Being more “mer”

By now, many teachers in my district are familiar with the SAMR model.


We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what each part means, what it looks like in a classroom, and stressing that we should be moving toward MR (I pronounce this mer, like a big dummy)–Modification and Redefinition. We’ve taken fun quizzes where we had to evaluate lesson plans on the SAMR scale and questioned how they could be “more MR.” I feel like we’ve done this a million times.

And yet, it’s actually very difficult for us all to live in MR.

Don’t get me wrong; there are times when you just need to type an essay out instead of writing it by hand (obvious–but necessary–Substitution). There are times when you just show the kids a YouTube video because it’s hook-ish and engaging. But where do you draw the line here and stop doing things in the Substitution and Augmentation world just because. 

We have this ingrained need to let our students do that cool Civil War website just because it’s awesome. Or to teach them how to do crazy stuff on Pixlr just because it turns out a really nice picture and you can hang up spectacular examples of student work. Or show them that Ted Talk just because it really ties in with the theme of the lesson and who doesn’t love Ken Robinson?

But–do you make take students on a field trip to the museum just because it’s awesome? Do you teach them how to draw a three-dimensional box just because it turns out a really nice bunch of papers to hang on the wall? Do you play them that REM song just because it goes really well with the theme of the book you’re reading?


You take kids to the museum because you’ve been studying Realism and you want them to see and evaluate the masters. You teach them to draw a 3D box so they can create a culminating perspective project on a real or imagined street.  You play them the REM song so they can contrast the lyrics with the words of the author in that book you’re reading and debate whether or not they would agree with each other.

So let’s stop.

Let’s have purpose. Let’s allow kids to create, synthesize, evaluate and teach with technology, not just sit with it. Let’s use the power of a global web to collaborate and crowdsource. Let’s consider if the technology we’re choosing is a valuable part of the lesson or a babysitter and pacifier or this fun new app we heard about on Twitter.

I’d argue that we’re also dangerously nearing a point where technology for technology’s sake is no longer automatically engaging for students. Simply putting a device in front of them won’t necessarily excite them anymore, so the move to MR is essential.

So here’s my plea: Let’s stop throwing tech into lessons like sprinkles on ice cream. And <insert extended simile here> because it would be ridiculous to continue the point when YOU GET IT. Don’t you?


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