Thursday, April 21, 2011

Answers to Open the Door

Peter Eckstein is one of my favorite colleagues. Not only is he a professional and a deep thinker, but he likes the Grateful Dead so much that Terrapin is part of his e-mail address! He called me recently to talk over some ideas about using technology in our work - it was one of several calls he had with a bunch of colleagues. Hopefully you received an invitation to the survey from JESNA or some other source, but if not, click here. This is the beginning of a conversation. For all of our sakes, I hope you will join in! Here is his post about this from his blog, The Fifth Child. (His blog is definitely worth following!)

Pesach is a time for questions.

So, in the spirit of the season, I would like to ask you some. I’ll start with one: How do Jewish educators learn to use 21st century educational technology in the Jewish classroom? This will lead to a few more. What follows is a survey with 15 questions (an auspicious number for Pesach). The goal of this short (5-8 minutes) questionnaire is to find some answers to the question of how and what we learn.

My friend and colleague Barry Gruber recently posted a piece about the smorgasbord of opportunities to learn what the ‘net provides. He’s right – it truly is a blessing. I wonder if this cornucopia is so bountiful that there will be many who, like the 4th child, will be so intimidated by all the resources available that they will be daunted by the act of beginning to learn. They won’t know where to start. They won’t know what to ask. If this is the case, what should we do about it?

Ergo the survey. This is an independent project to explore the nature of on-line Jewish professional development related to the utilization of educational technology. It’s focus is to find out how we Jewish educators learn about these new tools, where we learn from, and if we need to make these learning opportunities more accessible. I'm hoping that this information will help shape the way Jewish educators can easily learn more about the use of digital tools in their classrooms.

Teaching is leading. We educators create an environment for our students to construct their knowledge base. The tools that are being developed today and tomorrow empower us to achieve this goal. The complicated part is that we need to learn how to use them. There’s the rub. What’s the best way for the educators, who can’t go to conferences or don’t have local resources provided by central agencies, to learn how to take the next step into the world of digital Jewish learning?

Questions. There are many. And the answers may lead us to an understanding of what we can do to build a solid base of Jewish educators who can comfortably engage their students, speaking a common language. This is why I’m asking you all to take part in this adventure.

I must thank Jonathan Woocher and Rebecca Leshin of the Lippman Kanfer Institute for supporting this project and providing the platform to make it possible. I also want to acknowledge the many educators in the Jewish cloud who have contributed ideas to help create this survey. There are too many to mention by name, but I do want to thank you all for you assistance.

So please click here to access this professional development survey. Answers can be signposts leading us in the direction of creating Jewish futures for our students. We just need to start with the questions. Together let’s find the answers.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thinking About Critical Questions

I am about halfway through coursework for an EdD in Jewish Education Leadership. About 75% of my coursework is actually in secular K-12 education. As such, I am often pausing in my readings and asking myself, "How does this apply to Jewish education?" The following are ideas or questions I have recently come across in my K-12 learning that gave me pause to consider their implication in Jewish education. I am curious as to how YOU would answer these questions as they relate to Jewish education:

  1. What can we do to facilitate learning in other 85% of time, when kids are out of school? [Note: this figure is in public school, what about the 99% of time kids are out of supplemental school?]
  2. How can we expand the number of adults who are connecting to students?
  3. Can we reinvent the basic organization of schools in a 24/7 digital environment?
  4. What are the core competencies teachers should be responsible for?
  5. How much of education is "right answers" and how much is a personal answer?
  6. What is the nature of the process by which organizations, institutions, and societies transform themselves?
  7. What are the characteristics of effective learning systems?
  8. How is technology altering the very nature of pedagogy?
  9. Can you honestly say that your school's curriculum and the program you use are preparing your students for 2015 or 2020? Are you even preparing them for today?
  10. What is a literate, aware & prepared citizen? (of Jewish community)?
  11. What are 21st century assessments for learning?
The final question was actually posed ... What choices for topics, issues, problems, themes, and case studies are timely and necessary for our learners within disciplines? (i.e. What are scientists studying? What are engineers trying to build? What are the historians uncovering? What forms are writers generating? What are artists saying in their work?) (Jacobs, 2009, pg. 34). So based on this question, I ask: What are adult Jews doing in their Jewish lives? Perhaps the answer to that question should guide our Jewish education curriculum!

Bryk, A.S. (2008) The Future of Education Research

Jacobs, H.H. (2009) Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World

Schon, D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner

Smith, M.K. (2001) Donald Schon: Learning, Reflection and Change. Retrieved

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If you ask what a teacher makes, be prepared for the answer

My friend and colleague, Arnie Rotenberg, posted a link to this video on Facebook this morning. He said "If you ask what a teacher makes, be prepared for the answer." Enjoy the video. Let's talk about it!

Crossposted to Welcome to the Next Level