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Unpacking the SAMR Model: Modification

By: The PAVE Academy


In the first two articles in this series we discussed an overview of the SAMR Model and then started to unpack it by taking a deeper look at the first two stages – Substitution and Augmentation. In this article, we are going to continue our journey of understanding the SAMR model by looking at the third stage – Modification,

To maintain continuity in the ways in which we are presenting these articles, if you look up “modify” in the dictionary you will find that it is a transitive verb that means to “make basic or fundamental changes to give a new orientation or serve to a new end” moving into the realm of design change of the learning task, creating a situation which changes the learning intentions for the lesson and the learning outcomes for the students. Taking an existing learning task or activity, one that may or may not have already been Substituted or Augmented through the application of the first 2 stages of the SAMR model, and redesigning its application in the classroom, using technology at its core, the modification stage of the SAMR model looks to create an opportunity for students to deepen their learning and understanding that was previously unavailable through traditional (non-technology) based activities.

Another example could be the use of Online Quizzes in place of the traditional pen and paper style paper. A grade 5 teacher has just finished a unit of work on different capital cities around the world. Traditionally at the end of the unit of work, the students would complete a short quiz to assess what they have learned during the geography unit. By using a digital tool like a Google Form, the teacher has created not only a digital substitution but has created a situation where the students’ engagement has been enhanced with the use of spell check, language and grammar checkers as well as access to a thesaurus. This augmentation has meant that the students can focus on sharing their knowledge without worrying about the spelling of different cities’ names. This augmentation can also assist in ensuring that students can get their ideas across, those that are being assessed, without having the stress of focusing on elements that are not necessarily the main focus of the unit assessment task. The augmentation of this task does not just stop here, it has improved the ways in which the teachers interact with the responses. At the end of the assessment, when students press the submit button, and if it has been set up correctly, the assessments can be corrected and students can receive instant feedback on how they went. In addition to this, the data is uploaded and analysed by the Google platform, providing teachers with infographics outlining the strengths and weaknesses in the student’s responses which can be used to inform the direction for future lessons. The data can also be exported into a spreadsheet for further analysis and reporting.

A fun way to continue to develop our understanding of the SAMR Model and how it sits in the overall spectrum of lesson development and improvement is this model presented by Kathy Schrock’s Kaffeeklatsch blog. Thinking of the SAMR Model as a coffee menu and thinking of the original form being a glass of water, substitution adds coffee beans to the mix to create a cup of coffee and augmenting this flavour by adding warm milk gives us a cafe latte. By adding vanilla favoured syrup to the steamed milk to a shot of espresso, and finishing it off with a drizzle of caramel we now have a new entity, the caramel macchiato – and while this is still theoretically linked to the original cup of water, we have a brand new direction and flavour that would not have been possible without firstly adding the coffee beans to create that original cup of coffee.

In our first two articles we discussed a drama teacher who has their class writing a performance journal, traditionally using a pen and paper solution by writing in their class workbooks, substituted with a word document that was emailed to the teacher for assessment and then augmented to a blog where the student could receive feedback on their writing from peers in the class. If we were going to continue workshopping this idea, if the teacher wanted to move this learning activity into the Modification stage, they could look at the learning outcomes that they were trying to achieve from the activity and redesign it into a collaborative joint performance journal. This could be moving a review into a Google Doc or a SMART Learning Suite Workspace activity where the students work simultaneously on the same document, sharing their ideas and creating a collaborative workspace that collates the student groups’ collective thoughts and learning. Alternatively, the teacher could create a digital “newspaper” style assessment where students uploaded their journal entries as either articles, podcasts, or short video review to a collaborative paper which was then published to the school community. This redesign of the learning task allows the students to explore their creativity in the ways in which they present their journal entries while creating situations where they can publish and share their work with their peers while also working collaboratively in either small or whole class groups. By adopting technology in this instance, the learning task has moved from a handwritten “dear diary” style journal entry to a highly creative, collaborative, interactive, and engaging learning activity which not only demonstrates the modification stage of the SAMR model but also explores ways in which students can start to take control of the ways in which they “experience” and demonstrate their learning.

