Goodbye SAMR, Hello RATL!

In the realm of technology integration models, it appears that SAMR is king. While being the most widely recognized model, SAMR is not the only one out there. It is easy for a tech integrationist to ride the SAMR train to seem in touch with the pulse of the ed tech world. But is SAMR really the best model for you and your district?

The concept of SAMR is difficult to argue; push teachers to use technology in transformative ways in their classroom. I hope that all schools adopt a theoretical model that promotes excellent tech integration. However, there are some issues with the SAMR model that should be critically examined. The most common criticism is that of ambiguity, especially in the middle two levels.  One of the first rules of rubric assessment is to create clear criteria. The lowest and highest level, Substitution and Redefinition, respectively, are very well defined. However the middle two levels of Augmentation and Modification are amorphous at best, at least when it is viewed from a classroom perspective.  While an educational researcher might have a very clear idea of what qualifies for each stage, to a classroom practitioner, the delineation may not be so clear. SAMR may function well as a model for researchers, but as a four point rubric for school districts, SAMR has been less effective than I had hoped.

I understand that Puenteduras’ goal was for every teacher to push toward re-definitive technology integration.  As much as I would like to see that happen, I realize that the framework alone sets up our teachers for failure unless they attain the top tier of the rubric. This is like expecting all of our students to get A’s in order to be considered competent. In summary, SAMR gives educators poorly defined criteria while setting the goal at the very top of the framework.

One four point model has been proven in countless studies to be effective in the classroom.  Marzano’s four point rubric  basically consists of four levels: Basic, Progressing, Target, and Surpassing.

Samr Rubric - New Page

Take note that the TARGET resides at level three, giving room for the student to excel.  When the SAMR model is lined up to the Marzano four step rubric, one major problem arises. If the TARGET is level three, that means our goal should be Modification. Extrapolating, we see that only teachers who excel past our expectations will be using technology at the Redefinition level.

It is because of these flaws that I lean toward the RAT model proposed by Dr. Joan Hughes. In her 2006 paper Assessing Technology Integration: The RAT- Replacement, Amplification,and Transformation- Framework, she and her colleagues propose a clear three part framework for assessing technology use in the classroom. The idea is very similar to the SAMR model, yet the delineation much clearer (no squishy middle levels). Not only is the RAT model easier for teachers to comprehend, it also is possible to pronounce!

So what about that great 4 point Marzano rubric?  RAT only has 3 levels with the TARGET on the third level. There should be a fourth level above our target level of competency. I suggest an addendum to the RAT model, a fourth level called “Leadership”. RatlIn this stage, the teacher has demonstrated the ability to use technology in a transformational way and is now ready to help others do the same.  They share their work with others and encourage them to do the same.  They take others under their wing to advance not just their classroom but the whole team, the school, and possibly even educators all over the nation to do the same.


So, who out there is ready to RATL up their tech integration? Lets get shakin’!

15 thoughts on “Goodbye SAMR, Hello RATL!”

  1. Love it! I feel that too much hype has been put on SAMR and we are starting to use it as an evaluation tool. SAMR doesn’t work as an evaluation tool, because what might be redefinition in one classroom may very well be substitution in another.

    Love the idea of RATL. As I have been studying and researching PD aligned to the ISTE Standards for Teachers if you look at them, you will quickly noticed that independent or not they are in a hierarchy. Standard 1 is really about what a teacher does, whereas Standard 5 talks about how a teacher leads. We need to make leaders. We need to celebrate leaders.

    Join us on Sunday nights at 7 PM for the #mnlead chat! Where we discuss progressive leadership.

  2. Chris,
    Thanks for the post!
    I agree with you that there is murkiness with the middle 2 levels of SAMR.
    Where I struggle with your argument is whether or not SAMR is really a rubric…
    I think it is possible, that someone can be at the Augmentation or Modification level, and still be following best practice for that particular lesson. I don’t necessarily agree that every lesson has to reach the Transformation stage to be considered “worthy!”
    As far as RATL goes:
    a) I wish the first 3 letters could be different!
    b) Just like with SAMR, I think someone could be at the Amplification level and share that information with others. They would then potentially jump to “Leadership,” without being truly transformative. Personally, I think that’s ok, and another example of why neither of these is a traditional rubric.


    1. I agree, RAT has a negative connotation. That’s why I think “Rattle” might be more fun. I also agree that at any level of either model, teachers could be sharing with colleagues. Although I always encourage sharing and collaboration at any level, should we truly endorse them as “leaders” if they were not using technology in transformative ways? I guess it is all relative of where all the other teachers are. It’s not a perfect model but I believe there is value in offering alternatives to the unconscious mainstream. I am just glad to create a dialogue. Thanks for the comments, Mike.

      1. Based on the current definition of transformative, I’m not sure any classroom, even ones at SLA are going to be that way every lesson every day, nor shoud they.
        What if someone uses a new tool in a unique way to amplify and engage the class? (Kahoot for example) Wouldn’t they be showing leadership by sharing it out and suggesting best practice for it’s use?
        I think my biggest concern is creating a model that is used as an evaluative rubric, when in fact it isn’t.
        Whatever model we use, perhaps it needs to be mapped not to individual lesson observations, but to a portfolio the teacher creates that showcases their most transformative lesson. I’d hate to be evaluated on a day when I was only substituting or replacing, when if they’d observed a week earlier, I was doing something truly transformative.

  3. Thanks for your insight Chris. I am especially inspired by last stage, leadership. I really believe the way to transform learning and teaching is empower teachers to be leaders and share with one another what they are doing in their classrooms. I like what you say about not just advancing their classrooms, but the team, entire school and the global profession/system. My question is what do we need to be doing to support and help leaders grow? What structures needs to be in place to allow for this type of collaborative learning? I have some ideas but would love to hear what others think.
    Great discussion topic for #mnlead on Sunday nights @ 7pm CST.

  4. Regardless of what model a school chooses, the fact remains that teachers need support in finding effective ways to transform teaching and learning with, and sometimes without, technology. Models like SAMR and RATL, regardless of your preference, help to frame the conversation and move us forward. In the (many) years I have worked with schools in Minnesota I have often seen schools rushing to implement “technology” without any thought of support for the teacher, adequate professional development, or any effort to consider TEACHER voice and choice. Teachers then find themselves pressured to use the technology, whether it be interactive whiteboards, computers, mobile devices, tablets, or whatever the future brings because the school district has expended resources and the community is demanding results. We end up with business model expectations – usually in the form of demands for improved student achievement – when we all know that a technology tool in and of itself cannot impact student achievement. Only the teacher and student can impact student achievement, but if the teacher has an understanding of how appropriate tools can provide relevant, engaging learning for the student, achievement gains will be realized.

    Whatever model you choose for purposes of transforming instruction with technology, it is important to have tools that fit instructional goals. Too often we find ourselves in situations where we are trying to retrofit instructional goals to tools. Models like SAMR and RATL give some guidance as to what effective use looks like, regardless of the technology deployment, and can help coaches and teachers select the best tools for the instructional purpose. In my opinion, it is not a question of which model is better or worse, but how a supportive framework can be used to give teachers an achievable vision that improves student learning.

  5. Pingback: SAMR | Pearltrees

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