Is Hope Stronger Than Fear? Inquiry Learning Though The SAMR Model

On Thursday, May 21st the grade 8 students from Nellie McClung Public School in Maple, Ontario and the grade 8 students from Bakersfield Public School in Thornhill, Ontario completed a 2 month long exploration of the inquiry question, “Is hope stronger than fear?”. We thought who better to help us dig deeper into this focus than someone who had truly lived a life in which the answer to this question helped them survive.  We each welcomed an inspirational Holocaust survivor to our schools to share their stories with our students. Our hope was after hearing them speak, the students could engage in rich and meaningful dialogue about the relationship between hope and fear.

How the SAMR model for Technology Integration made this learning transformative

Earlier in the school year, I learned about the SAMR model.  


I had been chatting with +Cori Frede on G+ in December about the possibility of inviting a Holocaust survivor to speak with each of our classes and then sharing the experience by posting the videos on a shared Google Site. Circumstances out of our control halted these joint plans but we each continued on our own. Soon after I was speaking with +Jeanette Hummel, a good friend and colleague of mine, and together we brainstormed how we could take this already valuable experience and make it a transformative one through the use of technology.

Substitution & Augmentation

We’d each host a guest speaker but invite other schools to join us via Google Hangout. We felt this first idea took the plan into the substitution stage as well as right into the augmentation stage. Students could have bused to our schools to hear the speaker so the technology was just a substitute but it was unlikely that this would have happened due to the cost of a bus and the timing of the event.  This is why we believe it was a functional improvement in the plan as we were allowing a wider audience to participate in the inquiry process.


Next came the idea to not just host a regular Google Hangout but instead a Google Hangout on Air. By broadcasting our sessions live on YouTube and then having the recording available for future viewing, we create the possibility for students all over the world to share this experience and learn from our discussions simultaneously or in the future.  We publicized the events on Google Plus and were pleased to see a few people RSVP yes. We think this step took the learning into the transformative stage as the concept was significantly redesigned.

Initially our hope was to have six schools in total participate in the HOAs. Although we didn’t reach our goal, we did end up with four schools from across our school board signing up with approximately 200 students ready to participate.


As we got closer to the date of the speaker series, we felt there was something lacking. All four schools were exploring the same inquiry focus, each listening to a Holocaust survivor. The experiences would be similar, yet different. With this realization, we felt the need to unite our classes with a backchannel.  Twitter became that outlet. We created the hashtag #yrdsbhopevsfear and asked groups of students and teachers to tweet before the HOA, during the HOA (subtly off to the side or in the back to avoid being disrespectful to the speaker) and after. This enabled all of the students to discuss their reflections, learnings, and questions as they listened attentively to the speaker in front of them.

Ideally, we wanted to make this experience as inclusive as possible. Using the app Visible Tweets allowed participating students to see the backchannel discussion, uniting all 200 students in our common inquiry focus.

It was through the use of Twitter as a backchannel that this experience moved into the redefinition stage of the SAMR model. We broke down the walls that once existed between schools, and built up a community of learners who would otherwise never have been able to learn together. Today, and in the future, all learners, those currently involved and those that who one day might be, can continue to tweet to #yrdsbhopevsfear and extend the discussion, showing that inquiry does not need a definitive ending. Because Google Hangouts on Air are recorded for posterity, these sessions will be forever accessible for educators worldwide to further explore if hope is stronger than fear.

Connecting learners in this way, simply would not have been possible without this technology.

Is Hope Stronger Than Fear? (session A)

Is Hope Stronger Than Fear? (session B)

Thanks to +Cori Frede for the initial inspiration.

Thanks to our YRDSB consultant +Kristin Chaisson-Bombard, Digital Literacy Resource Teachers +Scott Monahan, +Aimee Ford, +Heather Leatham, our eLearning Specialist +Bradley Clayden, and my principal +Wendy Thompson for assisting with the technological side of the presentation and helping to make our vision come to life.

Thanks to +Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB for the inspiration to explore this experience through the SAMR model.

Thanks to the teachers involved, +Paul Bartolomeo, +Allison Baxter, Cindy Freeman, Danielle Mulligan, and +Jennifer Pinnigar for supporting the inquiry questions in their own classrooms, which allowed for the rich conversations prior to, during and after the HOA.

Thanks to those who helped find the inspirational Holocaust speakers, Shauna Waltman, Michelle Fishman, and Rachel Libman. Without them we never would have made it past the first hurdle.

Thank you to +Jeanette Hummel who co-wrote this post with me.  Our students shared this experience and instead of blogging about it myself, in the spirit of what we reflected on, I thought we should write this post together.

Finally, and certainly most importantly, thank you to the amazing speakers themselves, Faigie Libman and Rose Lipsyzc, for sharing their inspirational and emotionally-driven stories demonstrating to our students the importance of searching for and holding on to hope, even in the darkest of times.

+Jeanette Hummel has been working with YRDSB for the past 4 years, and within the last year has been increasing the use of Google Apps for Education in her classroom. She finds it significantly improves student engagement and has positively changed the dynamics of her classroom teaching abilities. As well, student work has become much richer since its introduction, as it has allowed for many different access points for all types of learners. She has presented at various EdTech conferences including EdTech Team’s Ontario GAFE Summit.
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