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Technology Integration Approaches

Technology Integration Approaches

Cover Art: Sylvia Duckworth’s SAMR Model


To kick things off, @RCissel and @HarrisTeaches made a great infographic that compares these two different approaches to technology integration.

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart! Kicking off Course 4 of COETAIL, Week 1 asks us to explore Frameworks for Learning. In it, we get the chance to explore and discuss two popular frameworks for technology integration: TPAK and SAMR. There is a third known as Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), but for the sake of simplicity, I will be looking at TPAK and SAMR, then reflecting on what these frameworks mean in my context.

What I really like about this chart is the two quotations that summarize and distill these two frameworks down to their cores.

  • SAMR – Transform learning experiences, so they result in higher levels of achievement for students.”
  • TPAK – Developing sensitivity to the dynamic, transactional relationship between [content, pedagogy, and technology].”

With those pithy statements in mind, let’s reflect on what they might mean to me as a teacher and tech coach whose job it is to help others integrate technology.

How are the different frameworks for technology integration similar to and different from each other?

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

In my opinion, I see them as having similar end goals: enhance the experience of the student. That is, at the end of the day, technology integration should be making learning better. I believe the infographic above hints at the same idea by saying that the learning objective comes first.

The approach to that enhancement is different, though. SAMR, on the one hand, is about how the tool is used within the learning. Is the tool used in unique ways that only that tool can be? Or could paper and pen do the job just the same? TPAK, on the other hand, is more about the relationship from the teacher’s perspective. My understanding that TPAK helps teachers to plan and use technology by seeing the relationship between content, knowledge, and technology tools.

The funny thing is that people who are in the integration role in their schools often argue about which one is better– but I would say that they are different and not necessarily comparable. As I mentioned above, one is about how the tool is utilized while the other is more about the interconnectedness of the various realms of teaching and learning.

Are there other frameworks that you have used in your school?

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I use Cognitive Coaching to start all coaching sessions. I would say that I have two ultimate goals: (1) enhance the learning of students, (2) foster self-directedness in my coachee.

Cognitive Coaching is a useful “framework” or protocol that helps me to do that. In my professional opinion, self-directedness comes before say, redefining a teacher’s use of technology. It’s differentiation that I’m driving at. Each teacher should feel autonomous and capable of pushing himself or herself in their own goals. Sometimes Augmentation is what that teacher needs at that moment. In short, people have different comfort levels when it comes to technology integration, and my job is to help them flex their thinking much like Stephen Krashen’s idea of “input + 1” ( i + 1 ); my role as a teacher’s coach is to find wherever he or she is and push them a little bit further.

What does technology integration look like in your classroom?

For my technology integration at my old school and my new school are very different. I found that I was often trying to encourage people to use technology in the first place at my old school. I was starting initiatives and projects, starting the 1:1 program, and working with people/teams daily to be more innovative in their practices.

So far, in my current role, I’m still integrating technology with people, but it’s a different beast. Now, people use technology a lot. There are so many tools available, and the teachers/kids are savvy at using them. The thing I find that I do more often in this context is guide, coach, and facilitate the teachers to get where they need to go. Some teachers are at the beginning of using technology in their contexts, and I find that I consult them more and guide them through the stages of SAMR.

When I’m teaching Design, I find that the kids are quite proficient at using different tech tools; however, what I find lacking is the students’ abilities to focus on a creative task like ideation. To be effective in using technology in those times, I actually want the students to learn when to use tech and when paper is the best tool for the job. Turning to things like paper and closing out devices has been quite helpful in providing focus for the students.

How has your practice changed over time?

Photo by 青 晨 on Unsplash

This is a fascinating question. I think I used to be a zero tech teachers because of the places I worked. When I moved to a new school that actively encouraged us to use technology, I kind of took it and ran with it. I became a Google Trainer, ran all my classes online (i.e., paper-free), and gave formative feedback in the form of videos.

But you know what? I think I kind of took it too far. After working as a tech coach for a few years, I started to realize that technology integration is not about cramming a tool into every lesson when it doesn’t belong. Tech integration is more about finding authentic and meaningful ways to enhance learning. Sometimes technology integration is not appropriate for a lesson. Sometimes it’s essential.

I think that it’s all about balance and finding the right tool or approach at just the right time.

How do your beliefs and practices fit into your school’s vision for learning?

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

This is very much something that is in flux. We know that we want teachers to be using modern tools the right way, which is why they decided to open up a new slot and hire me. Yay! On the other hand, there isn’t quite the framework in place on what we expect. I believe we have an open-ended statement that guides our “teacher profile.”

So this year is about figuring out that shared vision, getting a Tech Director who can advocate for technology policies, and creating a culture that uses tech tools and uses them the right ways as digital citizens who are media literate.


  • Hey Alex, thanks for an interesting read! I completely agree with you in your approach to coaching people and meeting them where they are. I really liked the idea of the input+1 hypothesis. It reminds me of the many discussions of Zone of Proximal Development in teachers college. There is no point in asking someone to plot functions on a graphing calculator if they aren’t already comfortable using a basic calculator.

    I also really appreciate how you encourage students to back away from tech and work with pen and paper sometimes to spark their creativity. As you said was your own experience, this is something that I think is often lost when technology is introduced in school, and there is a sense that it must be used all the time, whether it fits or not. Tech should be used when it enhances the learning experience.

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