A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop called Transforming Your Classroom, facilitated by Kim Cofino. If you haven’t had a chance yet to attend a workshop given by Kim, I highly recommend it. She is a world leader in helping teachers expand innovative practice in modern learning and everyone should have the opportunity to transform with her.

The workshop was based on exploring the SAMR model of education, which provides a framework for how one can implement technology in the classroom. SAMR, which was developed by Reuben Puentedura, looks at how technology can be used to redesign the learning task, and thereby improve student outcomes. It moves learning engagements from those that enhance student learning, to those that transform it.

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. https://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/
Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. https://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

This blog is not a critique of the SAMR model in any way, shape or form. I frequently refer to it when reflecting on my learning engagements and it guides and extends my innovative risk-taking in the classroom. I can only hope that more and more educators around the world begin to refer to the SAMR model with greater frequency so we can all modify and transform not only our own pedagogical practices, but also our students’ attitudes towards learning.

However, over the last few months, I’ve been grappling with the concept of transformation within the SAMR model and would like to offer some questions and conceptions to the reader. The following reflections will aim to extend our definition of redefinition and transform the relationship between the SAMR model and its implementor.

In order to meet these goals, we must first ask ourselves some important questions as to why we are using the SAMR model in the first place: What are we actually hoping to transform? Are we only looking at transforming the act of learning (task) and the tool we use to do so? Or, are we also striving to transform human thinking (concept) in how we relate to potential applications (technology)?

The part of the SAMR model I often get stuck on is the fourth tier, redefinition. Redefinition is often defined as, “designing and creating new tasks that were previously inconceivable.” I have no problem with the agreed upon definition for redefinition, but I do feel that if there is no tier above it, it can be quite conceptually limiting.

If something was previously inconceivable, that by default means that it has already been conceived. It has already come into existence. If it was once unimaginable, it no longer is, because it is currently being applied through its already manifested form.

Photo Credit: Kristofer Williams via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Kristofer Williams via Compfight cc

This would then yield the next question, “What comes before that which was previously inconceived?” In my opinion, this is the tier of conception, the tier of cognitive creation. At the redefinition tier, we are not really imagining and conceptualizing as much as we are applying what has already been thought of before.

In its essence, redefinition is already outdated because it has been conceptualized, it has been conceived and popularly applied. If the ultimate goal of the SAMR model is to operate within that domain, we are at a juxtaposition with the essence of SAMR, as we have limited our definition and scope of the redefined.

In redefinition, it is still true that we are creating, but it is mostly content and learning experiences that fall within higher-order thinking skills, not concepts. The current model looks at how we redefine learning through overcoming limitations of time and space to enhance learning. I would argue that we could take it even further by inviting not only educators, but our students themselves, to drift into a further tier of SAMR, that of conception. Everything that currently exists within redefinition could have only come into being (and our teaching) through a tier solely based on conception. After an idea happened, it was brought down into redefinition through technological advances, which allowed us to access its potential.

I believe that if we truly want to transform student learning, we need to de-conceptualize an overemphasis on tool and task and re-conceptuatlize the value of concept and thought, as the former certainly would not be here if it wasn’t for the latter. We should be encouraging students and their teachers to not only explore the available technologies already out there, but also explore the corners of their mind to bring the recently conceived (conception) down to the previously inconceived (redefinition). This would not only increase the SAMR model’s effectiveness, it would make it more sustainable.

This seed to re-conceptualize the SAMR model starts with how we view the model itself. It could be argued that the model, in many eyes, is seen as separate from that whom enacts the learning, when in actuality, it is a reflection of it. A cognitive divide seems to be at play if educators are seeing themselves as separate from the tools they apply.

Photo Credit: ecstaticist via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ecstaticist via Compfight cc

This is where I believe that a conceptual shift is necessitated. The current interpretation of the model takes a passive approach towards human extensionism. Its form almost necessitates that teaching is limited by the tool, rather than the tools being a function of human creativity, and conception. If we use this model to only look at how technology can be leveraged in learning, we are ignoring the fact that human ideation, creation and manipulation are the driving forces behind it. The limits of technology will be in direct correlation to the limits of our mind. Therefore, I think that it is essential that we also encourage and recognize a tier of conception, of true creation, so that we are empowered to explore the conceptual limits of human potential.

For it is only through this act of conceiving, that models like SAMR will have the true power to not only transform student learning, but redefine the concepts on which they are founded.


The author realizes that this post will likely be contentious for some and will readily admit that he knows nothing in comparison to the SAMR developer, Reuben Puentedura. The blog post is not a critique of the SAMR model, but a proposed redefinition of its extended interpretation.

7 Responses

  1. So…..I can get on board with this…….the SAMR model is loved and hated by many but what you propose here is extending it and I like that.

