01 August 2013

A Framework for Transformational Technology - SAMMS

Five Transformational Triggers for the Integration of Digital Technology

Transformative applications of digital technology are the holy grail of educators spanning the globe, and yet it is far from easy to achieve...

Moving from the Mundane to the Magnificent

Frameworks like SAMR and RAT are incredibly helpful here, but we still need a framework to assist with the top levels of redefinition/transformation of learning through effective uses of digital technologies. SAMMS is a framework that attempts assist with this, by determining exactly what the 'magic ingredients' are that move tech use from the mundane to the magnificent.

Determining these 'ingredients' starts from a position of describing what it is about digital technologies that make them unique, transformative—what is it they facilitate that cannot be replicated with traditional tools? Exactly how do pixels out perform paper? I've been reading a LOT about ICT integration over the last four years in my pursuit of a Master's degree, and throughout my readings I noticed a pattern forming—certain aspects of ICTs that were deemed to make a significant difference in teaching and learning, or to use the academic vernacular, 'unique affordances' ...

So what are the transformative, unique affordances of digital technologies?

Five features or facets of pixels that out perform paper -  (SAMMS):

Situated practice (work anywhere)
Accessibility (access to information)
Multi-modality (screen centred creations)
Mutability (provisionality/fluidity/malleability)
Social networking (syncronous/asyncronous people power) 

I've expanded on these categories in another post, here I want to consider what happens when you cross reference these with what I believe are the 5 core digital domains of ICT:

Text | Image | Audio | Video | Data

By all means consume, but the exciting stuff happens when creating‚ of course you can't have one without the other, you can't connect the dots, unless you have dots to connect... But if you work in any of these domains and also exploit as many of the aspects of ICT that are unique as you can, you create transformative experiences—the more you of these you exploit, the more transformational it becomes. And when you start merging these elements it gets really exciting, eg situated use, means you can access multimodal content anywhere, sharing with others, collaborate, and even revise your content as you go, on your own or with others.

Take the domain of text, most likely this means word processing, (although many typographers and graphic designers might argue with you about that one) but what does working with text look like when it is...

Situated Text

Everywhere is here. Exploiting the ability for ICTs to make the boundaries between school and home permeable, means that your students don't need 'homework' they just continue with their classwork—well that's what we do in the 'real world' right? I take my work home but it's not 'homework', it's work, some of which I am doing at home, and will continue at work tomorrow. If you're using mobile devices this kind of 'situated practice' becomes even more transformative, with kids adding/editing/tweaking on the bus/train as inspiration occurs, or as research based revelations are revealed.

Accessible Text

Reading and researching the world of the written world has always been more than a little overwhelming (if you've forgotten how overwhelming mountains of data can look, you need to visit a bigger library). Thank to the advent of super fast search, all of that data has become more accessible, accessible in a way that is transformative. Teach your kids some basic search skills and they can leverage the unprecedented level of global access to expertise that is unique in history that we now take for granted.

MultiModal Text

Now at first glance this might seem a little contradictory, like, if it's multimodal (image, video, audio), it's not just text, but leveraging other modes of media in conjunction with text is again transforming the ways we consume and create with text. As an example, I now regularly 'consume' media I have not got time to read on paper/screen by listening to podcasts as I commute. Students can use text to speech features to hear how their writing sounds, or to motivate reluctant readers, who may well be more inclined to listen than decode. Taking snapshots of passages in books, posters, flyers, and of course screen shots of inspirational material—quotes, slogans, titles.

What this is really about is a new kind of literacy as the multimedia devices that now are ubiquitous in our worlds mean that speech and writing are already being pushed to the margins of and replaced by image and others. The once dominant page, especially in terms of the newspaper and the book, is giving way to the screen (Kress, 2005). Let's encourage our kids to illustrate, accentuate, emphasise and embellish their text with image, with sound, with moving images and even video. Generally, I assume that when someone makes the claim that an 'artefact' is 'multimodal', that it's 'multimedia' ie, combining text, image and video, although technically using text and image together is multimodal, I would argue this is only true if the images are illustrations, not just decorations, that's a critical distinction. The imagery should be being used to communicate, to add more meaning, not just make the things look pretty.

Mutable Text

This is no brainer—even the most tech phobic will have to concede that the mutability of screen text is revolutionary compared to paper. Although, it is depressing how little this incredible capability is embraced by teachers—editing and revision can be transformational, creative experiences thanks to the provisionality of pixels.

Many teachers may yearn nostalgically for the 'good old days' of handwriting & cursive; and while that skill has it's place, it's hard to argue its benefits if the goal is improved writing in terms of making meaning. Revising text that is restricted to (often barely legible) handwritten annotations squeezed into margins or between lines is clearly inferior when entire paragraphs need moving, adjusting, inserting; with edits of this kind the student in question would need to literally rewrite the entire piece. Hardly motivating or conducive to reflective practice.

Cutting/pasting looking up meanings and synonyms, proofreading, all amplify what we can do with text, but transforming means exploiting things like undo button to encourage kids to take more risks; the save as, revert or history options to manage multiple versions of documents; the effective use of styles so that formatting changes can be made to an entire document with one click; smarter uses of (well designed) templates; grab snippets of text from multiple sources and from multiple perspectives, and mash, mix, mend, and remix them into something unique.

Social Text

We are social and of course nothing beats the power of social connection in the classroom face to face and the powerful synergy that creates. But with the advent of web 2.0 this conversation can continue beyond the classroom and more importantly beyond the strictures of the 45 minute period lesson where you will inevitably struggle to converse with every student on a meaningful level. Now, instead of "setting homework" students can continue with their classwork at home, only now they can collaborate online with you/with their peers who can comment/reply/respond facilitating a virtual conversation through the medium of digital text.

Since students can express their thoughts without interruption, they have more time to reflect and respond (Shea, 2003). This ‘peer-based learning’ is characterised by “a context of reciprocity”, (Ito et al, 2008, p 39) where participants don't just contribute, but also comment on, and contribute to the content of others. This transformational practice is already becoming seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the classroom so that dialogue and pupil collaboration can be enhanced and extended, (Garrison, 2004) a cooperative combination of multiple interactions, which is indicative of a new, collaborative pedagogical practice.

Triggers + Domains = Transformation

So, there you have it, transformational practice and here I have only described how this could apply in just one of the five domains. A similar level of transformation can be experienced by the judicious application of effective technology in transformational ways within each of the five domains, across domains and combining several if not all of the triggers.

How do the five transformational tech triggers transform the use of image? audio? video? data? How does this change when we work within and across these domains in ways that are social, accessible, multi-modal, exploiting mutability and situated (can be done almost anywhere)?

How transformational can our use of ICTs be when we work across domains? Merging text, with image; image with audio; video with data; all of them with all of the others?

Aiming for transformative applications of technology can be daunting, if so, it's a good idea to start with amplified practice and add the 5 elements and 5 domains gradually, like ingredients to a cake mixture, the more you add, the more amplified it gets until it becomes transformative. In my experience you will often find that your students will move from amplified into transformative practice quite naturally.

Let your students show how transformative technology can be. I think you'll find that—regardless of your own expertise—the synergy of a teacher's pedagogical expertise, content knowledge, and experience, combined with the natural confidence of 'digital natives' is intrinsically transformative. 

5 Tech Triggers + 5 Tech Domains = 
Transformed edTech