Friday, April 5, 2013

Technology to Deepen Learning

A colleague of mine recently spent time in Hillel's MS/US Digital Media Lab to observe how our students learn with technology. Her article, in the Association for Middle Level Education's April Publication of "Middle Ground" details her observations and evaluations through ISTE's ICOT tool. You can view it below or click on the pages for a clearer more zoomable read!

So what do you think? How does your school incorporate technology? What's one small measurable step you can take to be a true change agent in your school with 21st Century Learning? Don't wait too long- we'll be using the phrase '22nd Century Learning' sooner then you think!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Jedcamp Expands

It is thrilling to see how Jedcamp is moving full steam ahead across the USA!
I refer you to this post by Tzvi Pittinsky (@TechRav) as well as this post by Aaron Ross (@RabbiRoss) both of which highlight the upcoming innaugural Jedcamp in the NY/NJ area.

Here is a video by Seth Dimbert (@MisterD) explaining Jedcamp:

Looking forward to posting many more exciting updates!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The World's Innaugural Jedcamp

Today was historic as the world's first Jedcamp took place on a beautiful South Florida 'winter' day, graciously hosted by the Scheck Hillel Community School. 

What is a Jedcamp?  As it says on the website  "In the spirit of edcamp, a JEDcamp is an informal opportunity for Jewish Educators to gather and discuss what they do and how to do it better."
Simply put- It's an 'unconference.' 

Let's wind it back. Well over a year ago Seth Dimbert (@MisterD) wanted to bring the Edcamp concept to the Jewish education arena and call it Jedcamp. He and I (@RabbiWex) mulled it over and decided the only way to do it was, well to simply do it. Seth picked a date, created a Jedcamp website, and with the help of colleagues we used Twitter (and specifically the #Jedchat hashtag) to help spread the word. We also started tweeting the hashtag "#Jedcamp."

We sat down to discuss expectations and what would be considered success for our first Jedcamp. We decided if 5 or 6 educators came together for a few conversations on education that would be a success. 

Fast forward a few months later 40 educators representing nearly 20 different Jewish education institutions and schools across South Florida registered and attended the entire 4 hour Jedcamp. Even more impressive- many educators came during their own Winter Breaks! 

Here's how it all unfolded:

Jedcamp kicked off at 10am with registration, donning the traditional 'name badge' and meeting and greeting. Seth then briefly presented a few slides including the Jedcamp schedule. (You can view Seth's presentation here.) 

Opening Brief Keynote Explaining What An 'Unconference' Is.

Two main points: 

1-The success of Jedcamp would be proportional to the extent of the active participation from the participants. 

2- Participants needed to 'vote with their feet.' Meaning if a particular conversation wasn't appealing or stopped being appealing midway to a particular educator, that educator was encouraged to simply get up and transition to a different conversation. (There are no hard feelings at an 'unconference!')

Next participants wrote down topics they were interested in discussing. Topics were organized on a white board with different sessions, time slots and rooms. 

Educators decided what they wanted to discuss.

Then the 'unconference' commenced. Educators got up and went to a conversation they were interested in. The conversations themselves unfolded in many different ways. During one session educators discussed what a 21st Judaic studies curriculum should look like. 

 A Conversation on 21st Century Curriculum During Session #1

The conversation itself took many different twists and turns with input given by many of the educators (kudos Yossi Kahan for helping guide the conversation). Concurrently a different session took place with educators discussing education technology tools. One of the educators (kudos Peter Eckstein) enhanced the discussion by presenting different web 2.0 tools he uses. 

 Concurrent Conversations During Session #1

Also going on was a conversation about how to more actively involve teens in Hebrew School programming with different engaging projects. 

Still other educators realized they were meeting each other for the first time in person after being part of each other's PLN on Twitter for the last 2 years and decided to group together to discuss everything education.  Professional relationships were being created and authentic, deep learning was taking place. Was a sight to see and one could truly tune in and listen to the symphony of everything education in the air. Actually the first sessions' conversations went over by a healthy 10 minutes because the participants didn't want to stop the conversations. (That should tell you something!)

The second round of conversations were equally engaging with educators staying in sessions or migrating to conversations more appealing to them.

After the first 2 sessions (or about 8 different conversations) educators came together for lunch (many thanks yous to Scheck Hillel Community School and Subway for sponsoring the flavorful coffee and delicious lunch!) and schmoozing followed by the last sessions of the unconference. Time flew and by 2pm all participants came together as prizes were raffled off and Jedcamp certificate of attendance were distributed. At that point educators were already following each other on Twitter and discussing the days happenings.

