On Sunday, April 5, I wrote about what "normal" means and that I find it interesting that we yearn for a return to whatever normal was for us. But I also wondered if that normal of our recent past was a good thing or if we yearn for it because it's not this terribly inconvenient and difficult time. And just now I'm wondering why we look back instead of looking forward to what could be and can be.
Educators are familiar with SAMR. It was an educational thing that blew through schools and became really popular around 2013 and following. If you're not familiar with SAMR or don't recall it, the model looked like this.
You can find plenty of resources to give you the low-down on SAMR and there are plenty of us who included it in our professional learning events. For a one-stop overview of SAMR and its possible correlation to Bloom's, which is what a lot of teachers wanted, visit Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything post on SAMR.
However, my point is that a lot of teachers got stuck on trying to move from substitution to augmentation. There were some CTOs and other administrators who believed that nothing short of getting to redefinition was an imperative, though too often they were hard-pressed to tell us what redefinition actually looks like and sounds like.
Substitution was an easy get for most teachers whenever technology was introduced to their classrooms. Augmentation was a bit harder and each subsequent stage was an even harder or more complex reach for teachers to understand let alone do.
Kathy Schrock also shared the work someone did to align some iOS/Apple apps with the SAMR model. Some of you will see that the differences between each stage are minimal.
Here's where I think the problem with SAMR lies: the stages and lists seem to be created without any specific learning target(s) in mind. Are any of those things listed above meaningful or purposeful tasks that are actual modifications to a lesson that may have been implemented without technology?
And all of that to say that my sense is that a lot of what has happened with this forced shift to virtual learning because of COVID-19 has been all about substitution. In every teacher's defense, much of that has to do with having no choice but to be reactive and having no clear sense of how long schools would be closed.
Most of the teachers with whom I get to work were trying to develop lessons in two-week increments, which makes sense. But once teachers knew that buildings would be closed for more than a couple of weeks, they had the opportunity to do some really creative things. In reality, some felt (and feel) constrained, limited, or even forbidden to do more depending on building and district leadership understanding of remote or virtual learning and depending state Board of Education directives and recommendations.
The challenges administrators and teachers have faced are very real: digital access equity in terms of devices and connection, meals, special needs accommodations and considerations, and more. I have been impressed by so many teachers who have found ways to overcome and manage some of those challenges. They give me hope.
Why go back?
Because one of the things I worry about most is the fact that too many are looking backwards. How can we get back to normal? How can we get back to the way things were?
Really? Was everything so great that you want to go back? Why in the world wouldn't you take advantage of this huge disruption and think about how you can go forward?
Yes, get through this year however you can. But recognize that precisely because you don't where kids will really be at the end of this school year that you have the opportunity to be really bold and courageous to make changes that will quite literally propel your schools into the future.
This is not the time to talk about what teachers can't do or aren't willing to do because, by golly, they have already proved you wrong.