Friday, May 9, 2014

Jewish Teachers, User-Friendly Tools and Easy Entry into the World of 21st Century Online Learning

"At the beginning it all seemed overwhelming but as we went through each tool, I really felt like I had a virtual toolbox of how to make learning more interesting and engaging for my students...all of the follow up emails with links and the recorded classes gave us the ability to listen whenever we wanted and go back to the links via the haiku…these aids took the pressure off a bit".

When I signed up to take the JETS No Teacher Left Behind online course, I found myself diving into a world that seemed to be light years away from my previous teaching reality. Online bulletin boards? Linos? Google forms? Vokis? Vocaroos? Spreadsheets? Presentations? Who was I kidding? I still lived in the world of chalkboards and textbooks.

It turns out that chalkboards and textbooks translate very well to the digital age. All over the world, kids as young as 1st grade are learning more and stretching their limits with synchronous, blended and asynchronous learning which can be delivered on a tablet or PC screen.

I was astounded by the No Teacher Left Behind course. I may not have been the most technologically-advanced student in the virtual classroom, but I expanded my horizons as I explored the different options that were at my fingertips which would allow me to present material via new and exciting techniques to students who lived anywhere in the world.

My NTLB course provided me with a base for using elearning tools and ideas to engage and challenge my students about almost any subject. Each year, JETS runs three such courses in which educators from around the world meet virtually and become acquainted with the new world of distance learning. This interactive course provides ample opportunity for hands on experience, as each participant prepares and presents a model lesson which is reviewed by the instructor and the other students.

The spring 2014 course ended a few weeks ago and educators from North America, Israel and Europe shared their reflections about the course.

"The instructor was absolutely excellent, what a joy to work with such an experienced educator. I was also pleasantly surprised by the level of the participants and loved learning from and with them. And so great to see all those motivated Jewish educators!"

"As we work with various students (day school, supplementary school, agegroups) it might be an idea to combine participants according to their target group. On the other hand, I loved seeing all these different perspectives

"The fact is that working with these new educational tools is not as complicated as I expected. The choices were excellent; most could be applied directly and it was fun to use them to create teaching material. The lino board, in particular, was an eye-opener. For me, this is just a beginning and I am looking forward to learning more, especially about curriculum development for online teaching."

"I especially liked the fact that it was so interactive. And the course taught me that I can use so many different kinds of new media in online learning as well as in classroom learning."

"The course showed me new tools and taught me how to use them. Some tools I already knew, but I just had no idea I could use them as teaching tools. The course also motivated me to try those tools and practice using them."
"I gained a lot of new tools, and more importantly a new way of looking at learning - how do we learn online differently than we learn face-to-face? What are the advantages that we can use and what are the challenges we have to watch out for?"

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