Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom / 541

The question of relative advantage is an important one because, in my experience, instructors that are reluctant to embrace technology integration, which is definitely the case in my own current work context, often cite the following objections: the technical learning curve, time/effort, and the inability to see relative advantages of technology over traditional materials and methods. This last barrier is the most troublesome.

To illustrate, our Department is at the lead of a University-wide launch last month of iPads for all instructors and students. This is a high-stakes project that the University administration and the Minister of Education for Abu Dhabi [a very important guy] are watching closely; there is considerable pressure on instructors to adopt this device and use it regularly in the classroom. For younger instructors and/or instructors already inclined to use technology, this is not a big issue. However, there remain a number of instructors who, despite numerous presentations and workshops demonstrating the benefits of technology, still fail to see why this is necessary. For these instructors the iPad and its associated technologies are simply an unwanted and unnecessary burden.

One could reasonably argue that the explanation for this lies mainly in the fact that these technophobic instructors have outdated theories of language and learning. For them instruction is still the traditional, behaviorist model of the teacher at the front of the class in control of all learning. They see themselves responsible for all of the input and output, as if it were a one-to-one ratio, which, of course, it is not. The result is that while time and technical support is being provided for these instructors, the reality is that they are fundamentally resistance to it, which feeds the purpose of learning about technology in the first place. They just do not get it. For instance, when shown examples of students creating their own documentaries using their iPad camera and editing on software such as Pinnacle, instructors ask, … that’s great, but when will the students learn English!?…

In light of this, and avoid simply repeating what has already been said about the textbook in this discussion forum, I would like to take the opportunity in this blog posting to discuss an interesting and useful model that I came across this past week as it relates to this question of how one can describe and assess technology integration. The author, Puentedura (2012), sees technology as ubiquitous, intimate, embedded, and the evolutionary product that stretches back through history of man, a history that reflects the development of socialization, mobility, visualization, storytelling and gaming. Puentedura (2012) also draws upon the TPACK Model as described in the course text book, a model that frames effective technology use at the intersection of content, pedagogy and technological knowledge.

Puentedura (2012) puts forward another conceptual framework, called the SAMR model, which “aims to enable teachers to design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences that utilize technology to transform learning experiences to lead to high levels of achievement for students” (‘Beyond Substitution’, 2012, para. 2). SAMR stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. In Puentedura’s model substitution refers to technology used as a direct substitute of existing tools with no functional change in approach; with augmentation, technology acts as a direct substitute for existing tools with some functional improvement; modification means that technology is being used for significant tasks redesign; while redefinition reflects the creation of new tasks previously inconceivable.

Puentedura (2012) provides numerous examples in various academic content areas. For example, using word processing or the like, rather than pen and paper, is an example of straightforward substitution. On the other hand, students creating their own digital multimedia products would be an example of redefinition. Puentedura’s model also builds on Bloom’s taxonomy, a conceptual framework that sees learning on a continuum from knowledge, comprehension and application to analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Like relative advantage, I find the SAMR model a very informative framework through which to frame questions of technology integration. For instance, when I think about these technologies with my students, I know that something like word processing is typically used for the most basic substitution and lower cognitive activities – not always, but usually. On the other hand, the iPad and associated applications, despite its drawbacks – doesn’t all technology have drawbacks? – is quite an amazing device in terms of the things that students can use it for, especially for the creation of original and creative content on the fly. For this and a number of other reasons, the iPad and its apps often achieves the redefinition category if used in a transformative and learner-centered manner. For it is at this level that technology is truly rewarding; not only for my students, but also for myself as an instructor.

The challenge is to get reluctant and uninformed instructors onboard.

Check out the attached PDF for more information or visit the links below.



Beyond substitution: The SAMR Model. (2012). Retrieved from the website

The SAMR model: Six exemplars. (2012). Retrieved from

Author: randyvanarsdale

I work as an EFL instructor in the Academic Bridge Program at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE and an educational technology specialist. In the fall of 2011 I began my two-year journey on the Masters in Educational Technology degree program at Boise State University. I will complete this degree in the fall of 2013. My areas of interest include technology integration, mobile learning, online blended & distance learning and gamification of learning contexts.

4 thoughts on “Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom / 541”

  1. My current school is implementing a 1:1 iPad initiative for grades 3-6, and a 2:1 for grades K-2. It is the first of its kind for the district and, unlike your university, there was not a whole lot of training provided to help ease the teachers into using the iPad as a teaching tool. There are some technical issues that also need to be worked out as well in terms of the functionality of some of the free apps. Rover can be a bit clunky with some Web sites that the teachers are trying to use.

    I took not of your quote that SAMR “aims to enable teachers to design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences that utilize technology to transform learning experiences to lead to high levels of achievement for students” (‘Beyond Substitution’, 2012, para. 2). I do agree that there is a reluctance for some teachers to use technology because they feel that the traditional methods and learning theories teach how to read and write better than technology tools. But I couldn’t help but wonder if teacher’s are also reluctant because they just don’t have the time to redesign and redevelop in order to integrate technology. As I begin my job search for when I finish my masters, I noticed that there are a lot of private companies venturing into the world of writing curriculum specifically for online and blended learning K-12 schools. Are there any curriculum develops at your university that work directly with teachers to specifically design curriculum that integrates technology, or does the redesign of the curriculum mostly fall onto the teachers’ shoulders?

    Very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to learning more about your iPad integration experiences.

  2. Randy,
    I found your blog to be an interesting take on relative advantage. While you cited the advantages of incorporating various technologies, many educators find technology integration unnecessary and nothing more than a burden of extra work. I think this example sheds light on the importance of us as educational technologists. It is our responsibility to show the advantage of enhancing learning through the use of technology.

  3. Randy,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. While the need, necessity, and benefit of integrating technology into a classroom setting should be as universally obvious to every educator as is the need for food, water, and shelter, unfortunately it isn’t. Here too, there are some holdouts, kicking and screaming in protest as they are all but dragged into the current century. Being in a structured environment that’s reasonably resourced with Smart Boards, Clickers, rich web content, and the like, there’s an expectation that teachers are using it. That level of accountability from admin and levels up helps “encourage” teachers to use available assets. ISTE NETS-standards performance indicators, and essential outcomes available and frequently addressed ( & ( doesn’t hurt either. But like every lifestyle change, it’s really the individual who changes themselves. When there’s an environment that encourages creative & appropriate use of instructional technology, and the teachers are aware of the expectations to use that technology, the only place to go is up

  4. Not only did I find your post informative and one I completely agree with. I also found the comments powerful as well. I love the reference to need food water and shelter to the need for technology in the classroom. My school and district are so far behind the world we live in I worry daily that we will not be able to keep up with the rigor of the Common Core Standards that are just around the corner. Very impressive post.

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