Rosemarie Gillespie
Ontario Tech University


The prevalence of technological devices in society has grown exponentially over the years. Consequently, these devices have become ubiquitous in the field of education. Integrating technology into an educator’s daily practice has become a priority due to this reality. Furthermore, the knowledge, resources, and pedagogy to support an improvement in instructional methods for using technology have been lacking in schools. The SAMR framework, founded by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, is a researched-based model that helps teachers design, create, and integrate technology-infused lessons into their classrooms. The result of such lessons is to advance student learning into higher levels of achievement. This chapter will highlight the meaning of SAMR, as well as its application, challenges, and the limitations to its use. The chapter will end with a discussion about the barriers to technology integration and conclude by imagining the future possibilities for the SAMR model. Finally, this chapter aims to provide insight and help educators (interested in understanding the importance of using a model of technology integration) to integrate technology successfully and seamlessly in their classroom practice.


K-12 technology, SAMR, School Technology Implementation, Technology integration


Technology integration is the effective use of technology resources (the internet, computers, smartphones, mobile devices, apps, and more) to enhance and support teacher instruction and student learning (Edutopia, 2007). The successful integration of technology occurs when its use is routine and transparent, easily accessed, ready to be used when needed, and supports learning and student goals (Edutopia, 2007). A teacher’s understanding of how best to implement technology while teaching is integral to achieving positive outcomes in technology integration. Students are more engaged when technology use is an instinctive and ongoing part of the learning environment, enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts taught. However, barriers to technology integration impact its benefits and teachers’ practice negatively, and district administrators must consider this aspect of technology use. SAMR is a research-based model used to support technology integration. This model can help teachers think deeply about their instructional practice and make meaningful decisions about the technology tools they use in their classrooms.

Background Information

The SAMR model was founded by Dr. Reuben Puentedura in 2009 (Tunjera & Chigona, 2020). The model’s design is a tool through which teachers can monitor the use of technology within their classroom (Hamilton et al., 2016). The letters in SAMR stand for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The letters represent the levels of technology integration. The levels are also helpful in implementing various classroom activities (Hilton, 2016).

The SAMR model uses a vertical diagram as its representation. The model allows teachers to go from the bottom to the top as they move from lower to higher levels of technology integration (Hamilton et al., 2016). The model’s four levels: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition, break into two subgroups entitled “Enhancement “and “Transformation” (Hilton, 2016). The SAMR model sees each use of technology as a new task (Hilton, 2016). The tasks of Substitution and Augmentation are situated in the “Enhancement” subgroup because they utilize technology to exchange or improve the tools already present in the learning task (Hilton, 2016). The remaining tasks of Modification and Redefinition exist in the subgroup entitled “Transformation” because they promote learning opportunities that could not be achieved easily without technology (Kirkland, 2014).

Crompton and Burke (2020) explain the four tasks of SAMR, beginning with Substitution, as using technology for a task completed without technology. Therefore, technology acts as a substitute. Next, they explain Augmentation as using technology to increase learning in a significant way. Then, Modification is described as the use of technology to redesign an assigned activity. Lastly, Redefinition is described as technology that is used to create a product that only works when used with technology.

The visual representation of the SAMR model is presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1

SAMR model (Puentedura, 2013)

SAMR model (Puentedura, 2013)

Applying the SAMR Model

The SAMR framework’s application is explained by exploring some examples of its use. There are many variations of the framework. Therefore, focusing on what the letters in the model’s name represent allows for the most accurate depiction of SAMR. Using the example of an English language teacher using SAMR to conduct a class language lesson, here is a picture of how SAMR works, using the activities assigned to the class (Gajala et al., 2018). In this example, the teacher has planned to introduce a new writing unit to her students. She aims to integrate some technology into the unit using the SAMR framework. Previously, the teacher’s focus would be on the writing genre to be taught. However, in this example, the teacher is going to include technology.

Although the graphic representation of SAMR appears to be linear, teachers are not obligated to start at the bottom of the continuum and work their way up the graphic to the higher levels of technology integration. Since this is the teacher’s and students’ first experience with SAMR, she has chosen to begin at the Substitution level. The students must compose a text and type it using a word processor on their tablets instead of a handwritten text, as would have been the case before this unit. The activity of writing the text using a tablet and word processor is at the Substitution level because the students are substituting paper for a digital word file. The use of technology further enhances the assignment as the teacher uses Augmentation to assign the next step of the task to her students. Upon completing their typed texts, students upload them to Google Docs and open the sharing settings to allow other students to read and comment on their writing. This new task meets the criteria for Augmentation because the technology tool (Google Docs) has provided extra functionality to the text through the sharing settings. The students’ task receives further transformation through Modification. Modification happens when the students choose to redesign the task into a video of themselves reading their texts or they choose to do a voice-over to accompany their writing. The highest level of technology integration in the model is Redefinition. At this stage, the students have the option to use technology to transform the assignment into something completely different that only the use of technology can help them create. Redefinition in this example would mean that the final product submitted by the students might be a photobook with typed text. Understanding how to apply the components of SAMR to one’s teaching regimen means students benefit. They gain the experience of beginning a task, developing their technological skills, and ending with a final product that is something more (creative) than what they started with or could have ever imagined.

