SAMR for Digital Teaching?

September 9, 2019 0 By JR

Tony Bates is updating Teaching in a Digital Age and plans on including a chapter on SAMR.

Although I was in teacher’s college when SAMR first appeared (2006), I believe I first encountered it in 2012 or 2013. If I recall correctly, it was at a summer institute and one of our presenters was discussing creating books using iBooks Author. One of the slides in the presentation portion of his workshop introduced SAMR and I recall thinking it was an interesting model at the time, but it never really stuck. Fast forward to working as an Instructional Designer in continuing ed and a colleague of mine, much my senior in experience and in degrees & research, brought it to my attention . This time it was via some combination of Bloom’s and SAMR. The graphic I was shown was used as part of a workshop as I recall, and I am convinced that overwhelmed the participants quite quickly. Although I had this introduction to it again, I knew people would talk about it and reference it, but I never made much use of it.

In fact, the model never sat well with me. Admittedly, I spent more time with TPACK for technology integration for teachers and mostly only saw presentations. There came a time when I decided to finally go and look for evidence and studies on the development of SAMR so I could better understand it. After all, it appeared to be arriving at my doorstep in Ed Dev and ID consults more and more. As well, more and more of my colleagues were referencing it. So I searched, and searched, and low and behold, nothing more than slides, podcasts and videos. I’m not the only one that had this experience. In 2013 Jonas Linderoth wrote an Open letter to Dr. Ruben Puentedura detailing some of these same issues around no (published) evidence base for the SAMR model.

In 2016 a critical review of the SAMR model was published by Hamilton, E. R., Rosenberg, J. M., & Akcaoglu, M. In this article the authors present three major challenges the current SAMR model suffers from:

  1. Absence of Context; teaching and learning practices are strongly influenced by context, in specific and complex settings. SAMR does not have affordances for to accommodate context.
  2. Rigid Structure: SAMR is presented as a taxonomy, positioning the items at the top as the most desirable, rather than being descriptive of effective practices at each level.
  3. Product over Process: ultimately the model is about technology integration and not about learning. That should be a full stop issue for anyone working in teaching and learning considering adoption of this model.

At the end of the day, the SAMR model is insufficient for broad adoption in K12 or higher ed, and any applications that current exist are very likely quite different from one another, as discussed in the Analysis of the SAMR Model section of the aforementioned article.

The chapter has not been published yet, so there is a chance I’m getting ahead of myself, but if these challenges are not addressed in the Teaching in the Digital Age section on the SAMR model, I believe it would be a disservice to teachers and other readers. SAMR’s inclusion in a book by someone with such a high profile in online and digital teaching would provide it with, currently, undeserved endorsement. Given that Tony stated in his announcement of the 2nd edition that the 1st edition had over 250K downloads, there is reason to believe including this section would propagate SAMR to a large audience, with the appearance of endorsement.

Update pending.


Hamilton, E. R., Rosenberg, J. M., & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model: A critical review and suggestions for its use. TechTrends, 60(5), 433-441.