Using Multiple Instructional Models – SAMR and TPCK

It appears that most people are looking at my Why We Need Learning Theories post.  I think combining instructional models fall into a similar thought.  My current internal visual is actually using various magnifying glasses to closely examine an instructional design through multiple perspectives.  I would argue that good designers do just that – look at their work from multiple perspectives.

Not long ago I ran across the SAMR Model developed by Ruben Puentedura as a framework for evaluating how technology is being implemented in teaching.  Here is a visual of the model:

SAMR full model

Basically if the technology integration is at the substitution or augmentation level you will not expect to see much change in the teaching.  It is when the technology is integrated at the modification or redefinition level that we see transformation in education.

At AECT during a session on MOOCs David Wiley talked about how we know what strategies work well in a face to face setting with a class of 20, perhaps we just haven’t found the strategies that work in a really large course online.  Which made me think of this model – what are the strategies to integrate technology so that is causes the teaching/learning to be modified or redefined and thus transform the teaching/learning?

I wanted to review Dr. Puentedura’s work and was only able to find conference presentations posted on his blog and some YouTube videos.

In watching one of his longer presentations, I saw that he uses several models, including Mishra & Koehler’s  TPCK model.  At the beginning of the second part of the presentation Dr. Puentedura talked about the model in a way that gave me a new perspective on TPCK.  He states that you need to think about the content, pedagogy and technology “at the same time.” (at 3:05) They need to be connected and brought together.  There needs to be an opportunity for the content, pedagogy and technology to have equal influence on the design. This fits with my own best experiences where I am discussing a specific course with a faculty and bringing my technology and pedagogical expertise to the table with their content and pedagogical expertise to find best strategies in moving their course to a hybrid or online model.


I like how he easily jumps from model to model, making connections across them.  Which is better seen in the first part of the presentation. I think all too often people get “stuck” into one way of thinking – I use this model and this is the best model for me and my course/students, I will always use this model.  I’m all for models – they help make the design of courses transparent.  But I do like looking as a design through various lenses – which is what I feel Dr. Puentedura is recommending and modeling in his presentation.


In an interview with Stefan Olsa from the Center för Skolutveckling in Sweeden he says something at the end of the interview that caught my attention.  The question was where do you see schools in about ten years? (at 3:55) He would hope to see a school where the technology is integrated at the redefinition level, “where the students become the true owners of their own learning.”


Growing Our Theories

Theories are ideas about how things work.  Just ideas.  Hopefully, someone – often the theory developer, then “tests” the theories to see if they are “true” or “correct”.  Theories develop over time, with lots of observation.  We all have them, and we all test them everyday.

We even began testing them early on.  “What happens if I take that toy from my brother?”  “If I pull on my brother’s seat-belt from behind, will he know it was me?”  (I have lots of brothers).  As small humans we push limits and boundaries and buttons as we come to learn how to function in our world.

As I’ve been reading about a variety of learning theories, (the latest being the quantum perspective of learning).  I find that there are portions of various theories that “speak” to me, but not whole theories.  Then I ran across this quote – which is not in a learning theory article – but from a science minded individual

“I call it a theory because it is surely incomplete. And calling it a theory means I expect you will change and improve it. I hope so, because then it will be yours. But at least I can help your theory building along.”

from Gifts of Love by Henry B. Eyring

I love the part in the middle, “And calling it a theory means I expect you will change and improve it.”  It is a work in process, this idea of “theory”.  As a scientist I can put together a fairly decent view of how I think something works, share it with you and then hopefully you’ll join in on the “testing” portion. I like the idea that a theory is changeable.  It is living, growing, improving.

But the part I love best about this quote is “…because then it will be yours.” We each need to figure out what our own theory is, and not let it get stagnant.  We need to share our theories, and help others “grow” their own theories.  Theories are a work in process.

As educators, instructional designers, teachers, etc, we need to be aware of our own theories.  We need to understand how our ideas developed and what influences our ideas.  This helps us move forward and progress.  When we stubbornly cling to or reject ideas without careful analysis of both the ideas and our own ideas that are causing the stubbornness, we limit our own ability to progress, learn and grow.

Why We Need Learning Theories

In any discussion of theory I always ask myself, “Why do we need this?”  My answer this time is different than it has in the past.  I do believe we need learning theories for the following reasons:

  1. We need to understand what our own personal “theory” is, in order to understand our own limitations.
  2. Good theories provide stones for the novice to build their own foundation.
  3. We need to understand others.

