Conceptual frameworks for purposeful EdTech integration

Funny how the stars align sometimes…

COETAIL course four kicked off with a deep dive into some edTech conceptual frameworks, and I’m presenting next week on this topic and more at a Cognita Asia regional conference next week.

Conceptual Frameworks

There were three frameworks presented in this week’s reading:

  • TPaCK
  • SAMR
  • TIM

The first two I would advocate strongly for and would rate my understanding and application of both at a mastery level.

The latter, the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), I’ve seen a plenty, with the same reaction each time — “Meh”. Why? It’s way too verbose with too many categories. Imagine you’re a coach trying to empower someone with a simple conceptual framework. Then you throw this whopper upon your subject. The result is the antonym of empowerment, in my opinion.


TPaCK is the most widely used and practiced by me and the one I advocate the use of most. Why? It’s the “PRE & DURING” conceptual framework. Whenever you approach the planning stage of a new unit, this is when TPaCK should be posited.

This video is by far the best if you’re new to the framework — watch it now!

Here’s how I would explain it – simply. And add a little personal flavour:

CK – Content Knowledge: First, start with the content of your curriculum. Lines of inquiry, standards, etc. This is what drives the learning. This is the guided inquiry, the rigour, and more.

PK – Pedagogical Knowledge (that considers context and agency): This is where you and your team bring in your excellence in your craft, innovation and creativity to design an engaging unit WITH your learners – honouring their voices, prior knowledge and needs. Making sure the unit is personalized, rather than differentiated.

Also, this is where teachers are considering the context. For example, are your learners learning from home due to the pandemic? Is something currently happening in the world that would have an authentic fit in the unit?

TK – Technological Knowledge: This comes last on purpose. Never start with an edTech tool and try and make it fit into the curriculum and pedagogy.

Good pedagogy coupled with a rigorous curriculum that promotes guided inquiry and honours agency will reveal the edTech tools.

What I mean here, is thinking, as educators, with this question during the planning phase: “What are the variety of ways learners could demonstrate their understanding of this unit?” Spend time during the unit asking your learners the same question. Then think of robust tools or applications that could be used. For example, if the task is to create a mask in a visual arts unit that represents the cultural holiday of “Day of the Dead”, kids could use paper, canvas, Sketches School, Keynote, and, after asking your learners this question, even Minecraft.

TPaCK is the sweet spot – where all these concentric circles overlap.


Matthew Koehler, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


This is a good reflection tool to look at how technology was (or will be) used and to reflect on ways to use it better.

Where SAMR falls short is misinterpreting the model in that all learning should be “redefined”.

Start small and dream big, especially when we’re trying to empower those adverse to embrace the purposeful integration of EdTech in their practice.

I like SAMR, but I don’t love it. Its aims are good, however.

Here’s a simple explanation, with some examples:

Substitution: Think of a worksheet and learners are just doing it online. Not the best example of purposeful use of edTech. However, if kids are learning from home and have no access to a printer, this is effective.

Augmentation: Now maybe the digital worksheet is adaptive based on responses. Meaning that the questions are a bit more unique to each user, personalizing the learning a little.

Modification: So instead of giving the learners questions on a worksheet, they could be collaboratively making their own questions, responding to a provocation like a video on a shared document.

Redefinition: After watching a provocation, learners can connect with another classroom across the globe, who are currently “living” what they are learning about. Perhaps it’s learning about how flooding impacts communities. A class in Louisiana could connect with a class in Bangladesh and compare and contrast, on one document together, whilst video conferencing, what flooding is like to them, respectively.

The SAMR Model
Lefflerd, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In case you need another SAMR explanation perspective, John Spencer does a great job in this two-minute video:

And now time for a bonus conceptual framework…


Okay, the acronym probably isn’t the most attractive, but this matrix, developed by Royce Kimmons (2020) that builds upon the RAT framework (Hughes, Thomas, & Scharber, 2006), is probably my new favourite conceptual framework.

Through global collaboration on the upcoming keynote on EdTech mentioned at the start of this post, I can thank my partner, Tim Evans, an educational technology coach, for introducing it to me.

This image is licensed under a CC BY 3.0 license by Dr. Royce Kimmons.

This video, on Kimmon’s website, is a great place for info, on this model, and more.

Put simply, Kimmon’s posits that, to use the matrix, teachers must ask themselves two questions:

  1. What is the technology use’s effect on practice?
    • Replacement
    • Amplification
    • Transformation
  2. What are the students doing with the technology?
    • Passive
    • Interacting
    • Creating

Therefore, creative transformation (CT) would be like SAMR’s, “Redefining”.

If you have the time, I’d suggest reading this excellent publication, which includes: An exhaustive breakdown of the matrix, analysis of other models (like those mentioned above) and where they fall short, as well as tons of concrete examples like the image posted below.

Kimmons, R., Graham, C., & West, R. (2020). The PICRAT model for technology integration in teacher preparationContemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 20(1).

Some leaving questions

  • What tends to guide your purposeful integration of edTech integration?
  • Which of the above models do you like best? Justify
  • What do you want to start trying based on what you’ve read above?

I leave you today with the sage wisdom of the great educator, author and leader, George Couros on educational technology (read his books).

3 Replies to “Conceptual frameworks for purposeful EdTech integration”

  1. I love how you explain the best use of each framework – this is excellent and really deepens the work. Rather than simply choosing one, we choose based on purpose. Thank you for adding this layer of thinking to our cohort!

  2. Hi Justin,
    Thank you so much for your post! I absolutely love the Pic-Rat framework and your explanations of the different frameworks. You have a lot more experience and understanding of them than I do and I like the way that you broke down each part of the different frameworks. I feel like I understand them a lot better now.

    I don’t think I could add anything to your understanding, but you have been a great help to me.

    I am currently working in a school that is a PYP- Montessori blend, and it is very tricky. I am working to take on the role of curriculum coordinator over the next few years, but there are many challenges with blending these two educational frameworks. In particular, we have some classically trained Montessori teachers who struggle with technology integration because they are so fond of the hands-on Montessori manipulatives.

    I feel like the Pic-Rat model will be more engaging for them and a better way for them to see technology used as a creative outlet that promotes student agency, even as they use hands-on materials.

    Thank you again for the videos and your great explanations!

  3. Hello Justin

    First of all, I like this colorful and twisted picture, it reminds me of something I can’t put into words.

    You have a presentation on this subject, I think that’s great. I’ve been with it for a while and I think it’s really great and challenging. But I’m probably still at the beginning when I read and comment on an article every week.

    Thank you for your contribution and words about my blog.

    With “TIM” I can only agree with you, even if I wrote a little differently. 🙂

    I watched the video for “TPaCK” and I have to say I like it a lot.

    When I said your words “I like SAMR, but I don’t love it. Its aims are good, however.” had read I had to smile. Those could have been exactly my words.

    About PIC-RATE, I don’t know. But what I like and that can be applied to many areas are your two questions below the video.
    What is the technology use’s effect on practice?
    What are the students doing with the technology?

    I want to try less than regularly questioning, questioning. Where do we stand with our technology! Let us use it purposefully, sensibly! How can we change or adjust things for the better!

    Thanks for sharing your information with us.

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