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By Chevi Rubin
It is an exciting time of year in the life of a Jewish educational professional. Second semester is in full swing, Pesach is over a month away, and we have a few weeks of calm (yes, yes – with the exception of daily Adar festivities) to get our plans for 2018-2019 underway. You may be thinking about experimenting with online learning. Maybe you want to offer a small group of super motivated students a specialized enrichment program, teach Tanach basics (starting from “what is Tanach”) to your transfer students, or give students some agency over subject, schedule, or modality. The list of possibilities goes on.
Whatever it is you are considering, remember these 4 rules for strategic and successful implementation.
Date: 2017-06-07 Hour: 15:15
The Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy has once again been named one of North America’s top 50 innovative Jewish organizations in the twelfth annual Slingshot Guide (2017). Lookstein Virtual brings substantive Jewish learning opportunities to students in Jewish day schools, synagogue schools, and public schools worldwide.
Lookstein Virtual is a new model in Jewish education: an innovative, financially sustainable online school that teaches a broad range of high-quality Jewish studies classes to a wide variety of students. Lookstein Virtual seeks ways to harness technology to improve and democratize Jewish education. It is dedicated to bringing quality online Jewish education to students everywhere, regardless of geographic location or ideological orientation, and to supporting Jewish schools, synagogues, and families by providing affordable, innovative, and flexible instruction.
In the mid-1990s, a few dozen intrepid high school students enrolled in what were likely the first fully online high school courses. Fast forward twenty years later. It’s hard to think of students who take online courses as educational pioneers anymore. Taking an online course to fill a Biology, Math, or even Talmud credit seems run of the mill. After all, adults enroll in online courses all the time—to pass the DMV requirements, to learn how to use that new software for work, or to study Renaissance poetry in a MOOC. It’s only commonsensical that schools would harness this mode of teaching as well.
In fact, over 2.2 million K-12 school students enroll in online courses annually. The vast majority of the students come from the public system, but hundreds of thousands of students from private and charter schools also enroll. Jewish day schools sign up their students as well, though on a smaller scale. While 4% of all American public school students take an online course, less than 1%t of Jewish day school students enroll in an online course for either General or Jewish Studies. Jewish day schools began experimenting with online learning less than a decade ago, and at this point, several thousand Jewish day school students participate in online learning courses every year. This number is steadily growing.
By Chevi Rubin
In part 1 of this series we put our tech in check and discussed what technology can and cannot do for our students, our teachers, and our classrooms. We shared Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR Model, which provides a practical framework for teachers thinking about ways to infuse technology into their lesson plans, and we shared three ways that technology has the power to transform our teaching capabilities.
Read part 1 on Increasing Access to learn about the global resources available in every location and for every budget, the power of widening the audience for student work, increased accessibility, and practical classroom tips. Read below for more on Maintaining and Extending Connections, and stay tuned for our next blog post on Improving Quality with Technology.
The Hadassah Foundation has provided generous support to Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy for the creation and implementation of In Their Footsteps: Women’s Leadership in the Bible and Today, a new online high school course for girls. This new course will provide girls across North America with a first-ever opportunity for Bible study with an emphasis on female leaders, combined with hands-on leadership training.
*While not mentioned explicitly in this article, the SAMR Model is commonly used to enable teachers to design, develop, and infuse technology into teaching.
By Chevi Rubin
We have been engaged in conversations with Jewish school teachers, administrators, and funders about educational technology since the early 1990s. We have learned firsthand of schools’ hopes, excitement, and apprehensions with regard to EdTech.
Lately we have started to hear something different.
We are starting to hear tales of disappointment and frustration. Schools were too quick to implement new technologies, too-quick to abandon what was tried and true. It’s almost as if some are just realizing that “technology will never replace great teaching.”
By Ilana Lipman, Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy Director of Curriculum Development
It was about 30 seconds before the bell rang to signal the beginning of class when Matan approached me. “Mrs. Lipman?” I held my breath. Poor Matan. He was such a curious, thoughtful, hard-working student. I knew he had spent more time than any other student studying for the Shmuel Bet test. It seemed almost unfair to write that B- on the top of his exam, yet rubrics are rubrics and Matan had failed to satisfy the requirements that were demanded to attain an A or an A-. Matan knew that many of his peers had likely scored better grades than he, yet he still came to class full of enthusiasm. I mentally prepared myself for Matan to ask how he could improve his grade and how I could answer him without discouraging him. But his comment surprised me. He did not ask me about his grade.
Date: 2016-03-08 Hour: 12:49
Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy, a project of Bar-Ilan University’s Lookstein Center for Jewish Education, has been named one of North America’s top 50 innovative Jewish organizations in the eleventh annual Slingshot Guide, released this week.
“Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is honored and inspired to be selected for this year’s Slingshot Guide and recognized as one of the most innovative Jewish organizations in America today,” said Chana German, Director of Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy. “Our team has demonstrated that innovation, passion, and perseverance can be transformative in the Jewish educational landscape. We are thankful to Slingshot, and thrilled to be joining a growing network of organizations that are deeply committed to innovation and bettering the Jewish community.”
There has been much discussion lately about blended learning and its potential promise for day schools. Chana German, who directs the Lookstein Center’s Virtual Jewish Academy and Russel Neiss, director of educational technology at G-dcast, a website that disseminates educational Torah materials, are at the forefront of this debate. Their extended conversation on the Lookjed website for educators is presented here in an edited and condensed format.
By Chevi Rubin
Bringing meaning to online Jewish learning
In our last post we argued that flashy uses of technology alone will not get students to learn material in a deep and meaningful way. This sentiment begs the question, what does? How can online Jewish studies elicit real thought, reflection, and excitement in students?
As Jewish educators we have all taught students who simply love learning. We have been the lucky teachers of classes that eagerly read the Torah portion, anticipate the commentators’ questions, and relish in the centuries old and ongoing conversations that ensue. But we also know and love the students who struggle to connect with the material and want so badly to find personal relevance in their learning.