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  • Roland Rios

Swimming the Deep End



Each school year during teacher inservice week, we host a small technology conference for our staff. It's called Tech-a-Palooza and it's always a great day of sharing and learning. Normally, we invite an EdTech colleague to keynote the event. This year we decided that we - the two Geeks and a Gal - would deliver the keynote address. It's not that we wanted the fame and glory of being on stage. Rather, we had a special message that we wanted to deliver to our teachers. We wanted to present them with three “challenges” for the school year to help them integrate technology deeper, make students’ learning more authentic, and strive towards becoming more reflective educators. Today's post is the first in a series of three that detail our challenges to our staff.


Our first challenge to our staff was for them to “Swim in the Deep End.” When we gave them this challenge, we quickly explained that it had nothing to do with donning a bathing suit and joining the high school swim team. Instead, it was in reference to the SAMR Model of Technology Integration developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Many of you have seen this model (pictured below), but for those that haven't this is it in a nutshell.



Image Modified from Original by Lefflerd’s on Wikimedia Commons


Dr. Puentedura’s model evaluates the level of technology integration from its simplest form to its most complex. At the “substitution” level technology acts as a direct substitute with no functional change at all. One step deeper in the SAMR model is “augmentation” where technology is still used as substitution, but there is some functional change to it. At both of these first two levels, we simply enhance the learning experience. When we move to “modification,” the technology used allows for a significant redesign of the task at hand and, finally, when we reach “redefinition” we are developing experiences that could not have been done without the technology. It is at these top two levels that we truly transform learning.


So, what does this have to do with swimming in the deep end? Well, sketchnote guru Sylvia Duckworth took Dr. Puentedura’s model and turned it on its side to develop this SAMR graphic based on the depth of the ocean. In this model, we see we really want teachers swimming in the deep end!



To help solidify the idea, we offered them an educational example of how this might come into play. Let's say you've asked students to design a presentation on a foreign country. At its simplest level, substitution, a student might create a Google slide presentation using text and images only. The same project could have been done on a poster board with images cut out of a magazine and writing done with a marker. Moving up the SAMR model, the same student might have added video and audio to his presentation and perhaps even added some feedback mechanism through a tool like Peardeck.


Now let's say that student ends his presentation and then starts a Google Meet video conference with a high school student from that country. His classmates would then be able to ask that student about the cultural differences between his country and the United States. At that point, the student has really modified the learning experience. Finally, after the Google Meet, the student invites his fellow classmates to put on a pair of Oculus Quest virtual reality goggles and using Google Street View, invites his classmates to “walk the streets” of the foreign country. He has now completely redefined the experience.


We did stress with the teachers that this level of tech integration doesn't have to happen all the time. It takes a lot of work to design a quality lesson that is at the redefinition level. We challenged our teachers to “swim in the deep end” as often as possible and to really focus on getting there when they encounter those “hard to teach hard, difficult to grasp” concepts that need extra support.


We also made sure they understood that substitution is not always a bad thing. There are times when we simply need to take notes digitally or present information with text and images. But, we don't want them stuck at the substitution level. The key is to use this model to challenge themselves to reflect on how they’re using technology in the classroom, and to accept the challenge to dive a little deeper into tech integration.

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