By modifying a task using technology, you are allowing students the opportunity to “generate inspired and innovative work that isn’t confined to paper” which can create a highly engaging learning experience that has students pushing the boundaries of their learning and losing themselves in their learning. Modification can also expose the student’s creativity, allowing them to use their learning to express themselves through the ways in which they display their knowledge. An example is an English teacher who wants to teach persuasive writing composition. Where traditionally a teacher may have explored this topic as a written essay style activity, by adopting technology and the modification stage students can do a podcast where they share their opinions about a variety of topics, which could then be shared in a local school community for feedback. Another student could create a television new report style submission where they state their ideas or opinions on a topic and then find others that support and contrast their ideas to present a balanced new report this could be then presented to the class for collaborative discussion and analysis. In both examples, without technology, these were just essays or at best a newspaper article but by introducing technology and modifying the ways in which the students could demonstrate their understanding of persuasive writing composition the task has not only encompassed the students’ creativity and has opened up learning engagement to a whole new level, it has also started to incorporate student voice into the learning process, giving them control over the way in which they show what they have learned.

Let’s take the online quizzes that we spoke about in our last article where a grade 5 teacher just finished a unit of work on different capital cities around the world. Traditionally the assessment would be a short paper-based quiz, substituted to a Google Form allowed augmentation through access to spell check, thesaurus, and other text-based digital tools, however of the teacher redesigned the assessment by incorporating gamification elements, and created a game show activity like the SMART Learning Suite Team Quiz or a Kahootz! then this once the stock standard quiz has been redesigned into a highly interactive and engaging activity that embraces the fun in the classroom while also providing students with instant feedback and opportunities to incorporate metacognitive strategies into the way in which they interact with the game and answer the questions – a situation that was not conceivable before incorporating technology into the equation.
Another example could be for a Year 11 Visual Communications lesson where students are required to design and develop a new design for a low-income housing project to support refugees. Traditionally this may have been completed as a drawing on a piece of graph paper, however by introducing technology into the equation students are able to create 3-dimensional models of their building designs that can be run through digital simulations to see if they are able to withstand various different weather situations. This modification allows students to expand on the initial lesson idea, and not just look at the overall look of the building but also start to explore its functionality which reflects more of a real-world situation for architects.

In all these examples, the teachers have looked at ways in which the original lesson ideas can be redesigned or modified to create new and exciting learning opportunities for students in the classroom and as displayed by my favorite infographic about the SAMR Model, the use of technology has allowed us to drastically redesign the way in which the student travels across the lake, encompassing not only the movement from one side to the other but incorporating the ability to explore the sea life at new depths through our ability to “scuba dive”. 


Augmentation in the Classroom examples

  • Collecting student data, and then analysing that with graphs and automated formulas through digital forms instead of traditional written surveys
  • Students recording audio of their text instead of just writing it on a piece of paper
  • Uploading learning resources as a PDF for student access, as opposed to photocopying
  • Using a SMART Board with the associated SMART Learning Suite to delivery a class instead of writing on a traditional whiteboard.
  • Creation of a slide show instead of a poster with embedded videos, audio files and hyperlinks

Questions that can drive your integration of the Substation into the learning in the classroom and can spark professional discussions with your colleagues.


What is the learning outcome that you are trying to achieve from this task? Can we substitute the task with a digital tool that can augment the students learning experience?


What output do you expect to see from a student at the end of this learning task? Can the students exceed this output expectation with a different digital solution?


What positive learning outcome extensions can come from creating a digital learning solution for your lesson?


What are some areas where the traditional method of teaching this lesson lacks in efficiency and economy? Can this be solved with a digital solution and how do they stretch the learning in new directions?


How can I change my thinking when I’m designing my lessons so that I can create lessons and learning activities that don’t just focus on one learning outcome? How can I use augmentation to my students benefit?