Has our recent crash course in teaching online changed how we view digital technologies in the teaching and learning cycle? Granted, over the past few months we have not been engaging simply in online learning, but providing emergency remote teaching. But now that the shock has lessened somewhat, we’re in a unique position to critically analyse the digital technologies we use. The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, provides a useful lens for analysing technology integration in an education context. The framework allows teachers to evaluate technology used in learning (NZ Curriculum, 2007). This model is a timely reminder of how using digital technologies can enhance, or detract from, the learning experience.

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As the context and environment changes, the influence and importance of each level changes. For example, in a usual classroom context, many teachers are at the first level, simply using technology as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change. However, for our current context, using technology as a direct tool substitute does provide functional improvement as many students have not had access to the paper based material. Digital technologies have been the only way to maintain teacher-student communication and connection. It’s good to remember that the SAMR model isn’t a linear process and the endstate isn’t always to reach ‘redefinition’. A blend of technological integration is important for learning outcomes.

We need to critically analyse each tool and decide to what extent we integrate them into our teaching practice. Perhaps it can enable a fundamental and lasting change in pedagogy toward a more constructivist or connectivist approach. But teachers must first be able to see the meaning behind the use of technology. If school leaders are truly investing in digital learning, they need to understand what level they’re addressing and the effect that technology can have on learning outcomes.

When assessing the online tool EP, you can see that it addresses each level of the model. EP is a dynamic platform. New buzzwords come and go, so we ground our platform using established, effective frameworks, and we strive to be open to improvement.

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As our technologies evolve and we respond to the needs of our community, we are able to constantly improve the learning experience. At its base, EP replaces the traditional textbook at the Substitution level. However, the extensive content, which incorporates multiple textbooks, can be accessed anywhere and anytime to demonstrate Augmentation.

Further, there are multimedia elements in each Smart Lesson, teachers can assign tasks and assessments in advance, have them instantly marked, and have full transparency over students’ work. Time saved through automatic marking can can be used to foster the teacher-student relationship and be used to build connections. The technology is improving the experience for both teachers and students.

The learning starts to become transformed when we look at Modification, where teachers can edit and modify content to suit their class, there’s a range of speaking and listening tasks, and teachers can record feedback for students. Redefinition is the instant, targeted remediation which provides an individualised learning pathway for every student. Learning can be flipped and teachers have complete transparency over what students are doing at home. This is where EP shines and redefines the learning experience. When EP is integrated into a teacher’s practice, working in harmony alongside the teacher, you can change what is achievable in the classroom.

Ultimately, as we return back to school, we believe that a blended approach is the way to go. Maximising the best that tech has to offer while weaving it with an effective framework of teaching and learning.