TPACK and SAMR and Bears (oh, my!)

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Photo by Billetto Editorial on Unsplash

As educators continue to engage students, there is a demand for technology integration (whether in the classroom, virtual, or hybrid) to ensure our students are college and career ready. For many educators technology is still new and a bit uncomfortable. Whether or not we are new to utilizing technology, how do we know when we are implementing it properly? How do we know if we are engaging students and genuinely preparing them for their future careers? Are there ways to tell whether or not the selected technology is beneficial to student success?

Unfortunately, there are so many different resources and models available that there is not a one size fits all answer to the above questions.

To begin, there are many technology integrations frameworks available to teachers to create a mental model for implementing technology and working towards transforming their classroom. Two of the most popular frameworks include SAMR and TPACK. Most 21st century educators have heard of the SAMR or TPACK models, yet still find them to be unclear.

Image by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.

SAMR focuses on integrating technology to take a lesson from being enhanced to being transformed. When utilizing SAMR, there a specific focus on what the technology integration does for the lesson. If the technology is integrated to substitute a component of the lesson then it is only minorly (if at all) enhancing the learning for students and lands at the lowest tier which is Substitution. The middle two tiers of SAMR are Augmentation and Modification. Basically, how much is the technology improving students’ access for learning the content? A small improvement would land in the Augmentation tier of SAMR, while a redesign with a large improvement to student learning moves up the scale to the Modification tier. The highest tier on the SAMR model is Redefinition. The goal is to utilize technology to create new real-world tasks and challenges that are not achievable without the usage of technology. SAMR is used to evaluate lessons and their usage of technology integration.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

TPACK takes a bit of a different twist from SAMR. As educators we are already familiar with the need for merging Content Knowledge with Pedagogical Knowledge. utilizing the TPACK model, there is a need for merging in Technological Knowledge. This trifecta allows for teachers to integrate technology tools into their day-to-day practice of teaching content and pedagogy. Instead of looking at technology as “one more thing”, TPACK focuses on normalizing technology in the same we we have normalized content and pedagogy in the classroom. This model is a perfect visualization of what we want to achieve when supporting 21st Century Learners.

While both models hold great merit and can guide our lesson planning and lesson redesign, they are missing one thing… HOW? How do we take a lesson from Substitution to Redefinition? How to weave technology into our lessons the same way we weave in pedagogy as we are teaching content? What are the steps? Where do we begin?

4 Shifts Protocol infographic (Created by Matt Miller!)

One resource that has helped me in navigating the integration of technology is Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning, by Scott McLeod and Julie Graber. The focus of this book is on a 4 Shifts Protocol which provides specific, concrete look-fors, and think-abouts. Instead of saying that technology needs to transform a lesson, the 4 Shifts Protocol provides a foundation for successful implementation. The foundation includes (1) Deeper Thinking and Learning, (2) Authentic Work, (3) Student Agency and Personalization, and (4) Technology Infusion. When using the 4 Shifts Protocol it is important to start small and start with a shift that is most fitting to the teacher/student needs. Eventually, the goal is for all/most lessons to incorporate all four shifts. Using these shifts, there is a direction and a place to begin.

While each model/framework/protocol has its own intended purpose, there is value in understanding each one. Regardless of which one a teacher uses, the value comes from the purpose. I can see SAMR being a great resource for self-evaluation of technology integration. TPACK provides a visual representation of what technology integration should look like in the classroom. Finally, the 4 Shifts Protocol lays the foundation and provides the “how” for integrating technology. The demand for integrating technology is there, where will you begin?


Donovan, P., & Knutson, J. (n.d.). TPACK and SAMR – AHS Technology Integration. Retrieved January 21, 2021, from

McLeod, S., & Graber, J. (2019). Harnessing technology for deeper learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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