Challenges to Using SAMR in the Classroom

The SAMR model represents a framework for guiding teachers in selecting, using, and evaluating technology in K-12 classrooms (Hamilton et al., 2016). Nevertheless, there are few explanations for the SAMR approach in peer-reviewed literature. The lack of explanations has resulted in professional development facilitators, technology coaches, and teachers involved in technology integration having different interpretations and representations of how the model should be used (Hamilton et al., 2016). When searching the internet for images of the SAMR model, there are numerous depictions. For example, images relating the model to the depths of a swimming pool, different types of coffee drinks, and a stepladder. Some of the images displayed did not correspond to how the author defined various aspects of the model. Unfortunately, the varied illustrations of the model lead to misunderstandings and confusion (Hamilton et al., 2016).

One such example is from an educator and global speaker called Carl Hooker. He developed a graphic called Hooker’s SAMR Swimming pool. In his illustration, “Redefinition” is displayed as a high dive at the pool, where students become lifeguards and make up new rules for the pool (Hooker, 2014). This depiction of “Redefinition” insinuates that the students direct and modify their learning when realistically, the teacher modifies the students learning with technology. These inconsistent messages make it difficult for the model users to implement the model accurately (Hamilton et al., 2016).

Another difficult challenge to implementing the SAMR Model for educators is that it does (Hughes, 2009) not include any accommodation for context. Consequently, critical contextual components such as technology infrastructure and resources (Ertmer, 1999), community collaboration and support (Zhao & Frank, 2003), independent and small group student needs (Hughes, 2009; Mishra et al., 2009) and teacher knowledge and technology support (Ertmer et al., 2012; Morsink, 2011) are not acknowledged. When technology integration frameworks fail to recognize and pay attention to context, they tend to overelaborate their directives and ignore the complicated environments where technology integration occurs. A hypothetical example of this point is the science teacher teaching in a poverty-stricken middle school, attempting to design a technological exploration of a particular phenomenon in class.

Limitations of the Model

Although SAMR is an adaptable and beneficial framework for integrating technology into teaching, it has some limitations. The SAMR model’s design is a hierarchical taxonomy. The model has received criticism because its design does not consider the complex elements of teaching with technology. It defines and arranges teachers’ uses of technology in very narrow ways (Hamilton et al., 2016). The SAMR model strongly emphasizes the levels of technology integration teachers should attain to progress along the continuum. However, the importance of highlighting the use of technology in ways that indicate a change in pedagogy or daily classroom practice to improve teaching and learning is ignored (Hamilton et al., 2016). The SAMR model has also received criticism because the simplicity of its integration process focuses on changing a product or instructional activity rather than on student learning processes. In other words, opponents claim that the SAMR model prizes the products created that align with the levels of SAMR as more important than the processes of meeting instructional objectives and achieving learning outcomes (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012).

Barriers to Technology Integration

Utilizing a well-researched technology integration approach is crucial in successfully incorporating technology tools into an educator’s instructional repertoire. As a result, it is impossible to ignore the barriers to technology integration that educators often face. According to Peggy Ertmer (1999), these barriers belong to two categories: external and internal. External barriers include: acquiring the necessary technical skills to use computers and other devices to teach; limited access to devices, software, apps, and internet instability; lack of time to plan instruction; and insufficient technical and administrative support. Conversely, internal barriers have to do with: beliefs about teaching and knowledge of the pedagogical models of technology; an understanding of technological devices; beliefs about classroom practice; and resistance to change. External barriers can be resolved by procuring resources for and offering teaching staff professional development or technical training. In contrast, confronting internal barriers requires challenging one’s belief systems and teaching practices. Other common barriers faced by teachers include: personal fears (What will I do if the technology fails and I cannot teach my lesson?), specialized hardware, software, and app issues (How does the software or technology tool work?), logistical issues (When will I consistently be able to use the computers or laptops?), and lastly, organizational, and pedagogical issues (What is considered adequate computer time? How can I use the devices to meet curricular goals?). Barriers to technology integration should not use a structured, inflexible approach to resolve problems (Ertmer, 1999). It is not advantageous to approach barriers from the mindset of attempting to eliminate all problems all at once before introducing technology into one’s program. The goal is for teachers to equip themselves with options they can consider when problems arise.

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

Technological frameworks and models are essential to educators because they support a deeper understanding of pedagogy and research. The SAMR model helps make technology integration easier to understand and implement for many educators. Despite the model’s usefulness and ease of use, practitioners should be open to giving the criticisms of the model thoughtful consideration when applying the framework to classroom practice. More research is needed to address the lack of theoretical explanations of the SAMR model in peer-reviewed literature, resulting in exposure of the model to multiple interpretations. The research literature offers many worthwhile suggestions for using the SAMR model in more productive ways to guide educators’ efforts to integrate technology effectively. Two noteworthy suggestions are: to revise the model to be more aware of context and redesign the model’s hierarchical format to account for the dynamic ways of teaching and learning with technology. Due to the consistent influx of technological devices over the years and the abundance of information on the internet, educators must become more skilled at incorporating technology into their daily practice to prepare the next generation for what is to come. Competently using a technological integration model like SAMR fulfills that mandate.


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2022 Copyright © 2022 by Rosemarie Gillespie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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