I smell a RAT: the truth about evaluating digital pedagogy

I smell a RAT: the truth about evaluating digital pedagogy

Trying to work out if you are teaching effectively with an iPad or other mobile learning device is a challenge, especially if you are new to technology and tenfold if you are new to teaching.

It seems that solutions, problems and job titles are almost always presented in the form of acronyms these days and it is no difference with education technology: so whether you’re platform is GAFE, you’re an ADE, or you’ve signed up for some CPD on a MOOC, somewhere out there is the acronym for you.

When it comes to evaluating the use of technology in the classroom, there is only one acronym that seems to raise its head above the parapet: SAMR. SAMR has been heralded as the go-to model upon which to judge technology use in the classroom. As we have mentioned before, whilst there is value in SAMR we certainly wouldn’t like to hang ourĀ hats (or iPads) on it as a way of evaluating success in terms of pedagogy.

There are two reasons for this…

  1. The MR of SAMR has always felt a bit problematic; what exactly is the difference between Modifaction and Redefinition and does it matter! Isn’t the point simply that it was an innovative use of technology rather than ‘Substitution’?
  2. SAMR (through no fault of its own) has been used as a measure of success in the wrong way. It is useful for trying to understand why only using Pages on the iPad is a poor use of a resource and why iMovie might be a slightly more innovative tool. However, it does not give you any clue as to whether the teaching and learning is good. Using an app in the ‘Redefinition’ band of SAMR doesn’t guarantee you a good lesson and so you’re left needing something else to guide you.

So here are two solutions to these problems:

  1. RAT. Another acronym that suffers from the same problems of SAMR except that it is at least easier to understand. In fact, I think that it is such a simple system that it doesn’t really need explaining. Take a look for yourself and see what your think…

IMG_2519

Just in case a few words of explanation on RAT would be useful, I think the point of this model is to compress the AR of SAMR into ‘amplification’ as an easy to understand way of saying ‘you’re doing more than just replicating in digital format, something that could have been done in an analogue way, but you haven’t really found anything that transforms the way you’re able to engage with these children’. The Post-It Plus app is a good example of this. But the level at which an app comes in at, remains a moot point in terms of reaching and learning. The same all could be used well or poorly, just as the same is true of the device that contains the app. So…

2. Lesson Observation/drop-in/learning walks/performance management…whatever your school calls the system of observing teaching and giving feedback, this is exactly the right place for evaluating the use of technology. The systems that are already in place should be what guide our use of iPads or tablets or laptops, or even the good old IWBs. These systems are (hopefully) designed with the school’s ethos and philosophy in mind and as such, they will already suitably measure the outcomes and processes that are happening in lessons. You might add on a couple of additional boxes or tabs, and you might even make a point of highlighting ‘technology-heavy’ lessons as being different to ‘normal’ lesson when you’re in the early stages of integration, but essentially, you’re looking for the same levels of innovation, engagement and learning that you would be in any other lesson. If you explore and evaluate the successful use of technology through this channel, you will find that it will be easier to ask, in a meaningful way, whether the lesson that utilised the iPads was ‘better’ than the lesson without as the measures were the same.

 

Link to the book

3 Comments

  1. I think I disagree (politely and with a cheeky grin) on this one. I take the point about the Modification/redefinition bit of SAMR being tricky to understand, and I agree that, there is no link between the SAMRness of a lesson and its quality. However, I have always liked the fact that the SAMR model compels you to think hard about what you are doing as a teacher. What is the difference between the M and the R? How do I think about my lesson activities differently? What is there in the technology I have that would allow me to do something I could not conceive of before? Having got to that point, the next question is always going to be: does this mean my students will learn more, faster, better?

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  2. The key to SAMR is the divide between the 2 stages of enhancement (S+A) and transformation (M+R). You raise a good point about the blur between M+R Adam, but this is ultimately because you possess a strong working knowledge of the process of embedding tech into the curriculum. The majority of schools don’t have a project leader with such a understanding, and in those cases SAMR, and it’s ‘progress through each stage’ nature is very useful. It promotes metacognition amongst tech users. The limitations of SAMR as I see it is that there’s a tendency to prioritise reaching the redefinition stage. Substitution tasks can be just as valuable (art and reading tasks can save time and money through iPad use) for improving learning, and it’s key to understand that there simply isn’t time to redefine all learning with iPad. Ultimately it takes a judgement call on the teacher’s part to use the technology to add the greatest value to learning for students

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