Compared to other teachers, I find myself to be very lucky with the current way I am set up at work. I am situated in a brand new learning-studio (a portable, but built in modern fashion and in-house) which is 133% larger than most classrooms at my school. The room features 14 Ethernet jacks which have been equipped with old PC’s, and I have been supplied with a dozen Chromebooks. Therefore, my students can access a computer at any time I need them to.

I’m lucky in regards to plentiful access to tech, but I did teach in the very same middle school without a classroom for 1.3 schools years, so I suppose I was due something in the realm of karma.

But I’m also fortunate in that I discovered (and subsequently put in the energy to learn about) “Hyperdocs“. While the examples found on the website and in the book are somewhat dated, the concept of a Hyperdoc has changed the way I teach Science 8. A Hyperdoc can be understood as both a chapter and a worksheet, delivered and interacting in a digital and connected environment. Created in Google Docs, the structure of the Hyperdoc worksheet front-loads all the content a teacher wishes to access for their class (online articles, simulations, videos, games, etc…), then asks students to reflect and apply what they’ve learned in the same document. Hyperdocs can also feature “in-real-life” sections (the kids say IRL) which have students attempt a physical task then report what they learned/found. Hyperdocs are assigned, submitted, graded, and returned through Google Classroom. Usually, I introduce a Hyperdoc in one initial lesson, then allow the students 3-4 blocks over the week to complete it.

This is the first lesson in my grade 8 optics unit. The yellow sections is are the non-internet/technological tasks.

While I was reading the article regarding SAMR, I found that I began to evaluate where my use of Hyperdocs sat in the hierarchy. I believe that my use of Hyperdocs lands in the Modification category (the technology allows the learning activity to be redesigned) as they curate all the content in one place, the content can be instantly accessed and revisited, the built-in tools accessibility tools of the technology (i.e., Read&Write) can be used, and the order of the lesson can be determined by the student.

Butt I’m sure the argument that the Hyperdocs are merely a Substitution (the technology provides a substitute for other learning activities without functional change), as I could print out the worksheets, list the URL for any websites, and read aloud / scribe for any students requiring those adaptions.

I suppose it was at this point I began to question the context of how and when to apply the SAMR framework. In the case of my teaching, I believe I am redesigning the way information, interaction, and experimentation is accessed by students; I avoid a stand and deliver approach with only one resources at a time and instead allow my students to access all the content of a lesson in and order and setting of their own choosing. However, perhaps my Hyperdoc is merely a list of resources that I would want my students to examine. So which category fits better?

The answer to that question is pretty simple: who cares?

I’ll elaborate: does it really matter where a use of technology lands on the SAMR framework if said use of the technology is perhaps the best fit for the specific content acquisition, pedagogical practice, and technological mastery relevant to the subject at hand? In my opinion, no. The context of what is being taught heavily influences how relevant and best applied a technology is to a given topic. That is to say, perhaps a mere Substitution is much more valuable in a given lesson than a Redefinition. Assuming a solid understanding of their pedagogical responsibilities, it would be up to a teacher to determine this based on many factors such as class-composition, technological availability, complexity of the topic, and so forth. Consider the following example presented by Hamilton:

For example, a science teacher in a high-poverty middle school setting aims to create a computer supported investigation for her students so that each student could independently investigate a particular phenomenon during a class period. However, she only has two classroom desktop computers available for student use. In this instance, although the activity she creates may rank higher on the SAMR ladder, in practice having ten students sit in front of one computer is both practically and educationally not feasible. The contexts in which educators teach matters and is an important consideration for any model connected to teaching and learning

My opinion reveals what framework I prefer. As someone who revisits my units and lessons each year, I am often modifying/examining my pedagogy, verifying content, and learning to use cutting edge technologies (or mastering old ones)…so it is no surprise that I favor the TPACK framework. In fact, I feel I have been making use of the framework in vetting my Hyperdocs, but was unaware of the existence of the framework itself. As a professional teacher and budding scholar, I wouldn’t want to suggest that I already made use of TPACK before knowing what it was (I mean, I would suggest to my students that I did), but the TPACK seems the most simple and obvious in its form. As it states in the article by Koehler and Mishrax, “expert teachers bring TPACK into play any time they teach” which I would argue they also do without the “T”. Expert teachers have the accountability to always question their content knowledge and pedagogical practice. If a teacher is apt with technology and keeps up with its ever changing nature, than adding technology to the framework is quite natural.

Overall, I feel that TPACK is the more professional and useful framework, and frankly believe it to be the most professionally responsible. However, I would use the SAMR framework if I needed to quickly evaluate an off-the-cuff modification or addition to a lesson. This could be useful during team/staff meetings where I or a colleague pitched an idea to use tech, or perhaps in mentoring newer teachers.

In other words, I believe TPACK to be the proper practice while SMAR is useful as a quick anecdotal evaluation. If I had to add my voice to the debate, I would not choose a superior framework as they should not be compared on the same tier of analysis. As I touch on before, a teacher could use them in sequence by rapidly evaluating any “lightbulb” ideas using SAMR, and should the teacher still find the idea to be contextually important, they could create, teach, and recursively improve units/lessons by practicing TPACK.

I wonder then, what other frameworks exist which would compare with either framework on their respective tiers?

Articles Cited:

The SAMR Model as a Framework for Evaluating mLearning

What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge?

The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use