RealtimeBoard: an analysis of teaching strategies using the SAMR model


I stumbled across the SAMR model the other day (thanks to the prolific @dajbelshaw). For those readers unfamiliar with the model (Substituion Augmentation Modification Redefinition) it's a good way of thinking about what we do with technology as educators.

Since the start of this term I have been using RealtimeBoard (RTB) for almost all of my teaching. At Sixth Form level I have almost dispensed with paper altogether, whilst lower down the school I have maintained pupils' use of paper. I was very worried that in going totally digital pupils might become increasingly passive vessels for information I was imparting, having little to write down themselves. Another concern was that the technology itself would become a distraction, reducing the amount of learning taking place. It's nearly half term now, 5 weeks' teaching have gone by and so now seems as good a time as any to reflect on how it's gone.

To organise my thinking, I've loosely categorised the ways in which I've used the technology according to the SAMR model:

Substitution

I've used RTB as a glorified Powerpoint on numerous occasions. Geography is a very visual subject and it has often been my custom to have an image on the screen when the kids arrive. I've continued doing this and in this sense little has changed - a substitution.

Augmentation

RTB allows for much better annotation of slides and images, including by the pupils themselves. In this sense RTB's functionality significantly augments PowerPoint and/or Smart-board software like ActiveInspire (I've never had a Smart board in my classroom and now I'm not sure how having one would add any more functionality to what I can already do).

As an example of how RTB augments what was available in the past I think of a lesson I gave earlier today. We were using this excellent clip on the strength of the City of London as a financial hub. In the past this would have been a passive watching exercise but with the clip embedded into the board pupils were able to make notes in real time all around the edge of the clip. they can now return to the board at any time (and even print bits off if they wish) to consolidate and revise. A definite functional improvement over a clip embedded into a PowerPoint.

RTB is also better as an instrument for displaying documents alongside presentations. I seem to have more time in the mornings and late evening this term than I've had in the past and the reason, I am sure, is that instead of standing for hours by the photocopier I am simply scanning work in and uploading it to the board. No more rainforests destroyed, but also no more 'I've lost the sheet, Sir' and significantly less time spent in the reprographics room - an augmentation offering 'functional improvement' if ever there was one!

Modification

I'm sure OFSED/ISI inspectors wouldn't like it but note taking, even (sharp intake of breath!) dictation, has always played a role in my teaching. As a means of 'getting notes down' it is quick, efficient (and kids seem to like it!) I fully appreciate, though, that kids can switch off and write down anything you say if it's not handled with care (yes, I've tried it!) With RTB much more imaginative ways of 'getting the notes down' are possible. So far I have tried:
  • picking on a pupil and asking them to type a quick summary of what I've just said, then picking on another and asking them to edit it
  • setting up a cloze exercise, scattering the words around it, and then getting all (small set) or some (large set) to put them in the right place
  • typing a series of false statements on the board and getting pupils to make them true (this can even be done 'live' if you're a fast enough typist
I'm sure there are others. What I've noticed is that with RTB its easier to engineer note-taking tasks which require more active engagement but which don't take hours and hours to prepare.

Redefinition

If I'm honest old habits have died hard, and much of what I've used RTB has just been a slight refinement/alteration of what I've done in the past. However there is potential to do things in ways that completely redefine the way work is carried out.

I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck one lesson, early on, when one of the pupils in my class was off ill. The old way of doing things would have been to keep the spare set of handouts aside and ask the absentee to copy up of a friend on his return. With no prompting from me though, and right on time (a rarity for the pupil in question!), his little avatar appeared on the board with the message: 'Joining in from my bed, Sir!' He didn't miss a thing.

I will be blogging again about this in a couple of months by which time I hope to have built up a good bank of teaching strategies to use with RTB, but in the meantime get yourself an account!

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