Final Project

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Next semester I will be co-teaching a grade 7 robotics course with our Design and Innovation Specialist at our school.  As I have mentioned in earlier posts, our Design and Innovation Lab was newly opened this year, and our Design and Innovation Specialist is new to our school this year.  She is also fairly new to the teaching profession, in her third year of teaching, and thus, this is a good opportunity for me to push in, and bring some of the great learnings from COETAIL to her teaching repertoire and the students. Our school operates on a 6 day cycle and this grade 7 class will meet twice a cycle, each class being 80 minutes long.  Additionally, these grade 7s will have had some exposure to robotics and coding as they took a mandatory class last year for a quarter. During this quarter class, they had some basic exposure to the Lego Mindstorms.

Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

Knowledge and Skills

The options I am currently working through are whether to use Sphero’s or Lego Mindstorms with this group, or a combination thereof.  Last year, these students had exposure to Lego Mindstorms, but the challenges were minimal and not authentic in any way. The students were not taught through any problem solving frameworks, nor were any standards used for assessment, as the course was strictly a “Pass” or “Fail” situation. One process I would like them to walk away with understanding is the Design Thinking Framework and a deep understanding of how to use it, not only in robotics, but applying it to other situations, problems, or challenges. Additionally, since they had some exposure to block coding through Lego Mindstorms last year, I would like them to walk away with a deeper understanding of block coding through more complex and authentic challenges.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

ISTE Standards

The ISTE Standards I plan to use throughout the semester are as follows:

1a – Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes

4a – Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

5c – Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.

5d – Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

I chose these ISTE standards for several reasons. I chose “1a” as we have discussed time and time again, it’s so important for students to be able to reflect on their learning and their process, and in fact, it’s part of our Design Thinking process used at our school. Additionally, I chose “1a” because students are expected to set learning goals and monitor how they achieve them (or don’t), a skill much needed in the 21st century.  Standard “4a” appealed to me because of the “deliberate design process”. We will be using the Design Thinking process in our class to drive this standard. Standard “5c” was chosen as students will be expected to break their design challenges into parts, and will be expected to solve complex problems. Lastly, “5d” was chosen due to the automation and computational thinking aspects of the course, and its applicability to the Design Thinking process.

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

Applying Learnings from COETAIL

As I briefly mentioned above, I would like to apply the deep learning concepts that we have been learning about throughout course 4. All of our units will have some design thinking and PBL elements as part of the unit. We know that deep learning takes place when students have voice and choice in their learning, the learning contains success criteria, that continual feedback is part of learning, that teachers partner with students to build efficacy and grit, and that students have opportunities to construct new knowledge. I plan to use all of these elements at one point or another throughout the semester. Some of the other aspects of deep learning that I plan to incorporate are the step towards teacher as designer of learning experiences. This is where the opportunity to work through a problem, creates a unique learning experience for the students. Also, the idea that the teacher learns alongside the students is fundamental to this course. What makes challenges exciting in robotics is the notion that no student will solve that problem the same way.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Why This Unit?

As I mentioned, I have not drilled down to one specific unit as yet, that is the current challenge. I know I will be co-teaching the robotics class for the semester, and that we will be using either the Sphero Robots or Lego Mindstorms to teach the kids. I am even thinking that we may start the semester with the Sphero’s, and as the students progress, move them onto the Lego Mindstorms. We will be mapping out the units as we move forward throughout the semester. HERE is an example of one unit that we have been working on, framed through the Common Ground Collaborative Framework. The units we develop for the course next semester will follow the same organizational structure.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Evidence of Learning

Some of the obvious evidence for this course would include examining student code for the different design challenges and in some instances, measuring their success, or whether they are able to pass the challenge. As I plan to incorporate the Design Thinking Framework, evidence of learning may include ideation notes, a variety of prototypes, and final versions of work.  Most importantly, student reflections are an exceptional way to understand their thinking throughout the process and hear in their own words what exactly they learned. Additionally, it is an opportunity to hear from them on how they dealt with setbacks or mistakes; where the deepest learning takes place. We have shifted from Teacher Led Conferences to Student Led Conferences at our school. Students create a Google Site and provide evidence of learning and reflections on their learning on the Google Site, and use this as a discussion starter when their parents attend. This shift from teacher to student has provided the platform for great discussions when parents come to the school, as well as forming a portfolio for their learning journey at ISC.

Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash


My concerns are not necessarily about the unit redesign, as I feel confident in that department. I believe I have a good grasp of the standards and the technological knowhow. But having been out of the classroom for over a year, there are some concerns there for me. Being responsive to the learners in the room in terms of their needs is something I need to be aware of.  Keeping in mind that I need to meet the students where they are, not where I expect them to be. Additionally, classroom management is something I need to be aware of. Our school is known for having boisterous students who like to engage in their learning. It’s important that I have good structure from day one in order to keep them focussed on the learning.

Photo by Alok Sharma on Unsplash

Shifts in Pedagogy

I have already spoken to the fact that I plan to incorporate Design Thinking and Project Based Learning into this course. They are frameworks that provide opportunities for deep learning. Additionally, I know I will need to shift towards allowing more reflection time in my classroom. I have a habit of finishing a unit of learning, and then wanting to push forward to the next unit of learning. Being sure to create time for students to not only reflect, but share their reflections through their portfolios, is something I must be conscious of.

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

New Skills

The first obvious skill that students will be cultivating will be to code. I am thinking about this in a more broader context of algorithmic thinking, problem solving, and computational thinking.  The ability to problem solve, and more importantly, having the determination to continually push through challenges (grit) are 21st century skills that all of our students require. What do they do when the code does not work? Is the first thing to say “Sir it doesn’t work?” Or is it to try again, look up an answer (use your resources), ask a friend? Building within them the ability to “fight through” and try several different approaches is important. Other skills that I see being further developed are communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively are essential in any classroom. Some of our challenges will be done individually, while others will be in groups, so being able to communicate and collaborate are key.  Collaboration is a skill. We often put students into groups and ask them to collaborate, but have they been taught what that means? In many instances they have not, so it is up to us to do so. Lastly, critical thinking skills are essential to problem solving and Design Thinking. Again, students are expected to do this, but we do not teach them how to. Solving problems, empathizing with others, asking “how” and “why” are all great starting points for thinking critically.

Final Thoughts

I am definitely looking forward to jumping back in the classroom, after being away for a year. It will be great to co-teach with an energetic young teacher, and I am sure I will learn just as much from her, as she will from me. I am definitely eager to read about my fellow COETAILers plans for our last course!

Deep Learning

Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash

This week is an opportunity for me to revisit some concepts that have had a huge impact on me not only as a teacher, but as a leader, and a coach.  There are two big ideas from the reading that I want to focus my post on, that is Project Based Learning (PBL), and Design Thinking(DT).

Project Based Learning

I have been a fan of Project Based Learning since I first discovered it 6 years ago at Korean International School. I have had the opportunity to structure learning experiences using this framework, as well as teach fellow educators how to use PBL elements and structures in their own classrooms. Project Based Learning is a powerful structure for driving learning in an authentic manner. HERE is a great video from PBL Works as an introduction to the framework of PBL. The PBL Works website also has some fantastic resources to get started with PBL. HERE is a direct link to their explanation of the essential parts of a Gold Standard PBL. Lastly, HERE is a presentation that I created for educators as an introduction to PBL.

Essential PBL Elements –

Project Based Learning in Action!

