Home » Blog » TPACK and Technology: What Does It Mean to Use Ed Tech?

TPACK and Technology: What Does It Mean to Use Ed Tech?

This is the fourth post in a series related to TPACK.

The power of TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2009) is that it advances Shulman’s (1986, 1987) work into the 21st century because of its technology component. We know that “good” teaching requires the blending of content knowledge with effective pedagogical skills. However, in our “Age of Technology,” we must consider how technology fits into that relationship. As Koehler and Mishra (2009) explained, “Technology… is always in a state of flux… [and] any definition of technology knowledge is in danger of becoming outdated… That said, certain ways of thinking about and working with technology can apply to all technology tools and resources” (p. 64). It is here, when they discuss the “certain ways of thinking about” technology, that we can apply another framework.

There are a wide variety of instructional technologies that are available to teachers. Examples of these technologies include tablets, software, laptops, apps, smartboards, and soon 3D printers. To reduce this issue from being a “macro-topic” to one that is more manageable, we can reframe technological knowledge by understanding not that it exists, but rather the purpose by which we can use it.

One framework that can be used for these purposes is Puentedura’s “Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition” (SAMR) framework. Now, unlike TPACK that has a significant body of research related to it, SAMR has only been presented as an idea. There is not a body of research (to the best of my knowledge) that has tested and experimented with the SAMR framework extensively, but the principles behind SAMR definitely are intriguing to consider.

SAMR is concerned with analyzing instructional technology based on how it is used in the classroom, and it contains two levels. When I present my own research related to educational apps, I often use the slide shown in Figure 1 to illustrate this concept.


Figure 1. SAMR in Action

SAMR is divided into two levels and each level has two classifications. At the bottom level is “Enhancement” and it keys on using technology to improve a learning task, but it does not change the learning task. For example, pretend you assigned your students a paper to write. If students first wrote it using paper and pen and then typed it out using an old school typewriter or a simple word processing program, they would be at the “Substitution” classification. In this classification, technology is used to replace a paper-and-pencil task, but it does not necessary improve the product produced. At the “Augmentation” classification, if students wrote their paper using a word processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word) and then used the program’s grammar and spell checker features, that action would be classified as augmentation. The reason being is that technology is used to again enhance a learning task, but it does not change the task to be completed. The “Enhancement” level’s central tenet is that the form of the content produced can be achieved using paper-and-pencil. A dictionary and grammar rules book, for example, can be used to achieve the “augmentation” of the paper, as described previously. However, that is not true when working at the “Transformation” level.

Returning to Figure 1, the “Transformation” level requires the content being produced to be made only using technology. It can be replicated using paper-and-pencil procedures. Going back to the paper example, if students typed their paper and proofed it using the word processing program’s feature, they are working at the “Enhancement” levels. They can “transform” the paper by repositioning it as a newspaper, lab report, figure or data set, or some other format. To reposition their paper, students can use provided templates or they can customize their paper without using a template. In both cases, students will have to choose fonts, select colors, set margins, import pictures, and stylize the entire paper to increase its appearance, readability, and appeal to readers. In these ways, the paper becomes something that cannot be reproduced using paper-and-pencil methods. To achieve the “Redefinition” classification, students would change the very essence of their paper from being printed text into something else, such as a presentation, movie, or illustration among other ideas. The key concept for this classification is that the paper is redefined as something new, something no longer paper-based and that requires technology to create.

As we go forward with TPACK, the technology component must be deeply considered and understood before TPACK can be achieved. To do so, using the SAMR model provides a frame for considering how technology is used by purpose, not just that it is used. If you have some thoughts you’d like to share about this topic, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!


Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)?. Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education9(1), 60-70.

Puentedura, R. (2010). SAMR and TPCK: Intro to advanced practice. Retrieved from http://hippasus.com/resources/sweden2010/SAMR_TPCK_IntroToAdvancedPractice.pdf on Jue 5, 2015.

Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational researcher, 15, 4-14.

Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review57(1), 1-23.