Ladder Model: The SAMR

The SAMR Model is a framework created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura that categorizes four different degrees of classroom technology integration. The letters “SAMR” stand for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The SAMR model was created to share a common language across disciplines as teachers strive to help students visualize complex concepts.

While it’s often visualized as a ladder or staircase as above, this can be misleading because Substitution (the bottom of the ladder) is sometimes the best choice for a particular lesson. This is why it’s better to think of the SAMR model more as a spectrum. On one end technology is used as a one-to-one replacement for traditional tools, and on the other end technology enables experiences that were previously impossible without it.

Regardless of how we visualize it, the SAMR framework can be a simple and effective way to assess how you are incorporating technology into your instruction.

The SAMR model is made up of four steps—Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Substitution and Augmentation are considered “Enhancement” steps, while Modification and Redefinition are termed “Transformation” steps.

let us think of the difference between seasoning an old family recipe (Enhancement) and creating an entirely new, original dish (Transformation). Susan Oxnevad referred to this movement across the spectrum as “teaching above the line.”



At this stage, technology is directly substituted for a more traditional one. It is a simple, bare-bones, direct replacement. For example, if we are teaching a certain lesson we might use an electronic or web-based version of the document instead of a hard copy.

Substitution might also include a student using Keynote, PowerPoint, Prezi, Slides, or a similar program to present information about an article or amendment to the class.

In this step, we ask ourselves what we stand to gain by replacing traditional tools with technology. Invariably, some situations will be better served with pen and paper.


The technology is again directly substituted for a traditional one, but with significant enhancements to the student experience. In other words, we ask ourselves if the technology increases or augments a student’s productivity and potential in some way.


In this stage, we are beginning to move from enhancement to transformation on the model. Instead of replacement or enhancement, this is an actual change to the design of the lesson and its learning outcome. The key question here—does the technology significantly alter the task?


The last stage of the SAMR model is Redefinition and it represents the pinnacle of how technology can transform a student’s experience. In this case, we ask ourselves if the technology tools allow educators to redefine a traditional task in a way that would not be possible without the tech, creating a novel experience.

Truly, the buzzwords on everyone’s lips for the last decade plus have been “21st-century learning.” Educators talk about incorporating technology into lessons on a regular basis, but are we doing it in a meaningful way?

Simply substituting an e-book for a textbook isn’t going to cut it. It’s important to be purposeful in how we integrate technology into our instruction and not do it simply for technology’s sake.

Let us just don’t fall into that ever-present trap of thinking that Redefinition is the goal or the best approach in all cases. Remember: SAMR is a spectrum. Substitution can be our best option for a particular setting. But if entire instructional approach consists of digitizing our resources without enhancing them—that textbook to e-book transition—then it may be time to evaluate why we’re using technology in the first place.

The truth is many school environments still look, feel, and consist of the same activities as they did well before computers and the internet were invented. As Alan November explained in his NEXT keynote address, “We should be designing assignments that students can’t Google.” Project RED also cites that among the many benefits of properly implemented technology are redefined student experiences and transformed intervention strategies.

Layering technology into antiquated tasks isn’t going to improve the learning experience. But purposefully altering the substance of these tasks to address the skills students need today (and those they’ll need tomorrow) will improve learning.



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