Creating Innovative Digital Learners

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What’s Going On?

Now that second quarter of the Digital Education Leadership Program at Seattle Pacific University has taken off, we have jumped into unlocking the ISTE student and teacher standards while analyzing and discussing various frameworks for integrating technology into the classroom. Specifically, we have looked at ISTE Standard 1, which focuses on creativity and innovation, and Standard 2, which lays out objectives for communicating and collaborating in a digital classroom.  While studying each standard, we have used the SAMR and TPACK models as pedagogical frameworks for educational technology immersion.

Through these explorations, I have developed two questions that have guided my research and learning, which were inspired by the two ISTE standards we’ve studied.

  1. How can an educator best offer a variety of technology based creative platforms (Piktochart, TouchCast, Google Slides/Draw, PowToons, etc.) in one assignment or project and still make sure that the end result meets the same standards and objectives?
  2. When assigning a collaborative project, how can I ensure that my students are indeed collaborating–equally participating in completing the task? What tools are available to ensure, enhance, and monitor student participation in collaborative projects?

The class readings, my research, and the resources shared by my classmates have provided a huge scope of information to address these questions.   Below, I elaborate on a few of the most notable points I have come across in my learning on how to create digitally enhanced instruction that is both innovative and meaningful.

The SAMR Model

The SAMR model for integrating technology into teaching (infographic below), developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, breaks down how educational technology is used into four categories: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition.  This provides a scale for how technology is incorporated into a classroom, starting with substituting a digital tool to complete a traditional, non digital task, and ending with redefining learning through technology. This model does not suggest that the “enhancement” stage, including substitution and augmentation, is subpar.  In fact, sites like TurnItIn and Google Classroom along with digital tools, like free online graphing calculators, have greatly improved a student’s access to resources and a teacher’s ability to effectively manage the classroom.  However, the transformation stage, including modification and redefinition, calls for educators to incorporate digital tools that totally redefine learning, which is both incredibly exciting and a bit terrifying.  A few of these “transformational” tools that I have personally tried out are listed in the “redefining learning” section below.

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**A great resource for introducing educators to the SAMR model is available here through Common Sense Media.

Redefining Learning

In Teaching in a Digital Age, author A.W. Bates’ immediately makes the point that, “As more instructors have become involved in online learning, they have realized that much that has traditionally been done in class can be done equally well or better online” (n.d., p.1.7).  This directly relates to the SAMR model in that it draws attention to the less than obvious fact that technological tools are inherently redefining learning.  Bates’ explanation extends the SAMR model a bit however by elaborating on how digital tools have redefined both how a teacher informs instruction and how a student synthesizes their learning through using creative, collaborative, and innovative digital tools.

On the educators side, Bates explains two emerging frameworks for teaching, the flipped classroom and blended learning models.  In the flipped classroom, the educator records the lecture, which the students watch on their own time and then class is dedicated to discussing or further exploring the topics that arise.  Bended learning is a bit less clearly defined but involves a hybrid of digitized and traditional learning methods.  For example, in a blended classroom a teacher may use online sites to organize and share resources or manage the flow of student work, but the instruction may be provided in a more traditional format. While both of these frameworks appear to be in the “enhancement stage” according to the SAMR model, it is clear that, education at a core, is inherently changing.  It won’t be long, as Bates suggests, before the digital classroom looks very different from the traditional learning environment most of us are familiar with (n.d., p.1.7).

Along with the pedagogical changes to learning and education, technology is altering the tasks, tools, and experiences available to students in the classroom.  This is where ISTE Standards one and two come into play, as there are now so many tools that completely change how a student creates, innovates, and communicates both individually and collaboratively.  Below, I have included an infographic which categorizes some of the tools I have come across that transform and redefine student learning and relate to these two standards.  I choose tools that I have personally used and that are easily accessible to students in my district (we have 1:1 Chromebooks) but, as these tools are constantly being created or adapted, this is just a starting point.

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Future Explorations

  • When applying the SAMR model to technology instruction, is it best for an educator to begin with the first step, substitution, and work up to redefinition, or is it better to aim directly for redefinition from the start?
  • How can we continue to balance “tried and true” traditional teaching methods with new methods that seem to completely redefine learning with technology?


Bates, A. W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. In Teaching in a digital age (1). Retrieved from

Puentedura, Ruben (2014). SAMR, Learning, and Assessment. Retrieved from