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.

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.

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.

Why do we need Phenomenon-based Learning?

Leffel, Matthew

Tags: ET, ID

If you’ve been in education in the past decade, you’ve no doubt heard the good news from Finland. There, it seems, all of the woes that beset public schools in the U.S., from grading to teacher pay, have been meticulously solved and harmoniously vanquished. I sometimes joke that Finland is a country that was made up for the purpose of increasing the despair of American educators. And so, as I researched Inquiry and Design for this practice, I rolled my eyes when I ran into an article with the title, “Yeap! Finland Will Become The First Country In The World To Get Rid Of All School Subjects.” Here we go again, I thought. The article, published in Curious Mind Magazine, reported on Finland’s plan to implement an instructional model called Phenomenon Based Learning, in which “holistic, real-world phenomena…are studied as complete entities, in their real context.” This approach would obviate the need for separate disciplines by presenting students with an array of authentic topics and guiding them in inquiries that would simultaneously build relevant skills and enable them to construct new knowledge. This should sound quite familiar to anyone who has studied or practiced problem- or project-based learning or similar, highly constructivist approaches. So what’s new here? I visited a website devoted to this model and found that Phenomenon-Based Education was devised “to provide learners with modern and relevant skills and with genuine joy of learning.” It all sounded very Finnish to me, so I searched for some Finnish sources to help me understand what I was looking at (thanks to Alan November and his TedTalk, “What is the Value of a Teacher?”)

This article, by Johanna Järvinen-Taubert, was helpful in articulating some of the finer points of Phenomenon-Based Learning that may have been lost in translation. The author points out that the model does not replace traditional subjects (as reported in Curious Mind) but does situate a “clearly-defined theme, project or course” (i.e., the phenomenon) at the center of interdisciplinary study. The author carefully describes how this multidisciplinary approach corresponds with aspects of Inquiry-Based learning generally, and she reiterates the argument that this model addresses students’ for authentic, transferable skills. Drawing from the work of a professor named Kirsti Lonka, Järvinen-Taubert explains the concept of “transversal competences,” which incorporate cognitive, social-emotional, and pragmatic learning outcomes for students. Acknowledging the more well-known 21st skills, she comments that focus for these transversal competencies “is very practical and down-to-earth,” and she argues accordingly that sustained engagement with real-world problems is necessary to help students to reach these outcomes. Echoing our own Dr. L and “the Big Think,” she concludes by asserting that it is not the product but the process that drives student learning in this framework.

Järvinen-Taubert, J. (2019). “Why do we need Phenomenon-based Learning?” Learning Scoop.

Every Kid Needs A Champion

Hi INFO 250, I came across Rita Pierson’s TED talk titled “Every Kid Needs a Champion, which has been seen over 11 million times during my research for topic 1: Ed Theory. I have seen it countless times as a teacher since the TED talk came on the scene in 2013. Usually it is shown at the beginning of the school year when the administration wants to motivate us teachers, or again halfway through the year, when we have hit a wall and need a little inspiration. But this time it felt different. Going through distance learning for the last 12 weeks of school was beyond difficult on so many levels. Ms. Pierson talks about connection and relationships and this time it hit the heart a little differently. She so poignantly says, “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” The power of building relationships with not only our students but also the teachers we are serving. She says it’s important for us to remember to, “seek first to understand as opposed to being understood.” And she is so right. So much of what I learned in my first year as a teacher librarian was in listening and observing. This TED talk is simply a great listen to ground us in the work. 


Pierson, R. (2013, May). Every Kid Needs A Champion. Retrieved from

How to Combine STEM and Activity at Home

Jeanene DeFine


Virtual Technology

Harrington, K. & Watkins, L. (May 21, 2020). Building STEM and Movement Skills Outside of School [Webinar]. Ed.Web. Retreived from


The webinar describes using STEM as a physical activity to give children a break from the screen and get moving. The authors of the webinar go through the guiding principles for the use of technology in the classroom. It is a starting point to give understanding of how screen time can be used in a productive learning platform. The author describes several lessons she uses with distance learning for her classrooms. The lessons are provided and they all have a basis in STEM. The most notable was the use of Flip Grid a social media platform to start physical challenges with other classmates. One teacher challenges the class to perform different physical activities and share it with the class. The webinar continues with an explanation of a SPLAT coding learning tool that can be purchased for classroom use. She goes onto explain how it can be used in a virtual setting. The tool allows students to create games using coding. The games can be simple to complex depending on the age and ability of the student. They are physical and the students will be moving to complete the game. The webinar also provides mindfulness exercises for students and teachers.


I think the lessons they give are valuable for virtual learning. The authors trail off a little bit and it takes some time to get to the point. However, I think it’s worth the time to get to the lessons. They offer great ideas and resources for distance learning. The focus on mindfulness is also very important. Social emotional well being is a vital element in the ability to learn. I think the webinar brings a lot ideas for virtual learning. It’s worth a look. Just be patient.

Teaching our way to digital equity

Lauer, Alicia


Reich, J. (2019). Teaching our way to digital equity. Educational Leadership, 76(5), 30-35.

Summary: Not only do we have a digital divide in our schools, reflecting inequitable access to technology, we also have what Reich calls a “usage divide.” This divide reflects the type of work that students are asked to do; are students using technology to create, or are they essentially completing digital worksheets? In more affluent spaces, students are not only asked to do more sophisticated work with technology, they are also more likely to be viewed as innovators. Reich contrasts this to the experiences of students on the other side of the usage divide, who are not supported in more enriching technological tasks and who are also more likely viewed as slackers or time-wasters if they do engage in screen time. This usage divide occurs between schools, but it also occurs within schools. Students in advanced tracks are often given access to more powerful technical learning opportunities.

Reich advocates for several practices to combat the usage divide. First, we need practices that support equity in all areas of education, but certainly in ways that support all students’ access to enriching curriculum around technology. Also, educators need to get to know their students’ interests and connect those interests to technology and careers that might apply to those interests. Educators must see these interests as assets. Technology must be integrated into required classes, not just electives where only some students get access. Finally, schools must audit their practices: who is experiencing an innovative tech-rich curriculum within and between schools? Those realities must be acknowledged so they can be better addressed.

Evaluation: Reich offers an important challenge to all schools and districts to reflect on the tech experiences they are providing for students, and which students benefit the most from those opportunities. As teacher librarians, we need to work for equity within and between schools, and Reich offers some helpful advice to get us started.