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 our hats (or iPads) on it as a way of evaluating success in terms of pedagogy.
There are two reasons for this…
- 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’?
- 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:
- 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…
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.