Tag Archives: technology in the classroom

Using the SAMR Model of Technology Integration

by Hope Morley

When integrating technology into your lesson plans, it can be difficult to determine where to start. There are countless tools at a teacher’s disposal—Google sites, podcasts, wikis, and social media, to name a few. Do you have to change all your assignments? The SAMR model provides a good ladder to help teachers start to work toward technology integration.

The SAMR model, developed by Ruben R. Puentedura, Ph.D., provides a framework that serves as a guide to help teachers integrate technology into their existing lessons. When walking through the framework, focus on the learning objective and be willing to modify the end product.

SAMR, technology, framework, model, learning objective, integrating technology, redefinition, augmentation, modification, substitution, Google, Skype

Image courtesy of Ruben R. Puentedura

Substitution: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change

In short, the same task could be accomplished without technology.
Example: Students use Word or Google Docs instead of pen and paper to write an essay about solar energy.

Augmentation: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement

The same task could be accomplished without technology, but technology makes it easier, faster, or more efficient.
Example: Students use the collaborative tools in Google to peer edit essays or use the spell check feature to check their work.

Modification: Tech allows for significant task redesign

The task now may include elements that are not possible without technology, such as an authentic audience, off-site collaboration, or multimedia.
Example: Student groups work collaboratively in Drive to create a website using Google Sites with the content that would otherwise be in an essay.

Redefinition: Tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable

The task supports multiple learning styles, helps students gain communication skills, and allows learning to be student-centered and extend outside the classroom.
Example: Students use Skype to work with students in a state with different solar energy potential to create a Google Site using images, videos, and charts.

The project at the redefinition level is completely different from the original pen-and-paper essay. In addition to learning the content and building writing skills, students learn to collaborate with others outside the classroom (an important career-readiness skill) and to use new tools. That kind of project would never have been possible before adding technology.

It can be difficult to determine exactly which classification a task fits into—Is this augmentation or modification?—and that’s okay. The SAMR model works best as a way to start thinking about integrating technology. Getting all assignments to the redefinition stage shouldn’t be an end goal. In fact, some tasks work best at the substitution or augmentation stage.

Keep this in mind as you are updating your tasks: Be careful not to separate the tool from the instruction. The pedagogy is more important than the technology. If the students aren’t meeting your learning objectives, then look at changing the task before you blame the tool.

Use these steps as a way to start thinking about technology integration. It isn’t valuable to your students to say “I want to use social media in the classroom” and then tack it on as an additional assignment with no connection to your learning objectives. Instead, start with the learning objective and think about how technology can improve the experience for the students.

How do you use the SAMR model in your classroom?

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

Apps for Students with Special Needs

by Jonathan Laxamana

apps, special needs, iPad, managing behavior

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All teachers are challenged with meeting the different needs of the students in their classrooms. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges is crafting effective and engaging activities for students with special needs. At the heart of knowing how to engage students with special needs is knowing not just their particular needs, but also their idiosyncrasies. Knowing a student loves music, for example, might prove helpful when trying to teach him or her new words.

Technology, especially iPads, can provide teachers and paraprofessionals who are aware of their students’ needs, abilities, and idiosyncrasies with more tools to instruct and engage their students. There are number of ways educators can use iPad features and apps to help improve their instruction:

iPad Features

Guided Access ensures that a student can complete an activity within an app without accidentally exiting the app.

Voice Over can help students to navigate the device and its apps with voice assistance.  The typical gestures used with an iPad are modified in this mode, but it can prove helpful for students with visual impairments.

Speak to Text is simpler to use if you simply want a student to hear words that he or she is having trouble pronouncing. The student can select a word or paragraph to hear it read as it is highlighted.

You can also modify the iPad in other ways to suit your students’ needs using its Accessibility features, including changing the font size and reversing its colors.

Modifying Behavior

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (Free) includes activities that help students learn how to calm down when they are frustrated and develop a plan to solve their problems by “helping” a monster to do so.

Communicating with Others

Verbal Me (Free) includes letter sounds, numbers, and images of things like seasons, food, and feelings to help students communicate. By tapping an image or even typing a word or sentence, a student can communicate what he or she thinks, wants or feels to others.

Learning the Basics

I See Sam (Free) helps students to develop phonemic awareness. Students practice new sounds and words before reading a simple book. Teachers can have their students listen to a sound or word, record themselves saying the sound or word, and then play it back to hear themselves saying the word.

Articulation Station does precisely what it sounds like it does. It helps students to articulate sounds. However, it does much more than that. It helps students to practice those sounds by practicing words paired with images, in sentences, and in stories.  The free version only includes the one letter. Each additional letter is $2.99.

See.Touch.Learn. helps students learn to recognize a wide range of things—letters, numbers, colors, food, animals, body parts, and emotions.  Some sets of cards are provided for free, but you can buy additional sets of cards for about a dollar or two per set.  You can also create a series of cards to teach the students the skills however you choose.

Bitsboard offers students a number of games that help them to learn many concepts like emotions, actions, jobs, and characteristics. Students can view flashcards, answer true-false questions, play a matching game, or even do a word search to reinforce the meaning and spelling of words.