    Seeing we’re in the is course all about images. I think there is an opportunity here for you to create a new SAMRC model. 🙂 Maybe a visual that can help others understand what that looks like in your head anyway. We need a place to start before we can improve on the idea.

  2. HI Reid,
    I caught your blog post on Flipped the other day and it was the wonderful Open Shutter Photograph by Kristofer Wiliams that grabbed my attention initially.
    I’ve been trying to gain a deeper understanding of the SAMR model and have enjoyed your interpretation. To me, SAMR is very reminiscent of (the new) Blooms Taxonomy: the lower order thinking skills representing enhancement and the higher order thinking skills representing transformation.

    Have you seen Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy by Andrew Church on https://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy. It’s about how tool and technology facilitate learning. I expect that you probably have, as I come back to it several times at this early stage in my coetail course. The content map gives verbs that fit the 6 tiers of Bloom’s taxonomy according to what is possible with digital media.

    Kathy Schrock: https://www.schrockguide.net/bloomin-apps.html refers to these tiers as cogs (cognition cogs – very cleaver) and they make each other turn, or they fuel each other. What I loved and find really useful is how Kathy Schrock lists different ipad, android, windows, google and web app under Bloom’s taxonomy tiers. Not until does she help you understand digital media but shows you how to implement it in the classroom or at least, what areas of learning it can be useful for.

    Since Jeff Utech mentions about visuals and it was your visual that drew me to your blog, you should view APP-Smash: the Ben Bloom Fist in the SAMR Glove. https://mrspepe.com/2013/08/30/app-smash-the-ben-bloom-fist-in-the-samr-glove/
    This is a wonderful visual, also demonstrating that Bloom’s is not a hierarchy, showing the possible technology and how Bloom’s and SAMR should be used together. Definitely worth a peek!

    1. Hey Kay:

      Thanks for those resources. They are fantastic. I really like Kathy’s simple cog visual. I’ve got them all bookmarked for future reference.

      Take care,

  3. “The current interpretation of the model takes a passive approach towards human extensionism. Its form almost necessitates that teaching is limited by the tool, rather than the tools being a function of human creativity, and conception.” I’ve thought long and hard about what you wrote here. As a teacher, before technology even enters my mind, I need to design a learning experience that students can be actively involved in. It should meet some criteria relevant to the learners and beyond that I need some criteria for success. IMHO, SAMR is not a teaching tool – it diagnoses (from patterns) how tech has been used in a learning experience. Unfortunately, it is often viewed as some kind of hierarchy where redefinition is paramount – this can be a dangerous way to meet the needs of learners. You are 100% correct that the tool should not be the point of emphasis. Interestingly, I read design thinking when you are asking for the inconcievable. One more thing I would like to point out is an ongoing debate about creativity. Is there anything truly new or novel that has not been born out of synthesis or application? The re-mix culture comes to mind here. I would argue that anything new or original in 2014 has it’s genesis in something pre-existing. It would be difficult for my students to create something inconceivable. Great post Reid – SAMRC it is.

    1. Hey Tim:

      Your comment about diagnoses was really thought provoking. I’m not sure why I hadn’t looked at it like that before, but I really like it.

      As for creativity, I feel that on one hand, everything comes from an external influence in some way (even subconscious pickups). However, I also feel that there is a place deeper within us where a different realm of creation is also unfolding. I’ve referenced and linked Einstein’s power naps with key drops in a different blog post, “Original Thought: A Buddhist Perspective on Ownership” if you are bored and looking for a read.

      Either way, I like concepts, so I’m biased towards a SAMRC extension. 🙂

      Thanks for the positive feedback.

  4. Man, let me get up to the Modification and Redefinition level first! I like the idea of pushing the envelope when it comes to enhancing and extending student learning indeed. And I can see how when the level of Redefinition is successfully achieved, it may seem like the ceiling. Your idea of adding a tier of Conception does give me something to think about. And why couldn’t the SAMR model evolve to the SAMRC model? In this age of technology we need to get more and more used to living in Beta, as Molly Schroeder put it in her TED Talk.
    I teach grade 4, and my goal this year is for my students to be operating at the Redefinition level, and they are well on their way, I’m proud to say.
    I ask myself now, how could they get to your next tier of Conception?
    Thanx for giving me something to ponder.

    1. Hey David:

      I’m asking myself the same question. The only answer I have at this point is to keep on letting them work in the creation tier of Bloom’s Digital HOTS. I think that is giving them the practice of nurturing that side of themselves and the conception will eventually grow from that seed a bit later in their life. Or, at least that is what I’m telling myself. 😉

      If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.

      Thanks for your positive response.


Comments are closed.