People from across the education and skills sector had been talking about the need to provide greater flexibility for students long before the pandemic raised questions about the future of learning. Our work on Education 4.0 highlights how educators are already making the most of digital technology to achieve more flexible options for study.
The pandemic has triggered a re-think about the role of technology in education and has led to accelerated plans for incorporating digital into teaching and learning.
Our feature on digital transformation explains how digital technology can be incorporated to change the way we provide and deliver education. However, as we start transforming the way we do things, we must remember that innovation doesn’t have to be all about using the most advanced technology.
Know where you want to go
When you plan a journey, you need to know your destination. In this respect, a digital strategy is not different. Planning to adopt technology has always started by asking questions like ‘why do we need this technology?’ or ‘what do we want technology to help us achieve?’. More detail about these questions and other considerations can be found in our quick guide, how to shape your digital strategy.
Most people will have been using technology for some time and there will be established and emerging digital practice. However, how do we know if this practice is transforming the way we deliver our curriculum? And, how can we find out?
Explore digital teaching and learning models
These models can help you identify what technology has become established within your organisation and whether it is starting to bring about organisational change. A few models you may already be familiar with are the TPACK (technological pedagogical and content knowledge) or the RAT (replacement, amplification and transformation) model.
The SAMR model
Another model that has gained attention in recent years is the SAMR (substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition) model. This model was developed by Dr R. Puentedura, following research into how the use of digital technology was transforming classroom-based teaching and learning.
The diagram below explains the four categories.
The SAMR model categories - text version
Technology acts as a direct substitute, with no functional change
Technology acts and a direct substitute, with functional change
Technology allows for significant task redesign
Technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable
The first two categories, substitution and augmentation, describe a situation where the technology is either directly replacing an existing process or has replaced an older technology, but with little gain. Think about how interactive whiteboards replaced overhead projectors. Ok, the technology was more advanced, but the teaching mostly remained the same. Where digital use matches substitution or augmentation, the technology is said to be enhancing the existing teaching practice.
The next two categories, modification and redefinition, describe how digital use has led to a significant change in the way teaching and learning is planned and delivered. If the introduction of technology has created a brand new practice, then redefinition has taken place. Collectively, these two categories are more likely to promote digital transformation.
Using the SAMR model in practice
Talk to teachers and they'll tell you that their overriding desire for technology is to see it transform the student experience. So, how can teachers use SAMR to achieve this?
We could use SAMR to carry out simple benchmarking exercises against the available technology for learning and teaching. However, there’s a risk that this diverts our attention to the technology rather than the outcome of our effort to change the way we deliver learning and teaching.
A more useful exercise would be to use SAMR as an audit tool to assess how the use of technology is shaping teaching and learning practice. This would provide valuable insights for individual teachers, while at a departmental level, leaders could use the output to create a rich picture of practice.
Use the model to inform next steps
Once we know how technology is shaping our learning and teaching practice, it can be used to inform plans for innovation.
Start by asking ‘how can we use SAMR to extend our practice and improve the student experience?’. Teachers could use their audit to select one example where their use technology is just substituting or augmenting their practice. Next, teachers can be supported to explore how they can use the same technology more creatively, so that their practice is shifted to the next category, eg from augmentation to modification, so that the overall student experience is improved.
We started by saying that we don't need to turn to the most advanced technologies to achieve our digital ambitions. In the same way, it’s helpful not to see SAMR as hierarchical – that redefinition is the goal for the application of all technology. There will be situations when it’s appropriate for technology to substitute or modify an existing practice.