As educators we have a variety of tools that we use in the classroom. These tools help us to engage students, deliver curriculum and to be honest, just get through the day.

Where your regular everyday toolbox would have hammers, screwdrivers, a saw, measuring tapes, and other necessary utensils for craftsmanship. A teacher’s toolbox is filled with humor, knowledge, patience, kindness, curriculum content and digital technologies.

Throughout an educator’s career they stock their toolbox, learning from others (borrowing their tools) or developing professionally (buying own tools). I have recently learned about two more tools that I can add to my toolbox, the substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model and the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model. However, before I move forward in this post, I need to remind myself (and you the reader) that these are merely tools to be used by an educator, and not a stand-alone product. According the Hamilton, Rosenberg, and Akcaoglu (2016) “technology integration is neither an educational goal nor is it sufficient on its own to enhance learning outcomes.” (pp.439)

Both newly acquired tools deal with how to integrate digital technology in the classroom, a seemingly hot topic in the education field. Hamilton et al. (2016) would argue “the complex nature of new digital technologies further complicates the already difficult task of teaching with technology.” (pp.433) Koehler and Mishra (2009) agree that “teaching and learning with technology exists in a dynamic transactional relationship.” (pp.66) Both the TPACK and SAMR models for technology integration examine how to effectively integrate technology in the classroom. These models hope to aid educators in the design and implementation of various digital technologies.

The substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model looks at different levels for integrating technology. Hamilton et al. (2016) found “the context in which educators teach matters and is an important consideration for any model connected to teaching and learning.” (pp.436) The first level of integration is SUBSTITUTION, where the technology used does not change the function of the lesson. The second level is AUGMENTATION, where there is a functional improvement because of the technology used. The third level is MODIFICATION, where the task is redesigned to incorporate technology. The final level of the SAMR model is REDEFINITION where the technology allows the creation of new tasks.  The SAMR model outlines the various ways technology can be integrated in the classroom. It acknowledges that teachers need to be educated on how to use technology effectively before integrating it into their curriculum. Furthermore, the SAMR model acknowledges that students’ previous knowledge of the technology will impact successful integration. Romrell, Kidder, and Wood (2014) found “the familiarity that the learner has with mobile devices impacts how they are used.” (pp.3) In addition, Hamilton et al. (2016) agree that “the effects of technology use depend strongly on the nature of the teachers and students using it, as well as the specific tasks for which it is being used.” (pp.437)

The Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model “is an understanding that emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge.” (Koehler and Mishra, pp. 66, 2009) This model examines every aspect of technology integration, from teacher competence, student ability and accessibility of resources. Koehler and Mishra (2009) found that “teaching is a complicated practice that requires an interweaving of many kinds of specialized knowledge.” (pp.61) This includes educators understanding and feeling comfortable with using technology in the classroom. Koehler and Mishra (2009) discovered that “teachers often have inadequate (or inappropriate) experience with using digital technologies for teaching and learning.” (pp. 61-62) This may be due to teacher education programs being unable to keep up with rapidly changing technology. By the time teachers are in a classroom of their own, the technology they learned to use is outdated. TPACK looks at how connecting content, prior knowledge, alternative teaching strategies and flexibility are essential tools for effective teaching.

Adding SAMR and TPACK to my toolbox, it is hard to determine which model I agree with more. TPACK allows me to evaluate the use of technology from every aspect of teaching, whereas SAMR model outlines how I am implementing technology into the classroom. Both models are valuable, but if I had to choose one over the other, I would lean towards the substitution, augmentation, modification redefinition model. I believe it would help me evaluate if the technology I use is adding to the learning experience. Using technology just because you can or should is pointless. Digital technologies should be used to create a more engaging learning environment, that aids students’ understanding of curriculum content. Romrell et al. (2014) insist that “not all educational tools work well on mobile technology, and the pedagogical value of a learning object should be weighed against its ease of use on mobile technology.” (pp.11) Koehler and Mishra (2009) agree that “technologies have their own propensities, potentials, affordances, and constraints that make them more suitable for certain tasks than others.” (pp.61) Moreover, Hamilton et al. (2016) encourage educators to “understand the relationships between teaching, technology, and learning to promote student growth and achievement.” (pp. 439)

SAMR and TPACK offer unique perspectives on digital technology integration in the classroom. Both are useful tools to include in the teacher toolbox. It is challenging to build anything with only one tool, (could you imagine building a table with only a saw?), the same goes for education. A teacher cannot expect to educate a class of individuals using only one model of technology integration.


Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay



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.

Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)?. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Waynesville, NC USA: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education.

Romrell, D., Kidder, L.C., Wood, E. (2014).The SAMR model as a framework for evaluating mLearning. Online Learning Journal18(2).