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Over the last decade, a number of models have been created to assist teachers in integrating technology into schools. With so many acronyms to remember, it could be a daunting task for someone attempting to embed new technology into their schools. In an attempt to demystify the process, we’ll examine the following models:

  • SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) Model
  • RAT (Replacement, Amplification, Transformation) Model
  • TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) Framework

SAMR Model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition)

Created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, SAMR claims to support and guide teachers to design, develop, and infuse digital learning experiences that utilize technology. While in an attempt to make sense of the model in his own way, Jonathon Brubaker uses the analogy of ordering a coffee from a cafe to explain the different stages.

Here we take a closer look at each of the different stages in more detail:


At the substitution stage, technology is directly substituted for a more traditional one. It is a simple, bare bones, direct replacement. For example, you might use an electronic or web-based version of the document you are working on instead of a hard copy. Students might also answer questions digitally, instead of filling out a worksheet. Substitution might also include a student using technology to present their work to the class.


Here, the technology is again directly substituted for a traditional one, but with significant enhancements to the student experience. The technology increases or augments a student’s learning in some way.


Modification represents a significant functional change in learning, and some technologies can offer this if applied appropriately. Blogging for example, provides students with a potentially very large audience for their writing. Previously, essay writing was for an audience of one – the teacher/assessor. Now the affordances of blogging can gain large audiences who are often willing to comment and feedback on the quality, significance and meaning of the post. The results of a number of research studies suggest that students tend to raise their games, and write more concisely, accurately and circumspectly, researching and editing their blog posts to maximise their work.   


The Redefinition stage is the moment where technology is irreplaceable, the moment where brand new possibilities and tasks, open for teachers and learners. Redefinition is characterised by the use of technologies that radically redefine one or more aspects of learning. To be featured in this category, technology should create learning opportunities that were previously unattainable or even unthinkable. The capabilities of technology to provide students with their own platform, has prompted an exponential rise in user generated content. Learning through making was always an option in the traditional classroom, but learning through making that can be interactive, reiterated, linked and connected to other artifacts, embedded and repurposed, and generally propagated across a variety of media, is a huge step forward for education.

Links to Bloom’s Taxonomy

Puentedura believed that SAMR is coupled to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy — He claimed that as the task moves from lower to upper levels of the taxonomy, it also moves from lower to upper levels of SAMR. The two Enhancement levels of SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation) are associated with the three lower levels of Bloom (Remember, Understand, Apply), while the two Transformation levels of SAMR (Modification, Redefinition) are associated with the upper levels of Bloom (Analyze, Evaluate, Create).

RAT (Replacement, Amplification, Transformation) Model

RAT is a simpler and more practical version of the SAMR model. Compared to the SAMR model, it avoids the ambiguity connected with the difference between the second and third level; here the two levels are put together into one AMPLIFICATION stage.


Critics of SAMR and RAT have argued that the models do not provide a true reflection of learning. They argue that they should not be treated like a ladder. They believe that if a teacher seeks to ‘redefine’ or ‘transform’ learning every time they use technology then it could actually become a barrier to learning, rather than the key to unlocking the upper-levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Some find the models unwieldy or lacking in substance, and there has been criticism of their simplicity and ambiguity.

SAMR and RAT are useful concepts to inspire thinking about integrating technology in the classroom, but they shouldn’t make teachers feel like they need to hit redefinition every time to impact on learning. Like any tool, technology is only as good as the person using it. Redefinition takes a lot of skill and expertise, so by asking each teacher to constantly hit this level of technology use in their classroom, there is a risk of intimidating teachers who aren’t as confident with using technology and the chances are, they won’t be too keen to use technology. Technology use is at its best, when it is purposeful. When its use is linked closely to the learning outcomes and enhances the learning experience.

TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) Framework

Finally, the TPACK framework claims that successful integration of technology into teaching requires content knowledge (CK), Pedagogical knowledge (PK), and Technological knowledge (TK).

TPACK shows the essential relationships, which need to be understood and “linked” well to let technology work properly in education. At the heart of the TPACK framework is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) is an understanding that emerges from interactions between content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge. TPACK is the sweet spot in where technology, pedagogy and content knowledge combine to deliver accelerated learning opportunities for students.

Focus on WHY

Ultimately, however you integrate technology, the thing that stands out to me is the importance of starting with why. Although models, such as SAMR, RAT and TPACK, can be useful as a reflective tool or to guide discussions, they do not necessarily guide the pedagogical practice. Technology amplifies whatever pedagogical capacity is already there. 

Simon Sinek believes that the reason many of us do not get very far when we approach a new problem, whether it be going on a diet, starting a new business or introducing technology in the classroom, is because we have got our priorities all wrong. Too often the focus of our attention is on what we need to do. This could be to lose weight, ship a new product or get devices into every classroom. All too often such actions fail to last because although we think we know what we need to do, our reason for doing so is either missing or unclear.

As teachers, we must remain crystal clear that the whole reason we have invested time, effort and precious funds into technology is to have a positive impact on learning. So, stay focused on why you are using the technology. Keep asking: What improvement will it have on learning outcomes? What is the goal? And most importantly, what will the students gain from using it? If you can answer those questions, you will be on the right track to successfully integrating purposeful learning technology in your school.

By: George Stokes

George is currently the Head of Innovation at the Arbor School. Around three years ago, he built his own learning platform called Sharek, which is now widely used across the UAE. George was a finalist in the Middle East Education Influencer Award 2018.