Certificate of Participation Created by Seth Dimbert

It really was an epic event. Keep in mind that Jedcamp is not sponsored. Jedcamp is not something that educators 'have to do.' It is not about technology- though that could be a topic if educators so deemed. 

The Jedcamp model works because educators who attend have no ulterior motives other than the fact that they are passionate about education and want to see our schools and institutions continue to improve so our student can grow up to be quality Jewish people, strong Jewish leaders and active contributors to improve and enhance our society and world at large. Educators came because educators wanted to come.

And so there is no doubt this is the first of many Jedcamps to arise all over North America and hopefully the world. 

As Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Sages) says "One need not complete the work however one is not absolved from abstaining!"

Check out Seth's blog post on this historic event here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Choosing the Right iPad Apps

Has your school started or will begin deploying iPads and you are trying to figure out which apps to select to promote deeper student learning? Here is a great apps rubric to help decide which apps are the right ones for your class.

Also, below is an example of how the SAMR model works with apps.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hillel- A School Without Walls

No matter what your personal philosophy is on education technology, the reality is our world is shifting dramatically and needs educators who have the ability to incorporate technology into their classrooms. Start by taking small steps and yes there will be an adjustment period. Overall you will notice positive changes in student behaviors and learning attitudes and you will wonder why you didn't transition sooner. All it takes is a little effort.

Although currently in New York City today our Hillel team created a Skype class where I was was able to educate my Scheck Hillel Community School students on the topic of Hurricane Sandy. Using to ask open ended questions we were able to have a conversation on Hurricane Sandy and discuss perspectives on life and Judaism with our 6th Grade Period C class. I also infused our class with CERD's philosophies of reflecting on living in the 'here and now.' Students did this by reflecting at the moment on what they were grateful for in life. We also created some Wordles with student responses. Check out this Wordle and this Wordle. (Based on both Wordles can you guess what the first two open ended question were?)

Students were able to answer either by emailing answers or texting them. Students understood the rules and conditions about when they could and couldn't use their phones and laptops and did a great job overall.

I want to give a very big thank you to @MisterD and Mrs. Anton for co-directing our class and allowing it to run smooth at the school's end! I also want to thank @garyweisserman and @Josh_Spodek as well as other educators on Hillel's Dream Team for stopping by and participating! You can read Gary's blog on today's learning on Hillel's campus by clicking here.

This is a microcosm of Hillel's amazing learning environment and leadership.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 21st Century Presenter

I spent the last day and a half attending a Resilience Training workshop/seminar with facilitators of CERD. We were asked to spend the second half of day 2 reflecting on our learning.

While I will not be discussing the actual training in this blog post, as a presenter on the topic of 21st Century Learning I thought it would be a good idea to blog 5 general observations on PD presentations.

General Reflections and Observations on PD Presentations:

1- It's fascinating to me to see how PD instructors and presenters fail to incorporate technology to make the learning more engaging. In fact what it does psychologically is it ruins the opportunity to have a great start and earn the trust of the educators.

Facilitator says "Welcome, before we begin please turn off all cell phones and electronics."

Attendees hears "Welcome, before we begin please step into this cage and you will be released in a few hours."

I wish I was joking. However it's the truth. That's how educators feel. There's no gray area here. So work with educators wants and needs or lose them.

2- Simply allowing the educators to use their phones under basic guidelines is a good thing. Try using a web 2.0 tools like to allow responses and feedback and opinions and from the crowd.

3- Incorporate Twitter so educators can reflect, then create a hashtag and tweet the different lines or nuggets of learning they found meaningful and valuable. This extends and depends the conversation amongst the learners.

4- There needs to be a back channel like todaysmeet arranged where educators can post questions, comments and give direct real-time feedback to the presenters. I think this can change the level of engagement and interactivity amongst the attendees.

5- All workshops and PD sessions are too long. Less equals more. Educators are smart and intelligent human beings who need to feel valued and feel their time is being valued. Be succinct. Value their time. Other wise you may be the catalyst for engendering animosity, angst, anger or even burnout. A professional presenter keeps things short and sweet and moving. Time management truly is critical.

Although this is a starting point if presenters can incorporate even one of these items the attendees will be afforded that much deeper and valuable a learning experience.

