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Unpacking the SAMR Model: Redefinition

By: The PAVE Academy


As this is the final article in our SAMR Model series, this entry will look at the ways in which we can redefine the learning that is occurring in our classrooms with digital technology solutions.

Redefinition, the action or process of defining something again or differently, can easily be achieved in the learning landscape by the embedding of digital technology into the students learning experience. Once again take my new favourite SAMR infographic which has been a staple addition to all these articles. With the intention of exploring the different sides of a lake, we can clearly explore the depth of learning (pun intended) through the ways in which we design and present the task to the students. If the overall intention of the lesson is to have students identify the differences between two sides of a lake, we can start “improving the learning experience” through incorporating digital tools to instead of just looking at the other side of the lake, actually getting the student from across the lake through a variety of different means. We can substitute a digital solution for a traditional learning approach which is the row-boat option, moving the student from one side to the other across the surface of the water. If we take the digital solution and look at ways in which we can extend and augment the learning outcomes, then we are swimming across the water while using a snorkel to see what lies below the surface. Further development and design of our learning tasks with digital solutions can allow us to extend the level at which we explore the underwater environment. Modification, as we have discussed in our last article, allows the teacher to extend the learning outcomes for the task, while still traveling from one side of the lake to the other but extending a student’s understanding and dept of knowledge through exploring the underwater environment through scuba diving.

The final stage, Redefinition is the most advanced implementation of digital technology outlined in the SAMR model, as it not only addresses the key elements outlined in the original learning task, but it also takes the enhancements of the other stages and expands upon them, allowing students to not only travel across the lake to explore the other side but use a submarine to extensively explore the world that lies beneath the surface of the lake while the journey from one side to the other. This article is going to unpack this final stage to help you gain a stronger understanding of what this may look like in the classroom.

Before we launch into unpacking this final stage of the SAMR model, it is worth noting that for redefinition to be a successful element of a teacher’s pedagogical practice, it is important to acknowledge that to successfully adopt redefinition in their classroom, teachers need to open themselves up to the concept of completely rethinking concepts that may be “tried and true” which can make us feel a little vulnerable, especially when the ‘existing’ approaches have worked in the past. While this can be true, shifting our thinking to a continual improvement model can ensure that we not only create new and exciting learning experiences for our students, but we also create a new world of learning approaches that can help us on our own continual professional improvement.

Like Modification, Redefinition requires that teachers change the design of their learning activities and learning outcomes in a manner that can only be achieved through student use of technology. An example would be the manner in which students took notes when working in your class. Traditionally the passive handwritten notes did suffice, however moving that into the digital realm and incorporating programs like Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Google Docs, Apple Pages, or even Microsoft Word can allow students to share their documents with a teacher and their peers, for collaboration on a single document to occur and for real-time feedback to be given to improve the students’ progression. In addition to this, a student can take a video or photograph of something that happened in the class and embed that directly into their notes. They can also drop in hyperlinks to webpages and utilise tools like dictionaries, thesaurus, and other grammatical tools that can enhance their workflow. Without redefining “how” students take notes in your classroom, as well as the concept of “what notes look like” students would never be able to create a stronger and more effective reference system for their learning in the classroom.

Another example could be based around a lesson for grade 6 students on how native Australian animals adapt to their environments to survive. Where the original lesson may have been students reading articles or watching a video about Australian Animals, we could redefine the lesson to explore a student’s inquisitorial approach to research gathering by using video conferencing to connect students to a variety of zoologists from around Australia to discuss in real-time how the different Australian animals in their region adapt to their environments to survive. In addition to this, teachers could have the students take a virtual tour of the Melbourne Museum where they can visit the “Amazing animals in a changing world” exhibit and move through the animals at their own pace. Finally, using applications like Google Earth, the students can take the information gathered from their meetings with zoologists to explore the different habitats and see the types of vegetation in those areas. This example takes a simple research-based task and transforms it into a highly engaging and interactive experience that draws on so many elements of the students learning outside just passively learning information. The inclusion of digital technology in this learning approach has meant that students connect with true experts, engaging in a dialogue around the topic, allowing them to form a deeper understanding of what is being discussed. Coupled with the virtual learning tours and exploration, the learning task has been redesigned and redefined into a multi-layered educational experience.

