By Jaclyn Stevens, M.Ed. | Digital Learning Coach, Instructional Technology Facilitator and Research Associate at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation


For years now I have been sharing the TPACK and SAMR models as foundational frameworks for educators and leaders alike to incorporate as a cornerstone of technology supported curriculum and instruction for school and district’s transition to a digital culture of learning and teaching. While those I coached immediately connected to TPACK, they were reluctant and hesitant with SAMR – seemingly overwhelmed and anxious with the prospects the model had to offer. Why was this significant model, one receiving so much acclaim in the academic arena, getting such a lukewarm reception with educators in the field? Through candid conversation, modeling, and feedback, I was able to pinpoint the problem – and it was incredibly easy to fix.

samrDr. Ruben Puentedura developed the SAMR model as a way for educators to reflect on how they are incorporating technology into their instructional practice: Is it an act of Substitution? Augmentation? Modification? Or Redefinition? This model is often depicted as steps, a ladder, or a swimming pool, suggesting that educators climb or swim towards the Modification and Redefinition categories. There is a line separating Substitution and Augmentation from this Modification/ Redefinition goal – a line dividing educational “Enhancement” from educational “Transformation”. The message given is that educators must “teach above the line” with a focus on Modification and Redefinition. This, however, is where a problem arrises.

To understand the dilemma we must look at another popular model – Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Most educators are familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy, a way of promoting higher forms of thinking in education. I suggest that, just as educators work across Bloom’s levels (Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate and Create), that the levels of the SAMR model must also be flexible and align to what students are doing in the classroom. Only teaching at the level of Evaluate and Create is impossible and ineffective, just as only integrating technology at the Modification and Redefinition levels are unrealistic. Thus the SAMR model, in its current form, is not sustainable.

If the SAMR model was a swimming pool, and we all jumped in the deep end or “swam” above the “line,” we would exhaust ourselves and sink – but, if we swim laps, imagine the possibilities. Working across the SAMR model will support student-centered learning just as educators teach across Bloom’s Taxonomy to support student’s skills and abilities. Then imagine too the myriad of educators swimming in these technology waters: some will be doing cannonballs in the deep end (Modification, Redefinition), while some would rather stay in the shallow end (Substitution and Augmentation), while even more may need special floatation supports represented by professional development, coaching support, and professional learning networks, etc. Yet, even in these digital waters, educators cannot tread water and sustain teaching “above the [SAMR] line” as popularly suggested. Thus, I designed this new interpretation of the SAMR Swimming Pool inspired by the work of Carl Hooker.


Having shared this perspective with dozens of schools and administrations, this modified version is not only making sense, but is a means of taking successful steps towards a digital culture in schools and districts – especially when there is a struggle to get educators to embrace teaching with technology. The goal now is not to “teach above the line”, but to reflect and maintain a flow of student-centered, digitally supported instruction in each of the SAMR categories as appropriate to the context of the learning and teaching environment. One hundred percent of my experiences sharing this new model has swayed reluctant educators and given them a perspective on teaching with technology that they feel they can attain while growing toward the higher levels of the SAMR model. Rather than climb ladders or stairs, what we really need to do is swim laps. ⏯

Additional Resources:

SAMR Swimming Pool Infographic

SAMR Swimming Pool ThingLink


Jaclyn StevensAbout Jaclyn

Jaclyn B. Stevens coaches and assists  K-12 educators, ITFs, and Administrators to adapt, not adopt –  fostering digital initiatives to transform professional learning through changes in pedagogical shifts and meeting the needs of all learners to champion creativity and innovation as a Digital Learning Coach and Research Associate with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation with the College of Education at North Carolina State University. @jaclynbstevens