August 13, 2017

My neighbour at school is not into the whole technology thing, but she is sensible enough to know that it is not something she can completely ignore. After a recent professional development session, where we talked about where everybody is and what they are doing when it comes to technology, she came to me and asked what I think would be a realistic starting point. So we decided that as a department we are going to EMBRACE SUBSTITUTION. That means that all worksheets we use must be either scanned in or retyped and saved in a shared folder. The same goes for all tests, exams and memos. Where ever it is educationally sound we will replace printed copies with electronic worksheets – geometry worksheets, for example, will still be printed. Our aim is that within 12 months we want to have electronic versions of everything we are using in class.

SAMR model

One of the most common models used when describing technology integration is the SAMR model made famous by Dr Reuben Puentedura. The aim of this model is to help teachers design activities that result in higher levels of achievement in their students.

It is a relatively simple model and consist of 4 stages:

SUBSTITUTION – replacing what you have with an electronic replica. Substitution involves no change in teaching style or the way you use the activity. The only thing that change is the format of the activity.

AUGMENTATION – The task is still the same, but you add slight changes that technology allows you to make. For example, if you are not going to print the notes, there’s no advantage to shrinking it to fit onto one page, you can make it as big as you want. You can also add big colour pictures that would not have been possible if you were planning to print the notes.

MODIFICATION – The outcome is still the same but has been enhanced by the inclusion of technology. Modification often involves giving a different type of assignment. For example instead of doing a prepared reading, learners hand in a video clip.

REDEFINED – These activities would have been completely impossible without technology. This stage is characteristic of giving students more control over the format the assignment will take.

SAMR is often described as a ladder that teachers need to work through when integrating technology. But that is not an accurate description. It is more of a menu that teachers pick from. Somedays you might be trying your hand at redefining a lesson, while the next day you would be doing substitution. So much so that a lot of eLearning gurus are saying that teachers should not be wasting their time with the first two levels. And while I agree that you don’t need to first substitute everything, before you augment them, only to modify them before you can get to redefining activities, I have found that substituting is a great place to start.

For more on the SAMR model 

Rome was not build in a day

You will often find that teachers put off technology integration because they see this huge mountain that they do not know how to climb. Or they have this faint idea of redefining an activity, but they can’t get a grip on how to go about it. When they do try it, often it would backfire because it was such an ambitious project. By nature, I am a very impatient person, but as eLearning champion, I had to learn the value of starting with small steps.

You set yourself up for disappointment if you expect teachers to use technology on a consistent basis until they have electronic resources. If all your resources sit in a file on your bookcase, it is much quicker to make 30 copies of it, than to substitute it with an electronic version. However, once your resources are on your computer the game changes. Suddenly planning goes a lot quicker when you post all worksheets electronically. And once you get the hang of scheduling your worksheets, you really start reaping the benefits.

But this takes time. It is now a year since we decided to embrace substitution and slowly it feels like we are winning. You would think picking the lowest step on the ladder meant it would be easy, but there were lots of times when we got irritated, fed-up and wanted to give up. In the end, we did not meet our aim of substituting everything withing 12 months, Rome was not built in a day or even a year. There were times when things got hectic, and it just ended up being easier to fall back on old habits. But we did the bulk of it. And I can’t explain the joy when you do your planning for the next week, and you realise that everything is scanned in and ready to post to your learners.

Practical Tips for Substitution

Here are some practical tips to start you off when embracing substitution

The power of collaboration

One of the biggest advantages of technology is collaboration, so use it. Every teacher does not need to scan everything themselves. Create a Team Drive for your department and share the responsibility. For us, it worked the best to each take responsibility for a grade. At the start of each chapter, the responsible teacher will scan and file all the resources we use and put it in the Team Drive. The rest of us can add to that and so build up our electronic repository, but the bulk You will often find that teachers put off technology integration because they see this huge mountain that they do not know how to climb. Or they have this faint idea of redefining an activity, but they can’t get a grip on how to go about it. When they do try it, often it would backfire because it was such an ambitious project. By nature, I am a very impatient person, but as eLearning champion, I had to learn the value of starting with small steps.

You set yourself up for disappointment if you expect teachers to use technology on a consistent basis until they have electronic resources. If all your resources sit in a file on your bookcase, it is much quicker to make 30 copies of it, than to substitute it with an electronic version. However, once your resources are on your computer the game changes. Suddenly planning goes a lot quicker when you post all worksheets electronically. And once you get the hang of scheduling your worksheets, you really start reaping the benefits.

But this takes time. It is now a year since we decided to embrace substitution and slowly it feels like we are winning. You would think picking the lowest step on the ladder meant it would be easy, but there were lots of times when we got irritated, fed-up and wanted to give up. In the end, we did not meet our aim of substituting everything withing 12 months, Rome was not built in a day or even a year. There were times when things got hectic, and it just ended up being easier to fall back on old habits. But we did the bulk of it. And I can’t explain the joy when you do your planning for the next week, and you realise that everything is scanned in and ready to post to your learners.

Create a filing system

There is nothing worse than remembering that you scanned this document already, but you cannot find it, and now you have to do it again. Before you do anything else spend an hour and create a filing system so that when you scan something or retype it, you can easily save it. For us, the easiest was to recreate the Table of Contents. In our Team Drive we already had a folder for each grade, and within that folder, we created a subfolder for each chapter/topic.

If you are more than one person working on the same file, it is worthwhile to create a naming convention for everybody to use. While I am not a big fan of creating lots of rules, it does make it easier for everybody to find what they are looking for, if it is named clearly.

An example of a naming convention will be ‘grade_topic_type’ for example ‘gr09 Parallel lines(worksheet)’

If you photocopy you scan

The last bit of advice I can give you is to create a habit of scanning everything. Personally, I am a big fan of retyping hardcopy worksheets instead of scanning it, since that allows you to adjust it to your needs and it just looks better, but when you have a choice between scanning or nothing, then scanning is the best option.

Whenever you photocopy something for your class immediately scan and file it as well. In the beginning, you might find that you still photocopy like you used to, but after a while, you will start using the electronic version, and by next year, you will have a collection of resources ready to use. When you are making photocopies, you are in any case standing at the machine waiting for the copies to be made. In that time you might as well quickly scan the document as well.

Be kind to yourself

There will be times when you don’t get to scanning. Or you will forget to save the files in the right place. While we set our self the target of 12 months, it will likely take us two years to complete our substituting. The first year we spend scanning the bulk of the resources, in the second year we had a better idea of what we needed, so we filled the gaps and focussed on using the scanned resources.

The road ahead

After embracing substitution for about a year, we are now the department in the school that use electronic resources on the most consistent basis. We also have a very good idea which resources work in electronic form and when we do still prefer hard copies. While we might not be there yet, we are starting to see the benefits when it comes to time. The time we used to spend in the photocopy room, we can now spend trying our hand at modifying activities or even designing activities specifically for technology.

Where would I find the bulk of your resources? Are they in electronic form or do you still keep them in files on your bookcase? Share any other tips with us when it gets to substitution.

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