How SAMR and Tech Can Help Teachers Truly Transform Assessment

Caroline S. Chadwick

Topic: Technology

Portnoy, L. (2018, February 1). How SAMR and Tech Can Help Teachers Truly Transform Assessment. EdSurge. 

In her 2018 article “How SAMR and Tech Can Help Teachers Truly Transform Assessment,” Dr. Lindsay Portnoy presents Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy and Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR Model as complementary viewpoints of technology and education.  Both tools are essential to educators, Bloom’s Taxonomy for teachers to identify student’s levels of thinking and Puentedura’s SAMR Model for teachers to identify the tools that can be used to innovate instruction.  However, whereas others describe technology as guiding instruction, Dr. Portnoy applied Lev Vygotsky’s (1896-1934) Cultural-Historical Theory and defines technology as a cultural tool.  She further asserts that in the SAMR model it is a skillful educator wielding technology who can transcend traditional teaching and learning in four distinct but robust ways.

In describing the four levels of the SAMR Model, Dr. Portnoy delivers a personalized overview which starts with simple substitution, to augmentation, to modification and culminates in redefinition, where each consecutive level increases the technology tool’s impact on the classroom.  In describing each level, she provides examples of technology tools and programs that she recommends.  Dr. Portnoy’s method of teaching not only reinforces the learning of the readers but also provides concrete tools that the readers can explore and potentially use to enhance their practice.  Albeit briefly, in the conclusion of her article Dr. Portnoy states, “To harness the true utility of these tools we must continue to address the digital divide that perpetuates inequities in our classrooms by not only bringing high speeds to our classrooms but also access to the tools that students and teachers need to support our most valuable assets, our future citizens” (Portnoy, 2018).  

Dr. Portnoy’s humanistic approach fosters readers’ motivation to learn and acknowledges the true catalysts of vigorous education, the teachers and students who make it happen.  She also emphasizes the social injustice of the digital divide as it is essential that all students, families and teachers have access to the powerful teaching and learning of technology.  As I always hope, Dr. Portnoy’s engaging article sent me on a quest for her biography which further piqued my interest as a Social Worker-Educator.  Dr. Portnoy is an Educational and Developmental Psychologist, Associate Teaching Professor at Northeastern University, Author and former public school Teacher.  I’ve bookmarked Dr. Portnoy’s 2019 book Designed to Learn: Using Design Thinking to Bring Purpose and Passion to the Classroom which has received extensive praise.  She is also a Co-Founder of Killer Snails which creates extended reality and tabletop games aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 students.  Yes indeed, these are the types of biographies that I find impressive and researchers who I eagerly follow their trail.

5 Ways PBL Facilitates Lifelong Learning

Whitlock, Kami


Niehoff, M. (2019, September 21). 5 Ways PBL facilitates lifelong learning. Retrieved from learning/?utm_source=Smart+Update&utm_campaign=c2e3b20d71-SMART_UPDATE_2019_09_24_07_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_17bb008ec3-c2e3b20d71-321306465

Educators’ main goal is to help students become life long learners, but this task, although it sounds simple, can be challenging. This article explains five characteristics of problem based learning (PBL) and justifies why they are important to students. The five characteristics are real-world learning, sustained inquiry, public opportunities, student voice and choice and the power of learning when you love what you do.

Many educators stray away from PBL because it seems challenging to implement. This article persuasively explains why that should not happen. It describes how students benefit from PBL at school and will take all of the ideas and lessons they learn with them to use later in life. By using PBL students will think more deeply about content, develop collaborative skills, take part in social emotional learning, and use technology. This article is very informative about what PBL is and how students and teachers benefit from it.

A Prime Co-Teaching Opportunity

Whitlock, Kami


Jones, T. N. (2016, March 5). A Prime Co-Teaching Opportunity. Retrieved from

This article is written by Tara Jones, an elementary librarian who decided to take on a new role of research technology specialist at a 6-12 school. She describes her journey from a traditional librarian to co-teacher. She explains how she had to rethink how librarians collaborate with teachers. Her process included finding partner teachers, researching curriculum and analyzing technological tools. She also explains the seven models of co-teaching and what worked best for her and her partner teachers.

I enjoyed reading this article because it was a real life example of someone who had gone through the process of updating her librarian role. She gives great advice about the struggles of co-teaching and how to work through them. I also thought this article was helpful because it breaks down the seven models of co-teaching briefly. I highly recommend reading it if you are looking for information on what it takes to become a co-teacher and maintain a good co-teaching relationship.

