SAMR or 4Cs? Why Choose?

I recently read a blog post written by someone who had been retweeted by someone I follow. The title of the post of “I’m ditching SAMR for the 4Cs…” I don’t know the author, but her post got my attention and made me think. Let me say at the outset that I don’t think that I have to choose between the two concepts. They are fundamentally different and do not necessarily point in two different directions as she believes.

My purpose here is not to critique her post point by point (I have included the link above and I would encourage a close reading and evaluation for yourself.), but rather, I would like to reflect a little on why I use both strategies in my classroom.

It should be pointed out that while my background is in English/Language Arts, I now teach a computer applications course.

SAMR has been defined by Kathy Shrock as “a model designed to help educators infuse technology into teaching and learning. Popularized by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the model supports and enables teachers to design, develop, and infuse digital learning experiences that utilize technology.”

The 4Cs are usually described as key strategies relative to 21st century skills that educators are encouraged to cultivate and teach to their students and include critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.

I want both in my classroom, and I use one to enhance the other to help my students be more successful.

The writer makes the point that “SAMR focuses on technology use, not on instruction.” and I do not disagree completely. There are two ways of considering this, however. As a technology trainer (and some administrators might share this perspective as well) I am sometimes responsible  for helping make sure that technology resources are used to their fullest potential and that teachers are trained so that they can effectively use the resources at their disposal. SAMR’s layers help teachers understand that sometimes there are better ways to use technology in order to get the most out of the tool. I could use a power drill for a hammer (and I have tried a couple of times) but I will be much more successful if I use a hammer to pound nails.

Secondly, instruction is an umbrella word for everything that happens between a teacher and a student in the classroom. The tools that we choose and the strategies we employeare “instructional”. Why would we separate SAMR from the process? If tech is not effective, either find different tech or put the tech away and find something else that works better, but SAMR is not the issue.

The writer writes that she feels judged by SAMR’s apparent ranking. I would submit that in its original intent, SAMR is not meant to rank Redefinition as inherently better than Substitution any more than Knowledge is better than Evaluation in Blooms. Sometimes knowledge and comprehension are appropriate learning objectives. There are, no doubt, some who would use SAMR that way, but that is a mistake.

I recently taught a workshop for the Lausanne Learning Institute in which I explored the levels of SAMR and demonstrated for a group of educators each level in a 1-hour lesson taught to 11th graders. We moved through a series of instructional strategies that enabled us to use all four layers. The purpose was to help educators distinguish the separate ways of using technology, and to show that in some instances, the technology helped increase student engagement and to move the lesson into higher levels of learning. In the final portion of the lesson the students engaged a second group of students on a different campus in a web conference. During those individual web conferences, they communicated, collaborated and were asked to think critically about decisions they had made earlier in the assignment. That’s how SAMR and the 4Cs work together — not exclusive of each other or in opposition to each other.

Let me show you how it might work first with a diagram created by Kathy Shrock in which she relates SAMR and Blooms.


Now, I’ll take the liberty of adding to her diagram a visual that reflects how I see where the 4Cs might fit in relation to these two concepts. Blooms and SAMR both work as propulsion and payload to support the student-centered delivery of 4Cs learning experiences. Again, I see no need to ditch any of them in favor of the other. I’ll be hanging on to both.







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