One example that I would like to speak to is from my time as a grade nine East Asian Studies teacher. One of our topics of study was World War II from an East Asian context. My first year teaching the course, we had the students simply write research essays, but after learning about PBL, we decided to structure it using the PBL framework the following year. Additionally, we worked with grade nine English teachers, as we wanted to structure the PBL as a transdisciplinary assessment.  We started with an idea, rather than an essay, students would get a picture from the time period we were studying with the Question: “What story does this picture tell”? The students were responsible for answering this question through a book expert based on one of the characters in the picture. The key Knowledge, Skills, and Understandings were clearly communicated at the beginning. They were responsible for a narrative of one of the characters, not an entire novel, but an excerpt from a novel, that would be backed by good historical research. This one very broad question, would lead to Sustained Inquiry through research and further questioning about their character. This was Authentic as it is a similar process that a historical writer might go through. Students had Voice and Choice, as they chose their photo, and had complete autonomy over their characters narrative, as long as it was backed by research. When we introduced the PBL we laid out over 50 photos for a 20 student class and asked them to browse the photos and find one that spoke to them. There were many opportunities for Critique and Revision as the students met with both English and Social Studies teachers, and each other for feedback.  There was a Public Product at the end, as we had a showcase, in which students would display their book excerpt, research, and an artifact from the time period (which they created) to an audience of classmates, parents, and other teachers, who would act as investors and decide if they would invest so they could write the remainder of their book. And when the PBL was complete, we had built in Reflection so that students could assess what they learned and how they would approach things differently the next time.

Design Thinking Tiles (Stanford University) – Images by ISC

Design Thinking

The article Design Thinking in Education does a good job of providing a brief overview of the Design Thinking Process. One sentence that sums things up quite nicely is “Design Thinking can be flexibly implemented; serving equally well as a framework for a course design or a roadmap for an activity or group project”. There is also a nicely laid out infographic, which explains things succinctly for those who are diving into DT for the first time.  If you are looking for some additional resources on Design Thinking I suggest David Lee’s Website on Design Thinking. It is well laid out, and David has and is doing some great work with Design Thinking. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had had the opportunity last year to travel to the Stanford dschool and participate in their 3 day deep dive course on Design Thinking. This was an excellent opportunity to learn concepts on Design Thinking and bring them back to ISC. 

Adam sporting his wearable art from our ISC Rapid Prototyping lesson

Design Thinking in Action!

When we returned to ISC we were excited to share our learning about DT with the rest of the school. One of our professional learning structures is Professional Learning Mornings, every Monday, from 8am-9am, with students arriving an hour late at 9am. We attended the training at Stanford in August, and when we returned, were given 8 PLM sessions with staff who were interested in learning about DT. The structure of our PLMs is to give people choice, so DT was one choice of many, but in the end we had over 40 people sign up for the 8 week session.  With so many people signing up, we decided to split our session into two groups, as four of us had been trained, so we could split the group easily. Our very first session was a rapid prototyping session in which participants had to partner up and create wearable art for their partner. This is a fun and friendly way to expose participants to all of the stages of the DT process. You can find our slidedeck HERE. After this first session, we took the next 6 and took a deep dive into each phase of the process, and ended up with a wrap up session. This has allowed the DT mindset to slowly permeate around campus. Additionally, we opened our Design and Innovation Lab this year for MS students and grade 9s, and all of the work is driven through the DT process. One further benefit to having non-teaching staff participate in PLMs is that we have seen parts of the DT process used in our Admissions, Marketing, and Finance departments. For example our Marketing department went through their own rapid prototyping exercise to generate ideas for campaigns to engage parents.

Photo by James L.W on Unsplash

Final Thoughts on Deep Learning

Over the past several weeks, we have been making our way through Fullan and Langworthy’s work: A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning, and having great conversation around what really constitutes deep learning. We know that deep learning takes place when students have voice and choice in their learning, the learning contains success criteria, that continual feedback is part of learning, that teachers partner with students to build efficacy and grit, and that students have opportunities to construct new knowledge.

When we look at PBL and DT, they are both prime examples of learning frameworks that provide an opportunity for deep learning to take place. In the case of PBL, students are given a problem or question which leads to their autonomy in solving the issue. Success criteria are provided at the beginning of the project, and feedback is provided throughout the process to guide the learning, and help students with sustained inquiry.  As this feedback is provided, students are also given the opportunity to build confidence and construct their own learning through an authentic task. In the case of DT the students may be given the problem, but in some cases they may have to define what the problem truly is, as this is part of the process. Success criteria are often defined through the empathize phase of the process as students realize what their end user requires and work to design to meet their end users needs. Feedback can be provided on multiple levels in the DT process, whether from the end user, peers, or the teacher. This feedback is provided continually. Lastly, students have the opportunity to build new knowledge as their prototypes are designed to meet the end users unique needs, and they are given the opportunity to reflect on the process as a whole in the end.

