SAMR – The common truth

There’s lots of talk of the SAMR model, which simplifies the common process that people go through when introducing any technology, designed by Ruben R. Puentedura. This of course applies to introducing iPads too. There are 1000s of great examples of iPad use in primary / elementary schools but not as many in high schools. I thought I would produce a version of this process that is common with many teachers in secondary / high schools. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek but might give some people ideas about how it relates directly to pedagogy.

I have many colleagues who have gone through something very similar to this:

iPadwells SAMR 2


Gaming as School Assessment?

What can schools learn from why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments? I’ve been reading this book by Jane Mcgonigal on the effect of and reasons why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments. Here’s Jane at TED summarizing the book in 15 minutes. The basic premise is that the continuous feedback and desire for self-improvement becomes the drive to continue.

It goes as far as to say that games that have a definitive end and can be won are less appealing. A classic example is “Tetris” which became one of the most popular games in history regardless of not being able to win it! It never ends, you just continue to challenge yourself to last longer each time, whilst receiving continuous visual and sound feedback.

Gamers just want work and learn! The more work the better. World of Warcraft has clocked-up 6 million gamer hours in about a decade! (That’s as long as humans have been upright!) It takes 500 hours of play to reach the highest levels in the game and this is now seen by gamers as a small amount of work time!

The constant desire to get more work done within the world, whilst continuously “levelling-up,” and the fact that one’s levels are shared across the system is what drives the engagement. The other thing going on in these games is learning. the students only really score points if they show they have learnt something new. I’m wondering if we can bring that level of drive & dedication to work and learn into the school environment.

So I thought I’d have a go!

Here’s an idea for a mobile app system used by teachers and students that could work in many schools to drive student engagement but also provide individual student performance analytics to the school.

Allowing for my previous blog posts, I must add that this would only work in a student-centred environment where students were self-directed on large enough projects that the teacher is free to only offer 1-to-1 guidance and have time to truly assess how each student is developing.

Step 1 (Objectives)

The school decides on about 8 core requirements for life in the 21st century. Skills that it feels students must be assessed on across all their school-life and students can then “Level-Up” on each day/week.

These might be things like:

  1. Creative Thinking

  2. Independence

  3. Leadership

  4. Physical skills

  5. Collaboration

  6. Sharing

  7. Language depth

The school could outline a matrix of examples of how students might behave and think to Level-up in each requirement.

Step 2 (Technical)

Classes are set up on a database system accessible through mobile devices by everyone in the school. An app is created with both a student and teacher version. A website also collates the data for the school leadership team.

Step 3 (Levelling-Up)

A Mobile app is used by all the teachers to simply issue points on-the-fly to each student. Any evidence at any moment, either in the classroom or when marking work in the evening can gain points in any of the identified core requirements.

The app design is key and is simple to use. The class list is shown and clicking on a name brings up 8 large buttons that allocate a point on each click to the student for any of the core requirements identified by the school.


Step 4 (Feedback and Socialising)

Students download the student app and can login to view a live self-profile and see the levels increasing day-to-day. For fun they can design an avatar (maybe to illustrate a future career) and possibly even share their thoughts on their scores with other students in the school. Socialising about your levels using the app would also be key to the engagement. Students who have Levelled-Up in Creativity, for example, might share what they did to show creativity. Their peers might then attempt to model the same behaviour.

Step 5 (Student drive)

Students start to question at all times in the day how they might show evidence of creativity or leadership etc,  knowing they’ll receive the feedback on the mobile app almost immediately. They also understand the core skills are cross-curricular and essential to life in general. It also pushes the idea that any moment of the day is an opportunity for self-improvement.

…anyway, it’s just an idea and please feel free to make the system and become a millionaire! However, I might spend some time next year developing it.


iPad vs Standardised test


Student A has an iPad and is asked to show they understand Topic X

Student B is given a textbook and then a written test on Topic X


Student A uses the internet on the iPad to research current views regarding what’s important about Topic X and considers how it might be best illustrated using the numerous tools available on the iPad.

Student B reads the fixed content in the textbook (written 12 years ago) and considers how the questions might be framed in the test within the context of the given text.


Student A uses the iPad to storyboard a documentary that they will film with friends and edit on the iPad to illustrate their understanding of Topic X.

Student B reads the given text and seeing the Topic now has fixed boundaries asks friends if they’ve had a test on Topic X before and looks on the internet for past exam papers on Topic X.


Student A has ownership over the process and is intrinsically motivated to produce the best product and gains a deeper understanding of Topic X.

Student B is motivated by the attainment of a score in the test and as it’s not a goal he decided on, will take any shortcut to achieve this score, including rote learning answers for the test but often leaving revision to the night before. The teacher hopes that being focused on obtaining a good test score, understanding of Topic X will be an obvious by-product.


Student A has the documentary peer reviewed by other students who enjoy watching the film and explain which elements of Topic X are best illustrated. Student A re-films a sequence to improve the film they have developed and will never forget making.

Student B finishes with 66 out of a 100 in Topic X and moves on to Topic Y.

iPad = Autonomy = Passion

A desire to create Life-long learners can only be achieved if the learning in question is owned by the learner. If students work from the same textbook and sit the same exam, it is the teacher’s education not theirs and a genuine connection to the learning process is never formed. Introduction of iPads in schools should come in conjunction with a move away from the 20th Century idea that students don’t want to learn and external incentives must be applied. Given autonomy over the learning process means that a student with an iPad can find genuine enjoyment in all learning. They can enjoy displaying their talents whilst developing new ones in an environment that understands that humans do enjoy both working and learning. They just need freedom to choose the technique and time at which they will achieve the desired result. The iPad means that no student is restricted to only those tools on offer by the teacher or classroom.

Now that many global businesses (Google, Apple, Best Buy) are abandoning their 20th Century work structures, schools must follow suit or face becoming irrelevant within five years.

Four things that kill true motivation to learn:

1. Tests

2. Textbooks \ worksheets

3. Chalk & talk

4. Content based Qualifications.

Please start thinking about the chasm opening up between school life and ‘real’ life. Think about how fast the world is changing and developing and how relevant your students’ activities are when under your supervision.

There’s nothing more depressing than seeing 100% on a test. Imagine what that student could have achieved without the ceiling imposed by the fixed content.