Understanding Our Own Personal Theory

Every person is influenced by his or her beliefs.  (Even as I answer this question, I am aware of my own belief system that colors my answers.) As a teacher, knowing where we come from, what our basic foundation of belief is, helps us to understand how we act and react.  Looking at two different belief statements you can imagine what each of these classrooms would feel like.

“I choose to believe that my students want to do their best in school and in life. They want to perform in a postive way. If they don´t even try, it is because they don’t think they can. This is hard to prove so I choose to believe. And this is important for me to experience a sense of coherence.” ~Linn Gustavsson

“”….Our attempts to reshape others may produce change, but the change is distortion rather than transformation…”  ~David Keirsey

I do believe that once we understand our own actions and reactions (that last one is so much more difficult), we can then seek to adapt or change.  From a systems perspective, in order for a system to endure for any length of time, it must be able to change and adapt.  This would be that Feedback and the Growth function in action. (See Ecology and Systems – Exploring Personal Learning Ecology)

Building Stones

Good Theories are Stones for the Novice

Every good teacher seems to know how to teach.  There is a natural flow to the experience.  So how do you “teach” something so intangible?  I think of the various theorists ideas as stones. (See all your options from one building supply business!)

I believe that each of us must build our own foundations.  There are plans and diagrams; outlines and instructions; but ultimately we must choose each “stone” and place it into our own plan for our own foundation.  There may even come a time when the aspiring expert seeks out various stones from all over, cutting, grinding and polishing each piece to fit into the foundation. (Being a rockhound, this analogy is working itself out nicely.)

We Need to Understand Others

Just as a teacher needs to understand his/her foundation of beliefs, so too does a good teacher seek to understand the foundation of beliefs of each student.  Knowing the influences on a student’s actions and reactions will help the teacher understand how to change and adapt their own actions to maximize learning.

Some of the Stones in My Foundation of Beliefs

My educational background was throughly infused with constructivist ideas.  In many ways I would consider myself a constructivist (this whole foundation – building analogy aside).  The Constructivist vs. Connectivist conversations (my own included) have troubled me.  Then I ran across this quote from Seymour Papert in – Part 1: Teaching vs. Learning, from the 1980’s

Constructionism means “Giving children good things to do so that they can learn by doing much better than they could before.”

If constructionism, at its heart is giving students “things to do so…they can learn by doing”, what if the “thing to do” is connecting?  I honestly always imagined my version of constructing as connecting – how else would you construct if not by connecting “things” together to create something new?  There is also in this vs. discussion the idea that one constructing in solitude cannot “create knowledge” and that the network of connections is what “creates” the new knowledge.  I never did see the student in a constructivist arena as solitary.  I do believe that there does need to be time for reflection and solitude.  But I also believe in the strength of the community, those connections that allow meaning and understanding to grow and develop.

Some of the “stones” in my foundation are…

Foundation Stones

stone wall image from

and two new ones in the growth and understanding stage (they still need some cutting, grinding and polishing before they can be placed solidly in my foundation).

  • autotelic
  • salutogenesis


If you liked this post you may like others listed in the Theory Category.

Connectivism vs. Constructivism…

I am still trying to figure out myself the distinct differences between these two theories.  But a post by GSiemens Social connectivism trumps constructivism for third world child learning which quotes Pontydysgu’s Connectivism vs Constructivism? has me thinking about the two terms with an analogy of an building toy set. (This could also be Legos, K’Nex, Magnext or Mega bloks).

When I imagine connectivism I can see all the little pieces being linked together.  It could be one person linking, but a much better structure is achieved as more people join in, making connections, reinforcing ones they like, breaking off connections that appear to be useless, etc.  As the structure continues to grow, people step back and say “Hey!”, “Wow!”, “Look at that!”, “Do you see….!”

When I imagine constructivism I see the people discussing and as they discuss they pick up pieces and add them to the structure.  I see discussion at many levels, but I also see a more planned building.  I see some trial and error connections, but for the most part the discussion and interaction dictates the pieces and connections that are made.  The structure grows and changes in a similar manner as above, but the people interact with the structure differently.

And then I have to stop myself and ask – “Does it really matter?”  The intellectual in me says yes along with the organizer.  The teacher in me says – use the best parts and make your own.  Which sounds a lot more like a constructivist to me, but then again I’m still exploring.

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