Monday, May 5, 2014

Flipping the End-of-Year PD Class -- Students Teach

As the school year draws to a close, teachers and administrators are considering ways to enrich student learning in the coming year.

Towards that end, the Maayanot School in New Jersey invited their teachers to join a Professional Development session with Smadar Goldstein of JETS - Jerusalem EdTech Solutions about using web tools in the classroom.

As part of the session, Smadar introduced the Learning Management System as a technique to facilitate blended and asynchronous learning in a dynamic environment of independent study.

Using an LMS offers a wide range of clear benefits, including the ability to promote active learning, foster collaboration, differentiate instruction, and implement alternative assessment models. Smadar was aware that teachers are often resistant to new technologies and methodologies. In order to break through resistance she came up with a novel idea – to have her students participate in the PD session.

The PD session focused on:
·         creating lesson plans that take into account differentiated learning patterns
·         break the monotony of a classroom session by increasing communication and collaborative learning
·         monitoring students' participation
·         facilitating the exchange of ideas, concepts and data among students and between the students and the teacher
·         leveraging technology by creating content that allows for the inclusion of web tools and social media
·         providing students with flexible access to learning resources which include resource material, videos, audio casts, text files and more. All of these resources can then be stored for future referrals and further use.
·         accessing materials at any time.  Students who miss class are not left hanging….they can open the LMS and access their classwork. 
·         engaging in self-paced learning to all each student to learn according to his or her personal needs

While Smadar was leading the PD session from Jerusalem, three of her students from Yeshivat Kadima in St. Louis joined the gathering via the web-conferencing platform. They presented their own thoughts and impressions about their encounter with their LMS-based course onContemporary Jewish Issues.    

Throughout this year the Kadima students have been exploring today's issues which face the 21st century Jewish world in light of Jewish history. Their assignments and projects are all presented and shared via their class's LMS which is facilitated by Ms. Goldstein on Haiku platform.

The Maayanot teachers took advantage of the students' presence to ask them numerous questions about how the online class works, whether they like it, how it differs from a "traditional" class, and their overall reflections. The teachers were impressed by the student responses, such as the following:

"I used to think it would make learning more complicated and that it would make everything take longer (less productive), but it makes it pretty simple. Everything is a click away and I don’t have to shlepp home a text book, which means I never have to worry about accidentally leaving books at home, because everything I need is on my computer in a cloud." Hadassah

" I love the way I can do my work whenever, and there are always fun projects both online and “on paper/physically” that make it fun to learn - almost feels like you’re not learning. If I want to add more, it’s easy to do with the online platform." Elianna

" I know that this class allows me creativity and self expression. I learn so much about the history of the Jews, but more importantly I understand how it relates to me." Bella

The students turned out to be great teachers, and the teachers were receptive students. After hearing from the Kadimah students, the Maayanot teachers expressed increased enthusiasm about the use of online tools in their classrooms.

Read More of the Kadima students reflections

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