Marley MacDonald
Curriculum and Instruction Innovation Specialist, Literacy
Jul 18

Applying the SAMR model to better support teacher planning



The number of ways to use technology with students has exploded in recent years. From faster internet access, to more cost-friendly devices, to content specifically created for those devices, education technology is more accessible in the classroom than ever. But despite these advances, the work of planning lessons that deeply incorporate technology can be difficult.

According to developer of the model Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) is a framework for selecting, using, and evaluating technology in education. Though traditionally applied to technologies that students directly use, we wondered if we could use the model as a guide to think about the work teachers do before and after teaching.

SAMR illustration.png

Applying this thinking to teacher planning
There’s a difference between what a teacher is planning and how the planning happens. It’s in the how that we think SAMR could be useful. After all, there are several technology-based tools that teachers can use for planning, and even sharing, their lessons.

Why this type of thinking is important
Lesson planning has historically created isolation from colleagues. Teachers often find themselves planning alone after school, late at night, or even on weekends.  Planning with technology allows for connections among colleagues that can lead to refined lessons and improved teaching, which has an outcome of increased student learning.

Not only does technology allow teachers to refine lessons based on peer collaboration, it also enables teachers to quickly refine lessons based on what they learned while teaching. With technology, teachers can indicate which questions worked and which questions need revisions. They can note student challenges in lessons in real time, and make adjustments to the lessons before those important reflections are forgotten.

Finally, by using technology as a planning tool, teachers can have insight into how students might use technology either individually or with collaborators. The more knowledge teachers have about the technology students are using, the better they can support and problem-solve with students.

What this could look like for teachers
As a Curruculum-as-a-Service provider, LearnZillion strives to build products and services that empower districts and their teachers in supporting their students. We’re always thinking about how teachers plan, and ways that we can better support their planning process. Here is a glimpse of what teacher planning can look like at each level of the SAMR model, using the LearnZillion platform.

  • Substitution: Teachers add lesson content (a PDF, text copied from a Word document, etc) into LearnZillion's enterprise platform.
  • Augmentation: Teachers use LearnZillion to share lessons and provide each other with feedback. They also use the formative assessment data that LearnZillion's platform provides to inform lesson planning.
  • Modification: Teachers adapt ready-made lessons on LearnZillion's platform for their specific instructional needs by adding new types of material to a lesson (including a video, a podcast recording, or a voiceover) and share this modification with other teachers.
  • Redefinition: Teachers across a district come together to collaborate on LearnZillion's platform to redesign individual lessons or entire units based on their classroom experiences. Each teacher owns a section of the work, but they collaborate throughout the creation process and give and receive feedback on their work. The new materials are combined to create a brand new type of lesson or unit that can be shared with other teachers in their district.

Read more about how the Louisiana Department of Education partnered with  LearnZillion to reach the Redefinition stage, creating an entirely new ELA  curriculum by and for their state’s teachers.

Will incorporating technology into teacher planning always lead to more efficient planning time and better student learning outcomes? Not necessarily. Just as educators shouldn’t use technology with students just for the sake of using technology, we also shouldn’t force ourselves as educators to use digital products just because they exist.

Using the SAMR model as a tool to evaluate your use of teacher-focused technology can help your district make better decisions about supporting teacher planning and ultimately, supporting your students’ learning.


Belinda Thompson is the Curriculum and Instruction Innovation Specialist, Math at LearnZillion

Marley MacDonald is the Curriculum and Instruction Innovation Specialist, Literacy at LearnZillion

Edtech Future of Curriculum Curriculum-as-a-Service