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Purposefully Incorporating Technology into the Classroom Using the SAMR Model

Updated: May 26, 2023

International Teaching Learning Network

Educational technologies and the choice to incorporate technology into your class session are many things to many people. To the person who is on the fence, it may seem like a very daunting task. But, to the digital natives and technology enthusiasts, it is just another day and another class session. Deciding to incorporate any form of technology into your class session is complicated and should not only be done because everyone else is doing it.

Adding technology to your class session needs to be purposeful.

One reason, if you are considering adding technology to your class, is that blended learning has become more of the standard method of instruction delivery and preferred by students (Pomerantz & Brooks, 2017). Don’t get me wrong, I do love the catchy music of Kahoot or the instant instructor feedback of Plickers, but the class session needs to be enhanced by the technology, not driven by it.

NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit venture-philanthropy firm, released a survey earlier this year that stated 65% of educators polled are using digital learning tools daily. However, many do not know which tools are the most effective to help students master content. The research by Kirkwood and Price (2014) worked to determine if Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is useful and what tools best accomplish this task because we know not all devices work for every situation. One way to start to incorporate useful technology into your classroom is to look to the SAMR Model as a framework to begin. The model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, has four levels that can be useful yet a simple way to assess how you are using technology in your class.

For those who are just getting their toes wet with incorporating technology into the classroom, the SAMR model is an excellent model to help you get started. Let’s take a look into the levels of the SAMR Model often visualized like a staircase, and then we can look at how to start using this to modify your current teaching practices.


The first level or step to the model is substitution. There simply is no functional change but substitutes technology for a more traditional method of the lesson. For example, replacing taking notes with pen and paper and using a word processing device. Doable and straightforward, right? Most people are already substituting for this task. Another example would be providing access to information from a hardcopy textbook as a PDF.

“If a teacher uses PowerPoint or a video-enhanced podcast to deliver a lecture, it does not make it anything other than a lecture. Technology might make the lecture accessible to learners ‘anytime, anywhere,’ but does not change it into something different” (Kirkwood & Price, 2013). Turning a lecture into a podcast is an excellent example of how you are not changing what you are teaching, just delivering it differently. Substitution is probably the easiest way to start to add technology to your class.


The second level is augmentation. Technology is still substituting, but there is a functional improvement to the student experience. An example, going back to note-taking, would be utilizing a note-taking app or software, such as Evernote or OneNote, to take, tag, organize notes for a given class.

Many students already utilize apps such as these to take their notes. Rarely do you see a paper hit pen for note-taking unless laptops have been banned from the classroom. If you are interested in this medium, a good place to start might be asking your students what they use for digital note-taking. Then, using the most common option, add this suggestion to your class, so it makes it easier for students to share notes if they’re so inclined. Putting your preferred note-taking app in your syllabus would be helpful for your students as well.

So far, so good, right? These first two levels of the SAMR Model aim to enhance the student experience. The next two levels aim to transform the student experience. I relate this thinking to the quote from Richard Riley, former US Secretary of Education “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist...using technologies that haven’t yet been order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” These next two levels make educators have to “think outside the box” and push student limits. Educators have to be comfortable with their lessons and course design to make this happen, but it’s doable. In this regard, many educators try to relate the SAMR Model and Bloom’s Taxonomy with the differentiation of the levels, but do note these two are created for different purposes. Bloom’s focuses on the thinking and learning level of the student, where the SAMR model focuses on the ways technology impacts the lesson design and technology in the classroom.


Modification is moving into the design change of the lesson and the learning outcomes for the students. Technology is helping to push students forward and deepen their learning with technology tools. Continuing with the note-taking example, students may use Padlet to organize thoughts and ideas with their classmates. As the educator, you can provide the medium to allow the students to share with each other. You then can moderate student responses and find where students have misconceptions then take steps to help clear up those misunderstandings and point students in the direction of success.


The last step is redefinition. Again changing the design of the lesson and learning outcomes that would not otherwise allow for the task to be completed without technology. Finishing up with the note-taking example, students could use Evernote, OneNote, or GoogleDocs to take notes, share their notebooks, and collaborate in real-time with other students on a topic. Without the technology of Evernote, students wouldn’t be able to share their notes in real-time. Better yet, as the instructor, you can share your notes with the students and let them collaborate to make your lessons better. As an educator promoting note sharing or creating a collaborative classroom community, a suggestion would be to use the forum function within your Learning Management System (LMS) to allow students to share their notes.

Technology doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. If you are intimidated to introduce or increase the technology used in your lessons, it’s nice to have a guide to get started on your journey. If you have already begun to add more technology to connect with your students, how can you move to the next level and push forward even more? Having the SAMR Model is a good framework to help you begin or continue on that journey. Another good tip is to know where your resources are if you need assistance along the way. You don’t have to go about it alone. No matter where you are in incorporating technology into your class, remember learning is the outcome, technology is just a tool to reach that finish line.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your immediate thoughts about incorporating technology into your teaching? Do you have any reservations, or are you excited?

  2. Is there an upcoming lesson where you can incorporate technology?

  3. If you are incorporating technology into your lessons, where can you find support or assistance if you happen to need it?


Kirkwood, A., & Price, L. (2013). Missing: evidence of a scholarly approach to teaching and learning with technology in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), 327–337.

Kirkwood, A., and Price, L. (2014). Technology-enhanced learning and teaching in higher education: what is ‘enhanced,’ and how do we know? A critical literature review. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1) pp. 6–36

Pomerantz, J., and Brooks, D.C. (2017). ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, 2017.

Further Reading:

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1 Comment

Herbert Coleman
Herbert Coleman
Jan 05, 2020

Sometimes (often) I'm in disagreement at what level a technological intervention is on the SAMR scale. I used to say putting a PDF version of the text online is a substitution. However, just doing that 1) makes the text available from anywhere 2) makes it easier to carry the textbook or multiple textbooks with you anywhere, 3) you can now immediately search the text, 4) you can highlight and copy text directly from the PDF and past the quote into a document. So simply providing a PDF is a substitution (it's how I provide my OER text to my students) but it is augmented with search and copy/paste. If you have a full version of Adobe Reader you can …

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