SAMR, Collaborative Inquiry & Tech enabled Learning


Earlier this year I began a collaborative teacher inquiry that would set up a technological framework for supporting literacy in the lives of our students, and increasing knowledge.

My framework fit very nicely with Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model. The following is an example of one way I am incorporating the SAMR into literacy.


Different Entry Points into Learning


What is the SAMR? Framework for integrating technology into practice. Possible entry points. Just an organizational principle, but does not have to follow this plan. Just suggestions/framework, then we can decide where we want to go next. Examples embedded.

S: Substitution –

Taking the literacy already being done with the Forest of Reading and substituting what students are already doing with traditional literacy, with  for example, reflections on a blog, book trailer on iMovie (if you have access to an iPad) or book talk on Prezi. Any web-based platform accessible from school laptops.  Other ideas??
A: Augmentation –

Include something new – enhance the presentation with audio, images, links, sound effects, animations, background music etc.
M: Modification –

Elicit feedback from other students in the class – tweeting the information and commenting to each other. Sharing blog posts, tweeting links to prezi for book talk, etc. other ideas??
Sharing tweets of blogs and links etc. with other students and teachers, authors, illustrators, publishers, Ontario Library Association to make more connections.
R: Redefinition –

Previously unimaginable
Perhaps using Google Hangouts to connect with other students at other schools and teach them how to do the same thing
Students can see themselves as the creators and producers of their skills and their work

My framework included a blog, website, and twitter accounts: @SCDSBforest and @SCDSBbookclubs, and now also @forestofreading as the organizational structures in cyberspace. A way to organize connections between students and knowledge across diverse communities, environments, cultures, and people. A technology supported learning environment and growing connections between students and staff that would help students to step outside of the micro-cultures that exist within our classrooms, and find their voices and passions.

We used twitter, blogs, iMovie, and held an online book club on Skype between 2 different schools within the same school board, facilitated by @mswift with subsequent google form data.

But the technology was applied to an already ‘well-oiled literacy-machine’, with the purpose of not just incorporating technology-enabled learning environments to our literacy programs, but also to add opportunities for promoting student voice.

More importantly however, I believe that literacy is directly connected with knowledge building and knowledge creation. This is because literacy is designed to support students to organize information in meaningful ways that creates new knowledge. It is important to move beyond the technology, and address the key pedagogical traits that we must apply to help us truly understand whether students are able to retrieve and apply their knowledge in meaningful ways. It is also essential to provide the virtual structures to help organize the entire literacy process.

Literacy has the potential to go far beyond book knowledge and basic literacy skills. There are opportunities and possibilities through technology that can help with the integration of more complex tasks that foster knowledge building and development.

Social & Emotional Development

There are additional opportunities for linking the social and emotional development as well. Opportunities for the students to connect with the characters and storylines, and then in turn use technology to connect with the creators of the characters and stories, other students from diverse backgrounds, and other educators, the list goes on. Then, students are able to share personal connections, and pulling together the different pieces of knowledge from various aspects of their lives and create new knowledge.

This also promotes digital citizenship.

I also believe that through the use of technology, we can supplant positive interactions and collaborative environments that may be lacking in our own classroom micro-cultures – one classroom, one teacher, and one group of students will never be the best environment for all students. Therefore, I believe that we can increase the likelihood of helping students to increase their personal learning, growth, understanding of themselves, and ultimately their performance in multiple literacies.

Please check us out! Get involved! Let us know what you think!

Websites to promote our collaborative inquiry:

Twitter Accounts: & &


@forestofreading that I am helping to manage for the OLA

In addition to: Facebook, Tagboard, Storify, and the list will continue to grow and evolve!


Last but not never least, feedback is essential. The organizational structures need to have embedded feedback throughout. Feedback is the glue that links everything that you have been doing. It links essential skills, digital citizenship, learning skills, overall expectations. It validates student voice. It enhances student  voice. Further, we recognize that feedback can come from others – via online book clubs, online Forest of Reading, via students or teachers across Canada, via Authors, Illustrators, and Publishers.

Self-assessment, teacher assessment, can help students to understand what they are looking at, and go beyond the basic principles of learning and reinforcement.

Teachers can use technology in a myriad of ways to purposefully engage in all of the important components of literacy. I look forward to continuing on this journey, and adding depth and breadth to this inquiry in the years to come!

This inquiry is something that I will most certainly continue to build with @mswift! She is a fantastic partner @mswift with whom I will be continuing to work with throughout the upcoming school year.

