Marcella Franco


Ontario Tech University


The educational landscape is increasingly being altered by the popularity and availability of technology.  Many educators find themselves looking for ways to best support their students by integrating digital technology into their teaching practice and curriculum. Educators may look to frameworks within which their technological choices can be evaluated. The SAMR model can be a useful tool in helping educators reflect on their current technology use and evaluate potential technology uses. The SAMR model consists of four stages, Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The SAMR model can serve as a helpful guide for educators when making decisions on technology-driven learning in their practice. The SAMR Questions and Transition Ladders found in this chapter can help educators make small shifts in their curricula in order to make transitions to higher levels in the SAMR model and incorporate 21st-century skills into their teaching.

Keywords: education, SAMR, technology, curriculum, 21st century skills


Mobile devices and other technology have become so interlaced within students’ daily lives that most educators are embracing the integration of technology into their practice. Many educators believe that the integration of technology into the curriculum can enhance learning, however, choosing the right technology can often feel like a difficult and overwhelming task for educators. The SAMR model is a tool to help teachers not only focus on selecting the appropriate tools for a learning activity but also to focus on how technology can be used to enhance learning.  Using the SAMR model, educators are encouraged to reflect on their own technology use and make transformations in the implementation of technology into their practice to take teaching and learning to the next level. 

Background Information

In an effort to guide educators in their technology integration efforts, Dr. Puentedura developed the SAMR model. The purpose of this model was to encourage educators to heighten the quality of their practice using technology (Romrell, Kidder, & Wood,2014).

Model Overview

According to Puentedura, the SAMR model leads to higher learning since it encourages educators to “move up” from lower to higher levels of teaching with technology (Hamilton, Rosenberg,& Akcaoglu, 2016), all the while maintaining the value and importance of pedagogy and curriculum (Puentedura, 2014). Puentedura’s model moves through various stages and as the lessons pass along the spectrum of the model, learning is transformed (Puentedura, 2013).  

SAMR consists of four classifications of technology use in education (Puentedura, 2014). These stages are: 


This is the lowest level of technology integration.  At this stage, technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change. This stage may include reading an e-book instead of a hard copy of the same book or using a word processor instead of handwriting a story. According to Puentedura (2018), in the substitution level, the educators are essentially doing the exact same things they were doing in their classroom before the tech integration. In this stage, the use of technology may not significantly impact learning outcomes (Puentedura, 2014).


Technology is used as a direct substitute, but with functional improvements.  At this stage, technology may improve the learning experience by adding a new range of capabilities. For example, students using the word processor may also use the online dictionary and thesaurus.  Puentedura explains that in this stage the task is not carried out in the exact same way, that the technology provides opportunities to be more efficient, swifter, and provides greater opportunities for student engagement. However, the overall task remains the same (Puentedura, 2018). 


Technology at this stage enhances the learning activity and transforms it. This transformational stage is where the task begins to look and feel different. The heart of the task remains the same but new goals are reached through modifications and significant improvement in student outcome is seen (Puentedura, 2013).  An example of this stage may be students working collaboratively on an essay using google docs and posting their writing on a blog where they can give, receive, and incorporate feedback allowing them to construct knowledge and make new meaning of their research.


Technology at this level allows for the creation of new tasks that would be previously inconceivable without the use of technology. According to Puentedura, technology use at this stage encourages deeper analytical thought, and dramatic improvement in student outcomes is seen (Puentedura, 2018). In the redefinition stage, the task may transform from a story being written to digital video storytelling that is shared with other students around the country and can become a resource for others to learn from. This stage allows the exploration of areas that students may not have explored otherwise. The technology at this stage encourages students to take charge of their own education and provides a sense of ownership (Puentedura, 2018).

Stage 1 and 2 (Substitution and Modification) of the SAMR model represent enhancements of the existing ways of teaching.  At these levels, technology is simply a digital medium and is not fundamental to carry out the learning activity. Stage 2 and 3 (Modification and Redefinition) of the SAMR model represent transformational learning stages. At these levels,  technology is actively being used to transform the way learning is occurring. 


SAMR is a popular model that has been presented by Puentedura all over the world (Green, 2014). It does not, however, come without criticism.  According to Green (2014), Puentedura developed the SAMR model from experience and not research.  Green (2014) also states that no peer-reviewed papers have been authored and/or published by Puentedura. This statement is echoed by Hamilton et al. (2016) where they argue that the SAMR model has no theoretical explanation, and limited qualitative and quantitative evidence to support the progression of learning through the stages in peer-reviewed literature. Hamilton et al. (2016) go on to say that this limitation in research and evidence leaves the model with very limited explanation and details on how to interpret and apply it; potentially resulting in erroneous interpretations, misunderstandings, and confusion by educators.  Another criticism of the SAMR model is the absence of consideration of context. Context such as infrastructure, technological resources, and teacher knowledge can play a role in technology integration and yet, these elements are not taken into account in the SAMR model (Hamilton et al. 2016).

Applications in the Classroom

Despite the criticism mentioned above, the SAMR model can be a useful model for educators to begin with. Even Green, who was a critic of the tool, describes it as an uncomplicated tool that can be easily used and adapted in many ways (Green, 2014). The SAMR model is designed to help educators get a clear idea and assess their current level of curriculum technology integration, what their goals are for the integration, and the specific outcomes the technology can provide. 