These are just a few basic (and free) tools you can use to help you put the iPad to good use for your students with special needs. There are many other apps available, some of which can be expensive. You should evaluate the more costly apps’ usefulness knowing the idiosyncrasies of your students.

Jonathan bioJonathan Laxamana is Technology Manager of Green Light Professional Development. He has more than ten years of experience in producing educational software products, video, web-based content, and mobile apps. He writes about new hardware and software, troubleshooting tips, and everything iPad. 

Three Takeaways from PARCC’s Field Testing

by Helen Beyne

The first session of PARCC online assessment field testing ended last week. Over 400,000 tests were taken during this session with more tests to follow later this month. So, what can we learn from the PARCC rollout before the official test in 2015?

Remember—This is Just a Sample

PAARC, online, assessment, practice test

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most of the students who participated in the first round of field testing took only one component (performance-based or end-of-year) in one subject area (ELA/Literacy or Math). When students take the test in 2015, they will take both components in both subjects. This difference could mean next year’s test will pose a greater challenge to students than the field test, but that remains to be seen.

Also keep in mind that PARCC plans to adjust the test based on field testing results. Assessment items are being looked at to make sure they do a good job of measuring the CCSS they are designed to measure. Individual test questions that were off-base in field testing could be removed or revised. No matter what, PARCC’s Common Core focus means that students can prepare for the test by practicing Common Core skills such as critical thinking and citing text evidence.

Consider the Learning Curve

Implementing any new process or technology involves a learning curve. Whether you’re familiarizing yourself with new hardware or upgrading your operating system, there will always be new commands and features to learn. These changes may be frustrating at times, but they are not impossible to handle.

The same principle holds true for PARCC. The computer-based approach to assessment is probably pretty new to you and your school. As a result, there may be tech problems and kinks to work out. During field testing, most schools reported a rocky first day, but smoother days afterward.

Before the official test, make sure your school’s computers and network meet the required specifications. On test day, consider having PARCC’s tech information and FAQs ready in case of a problem. Tech support is also available through the PearsonAccess call center. (See this PDF for the phone number.)

Talk to Your Students

It may be difficult to set aside the conversation that adults are currently having about PARCC, but if you do, you will see that students’ reactions to PARCC tend to be positive. Many students found computer-based testing more engaging than paper-and-pencil testing. This feedback could be because PARCC’s browser-based format reflects how students already use computers. Many students use computers to complete homework or consume media, and PARCC taps into similar skills.

Ask students about their PARCC experiences. If your students did not participate in PARCC’s field testing, have them try one of the practice tests available on the PARCC website. Whether individually or as a group, have students complete a section and share their reactions. Ask them about the technology and the content. Their answers are sure to be a valuable resource for your PARCC preparation.

Helen Beyne is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. She has years of experience in creating innovative curriculum materials in reading, ESL, science, and social studies. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.

How to Handle Technology Breakdowns in Your Classroom

by Dagmar Ladle

As every teacher who has taken the tech integration plunge will tell you, there are good days and bad days. In a classroom with an interactive whiteboard for example, a good day means that the computer and projector are speaking nicely with one another, and the bulb is projecting the computer’s image nice and bright. But then the bad day arrives and the technology is misbehaving.

Recently, a teacher told me that he was so frustrated with the technology in his room. Until he could be guaranteed that the technology was going to work 100 percent of the time, he would not touch it.

I completely understand his anger and have been there myself. I think there are many teachers who share these feelings of frustration. We become very dependent on these technology tools (as we should) and when we can’t access them to implement our curricular objectives it is frustrating and even infuriating.

The reality is that technology is not going away, so we must find a way to make peace with it in our classrooms. There is no one who can give you a 100 percent guarantee that your technology will not fail you at some point, so I recommend following these five steps: expect it, embrace it, have a back up plan, ask for help, and learn some troubleshooting tips.

Expect it: Teachers who make the effort to integrate technology into their curriculum become dependent on the tools, but also know their limitations. Learn common problems your devices have and know how to solve them.

Embrace it: When technology fails, stay cool, calm, and collected. Remember that every moment is a teachable one. Your students are watching as you model how to react to frustrating situations. Thanks to that finicky IWB pen, you taught your students a very important life skill: handling frustration with grace.

Have a backup plan: The backup can be as simple as writing your notes from the presentation on a whiteboard. Always keep extra batteries, cords, and bulbs on hand.

Ask for help: When class is over, tell an administrator or tech support staff what you experienced. Be clear that your issue needs to be a top priority, as you can’t live without the technology. If you have a recurring issue, keep a log of exactly when it happened and what you were trying to do. Assist them as needed to find a solution.

Learn some troubleshooting tips:

1.  Turn the technology device—computer, projector, document camera, or what have you—off and back on again.

2.  If you are connecting devices to other devices, check all your connections on both ends. Try a different cord.

3.  If devices are inserted into a USB port on your computer, try a different port. Most computers have at least two.

4.  If you can’t see an image on your IWB, check for a light beam from the bulb to the board to ensure the bulb is working. No light, no image!


Dagmar LadleDagmar Ladle is Manager of Consulting Services at Green Light Professional Development. Before Green Light, Dagmar worked for Chicago Public Schools, Promethean, and Apple. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.