Another example could be a year 9 maths class where students are exploring geometry, specifically parallel and perpendicular lines. Traditionally, the lesson was based on a textbook where students used formulas to work out relationships between angles formed by two lines. The teacher substitutes the lesson moving the student’s work onto Google While this activity teaches and applies the knowledge, it can be transformed into a real-life context where they apply their knowledge to solve real issues and geometrical problems. Using applications like GeoGebra and Explain Everything or Screen-Casting O-Matic, students can create their own problems with a video tour of real-world examples of parallel and perpendicular lines that can be shared or presented to the class. This lesson example shows how teachers can take what traditionally is a passive learning experience and turn it into an immersive and engaging activity that gets students looking for problems in real-world contexts and then applying their knowledge to produce solutions which are then shared with their peers for feedback. Such a learning experience not only increases student engagement but also agency and voice by giving them control over the direction their learning takes while incorporating a practical approach to the use and application of this knowledge.

Another example of redefinition in the classroom is a grade 5 history lesson on Ancient Egypt. The teacher has been working with students to explore the Pharaohs and especially the ways in which they were honored after their death. The lesson traditionally had students looking at images in a book of the various trinkets and articles that were placed in the tombs with the pharaohs. Using digital tools like Online Quizzes, Internet searches, YouTube Videos, and the like, the teacher was able to substitute, augment and modify the lesson to make it more engaging, however by completely redesigning the lesson the teacher can have the students link to different international museums to obtain 3D scans of some artifacts which they then print out using a 3D printer. Once they have printed it out, they can study its design, and using the features inscribed on the surface of the artifact, they can use it as a model to design their own artifacts and use that to explain a design approach and story behind their product. This redefined lesson has not only utilised key digital tools but has brought the world of Ancient Egypt directly into the classroom in a way that could never have been achieved before – a truly powerful deep learning event for the students.

In all the examples discussed in this and the previous 3 articles around unpacking and understanding the SAMR Model, 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. Digital technology and its effective use in the classroom is truly a revolutionary element that has taken the lessons that we deliver to our students into new realms. While this is fantastic and can create some amazing lessons for our students, it is important that we think about what stage of the SAMR is appropriate for the lesson that we are delivering. Remember not all lessons need to be pitched at the redefinition stage. It is about choosing the level that best achieves the learning outcomes that you want the activity to meet. Yes, there may be some opportunities where you can stretch the learning out to include more areas than you initially designed but that is going to relate to the overall unit of work and your learning schedule. Remember that the SAMR model is not a ladder that you need to try and climb to reach the top, it’s a spectrum that you need to place your activity along to ensure the best learning outcome for the student.

We also need to take some time to acknowledge that there will be some teachers who read these articles and feel a little overwhelmed with their knowledge and skills around the use of technology in the classroom which may allow them to achieve some of these outcomes. If you feel like this is you, then it is important that you don’t just dismiss this idea and stick to what you know. Instead, ask your peers for assistance, or get in touch with the Education Specialist at Pro AV Solutions for some free coaching because expanding your pedagogy to include digital technology can not only open up the SAMR model to your classroom but can provide you with a new frontier of possibilities that can not only enhance the learning for your students but can also open your eyes to new approaches to ways in which you deliver that learning in your classroom.


Augmentation in the Classroom examples

  • Creating video guides and instructional models to demonstrate the application of learning
  • Students create webpages to share their knowledge on a topic with the world
  • Students can collaborate with students from around the world on topics that allow them to now only share their knowledge but also work collaboratively to learn from students outside their direct classroom
  • Design and product physical products with 3D scanning and printing
  • Use software and vacuum forming to produce a prototype of a product they have designed and then reproduce the prototype and sell that product in a controlled environment

Questions that can drive your integration of the Modification 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 you rethink and redesign this activity to allow students to explore areas of their learning that sparks inquiry and exploration?


What output do you expect to see from a student at the end of this learning task? Can redefine the task so that you extend their output by creating opportunities that explore their creativity with digital tools?


How can the redefinition of a lesson in your classroom change the way students engage with their learning?


What are some areas where the traditional method of teaching this lesson that could stretch and extend the students learning? By using a digital learning solution can you redesign the task to take the learning in a brand-new direction that extends the learning experience.


How can I change my thinking around my approach to lessons? Am I able to redesign my lessons so that I can create learning activities that don’t just focus on one learning outcome? How can I use redefinition to my students’ benefit?