My introduction to the SAMR Model was at the Illinois Computing Educators Conference in 2013. I believe it was Scott Meech, at the time the Director of Technology for Downers Grove School District 58, who made the intellectual introduction. Scott has always been very much aware of the EdTech landscape and I accept his thoughts and views in the field as pedagogically sound. So when he was telling me how SAMR was being used as
an evaluation and development framework for lessons involving technology in his school district a tool/vocabulary for having better conversations around technology in education, I was intrigued. I myself adopted this framework as a way to evaluate lessons involving technology in the hopes to better educate teachers on the potential use of technology in ways that are beyond a fancy spiral notebook to type papers. For the past two years, I have heard my colleagues also adopt SAMR as a framework to evaluate their own work in this field.
As I am nearing the end of my intellectual journey towards my PhD in instructional technology, I have taken umbrage on the complete lack of use of any peer-reviewed materials by my colleagues at K-12 level conferences when discussing their uses of EdTech. What brought about this realization was my attendance at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology Conference in 2013. At that conference, all presentations had a comprehensive list of references for their presentations. It was eye-opening to discuss research and the use of EdTech that was pedagogically sound and backed up with a treasure trove of references.
With my recent attendance at the 2015 Illinois Computing Educators Conference, I was once again baffled at what was presented. There were presentations of work that had no references to the educational peer-reviewed research of merit. While my colleagues are certified professional teachers, I feel we need to raise the bar on how we present to our groups. Keynote speaker Sylvia Martinez did reference several times the works of Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert in her presentation. And her book, Invent to Learn, has a good collection of references to back up the assertions made by her and co-author, Gary Stager. She is definitely the exception to the rule.
And that brings me to Ruben Puentedura and SAMR. While writing my doctoral candidacy paper, I decided to include peer-reviewed work on SAMR. To my surprise, I found very little. In fact, the work by Dr. Puentedura has been called into question because of his lack of study with the framework, and his qualifications as a chemistry professor and not an educational specialist. In an open letter to Dr. Puentedura, Dr. Jonas Linderoth, who holds a PhD in pedagogy, does an excellent job exposing many of the holes and questions about the theoretical backing behind the SAMR Model.
One particular passage from Dr. Linderoth’s post resonated with me:
I could not find a single publication about the SAMR-model and not a single peer-reviewed article (or any other popular-scientific publication either) written by you. Instead all searches lead to slides, podcasts and videos. I also found some teachers’ critical blogs about you that claimed that there was no publications about the model? Surely this cannot be true? After all you say in one presentation and I quote, “I spent about a decade on the research, and fast forward to past the nineties to about the year 2000 and what came out was the SAMR-model” and later in the same presentation you say “in fact a lot of my research was spent trying to track down data so I could quantify this”.
With this being the case, then we should have a plethora of foundational references for this model. Unfortunately, we have none. Dr. Lucy Santos Green, an assistant professor at Georgia Southern University, suggests that the work of Dr. Puentedura closely resembles the work of Dr. Joan Hughes (Green, 2014, p. 39):
The closest I came to locating anything resembling SAMR in research was in an article by Joan Hughes in which three functions of technology were identified: a) replacement, b) amplification, or c) transformation (2005, 281). In fact, the explanation and theoretically supported description provided by Hughes is strikingly similar to the SAMR model.
There are valid questions to raise. There are valid reasons whether to consider the use of SAMR without critical review of the framework. There should be more of a push to have Dr. Puentedura provide theoretical support for his framework in a peer-reviewed format. As stated by Dr. Green (2014, p. 40):
. . . applying simplistic models to the development of large-scale technology integration programs, professional developments, and the like without investigating the research and pedagogical beliefs that shape those models is irresponsible and dangerous. Such application flies directly in the face of a profession that emphasizes information-literate behavior: finding, retrieving, analyzing, and using information.
We, as educators, need to ask those who speak to us from a position of influence to provide sound pedagogical reason and research to support their beliefs. In a letter to a snake oil salesman, Mark Twain outlined the frustration and feelings we all should have towards those who make great claims without providing sound pedagogical merit. I am not calling Dr. Puentedura a snake oil salesman. I am suggesting that those who come to us with claims need to come with intellectually honest support to reinforce their claims. We would ask the same of our students. Why not ask the same of our colleagues.
Green, L. S. (2014). Through the looking glass: Examining technology integration in school librarianship. Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 36 – 43.
Hughes, J. (2005). The role of teacher knowledge and learning experiences in forming technology-integrated pedagogy. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 13(2), 277–302.
Linderoth, J. (2013, October 17). Open letter to Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Retrieved from http://spelvetenskap.blogspot.com/2013/10/open-letter-to-dr-ruben-puentedura.html