For as long as I’ve been a huge ed tech advocate, I’ve always been a fan of SAMR. In case you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s the long established model offered by Dr. Ruben Puentedura which is used to assess the effectiveness of educational technology. If you’re substituting or augmenting traditional resources and teaching methods on a digital platform this is less effective learning. However, if you’re enhancing or transforming learning by creating experiences that can’t be created without technology, that’s far more effective. A simple, but useful benchmark to assess e-learning.
It’s only in the past few months that I’ve started to have my doubts about this model and way of thinking. It took a while, but I sat back and really reflected on this. I realised that a lot of the e-learning that I advocate is an augmentation of resources that could be produced on paper or DVDs. However, it’s all organised and curated online to provide constant access. A lot of my e-learning is advocating a VLE, that I developed with the Learning Commons team, which is largely just a bank of past papers, revision guides, e-books, articles and videos that are mapped to curriculum needs and in a way that encourages students to use them in their own time. Sure, it’s a lot of work for Year 11 and Post-16. However, a lot of it could be done with DVDs and paper. However, is there anything wrong with this if it’s done well?
Yes, these are all mainstream and often basic resources. However, they’re working for us and, most importantly, I can link use to impact. The top users of the Year 11 revision center achieved 70% A*-C in Maths, had a Progress 8 score of over 4 and were more likely to meet Post-16 entry requirements. They performed better than students who didn’t use it. Likewise, the top 25% of Post-16 E-Library users exceed their Alps target in 79% of A-level subjects and at least meet it in 97% of subjects. I can go into detail about how we track analytics like this in a later post. For now, a VLE with Frog with banks of well curated resources and motivated students works for us. Perhaps it’s not transforming learning, but it’s having impact. It’s also reinforcing our gradual shift to a far more academic culture based around 24/7 learning.
Ultimately, this is where I think e-learning should be heading over the next few years in schools. The press’ coverage of Tom Bennett’s reports on behaviour and the OECD’s analysis of the effectiveness of technology has not helped to solidify the position of technology in schools. Some heads will undoubtedly now think that tablets kill lessons and that technology offers a poor return on investment. This will bring with it a culture of increased accountability and an expectation to provide evidence that technology enhances the outcomes of students. However, if you think about it, this is a golden opportunity for educational technologists in schools!
As an e-learning community our focus must now shift from telling staff that enhanced and transformational learning experiences always are a requirement for good e-learning. Now, don’t get me wrong, they often can be. However, a good selection of e-books, resources which are well organised and a good bank of videos can improve learning if students engage with them! If it works with students, and users achieve better outcomes as a result, that’s all that matters. We should strive to evidence impact and outcomes, rather than focus on ensuring that every e-learning experience is transformational or some sort of enhanced experience that couldn’t exist without technology. So, I think it’s time to pull out the idea that SAMR is a golden rule that we shouldn’t break. SAMR can be a reflective tool, but we need to be driven by the best outcomes for students, even if the methods used to achieve this may be low down on the SAMR model.by