The ever-evolving creation and updating of new apps and platforms in the world of education can be a vehicle that can help educators foster new ways to enhance learning. Using the SAMR model, educators have the opportunity to take small steps towards their evolution of technology integration. They can start small by doing what they already do, and incorporate tools when comfortable, incorporating elements, modifications, and eventually redefining their tasks (Puentedura, 2014). 

Puentedura created a questions and transitions ladder with the SAMR model to provide teachers with opportunities to reflect on their own tech use as they begin to make shifts in the implementation of technology in the curriculum. These questions help teachers make transitions to each level. The questions below have been adapted from Puentedura’s ‘Thoughts for Design’ Presentation (2012).

SAMR Questions and Transitions Ladder 


  • What will my student’s gain by replacing the older technology with the new technology?

Substitution to Augmentation:

  • Does this new technology add an improvement to the task process that could not have been accomplished with the older technology at a basic level?
  • How does this feature contribute to the task goals/outcomes?

Augmentation to Modification:

  • How is the original task being modified?
  • Is the technology essential to the modification of the task?
  • How does this modification contribute to the task goals/outcomes?

Modification to Redefinition:

  • What is the new task?
  • Will any portion of the original task be retained?
  • How is the new task uniquely made possible by the new technology?
  • How does it contribute to the task goals/outcomes?

Teachers in the substitution and augmentation phase will often use technology to accomplish traditional tasks. At the next two levels, (modification and redefinition), teachers change the tasks and the tasks extend from the confines of the classroom.  While not all tasks are always required to be at the redefinition level, Romrell et al. (2014), analyzed tasks at different stages in the SAMR.  They found that every task example at the redefinition level was “personalized situated and connected”, however, the tasks found at the lower level of the SAMR model were not (Romrell et al., 2014). They conclude that these activities that are personalized, situated and connected have the potential to reinvent and transform learning  (Romrell et al., 2014).  

SAMR and 21st Century Learning

With the shift in education comes the task of preparing students to make “meaningful contributions to the world” (Heflebower, & Marzano, 2012;2011). Wagner (2008), described 20th-century work as repetitive work people did with their hands and not their heads, work in which analytical skills were not required. On the other hand, he described successful workers in the 21st century as “knowledge workers” (p.256). Wagner argued that students in the 21st century need to learn how to 

“think critically and solve problems, work in teams and lead by influence, be agile and adaptable, take initiative and be entrepreneurial, communicate clearly and concisely,  access and analyze information effectively, and be curious and imaginative” (p.257). 

This is significant as the focus on rote learning and memorization that was once prevalent is no longer considered as fundamental in preparing students for the fast-changing, information-filled world they live in.  According to Hilton(2016) and Oxnevad (2013), educators felt that when using SAMR the educators would strive to reach higher levels and ‘teach above the line’.  Using SAMR as a guide in their technology-infused lessons can help educators develop learners who are fluent in 21st Century Skills which include the 4Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.  A focus on creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication is essential in preparing students for current complex 21st-century work environments.  The SAMR model can help educators reflect on their technological infusion and use technology to teach these critical learning and innovation skills. 

For example, conducting research is often a requirement in the curriculum. Taking this curriculum expectation and using the SAMR model can promote a focus on the 4Cs characteristic of 21st Century Skills.  Students can conduct research individually and/or collaboratively using online libraries, and other digital sources (Substitution and Augmentation).  Additionally, allowing the students an opportunity to choose and solve a problem (as is done in problem-based learning), provides the students with an opportunity to conduct research using multiple sources, work collaboratively to synthesize and present the information they have gathered and examined.  Students can be encouraged to use Google docs to collaborate on the project, Google Forms to pose questions to each other and/or receive feedback (Modification). Furthermore, students can share digital media presentations with their peers and others around the globe (Redefinition). When an educator uses SAMR and  ‘teaches above the line’ they provide the students with digital tools that promote creative and critical thinking skills, as well as innovation, communication, and collaboration skills.  Incorporating these skills into the curriculum prepares students for their future in a world that is continuously changing (Marzano, & Heflebower, 2011).

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

The SAMR has the potential to guide educators in an ever-evolving technological landscape. It can assist in choosing potential tools to incorporate into their teaching. As educators engage in the use of the SAMR model, they must realize that it is simply a tool and that if transformational learning is their goal, they must incorporate other filters, such as context, creativity, and higher order thinking skills into their plans (Hamilton et al., 2016). Along with the SAMR model, educators should consider whether the technology will improve the learning process, and amplify the learning experience. Meaningful learning, and not solely technology use should be at the centre of their teaching. The SAMR model can be useful as a reflective tool, however, before more research is conducted, educators should be cautious in using it as an isolated way to guide their pedagogical practice. Therefore, further research is needed on the model itself, its application, and the progression through its various stages. 


Common Sense Media. (2018, November 15). Puentedura, Ruben on Applying the SAMR Model [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/videos/ruben-puentedura-on-applying-the-samr-model

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Puentedura, R. (2013). SAMR: A Contextualized Introduction. [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2013/10/25/SAMRAContextualizedIntroduction.pdf

Puentedura, R. (2014). SAMR: An Applied Introduction. [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/01/31/SAMRAnAppliedIntroduction.pdf

Puentedura, R. (2012). SAMR: Thoughts for Design.  [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2012/09/03/SAMR_ThoughtsForDesign.pdf

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Wagner, T. (2008). The global achievement gap: why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need–and what we can do about it. New York: Basic Books.


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2019 Copyright © 2019 by Marcella Franco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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