What the SAMR Model May Be Missing

Name: Boyd, Shani

Topic: TE

Citation: France, P. (2018). What the SAMR Model May Be Missing. Retrieved from:

Summary: Frances builds on the SAMR, (Substitution (S), Augmentation (A), Modification (M), and Redefinition (R).) model to modify how technology can be humanized and used in classrooms. He feels that in some learning experiences, while they remove barriers for time and space for collaborative work, the many personalized learning tools exist to substitute or augment tasks, falling into the bird method of teaching. He explains how technology is contributing to accessibility for students and allows teachers to accomplish other tasks and incest more resources and time towards lessons that cannot be accomplished through technology. He explains how a tool is used in classrooms determines if it personalizes learning.

Evaluation: France’s weights both the accomplishments and shortfalls of using technology to further the SAMR model. He describes the risks technology plays in removing the social aspect of connecting with other students and teachers when used heavily. France warns the pitfalls instructors make by focusing on the Substitution or Augmentation tasks providing apps and more instruction. I like that France provided evidence of what was wrong and ways to avoid misusing tools and adjusting how they are incorporated in lessons. He provides a brief description on the SAMR model and links to additional resources.

It’s 2019. So Why Do 21st-Century Skills Still Matter?

Name: Boyd, Shani

Topic: ID


Boss, S. (2019). It’s 2019. So Why Do 21st-Century Skills Still Matter? Retrieved from:


The article introduces how the 21st Century model has evolved in the current era and how it is being applied in the real world by students. Drawing from examples of various teachers, Boss demonstrates what has worked well to incorporate the 4C’s while empowering students. As the model calls for moving away from textbooks and teachers talking-at students, students collaborate with others, apply critical thinking to real-world situations, and find creative uses for communicating through digital tools. Yet, despite the innovations technology has brought to this way of teaching, many teachers still find it challenging to incorporate established frameworks for deeper learning.


This article opens with a successful example of students applying 21stCentury skills to a problem in their community that drew on their ability to collaborate and think critically. The article then transitions into an explanation about applying the 4C’s and other innovations to deeper learning that have evolved in the digital age. Boss introduces notable educators in the field and incorporates several examples of how students have applied this method outside of classrooms. She also provides additional reading material and links to other websites for further research. I like that this article covers a variety of perspectives on how the 21st Century model has been applied and how it works for students. She calls for more teachers to make the much needed transition because the competencies taught reman relevant to a students contribution to their community and life outside of school.

Project Based Learning Across the Curriculum, by Acacia Warren.

Name: Stephanie Desmarais

Topic: PBL, 21st Century Learning, School Reform


Warren, A.M., 2015. Project based learning across the disciplines. Corwin Publishing Company.


The author of this book, Acacia Warren was a former teacher and school principal. Her work focuses on engaging her own school and student community in ways that were meaningful for students. Her text stands as a framework for teachers, principals, school librarians and anyone wanting to implement a PBL strategy. In addition to providing a framework, her approach weaves in ways to consistently and meaningfully incorporate academics such as literacy, life skills, common core standards, 21st century skills and technology, while also engaging students.


This book is an excellent tool for all types of educators. Implementing PBL can seem like a daunting and intimidating task, however Warren makes it accessible to anyone willing to thoughtfully plan and collaborate. The text includes many templates for the reader to use as they read, and also provides plenty of examples. It is formatted in a user friendly manner, with the first chapter dedicated to explaining the whys of PBL as well as how iftfits into the +1 Pedgodgy.

Four Instructional Shifts

Reyes, Erika


CUE (2019, October, 20). Catlin Tucker Live at Fall CUE 2019 [Video]. YouTube

Change and adaptation. Classroom instruction has evolved at a rapid rate in the 21st Century. Technological advances have brought forth a transformational potential to include creativity, innovation, and depth to the learning experiences we design as educators. Catlin Tucker, a blended learning coach and author, shares four key shifts she believes should be taking place in the 21st Century classroom in her Keynote Speech at the Fall 2019 CUE event. Her message is very clear and includes practical examples of how the four shifts listed below can be applied in the classroom setting.

Four Shifts

  1. Teach students to track, monitor, reflect on, and communicate with parents about their progress.
  2. Provide timely, actionable feedback in class as students work.
  3. Make time to grade finished products with the students sitting next to you.
  4. Partner with students and prioritize student agency.

Simply reading these four shifts for transforming instructional practices, I probably would have thought that some of these things are unrealistic. However, after listening to Catlin Tucker’s advice it is clear that these shifts are feasible in practical ways. I can see how adapting to these shifts can promote student success and empower students to reach new heights. I think her examples allow students to take ownership of their learning and really develop their investment in their growth. A few examples that stood out include students emailing their own parents about their progress, providing real-time feedback in shared documents before assigning a grade, and allowing grade interviews for improvement. Overall, her message is mainly to align instructional design so that students take charge of their own learning.

The Handbook of Educational Theories

Name: Melissa Sanchez

Topic: Educational Theories

Citation: Irby, B. J., Brown, G., Lara-Alecio, R., & Jackson, S. (Ed.). (2013). The handbook of educational theories. Information Age Publishing. 