I am interested to hear what others’ experiences have been with Project Based Learning, or Design Thinking, and their impacts on Deep Learning.

Thoughts on Courage

Photo by Michael Spain on Unsplash

The SXSW talk by Brene Brown started with two powerful questions around courage:

“Is courage the willingness to show up and be seen, even when you can’t control the outcome”?

“Is courage something that is inherent in us, or something we can teach and develop in people and in ourselves”?

These two questions caused me to pause and reflect on my own experience as a student, as a teacher, and as a leader. When I think about my own learning journey as a student, there were many instances when I had to show up, do my best, and be seen, even when I had no idea what the outcome might be. Instances like participating in business competitions, playing sports, or running for student council would not have taken place without the courage to take a risk, and put myself out there. Beyond this, there were educators who put time into my development, gave me feedback, and constantly encouraged me along the way. These factors directly tied into building my courage.

Photo by Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash

Teaching Courage to Students

As a teacher, it the content that I was teaching has always mattered, however, it was all about the kids first, and building solid relationships with them. I learned this valuable lesson very early on in my career, and it has served me well since that time. During my first two years in the profession, I had the privilege of supporting at risk youth. These were students whose last stop before a juvenile facility was my contained classroom. I was young and very green, and had no idea what I was walking into.  These were students who just by showing up were exhibiting courage, something that took me time to realize as I learned each one of their stories intimately. I learned that it was a huge success for them just to get to school, and a huge sign of courage on their part. I also learned that it was my job to fill them with positivity, faith, and courage so they would build a successful pattern of attending school everyday. As I stated earlier, this philosophy of building courage in kids, stayed with me all the years I was in the classroom as a teacher. One quote that has always helped to guide this philosophy is: “Maslow’s before Blooms”, of course referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, being more important than Blooms Taxonomy. In a nutshell, kids need to feel safe, loved, supported and secure, before they can move forward with any type of learning.

Photo by Metin Ozer on Unsplash

Coaching Adults

As a leader, I have found that this philosophy is just as important, if not more important than when dealing with students. People are the sum of their experiences, and those experiences are both positive and negative. It can be easy for us to forget this, and the fact that sometimes those negative experiences are holding them back from truly acting courageous at work. I find it is easier to fill in skills gaps for people in the workplace, but filling in the gaps when it comes to confidence, courage, and growth mindset are more challenging, and take more time; they require a long term commitment on behalf of the leader. One exciting initiative that we have recently started at our school has been coaching and the use of thought partners. Earlier this semester we had Jennifer Abrams here for a two day training on Creating a Coaching Mindset. This has provided a platform for us to coach each other and move each other out of our comfort zones. About 40 of us were trained as coaches, and we have all been assigned employees to coach. Teachers and Non-Teachers all have the opportunity to work with a thought partner who will push their thinking on any topic that impacts their work. This could be work related, or non-work related. HERE is a copy of our guidelines that we use at ISC for coaching.  We have moved away from the traditional system of evaluation and are using this system as a way to push people beyond their boundaries and build courage within them.

I want to share a couple of other resources that I found this week, and I think are of value. The first one, 11 Ways Leaders Can Help Their People Be More Courageous, written by the Forbes Coaches Council, is a great list. In particular, a couple of their suggestions tie in very nicely with our coaching philosophy above. One of the points is to ask good questions, and not give answers or opinions. When we act as thought partners, we do exactly that. We ask good questions, and help people find their own conclusions, answers, or ideas. The article also points to helping those figure out what matters to them. This is also a huge part of acting like a thought partner, as the answers are never given, but we coach them to understand what matters most, what do they want to work on for themselves and improve on. The second article, 4 Ways Great Leaders Can Build Courageous, Passionate Teams, written by By Bernadette Wightman, focuses on building courageous teams, but of course these can be applied to individuals too. The article speaks to opening as many doors as possible, and this is a great way to coach someone in order to build courage. Pushing people into thinking about all the possibilities that they may not have every considered is powerful. Most people don’t see how much potential they have, and a good coach will help them see this and have the courage to step outside their comfort zone. Another very recent article: The Benefits of Low-Stakes Teacher Evaluation, written by Emily Boudreau, speaks to the fact that evaluations completed by administrators are less impactful than peer to peer coaching and mentoring models. Furthermore, peer to peer coaching can serve more than just measuring performance. The ideas of building resilience, courage, and growth mindset come to mind.