So what do you think? Do you agree, disagree, a little bit of both maybe? Please share your thoughts!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reflections of a Paperless Digital Class Part 1

I want to update you on how my paperless digital classes are going in middle school this year as I  focus on 21st century learning. Although I have blogged about what it's like teaching in a virtual class last year I felt it was important to continue blogging about my experiences with new classes too. If you notice redundancies or a point I have articulated in the past it's only because similar challenges, successes or observations have arisen in my class this year as well. If you are new to 21st-century learning or looking for a framework for students to practice 21st century learning check out this link.

I also want to add this is not my first year teaching a paperless class and nevertheless although I have many experiences to draw upon new challenges will invariably arise with every class and an educator has to be able to tweak and update his/her classes and be able to roll with the punches.

School has been in session for about 6 weeks.   Let me first say no matter how much time you spend and how clear and articulate you are at the outset prepping and training your students for a paperless digital class they will do better and be successful once they've rolled up their sleeves, made mistakes and learned from their mistakes. That's the bottom line. As Michael Jordan says: "I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. 

So on that note I want to reflect on my classes early successes and challenges.

Early Successes:

1- Students with organizational issues feel a lot more put together and secure knowing all their files are in a digital backpack. Students especially liked being able to link their Google Docs together with their digital backpack so that when they worked on the Google Docs they would automatically be saved into their digital backpack.

2- I'm able to truly differentiate the process of the students learning with each individual student learning at their own level and at their own pace. Just today a higher level learner student in my class expressed how much he enjoys the learning process and particularly that he can work at his pace and doesn't feel he's being held back for some students who maybe need a little extra time.

3- I have seen some student post comments to each other that have been nothing short of magnificent in terms of their digital citizenship. Students are learning how to reply appropriately using an even 'tone' and complement each others ideas. 

4- Students are able to demonstrate practicing 21st-century learning skills- especially collaboration and communication. One of the things that students have to do in our class is ask their questions to a peer first before they can come to me. This concept was absolutely shocking to them at first as they would come up to me and I would politely redirect them to one of their peers.  It was literally a brand-new concept that they could actually ask and learn from each other! They caught on quick though and many are proactive in helping each other out.

5- I'm able to incorporate Game Based Learning. This means students don't learn from units and lessons but instead they learn from 'worlds' and 'levels.' Students earn digital badges for a variety of 21st century learning tasks. Here are a few of the badges they can earn. Many students comment to me they feel like they're playing a video game (which is one reason why it's called Game Based Learning!) and they enjoy being able to work through the 'units' in this format. To learn more about Game Based Learning you can check out Hyle Daley's GBL presenation at Edmodocom 2011 here. Start from the 2:58 minute marker. 

Early challenges:

1- Students felt overwhelmed at the outset. Many students, including those relatively proficient in technology had to adjust to the concept of working at their own pace with the learning management systems (Edmodo and Final Site).  Moreover students needed refreshers on basics like opening a new Internet tab, downloading/uploading files as well as saving files and links to their computers or to the cloud.

2- Although assignments (levels) were laid out in a clear format that literally included step by step instructions, students were skimming but not necessarily reading all the directions. I was (and still am) constantly reminding students not to skim but to read the directions word for word. 

3- Students were confused how much time to spend working on levels at home. Some students were spending way too much time working on assignments at home. I explained homework is only for 15-20 minutes max and even then only on nights that there is set homework from my department! 

4- Students were really nervous because of the due dates included with the assignments- they didn't want to be held accountable or lose points if they turned in work late. I explained to the students not to get hung up on due dates and if they needed a level extension they should let me know. 

What amazes me about students in elementary, middle and even high school is no matter how much technology they have at home or you think they know, the bottom line is most students are not yet tech- proficient. This not a knock on students, parents, teachers or schools- it's a reality educators must keep in mind. And yet at the same time students will teach you something in technology you never knew and all you can do is smile as you think to yourself 'wow I just learned something cool from my students!'

I also think underlying some of these early challenges are it is ingrained in students in America that they need to get good grades or else! This is prevelant in many schools in America and relates to whether schools properly implement formative and summative assessments as well as whether they use a competency based currculum to wean students off the whole 'good grade/bad grade' thing and focus more on 'with which content or skills that I learned have I demonstrated my mastery and proficiency." These are big topics and will blog them and discuss on #Jedchat at a different point in time. 

I will now begin to take my reflections and tweak my lessons (or should I say levels) accordingly. Will keep you posed with my Reflections of a Paperless Digital Class- Part 2 coming in November.

Lastly, kudos to @MisterD for the following:

You should click here and follow Wex on Twitter. His handle is @RabbiWex

You should follow @MisterD on Twitter too.