The SAMR dozen: 12 AI strategies for educators

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence | Monday, April 29, 2024

The SAMR dozen: 12 AI strategies for educators

This post is written by Becky Keene, an educator, author, and speaker. Becky has been advocating for modern pedagogies in public education around the world for over twenty years. Currently, her favorite topics include generative AI, esports, and instructional coaching. You can get in touch at

In the past year, the idea of using artificial intelligence to support teacher workload has gone viral. AI isn’t a distant concept anymore, it’s our current reality.

But while generating fresh lesson plans, quizzes, and graphic organizers is a starting point, it isn’t using generative AI to its full potential.

Ready to do more with AI?

I’m super excited to share some of my thoughts about using the SAMR model — a framework that guides us through the stages of technology integration — to get started using AI in classrooms.

1. Substitution: Replacing traditional work

At the base of the SAMR model is Substitution. At this level, technology acts as a direct replacement for traditional tools without fundamentally altering the task. Think of it as swapping out your trusty Expo markers for a digital pen on an interactive whiteboard. In the context of AI, here’s what that could look like:

  • Automated data collection: Instead of manually checking off assignments, view data about how many students have submitted work, and get alerts for late submissions. View trends in how students respond to short answer assignments in a tool like Curipod.  
  • Language translation: AI-driven language translation tools break down language barriers. Students can explore content in their native language, fostering inclusivity and understanding. Translation is built into Microsoft Edge browser and Microsoft Teams meetings. Think of all the ways your students can connect around the world when language isn’t a barrier!  
  • Dictation and read aloud: Let students speak their thoughts into a word processing tool or text box. Give students audio support by allowing them to listen to a piece of text, either while they read along or separately. There’s been some great research to support this as an effective strategy for all types of learners.

2. Augmentation: Enhancing the task

Moving up a level in the framework is Augmentation. Here, technology enhances the task. Students are expected to do the same thing as before, but now there is functional improvement. Consider these AI-infused enhancements:

  • Adaptive learning platforms: AI algorithms analyze student performance and adapt content accordingly. Personalized learning pathways cater to individual needs, ensuring no student is left behind. Check out the Learning Accelerators by Microsoft Education for student aids like Reading Coach, Math Coach, Search Coach, and Speaker Coach.
  • Chatbots for student support: AI chatbots provide instant answers to common queries, freeing educators to focus on deeper interactions. Whether it’s clarifying assignment instructions or explaining complex concepts, chatbots are available 24/7. Create free, student-safe chatbots in the Sidekick feature inside SchoolAI.
  • Cognitive load reduction: Let a tool like Copilot (free, 13+) summarize a long PDF, website, or text sample for your students as they research. They can also use generative AI to create a workback plan for a project, give them steps to get started, or help them ideate to begin.

3. Modification: Redesigning learning experiences

The Modification level is the first step in transformation. Here we begin to redesign learning experiences! Imagine new possibilities by changing the task completely.

  • Personalized Content Creation: AI-generated content — such as informal assessments, practice exercises, and interactive simulations—caters to diverse learning styles. Set up a custom tutor to leverage generative AI to help students through a tough topic. My favorite tool for this is SchoolAI’s built-in subject tutors.
  • Collaborative projects: Students collaborate on AI-empowered projects, from designing chatbots to creating builds using code in Minecraft Education. It’s no longer necessary for students to be coding experts to access these tools. These real-world applications foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills. And, as my friend Mike Tholfsen would say, “real time authoring as the end goal is so 2005.” Upgrade your students’ collaborative experiences from shared docs to creation experiences with passion-based outcomes supported by AI assistants!  
  • Automated Feedback Loops: AI provides timely feedback on student work, guiding revisions and growth. Imagine an AI writing coach that nudges students toward stronger arguments or clearer prose. Use Microsoft Editor to get the basics done, then encourage older students to use a tool like Copilot with data protection to give them specific feedback on their writing. (I never copy/paste my intellectual property into an AI tool that’s going to save my work to train its model later, and neither should your students!)

4. Redefinition: Shifting Paradigms

The highest level of the SAMR model is Redefinition. At this point, technology truly transforms education in ways that were previously inconceivable. Students are now able to achieve in ways that weren’t possible before. These are learning experiences that couldn’t happen without the tools we now have available.

  • Virtual reality classrooms: AI-powered VR environments transport students to historical events or scientific phenomena. Imagine walking alongside Shakespeare during a soliloquy or exploring the human body at the cellular level – all in a space that is tailored to the student’s previous interests, voice, behaviors, avatar, and emotion. Class VR is a great way to get started with these ideas.
  • AI as co-creator: Students collaborate with AI to solve real-world problems. Whether it’s climate modeling, medical research, or artistic expression, AI becomes a creative partner. I love using Canva for Education’s Magic Media tools for students to design and create anything they can imagine. (Older students can use Copilot, Microsoft Designer, or Midjourney for image generation, but make sure students 13-17 have permission from their guardians.)
  • Ethical AI discussions: Engage students in conversations about AI ethics, bias, and privacy. Explore the impact of algorithms on society, empowering critical digital citizens. The TeachAI Toolkit is a great place to start.

Embracing AI within the SAMR framework isn’t about replacing teachers; it’s about amplifying their impact. In fact, if education keeps focusing on creating more paper content for students to consume and complete, we’ve missed a giant opportunity to unlock a world of possibility for our students. We would be staying at the substitution level!

How can AI elevate learning experiences? How can it empower students to think beyond the ordinary? By integrating AI thoughtfully, and focusing on moving into new levels of transformation, we can support every student in new and exciting ways.

I’d love to work with you and your school to talk about AI in education, game-based learning, and more. Get in touch at or just reply to this post!

Read more examples of how to integrate AI with the 7 Cs in another blog post from Becky Keene.

FREE teaching ideas and templates in your inbox every week!
Subscribe to Ditch That Textbook
Love this? Don’t forget to share