Come learn more about this program at the BIT conference in Niagara Falls this November with a wonderful partner of mine and one who greatly helped out with this project: @mswift – We are very excited to be presenting this information!

I would love to hear your feedback, and would also hope that you will connect with us in the upcoming school year!

Deborah McCallum

What is important in Education?

What is Important in Education?


I have recently been doing some reading and listening to  John Seely Brown, and so much of what he has discussed in his work resonates with my own thought processes and inquiries right now.

As I think about how our education system needs to change in order to promote the kind of learning that our students need, I am reminded that change is omnipresent. ‘Things’ are changing so rapidly, that ‘skills’ become redundant much faster than they ever have in history. Do we move beyond the skills to focus on ‘higher’ order thinking’ and helping students to ‘learn to learn’? I now realize after watching this video, that it is much more.


Play is perhaps the most basic building block of knowledge building. Play needs imagination, and imagination needs to be cultivated through play. Through ‘play’ students get to try new things out, ask each other what works, and what doesn’t work. The teacher provides access to new resources as needed to help students along in their processes. By ‘playing’ and sharing what we are doing, as learners we are able to witness what we are all doing.. we witness each others struggle, and hopefully gaining an understanding about what we are all going through – not just as individuals. It is through ‘play’ that we enable knowledge to be learned through concrete, and not merely abstract concepts. Our imagination can be applied to tangible elements that can be experienced by all of our senses, and not just our mids. These are also important ideas that many FNMI peoples and cultures have always held dear – the concepts known to be true –that we learn best by doing and watching others – Masters and novices alike. All with a sense of ‘humility’.

In this world, humility is so important. We give credit where credit is due, and we build our own knowledge from that. We are not solely the Master of our knowledge, we are also the learners, the creators – then we quickly move on to new learning. We ‘mash-up’ the learning, and as educators, we re-purpose what we have already done in our classrooms and learning environments. We redefine and modify our learning, and expand the knowledge bases with our own creativity. Every student and group is different, therefore why would we teach the same things year after year?

Next, connections to community are important as well.  What we do should be done for the sake of building our communities and families, and built with our communities as well. What we do we share with our communities, and what we do is influenced by our communities and cultures.

Finally, Social identity can be measured in new ways in the 21st century! Social capital and identity is being reconstructed in this day in age, by what we create and share. I was very inspired by John’s assertions that our students no longer need to be identified by what their parents ‘do’ or by ‘what they make’. Students can now identify themselves by what they create – and everyone can create something important and useful and interesting – it should not have to fall into a narrow category of isolated expectations as outlined by the curriculum.

Therefore, now, I am looking beyond higher order thinking skills, and am thinking towards ‘entrepreneurial learning’ in our students. I have new inquiries to explore:

How can we help our learners to be ready to pick up new information all the time?

How can we help our learners to be active participants in their learning?

In conclusion, I will leave with some of my thoughts for promoting the kind of change we need in education in 2014:

In the 21st Century we NEED to:

  • move beyond the specific expectations of our curriculum, and focus on the overall expectations.
  • adopt a multidisciplinary approach to teaching
  • remember what many of the the First Nations Metis and Inuit cultures have always fostered: a sense of ‘interconnectedness’ among people and ideas
  • look at the structures of learning and not just the learning itself to gain true insights into future pedagogies
  • take closer looks at other models of teaching that include ‘play’
  • not make education about the technology
  • allow our learners to engage in Inquiry
  • move beyond traditional boundaries and cultivate paths of inquiry as the only paths to meaningful learning for our students
  • recognize the ecology of our learning systems
  • understand that literacy and learning takes many forms and functions – just as our physical structures do.


Reference: John Seely Brown: Tinkering as a Mode of Knowledge Production


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Professional Inquiry to Improve Practice in Education

It can be very daunting and challenging to make real changes in our practices as educators.  One way that we can do this is to actively engage in the process of Inquiry.

Inquiry is a creative endeavor where teachers do not have to be the ‘experts’. The answers are not necessarily in a textbook, yet are creative and collaborative results of unique and challenging situations in our learning environments.

The main tenet with Inquiry is that success will depend on deep and sustained changes with learners.

