” (EdTech Focus on K-12, 2016).

Looking for more professional development resources? Check out these 4 simple steps to improve your school culture!

Also, stay tuned for the next installment in this series, where we will discuss professional development opportunities for teachers using technology as they head into testing season!



Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher technology change: How knowledge, confidence, beliefs, and culture intersect. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(3), 255–284.

Hamilton, E. R., Rosenberg, J. M., & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model: A critical review and suggestions for its use. TechTrends, 60(5), 433–441. doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0091-y

Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC). (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from Peterson, T. (2016, June 22). Technology starts with professional development and training. EdTech Focus on K–12. Retrieved from