Summary: This book is a collection of articles authored by several different academics that discusses a wide variety of topics within educational theory. It is written for those within the educational or counseling fields as a comprehensive guide to cover as many aspects of educational theory as possible. As a guide, it strives to assist its readers in the development of their theoretical frameworks by providing as much information on educational theories by several different authors. These authors contributed works that described their assigned theory with its unique aspects, iterations and critiques of their theory, the generalizability of the theory for readers of all backgrounds, and examples of application of the theory. Theories covered within the text include: philosophical education, learning theory, instructional theory, curriculum theory, literacy and language acquisition theory, counseling theory, moral development theory, classroom management theory, assessment theory, organizational theory, leadership and management theory, social justice theory, and teaching and education delivery theory.

Evaluation: This entire book is extremely helpful for novices who are unfamiliar with educational theories. It breaks down the sub-genres of educational theory, such as instructional theory and assessment theory, in a way that is easily understandable and strives to avoid making the reader feeling overwhelmed by clearly defining each of it’s sections. While this book serves as an overall great resource, the standout chapter focuses on learning theory and discusses the many different sub-theories within. Rather than just detailing behaviorism and cognitivism, The Handbook of Educational Theories (2013) discusses transformative learning, cooperative learning, and cultural-historical activity theory. Overall, this book contains excellent resources for those beginning their learning path on educational theories, while simultaneously offers a deep-dive look at some lesser-known educational theories.

When Starting at the Very Beginning

By Estrup, Erin

Topic: Educational Theory

Citation: Stevens-Fulbrook, Paul. 18 April 2019. “15 Learning Theories in Education (A Complete Summary)” from

Background Information: I have spent the last couple weeks reading, note taking, absorbing, forgetting, frantically trying to find the spot in that article where I read that thing, and more reading. Without putting to fine a point on it, I started this class with no previous knowledge of education. I thought I did. I went to school. Surely that should give me a basic idea of what “education” is, right? Nope. Nada. I looked through the list of questions to help me figure out what I did know and this could be summed up with the following list:

  • No Child Left Behind was a program about testing that was started under Pres. George W. Bush.
  • The current Secretary of Education is Betsy DeVos.
  • Parents hate common core math.
  • A flipped classroom is one where the lectures are online and you watch them at home and then you do your homework in class (my boyfriend’s brother is a teacher who does this).

And that was it. Everything else was a complete empty void. Theory?!? Oh jeez! Now I’ve done lots of research in lots of topics during my life, so on one hand it felt like this shouldn’t be that difficult.  I collected some peer reviewed articles and sat down to read them, and did the literary equivalent of running head first into a brick wall. I did not have enough basic knowledge to read a scholarly essay! That hurt. I had to take a few (giant) steps back and look at the problem from a lower angle. Where do you start when you need to start at the very beginning?  I thought about Wikipedia. We tend to knock Wikipedia pretty hard, but frankly, it’s a pretty good place to start when you need to start somewhere. But I also happen to know that I can get sucked down a Wikipedia vortex (or rabbit hole) pretty easily and I really just needed something simple to introduce me to terms, names, concepts that I could use to pick my way through online articles and then into more scholarly articles.

So, I Googled. I think I searched for “education theories summary” or something to that effect. I got a hit: “15 Learning Theories in Education (A Complete Summary)” from by Paul Stevens-Fulbrook.

Summary and Evaluation: This article covered behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. It introduced me to a number of education theorists and their theories (from Bloom to Vygotsky). It also used really simple language.  It was the very basic work that I needed as my gateway to educational theory. From here I was able to painstakingly work my way through my reading list. I still only feel like I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface (after all, a Master’s in Education isn’t awarded just for four weeks of reading), but for students like me, with no background knowledge and in need of a place to begin, I recommend this online resource.

Tags: ET

Best Practice: Online Pedagogy

Jeanene DeFine


Inquiry & Design

Harvard University (n.d.). Best Practices: Online Pedagogy. Teachremotely. Retrieved from


For today’s teachers and librarians it is important to understand and develop best practices for online learning. Teacher’s are in need of maximizing the best learning outcomes for their students. Teachers can rely on librarians to bridge those gaps they may have in curriculum and technology. Harvard University put together best practices for online teaching that maximizes what is already known and how to use it online. The practices can be modified for all age groups. The article describes the use of the Zoom platform to have face to face meetings. Any meeting platform can be used and the described best practices are relevant to any platform. The article is divided into three sections;general advice, course type, and additional resources. Each section describes the best practice to maximize learning. The article gives a thorough account of learning models and how best to use them in an online format.


The article is well organized and easy to follow. The practices are described to meet any educators needs. The article is geared towards higher education, but many of the tips are relevant to all ages. I think the article would be of great use to teacher/librarians to aid in home schooling and distance learning. It is a very useful guide with relevant real world teaching applications.