**Update 4/26/14: I LOVE the responses to this post; they made me consider a lot of different ways of looking at TPACK and SAMR, and really stretched my thinking. If you read this post, also read the comments- and check out the links that some people have included!
I’m going to preface this post by saying that I think both TPACK and SAMR are incredibly useful frameworks- and I use them a lot in my work with education technology. While I don’t want to completely discount either framework in this post, I do want to start a discussion- and explain why I am currently not finding them completely effective in my work with teachers.
TPACK looks at the collaboration between technology, pedagogy, and content and argues that teachers need knowledge of all three. I agree with this statement, but I don’t agree with how this framework is presented. Take a look at the graphic to the right- it shows all three concepts represented in circles of equal size. I think this sends the wrong message; knowledge of content is less important than knowledge of pedagogy (even more so now because of how accessible information is) and there is even evidence that shows that too much knowledge of content can actually lessen a teacher’s ability to properly scaffold learning for students. Same goes for technology- it doesn’t deserve equal weight for the knowledge a teacher needs. One of my favorite books is Visible Learning by John Hattie– he analyzed fifteen years of research on what actually affects student achievement. Here’s a good summary of the book by Grant Wiggins-http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/what-works-in-education-hatties-list-of-the-greatest-effects-and-why-it-matters/. Visible Learning is a decent place to start for forming a definition for what “good teaching” looks like (some of the top strategies are mastery learning, formative assessment, etc.)- and it also shows why an understanding of pedagogy is the most important thing a teacher needs to know. So, even though TPACK is useful for explaining the knowledge that teachers needs to use technology effectively- I don’t think it sends the message that teachers necessarily need to hear.
Now, for SAMR. Again, I want to preface this by saying that I think SAMR is incredibly valuable in my own work, especially when I am evaluating the usefulness of tool. SAMR shows how a task can be “redefined” by using a tool- here’s a blog post that explains how a teacher is using better teaching practices because of Google Docs. She eventually uses the tool to have students comment on each others’ work and she is able to digitally individualize her instruction.
However, this approach not only isolates the tool from instruction, but it also seems to suggest that teachers are using lower level teaching strategies before using “technology” (and then suddenly, when they start using Google Docs, they learn how formative assessment works!). I don’t think that is reflective of reality; I know many teachers who are using formative assessment strategies (albeit somewhat inefficiently) without technology, while there are other teachers who could have a full lab of Chromebooks and still don’t give individualized instruction during feedback on student papers. While I agree that SAMR can help explain how “X tool can help you do Y”, I don’t use it with my teachers- because I don’t think every teacher understands what “Y” is. Because of that, I think it is more effective to focus on “Y”- on those “redefined tasks”- and on good teaching practices. There are already a lot of great teachers who are using the 4 C’s (creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking) without digital tools. They’re already doing “Y”, even if they don’t have “X” yet.
The approach that I think is more effective with teachers is: “you’re trying to do Y- and here’s how X can make you more efficient or effective (through increased access, better organization, more automation, etc.)”. That way, the focus for professional development starts with good teaching practices- rather than starting with the tool.
I made a graphic to summarize that argument— starting with pedagogy, then focusing on being more effective and more efficient.
What does everyone think about this? I know this is a pretty controversial post (at least for some of us ed tech nerds out there), so I’d love to see how everyone else is using the frameworks. What are your thoughts? Are you finding them effective? How? Push my thinking!