Crafting Authentic EdTech PD & Cultivating Community Conversation: Climbing the SAMR Ladder

To help our students and faculty be at the vanguard of technological development and innovation, we must bolster access to tools, support, and educational opportunities that are both robust and revolutionary. In my role as Director of IT, one of my prime directives is to provide authentic, meaningful, and practical EdTech Professional Development to faculty — PD that is richly textured and aimed at addressing a number of learning styles so that teachers, who are experimenting with digital technologies, can embed them within their professional practice. 

The first step in fostering an ethos of exploration and transformation in our schools is to allow for meaningful dialogue.  We must cultivate an on-going vibrant community conversation, complete with a shared language, about the role of technology in 21st century curriculum design.  Students must be invited to the table.  And their voices must be heard.  Together as a whole community, we must develop, what Nigel Barlow calls, a Beginner’s Mind, asking “why not?” and “what if?” when we design lesson plans and refine and consider the ever-evolving and expanding landscape of 21st century learning environments.

In order to cultivate this type of dynamic dialogue, a common lexicon must first be established, steeped in a clear understanding of research, sound theories, and exploratory ideas.  Students, teachers, and administrators, must be encouraged to experiment with models and exemplars and reflect upon the role technology plays in affecting learning and shaping meaning.  In order for this to happen schools need to carve out time for their students, teachers, and administrators to explore, share, and engage with each other.  They need time to be curious.

This curiosity will drive best practice, innovation, and discovery.  It will bring new ideas and new challenges.

A Case Study:

This year at my school, I have the privilege and honour of working with Dr. Ruben Puentedura, creator of SAMR, Founder and President of Hippasus, Harvard Technology Fellow, to provide a feature series of high-octane Ed Tech Professional Development to my faculty. Three visits, spanning the year, to encourage and shape the momentum of transformative applications of technology to education.  I first heard Dr. Ruben Puentedura speak at the Apple Educator Leadership Institute in Toronto in 2012. At that time, he was billed as the man who was revolutionizing and transforming the ways people think about technology and education.  One of the great visionaries of our time.

Dr. Ruben PuenteduraIn late August, we kick-started the feature series with a full day of SAMR and Ed Tech Quintet immersion. The morning session consisted of an introduction to SAMR, followed by Q&A.  He took us on a journey spanning 200, 000 years back in time. He reminded us of how we evolved as social beings, and that as we evolved, so too did our tools and skills. As our environments changed, we learned to adapt, to create, and innovate in order to survive and thrive as a species. Our ability and capacity to be social and share information, to be mobile, to visualize, to tell stories, to engage in games grew over time and led us to the profound awareness that we could do new things never before possible, without the existence of these new tools and new skills. We were a part of a rich ecosystem made only richer by the connections we made to each other.

The afternoon session provided an introduction to the Ed Tech Quintet and was followed by breakout sessions for teachers, grouped together by grade or subject. In these sessions, teachers completed an online survey to assess their current position on the SAMR ladder. Then, in their breakout groups, they designed a SAMR ladder to transform a chosen unit of instruction, specific to their subject curriculum. Dr. Puentedura circulated among the breakout groups to provide clarification, feedback, and guidance.

IMG_5596Teachers have been applying their ladders to their lessons and have been documenting the results. A dialogue has been sparked within the community.  A shared language that the SAMR and the Ed Tech Quintet models provide, empower faculty and student conversation. There is momentum. We eagerly await Dr. Puenteudra’s return in November where we will review, mark progress, reassess, and continue to fine tune and examine how we select, use, and evaluate technology in education.

Education has always been under a constant state of transformation and evolution. At times it seems as though the world outside our schools is changing faster than the world inside our schools. The tools are changing faster than the curriculum and we must keep asking ourselves what ways of thinking and learning exist now, simply because of the existence of new technology. If we lock in our curriculum based on how we currently use technology, we limit our curriculum, and we miss opportunities.

Thomas Puentedura Selfie








Snapshot Overview:

1.)  Provide frameworks from which we can begin to cultivate a common language and continuous dialogue about meaningful integration and transformative applications of technology to education.

2.)  Identify and isolate small, practical steps. Provide concrete examples and time to share and reflect, to build and to wonder.

3.)  Built-in accountability of Professional Development.  Experiment, explore, and fine-tune our professional practice. Document success and setbacks.

4.)  Share, discuss, reassess, modify.

5.) Repeat.


For more information on Dr Puentedura’s work, please visit his weblog.

For more information on SAMR and Ed Tech Quintet Models, please view the video below:


One thought on “Crafting Authentic EdTech PD & Cultivating Community Conversation: Climbing the SAMR Ladder

  1. Shelley, this looks like an incredible experience, and one you will be going back to for a long long time. Well done!

    But also, thank – you for sharing your process & insights. Very kind and thoughtful of you. I love learning w/ you! I can’t wait to hear more about it!


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