Teachers have already started shifting towards personalised learning experiences for their students and do this by building upon what they already know and do. Teachers are usually introduced to a Learning Management System (LMS) that can link new learning opportunities with technology. However, the greatest potential of learning with technology comes from the fact that teachers and students can change the traditional learning environment, processes and products to make for a more cohesive learning environment with better outcomes. An organisational tool like an LMS will not transform the way that the teachers conduct their lessons. This will only come from constant support and the selection of the correct learning applications.
The SAMR Model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura provides a guideline for explaining the digital transformation. The four levels within this model are Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.
At the Substitution level, teachers merely replace the traditional methods of instruction with digital tools, so instead of reading a printed textbook, the students are printing out their own pages from an online textbook.
Instruction is at the Augmentation level when the use of technology benefits a commonly performed task, such as, having students submit their work within an online dropbox instead of having to turn papers in to their teacher in the classroom.
At the Modification level, there is a meaningful change between what happens in the traditional face-to-face classroom and the digital age learning ecosystem. An example of this type of instruction is to design an authentic project, share it and then receive immediate feedback from others.
Finally, instruction reaches the level of Redefinition when something is created that could not exist without the use of technology tools, resources, and access. Furthermore, the ideas and products are also student-generated.
Digitized learning includes the first two parts of the SAMR Model, Substitution and Augmentation. Below is an illustration that shows the differences between Digitized Leaning and Digital Learning. The digitized learning assignment allows the students to read from an online text instead of a printed text. It then has them completing the questions on a document file on the computer rather than writing the answers on paper. The students are told exactly what they need to do to end the project which is a slide show that lists information. They are then asked to submit this slideshow to an online dropbox. There are some benefits to this such as the students work can be organised and they can access everything that they need online, however there is very little instruction needed and there is no room for creativity or critical thinking.
To help students and prepare them for change in the digital world they need to engage in a range of complex and ever changing digital learning experiences. In the illustration below the students can review a variety of multimedia content so that they can take things that are needed from a wide range of resources. They need to be able to reflect on the information that they have gathered to create an opinion. They are then asked to defend their opinion based on the evidence that they have spent time researching. This activity allows for an elevated level of critical thinking that they do not need in the digitized learning task. It also allows for a higher level of teaching input and gives them the option of being creative in the way that they form their opinions. The final step is for them gain feedback from others to enable them to create a published version of their findings. In this type of assignment, the digital learning is then more likely to reach the Modification and Redefinition levels.
What happens next?
Teachers need to review the learning experiences that they are providing for their students that include technology. They need to decide what level of the SAMR Model that they are using when they give their instructions. To move on from digitized learning to digital learning, teachers need to provide a more open-ended task that allows the students to make choices. This may prove difficult to begin with as we have spent many years teaching children to succeed by following direction without giving them the power to be creative in how they do this. Schools can assist their teachers by providing a more comprehensive toolbox of digital learning applications, giving them ongoing professional development that enhances their skills and making sure that the expectations on these teachers are achievable. This will, in turn allow for creativity in the way that students learn which will help them to become effective digital learners.