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The LMS and SAMR

My new district (still feels new since I've been in the position for about seven months) is actively planning the adoption and formal implementation of a Learning Management System. While it has made Moodle available for sometime, I am told the entire district only has a single teacher using it. In various schools we have pockets of wow with teachers using tools such as Edmodo, Schoology, and GoogleClassroom without a real plan or district-level support in place.

But as we start seriously considering how we will be using the funds from our recently passed $2.5M per annum technology operating levy, the identification of and training in a district-wide LMS becomes urgent. This, I believe, will be our foot in the door for changing instructional practices in the classroom for the benefit of all students.

A formal process for evaluation and selection has begun. Training dates have been set up. Our social studies department will be our pilot in placing curriculum, standards, and outcomes in the system (with help of the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum). The superintendent added this project to his list of exciting developments in his most recent newsletter. It's feeling like this will really happen.

The district instructional technology coordinator has been giving short presentations answering the question "What is an LMS?" It's a pretty good question. As I think about how Moodle or Schoology or It'sLearning or any of the other popular systems can be used, I always come back to Puentedura's SAMR model.


Graphic ource: Retrieved from RubenR. Puentedura's blogat

Like any technology, the LMS can be used for a variety of purposes, at varying levels of sophistication. For example:

Substitution: The LMS is used as a substitute for a textbook, curriculum guide, and assignment sheet.

Augmentation: The LMS is used to organize content materials from a variety of sources in a variety of formats.

Modification: The LMS contributes to the "flipped classroom" model of instruction, allowing class time to be used for discussion, problem-solving and other activities.

Redefinition: The LMS facilitates truly differentiated instruction by providing self-leveling assessments and activities and resources for a variety of reading abilities and learning styles.

The question I always ask when introducing a new technology or tool is "At what level do we start?"

Start at too low a set of expectations, some teachers may never progress beyond the Substitution and Augmentation work. Start too high and the change is so radical that some teachers will simply reject the plan.

The pundits who often don't actually work in schools with real teachers advocate for the most disruptive approach possible. I suppose there are some situations in which that has worked, but I can't identify any locally. The old "you can't jump the chasm in two leaps" too often results in educators just retreating from the chasm as fast as possible. 

I've always believed we should build a bridge across the chasm, linking new practices to old; providing great PD and support; and articulating a clear road map and timeline for reaching the far side of the gulf of the reinvented classroom. 

This will be exciting and careful work.

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Reader Comments (12)

Great post & I couldn't agree more. I use SAMR with my edtech students & the instructors I advise as a skills development plan.

S = the getting to know you step
A = learning what you can do for my students step
M = improving learning experiences step
R = is there a better way step

It isn't all or nothing. Depending on the courses taught, costs (time & money), the technology involved, &/or support; an instructor may be at all 4 levels at the same time. Always start at "S" & move toward "R". If you can go through the first 2 steps in less than an hour, great. But it isn't the end of the world if it takes months.

March 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRon Smallwood

"...the identification of and training in a district-wide LMS becomes urgent. This, I believe, will be our foot in the door for changing instructional practices in the classroom for the benefit of all students."

This may be the first time I've heard an LMS referenced as the beginning of changing instructional practices! Thankfully, I read the rest of your thinking. :)

Seriously, looking forward to reading about your next steps.

March 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Townsley

i always make sure my teachers know the mechanics before exploring vision. Once that is covered, to assist with the vision aspect, I ask the to reflect on their product with the prompt, "Would you teach your class like that?" It's thinking like that that produces "How can I...?" questions instead of "What can I...?" questions.

March 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor Cunningham

Doug curious which LMS your district will be implementing or have you not made that decision yet?

March 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDebra Gottsleben

Thanks, Ron. Sounds like very practical advice.


Hi Matt,

As you might surmise, our district has been behind and I am looking for a practical, but impactful way of using technology well in the classroom. The LMS and individual student devices worked well in combination in a former district.

All the best,


Hi Trevor,

If you explore the how instead of the why first, what motivation do teachers have to learn this stuff?


Hi Debra,

Still in the process of selecting an LMS. Decision will be made early June, I hope.


March 9, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I really try to emphasize LMS/CMS (we use Moodle) as a learning space. At the Substitution level of SAMR, it's basically a storage locker. The "Why" aspect is a point of policy and professional the challenge on my part with respect to buy-in is a passive vs proactive condition. Teachers tend to value things that help students learn as well as things that save them time. A well-purposed online learning space is a considerable volume of work upfront, and a responsible TIS should never beat around the bush on this point, but will save hours of work in the future for feedback, assessment, and recycling learning activities. I emphasize the "why" as efficiency. The How vs What is a matter of function and where teachers genuinely need support. "How can I have students collaborate and discuss a prompt?" "How can I be sure students actually use this resource I've spent so much time building?" "How can I support differentiation in the classroom?" etc.

March 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor Cunningham

Thanks, Trevor. I appreciate the clarification. Makes sense.


March 10, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

It took two years for my school to fully implement Schoology as an expectation, and I think many of the primary teachers are stuck on Substitution and Augmentation - I suspect the upper levels use it more effectively, or at least I hope so. I think we're at the point where some serious brainstorming needs to be done to find effective ways to use Schoology as more than a newsletter/photo repository and discussion forum! There are some useful resources on Schoology itself along with around the web, but it's like you say - start too low, and teachers get comfortable getting the minimum from the tool, set it too high and it's too much to take in at once.

March 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine Matthews

I've started a very introductory list of interactive learning resources that can be used to make LMS/CMS a little more engaging and carry the potential to augment or modify the learning experience. They're also great tools to support a flipped classroom paradigm if you so choose.

Please feel free to add any embeddable/interactive resource to this list as you see appropriate.

March 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor Cunningham

I've used every LMS you mentioned and for our 1:1 mobile learning program, Schoology wins hands down. The ease of use, discussion forums, rubrics, file management, connection to Google Drive, mobile app & push grading to PowerSchool makes it invaluable for students and teachers. Their support team is responsive and they roll out teacher requested updates 2-3 times a year. Take a look!

March 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterColette Cassinelli

Canvas is my LMS of choice - not only have I been using it for my classes for about four years, I have (and am) taking some online courses through it. Not sure where I am in the SAMR model, but I can say that having the ability to have reading, directions, and submissions all in one place is a HUGE deal.
I also appreciate the comment from Ron that it is not all or nothing. i think many teachers would jump on board if they knew that they don't have to use everything - only those that make their teaching easier and that replace (not add) to their job.

March 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Kenn,

Phasing in the features of the LMS is a good idea. Too many is often overwhelming. I am not familiar with Canvas but it's good to get a recommendation from a real person!


March 14, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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