I am very interested to hear what my colleagues think about courage, and how they build it in students and fellow co-workers.

Deep Learning

Photo by Talia Cohen on Unsplash

This week I want to focus on one of our additional resources that really resonated with me. Fullan and Langworthy’s white paper Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning focuses in on deep learning, which is categorized by character education, citizenship, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity, and how deep learning can be accelerated with technology. The paper suggests three new models of teaching which should be investigated: The teacher as designer of powerful learning experiences, The teacher as a source of human, social and decisional capital in the learning experience, and the teacher as a partner in learning with students, accelerated by technology.  These three models suggest that the teacher has indeed moved away from being the bearer of all knowledge, or the expert in the room, but is in fact the facilitator of knowledge drive learning experiences, which can be enhanced through the use of technology. One note on technology as mentioned in the paper is that “technology can play an indispensable deepening and accelerating role across all education processes”. The paper continues: “The goal is to examine where and how technology is an effective deepener and accelerator of specific teaching and learning processes, and to work with clusters of schools around the world to identify and share its most powerful uses”.

Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

Deep Learning and Technology

Reading a white paper like this brings me back to something that I say often, and that is that technology should never be used for technology’s sake, but the use of technology must be purposeful and have a clear tie to the lesson or unit.  The paper uses the term “technology as an accelerator”, and that is important to think about; how is technology being used to deeply embed the learning. An understanding of this concept has shifted the way I used to embed technology to how I look at it today. When I first started to integrate tech into my lesson planning, I was definitely more focussed on the tech, than I was the students, or the learning targets. I think in many instances this is why the impact that I may have been looking for did not take place. When I think back, part of this was due to the fact that I was a newer teacher and there is a tendency to want to be progressive and bring new things to the classroom, without always thinking it fully through. In addition, being new, there was a lack of that deep knowledge of standards and learning targets. When I look at the way I plan technology integration currently, it is completely different. I know that my time working in curriculum had a profound effect on how I approach my work now, and this is a great thing. In course one, we looked at Kim Cofino’s blog 3 Steps to Transforming Learning in Your Classroom, and I want to quickly revisit it here, as it has merit. When using technology as a driver, it has to start with what you want students to know and be able to do, what are your learning targets? I quite like that this was labelled as step zero, because this should be the basis, the foundation, before you even speak the words technology, this is your planning phase. Kim goes on to three other important steps, make it relevant, make it a real world task, and have an authentic audience (a term we see in the Project Based Learning Framework) The above article is definitely worth the read.

Empathize Tile as Designed by ISC

Students as Empathetic Designers

In my last post, I spoke about our new Middle School Design and Innovation Lab. One of our drivers for how we teach in our lab is Design Thinking. About 18 months ago several of our teachers were able to travel to the Stanford dschool to learn about Design Thinking from the experts. This approach was brought back and has been the foundation for all the classes that we run out of our Design and Innovation Lab. Additionally, other departments, such as Marketing, and Finance and Operations, have used the Design Thinking Approach to solve problems within their departments. One of the biggest shifts for us in using this approach is having the students consider their end user and building empathy towards that end user as they develop their designs and build their prototypes. One of our biggest challenges was students telling us that they already knew what they wanted to build or create when working on a design challenge. Our question is “how do you know your end users will like it, or even use it”? Disregarding all the other steps in the Design Thinking process, just shifting them in the empathy stage has had a huge impact on student learning and critical thinking. If you are looking for some good resources on Design Thinking I suggest David Lee’s Website on Design Thinking. It is well laid out, with numerous resources, and David has, and is doing some great work with Design Thinking.