HOWEVER, Inquiry is NOT comfortable! It not only takes time, it also takes a great deal of focused energies to recognize urgent student needs. In fact, it forces us to actively challenge our pre-existing beliefs to ultimately create positive changes in our learning environments. This is not a natural human instinct. The nature of human behaviour is such that we feel that need to hold on to our schemas of the teaching and learning processes. The following questions are natural

Here are some key questions that educators often ask themselves:

  • How can I possibly choose a focus within the current contexts of accountability and standardization?
  • Why should I engage in professional inquiry if I am already comfortable with my existing knowledge and ideas of teaching and learning processes?
  • How do I begin to choose a meaningful learning focus?
  • What is the process by which I decide upon an issue that needs to be brought to the forefront?
  • Will my inquiry mean that everything else that is important in my class will be forgotten?

How can we engage in important inquiries that will result in systematic and lasting changes to our practice?

Steps to creating a Successful Inquiry:

  1. Identify a key focus, or an urgent learner need. As Stephen Katz from OISE states, a learner need is actually a teacher need.
  2. Engage in collaborative relationships with key people who can help you with your inquiry, including other professionals, colleagues, parents, and other key community members. For instance for First Nations, Metis & Inuit students, collaborative inquiry should include families and community members, including Elders and traditional teachers. This benefits the whole learning environment as well. It is through collaboration that new knowledge is created.
  3. Venture beyond generalized focus of self-improvement, and learn to make the focus specific according to our specific situations and needs.
  4. Access appropriate technologies
  5. Give yourself permission to be creative with your own interpretation and application of new knowledge
  6. Move from a position of ‘sage on the stage’.


It is difficult to admit sometimes that student learning needs are also teacher learning needs. There are always going to be learning needs for students and teachers. But, the fantastic news is that there are also going to be new ideas, new solutions, and new knowledge available. These can be found by collaborating with other educators, parents, community members, and students; accessing technology and placing importance on your own creativity, and not assuming that the answers are always to be found in a textbook.

New ideas and knowledge will always exist and we also need to give ourselves permission to seek collaboration, new ideas, and new knowledge when are faced with new learning needs with our students.


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Re-imagining Education: Changing Prescriptive Teaching and Assessment Practices in our Schools

Jo Fothergill

Jo Fothergill

We are now 14 years into the 21st Century, yet we are living in an Education system that was built more than 150 years ago.

Yet, our children are growing up in a very different world that is interactive, collaborative, and globalized. It is a world where they can now look up new ideas, share them and receive feedback in real time.

Our current schemata of how Teaching and Assessment Practices should be structured needs to change.

We need to Re-Imagine how we facilitate learning and assess learners in the 21st Century!

Currently, in our Education systems, Standardized testing has evolved so much, that children are now being tested more, and at earlier ages than they ever have in history. Metrics involved in Standardized testing are demotivating and demoralizing for both students and Teachers, with Teachers feeling as though they are being tested themselves.

In fact, I believe that the ways that our school systems test and grade student intelligence is increasingly out of sync with the demands of our modern world.

The more we test and teach our students with prescribed and standardized forms of instruction and evaluation, the less they are able to learn, think for themselves, engage in creativity and take risks with regards to their learning. This also leads to larger achievement gaps between students who are haves and have-nots, which also leads to larger income gaps.

However, it appears that Governments and School systems will not get rid of Standardized tests anytime soon.

Therefore, it would be very beneficial if new kinds of standardized tests were constructed in modern ways, using today’s technologies to test in interactive ways that also allow for complexity and collaboration.

Using standardized assessments to promote Assessment for Learning and to guide facilitation of learning is essential in the 21st Century.  One way to do this is to embed Gaming and Adaptive learning opportunities into Standardized assessment strategies.  For instance, Gaming and Adaptive learning technologies are excellent conduits to allow for students to be tested in real time, and be automatically graduated to the level that the student is naturally ready for.

Further, students have opportunities to learn from mistakes in real time rather than having to write their answers at the end of the unit.

Students also learn best when they are able to set their own challenges, have opportunities to ask questions, set challenges, fail, and make changes. This also allows students to think outside the box, make meaningful choices, engage in inquiry, and become invested in their own learning.

Our students need to know that they are not failures if they are unable to engage in learning in traditional ways based on an Education system that was built over 100 years ago. In this day in age, now more than ever, students have access to opportunities that enable them to be inspired, critical thinkers, re-create their worlds.

In fact, I propose that our schools, school systems, and testing practices warrant a major overhaul, for positive and meaningful change.

What are your ideas and strategies for creating positive and meaningful change in our School Systems?

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.