The Next Step: Amplification… Amplify…

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post titled: “Enhancement-Automating-Transforming-Informating“, where I fused two models, the SARM model by Ruben Puentedura and Alan November’s Automating vs Informating model.


It made sense to me that Puentedura’s Substitution and Augmentation stage was part of November’s Automating phase and that the Modification and Redefinition belonged to the Informating phase.

But, I feel that there is a third phase beyond the Transformative phase, that I am calling “Amplification”. Now, one can argue that the opportunity to “amplify is part of the “Redefinition” stage, since as it is defined by Puentedura (…to be able to create a task, that was not possible before, without technology), but I am arguing that goes further and deserves to be it’s own phase.

The Free Dictionary defines the verb “amplify” as:

1. To make larger or more powerful; increase.
2. To add to, as by illustrations; make complete.
3. To exaggerate.
4. To produce amplification of…

Let’s take the example of a book report, that students have been asked to produce around the world in most school systems, at many different grade levels.

The classical book report/review  (before technology) asked students to read the book and then write a review, a factual summary, interpretation or recommendation about that book. Traditionally, students used a pencil, pen or fountain pen (as I did growing up in Germany) and handed it in to the teacher, who would read it, mark mistakes (spelling/grammar), point out possible omissions, grade it and then hand it back.

Let’s enter the Substitution Stage (part of the Automating phase):

Instead of having to handwrite the report, teachers are “allowing” the report to be typed up and printed out before “handing” in the assignment. The teacher will then read it, mark mistakes (spelling/grammar), point out possible omissions, grade it and then hand it back to the students.

Using the computer to type substituted (automated) the task of writing the report by hand. There was no functional change (as Puentedura defines the stage).  Students went through the same cognitive process as they were producing the report.

Moving on to the Augmentation Stage (still part of the Automating phase), when technology substitutes a traditional task, but adds functional improvement.

The student types the assigned book report and instead of printing it out and handing it in to the teacher the following school day, the student uses Google Docs to “share” the file with her teacher. The teacher then makes suggestions via comments on the file. The student goes over teacher’s suggestions and edits the same document before a given deadline, when teacher looks at the final edit before grading the report.

In this scenario, the process of thinking as the student was producing the book report did not change. Technology allowed to share the assignment vs. handing it it, which added functionality to the process.

Now we are heading into the Informating phase by entering the Modification stage. During the Modification stage, the task itself gets redesigned. By “elevating” a task to the Informating phase, according to Alan November, we need to “think about information systems, whole systems of the flow of information and communication”.

The teacher modifies the original task of writing about a book to go beyond paraphrasing and expanding the summary of the book sleeve. She asks her students to include for example research about the author, historic events during the authors writing of the book, timelines, connections to other author’s of the same genre or same topic. The teacher encourages students to go beyond the traditional “research” sources, such as other books, newspaper articles or journals and venture into sources such as Twitter, YouTube, Delicious, blogs, Shelfari, etc. Students create a book report comparing and contrasting multiple points of view of the book.

This example shows how the task evolved from purely automating to informating. From using technology to purely doing the same thing that was previously done with a paper and a pen. The teacher is teaching her students to take advantage of the tools in the information age, helping and guiding them to develop skills and information literacy.

The next stage, Redefintion,  is also part of the Informating phase. During the Redefinition phase, technology allows for the creation of a new task, previously inconceivable.

The teacher decides that students should not be confined to produce a book report/review in one media (text) only. She chooses to give students the freedom to use different media to create a summary of their chosen book, express their own interpretation and possibly add a recommendation why or why not to read the book for a specific audience (ex. classmates).  Students could create PowerPoints, podcasts, video trailers, multimedia posters, etc. Students prepare their “report” by researching, storyboarding and searching for or producing their own media to create the final product.

In the above scenario, students are learning to express themselves and to communicate through different media. The task of thinking about a book and writing (in text) about the author, setting, characters, plot, etc., has been redesigned to include different media with its different forms of expressions and different audiences. Without the use of technology, this task wold not have been possible.

This brings us to the Amplification stage.

The book report has been created, it is in some shape or form in a digital format. So far the audience for the student’s work is an audience of one (the teacher), possibly the audience grows after the completion of the assignment to include the student’s parents or if the teacher chooses to have students present their report in front of the class.

What if the teacher specifically chooses to amplify her students work even further?  What are the implication of this choice? Last year, I wrote a post about  A Wordwide Audience for  Six Year Olds?, contemplating these questions. Does an audience for their work matter to students? How can a teacher deliberately integrate “amplification” into her teaching? Also, take a look at one of my previous posts “Framing a Skype Learning Experience“or “CSI-Twitter” where an amplification played a significant role in the learning outcome for students.

I believe that there are different degrees of amplification and that ALL teachers can amplify in some shape or form. It does not need to be on a massive scale, nor global scale… (yet…).  Teachers need to be aware that through technology it is possible though to amplify their students’ work and learning experience and create learning opportunities that without these amplifications would not have been possible before.

Amplification Degrees:

  1. Share student work with the entire class
  2. Connect and share your student work with other classes in your grade level/building/school
  3. Place your student work on a classroom website (not password protected)
  4. Tweet the link to your students’ work out to your PLN to increase traffic to thee site
  5. Connect to peers, experts and eye witnesses from around the world
  6. Become a curator by organizing, tagging, categorizing your students’ work to share online

As we are amplifying our students’ work, we are exposing to and modeling for our students new literacies, such as network and global literacy. They are learning and creating (highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy’s Thinking) with an authentic, global audience in mind.

As you look at the various Amplification Degrees above, what could you add/insert/delete? Help me amplify my learning, by adding your thoughts, resources, and experiences to my own work.