Thursday, December 12, 2013

Expanding The World of the Connected Jewish Classroom

Jewish day schools and afternoon school educators are expanding their understanding and skills in elearning as online learning evolves nationwide. Online learning can encompass any subject from Jewish History, Mishna and Talmud to issues which relate to Israel, Hebrew language studies and more. The wealth of opportunities has encouraged Jewish educators to prioritize keeping up with new tools and advances in the field .

One indication of the increased interest in the mechanics of including elearning in Jewish schools could be seen last month when Jerusalem EdTech Solutions (JETS) director, Ms. Smadar Goldstein, traveled to the United States to attend the New Jersey Day School Conference and the Jewish Education Project Conference.

During her visit, Ms. Goldstein was invited to give presentations at several area schools including the Solomon Shechter School of Bergen Field, the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, the Forest Hills Jewish Center, and Yeshivat Noam of Paramus, NJ. Two additional sessions were also given at the Conference itself.  

In addition, she gave two sessions with the Jewish Federations of Northern New Jersey which brought together 50 participants from 25 congregational schools in Northern NJ and a second session with Special Education teachers during which the teachers explored ways in which these tools could be incorporated into special education classrooms. (The unique session with the Special Ed teachers was reviewed in a blogpost at the National Jewish Council for Disabilities' website.)

The staffs' responses emphasized the value that online tools provide in adding more interactive and engaging activities to their existing curriculum. The gatherings examined elearning options, including linoboards and Learning Management Systems, that enable educators to expand collaborative learning and integrate elearning opportunities into their programs.
Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, Devorah O'Brien and Chana Zinstein at the elearning session with the Jewish Federations of Northern NJ 

Mashie Kopelowitz, Israel Educator and Middle School Judaic Studies Teacher of the Solomon Schechter school of Bergen Field, had encouraged her school's administration to invite Ms. Goldstein to give an introduction to the available etools that teachers have at their disposal after her own participation in the JETS "No Teacher Left Behind" professional development course. Mashie reported that the teachers were enthusiastic about the session with Ms. Goldstein and, within days, the entire 7th and 8th grade student body was working on linoboard projects and assignments. Ruth Gafni, Head of School, reported the exciting new tool in her weekly newsletter to the parents. Ms. Gafni plans to present SSBF's elearning activities in an orientation program for parents of next year's prospective students.

In addition to the popular Linoboards, several of Ms. Goldstein's PD sessions concentrated on the opportunities that Learning Management Systems offer to the Jewish classroom.

The Hebrew Academy of Long Beach requested a LMS session as part of their overall plan to increase their collaborative asynchronous learning modules via the Haiku LMS. Session participants received a Google worksheet which provides an example of how the LMS can promote asynchronous evaluation alternatives. One of the HALB participants noted that she plans to use the system to enable the students to share their recordings, which will be used to advance Hebrew reading fluency and conversational Hebrew, with the other teachers.

Stephanie Hausner, head of the SLI, Synagogue Leadership Initiative of the Jewish Federations of Northern New Jersey noted that, “Over the past year the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has had the opportunity to provide training to our principals, educators and teachers with JETS and Smadar Goldstein. These experiences have been tremendously valuable and have given participants the confidence and skills to integrate technology in the classroom. JETS has been great to work with and we look forward to continue to work together in the future."

These sessions demonstrate that elearning offers an accessible, engaging and highly effective mode of instruction for students of all ages, at all ability levels and for all areas of instruction. All of the schools involved are planning follow-up sessions with Ms. Goldstein during her February 2014 visit to the region. To reserve a session, please contact

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