I am curious to hear from others as to how they use technology to accelerate deep learning? What are the wins, and more importantly, where have they made mistakes and learned?

New Pedagogies and Deep Learning

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

This week, I focussed my writing around Fullan and Langworthy’s work: A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. To quickly recap, a key focus of the writing is the idea of New Pedagogies, which are comprised of three areas, New Learning Partnerships, Deep Learning Tasks, and Digital Tools and Resources. New Learning Partnerships are the way learning has shifted from teacher to student, to student to student, and student to teacher. Deep Learning Tasks would be defined as the shift from regurgitation of knowledge to knowledge creation, and the use of that knowledge. I like to think of this as a redefinition of learning, and being able to apply that learning in real world contexts. And Digital Tools and Resources, are those digital tools that help to accelerate the learning process in an authentic way. This is using digital tools and technologies for authentic learning outcomes, not just for the sake of using technology.

Photo by Sushobhan Badhai on Unsplash

New Models of Education

In our school we have been steadily embracing the new model of education for quite some time. One example from last school year that I believe exemplifies this new model was our school’s TedTalks that were held in Grade 6. Students were required to construct 3-5 minute TedTalks that were based on a theme from the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Students had also been reading social justice oriented novels in English class, and were expected to incorporate technology (powerful visual tools) into their presentation.  This project incorporated New Learning Partnerships as students taught each other and the teachers in the room. It incorporated Deep Learning as they were expected to conduct research and present this in a unique way to an authentic audience as the community attended the event. And technology was used during the presentation, but also through their research process as they leveraged resources from Ted, and were able to Skype with an expert in delivering TedTalks leading up to the event. This culminated in a powerful learning experience and showcase with parents and other community members attending our TedTalks event

ISC Design and Innovation Lab
ISC Design and Innovation Lab

Opportunities to Embrace New Pedagogies

One of the great innovative projects that I have had the honor of being involved with, is the development of our Design and Innovation Lab and our Makerspace.  The Design and Innovation Lab was opened this school year, and the Makerspace is currently in its design phase. The D&I Lab has innovative tools that you would expect in this type of space, like Lego Mindstorms, Sphero Robots, 3D Printers, and a Laser Cutter. It has been strategically placed between two science classrooms to promote STEM and interdisciplinary studies. The Makerspace will have more hands on equipment for students, lathes, drill presses, hand drills, and other types of woodworking and design equipment. Of course these tools are only as good as the pedagogy and the challenges that students are presented with. But this is a large step forward for our school in terms of the new pedagogies model, and pushing student inquiry and design.

Photo by Michael Prewett on Unsplash

Learning Partnerships

In our school, learning partnerships involve good inquiry, not direct instruction. We are a Common Ground Collaborative school, so all of our units begin with a question: Why is it worth learning?  This simple yet complex starting point, allows all of our learners, including the teacher, to start with the why and expand their questioning and inquisition out from there. Since becoming a CGC school two years ago, all of our units from K-12, have been structured with this starting point, then built out into conceptual understandings and learning competencies. This structure to our units of learning has allowed us to be more collaborative with our teaching and learning.  Additionally, we have designed our schedules for Professional Learning Community time in every division, ECC through to HS. This allows for maximum teacher collaboration.

ISC Outdoor Learning Space
ISC Outdoor Learning Space

Learning Environments

Our learning environments at ISC heavily foster these partnerships, where both student and teacher are the expert and the learner. First of all, no classroom, from ECC to Kindergarten is organized in rows. You will see tables with chairs, carpeted areas, group work areas, couches, pillows, etc.  In addition, there are many collaborative spaces for students and teachers to work. There are many outdoor spaces as well, including a seating area in our forest and a rooftop learning space. These learning spaces are all designed with collaboration, communication, and conversation at the center of good teaching.

Edtech Frameworks and Learning Partnerships

If I think about the SAMR model, and the goal of moving up the ladder from substitution to remodification, having a true learning partnership, can provide an environment for this to happen. Working in the design lab students are presented with problems and use technology as a tool to solve these problems. For example, how can they use the movement of the sphero robots to support those in society with mobility challenges.  With such an open ended problem, students can really use the technology anywhere on the SAMR ladder. When you combine this with the idea of new learning partnerships, students have the opportunity to learn from their teacher, as they become familiar with the new tech. As they learn and progress, they in turn have the opportunity to teach their teacher, and each other as their projects take shape. What I find most invigorating as an educator is watching students tackle design problems and come up with solutions that teachers had never even considered. This is what makes teaching in Design such rewarding work.

Frameworks of Reference

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

This past summer I had the opportunity to study at the Principals Training Center in Miami and take the Technology Leadership course.  Our instructors for the course were John Mikton @jmiktonand Patrick Green @pgreensoup, I highly recommend following them on Twitter.  I also highly recommend taking this course with the PTC if you have the chance.  One of our days was spent examining “Future Learning Frameworks”. We had the opportunity to examine the TPACK model, SAMR, and the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), along with some other models, which I will touch upon further below.  What I appreciate about the SAMR, TPACK, and TIM models, is that they provide an easily understood framework for educators to examine what is taking place in their classroom, and how they can integrate technology in an authentic manner.

Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash


In using the models, I feel that the SAMR and TIM models are easier to use and understand. The frameworks are presented in a linear fashion, with deeper integration being utilized as you move up the ladder in the case of SAMR, or from left to right in the case of TIM.  One of the important things to keep in mind with both SAMR and TIM is that the goal is not always to reach redefinition/transformation. At times simple substitution or adoption/adaptation will suffice. 

The TPACK model would be seen as the most complicated to work with, as you must move from the outside to the inside. As you move towards the inside, the goal is to achieve authentic technology integration, and to achieve this, one must build their understanding and knowledge.  I do like how the model purports that you must move from Technological Content Knowledge and Technological Pedagogical Knowledge to a mix of the two. An educator must have a firm grasp of the technological tools that are available to them, and they must understand how teaching and learning can be improved when technology are used. Once those understanding have been achieved then Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge is the goal, where the educator has a deep understanding of technology, teaching and learning strategy, and content, and how these three can be blended together to create an innovative learning experience.

Photo by Scott Osborn on Unsplash

Other Models

One blended framework that we looked at during my PTC course mentioned above was Blooms with SAMR. This graphic is a good reminder as to why we want to challenge ourselves to move up the ladder as we integrate technology into our classrooms.  Simply having students remember and understand knowledge is very low level thinking, and not challenging them whatsoever. In any classroom we want our students to be evaluating and creating their own knowledge and ways of knowing. 

Another graphic we looked at, which is not quite a framework, but more of an approach to technology comes from George Couros’ book, The Innovator’s Mindset. The graphic entitled What Do You Want Kids To Do With Technology, is a stark reminder that we are trying to develop a mindset around technology and innovation, not strictly focus on a particular app or tool.  The tools and apps will always change, but the mindset will stay with our students forever.

Final Thoughts

For me, I personally enjoy using the SAMR model. I find it simplistic, easy to understand, and you can enter the ladder at any point.  Or you can simply take a unit of study, and begin with substitution, then look to move up the ladder with each subsequent time you teach the unit.  I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Puentedura speak at the ASB Unplugged Conference a couple of years ago. There are a couple of points that I want to share. He spoke to the fact that although the research tells us that the model works, we must provide time for teachers to do the work and learn the technology.  This seems simplistic, but it is easy to forget. Also, the most challenging part of the model is to move from Augmentation to Modification, as this is where creativity and a deep understanding of the technology come into play. When I heard Dr. Puentedura speak, he introduced us to a new paper he had been working on, found here: SAMR and the EdTech Quintet: Pragmatic Approaches and New Directions. I highly encourage a read of this, as he outlines some great examples of the model, and layers SAMR with the TPACK Model, 21st Century Learning Model, and The EdTech Quintet Model, some very compelling work.

This week I am interested to hear what my colleagues think about Dr. Puentedura’s work, and what frameworks they enjoy using.