So Many Schools, So Little Time: The Power of Site Visits

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On November 17th and 18th, the DigitalJLearning Network led an exciting learning adventure in Los Angeles. With support from BJELA, and our partner The Samis Foundation, we brought 18 Seattle area Jewish day school educators to five LA area Jewish day schools. Our visits focused on how these different schools integrate technology in support of learning. The two-day event was not only educational for all, but inspirational as well!

We visited a variety of schools – all with different visions, resources and student populations. They spanned the spectrum from Orthodox to Conservative to community schools. They all showcased different ways technology and blended learning were integrated. However, the common thread was that they all understood that the technology has to be driven by, and support, student learning.

We began our journey at Heschel Day School, where we learned how different classes were using technology in different ways. One of the highlights was a fourth grade class that was using iPads to support personalized and differentiated learning. Students worked independently and collaboratively and were enthusiastic drivers of much of their own learning.

After Heschel, we headed to Valley Beth Shalom Day School for some short class visits and a wonderful lunch-and-learn. We saw a true culture of learning and collaboration among the teachers and the students. Teachers shared a number of ways they use technology tools to personalize learning and to help students take ownership of their learning.

The third visit of the day was to Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YULA). Students were actively engaged with their teachers and each other. Like many schools moving into STEAM/STEM, YULA is building their Innovation Lab. Students weren’t just applying concepts from school in simulated projects. YULA students had applied math and science concepts to design and produce prosthetics that will actually help real people! Technology wasn’t just supporting learning, it was a tool that allowed them to make a difference in a way that was unimaginable a few years ago.

Day two began at New Community Jewish High School (New Jew). Throughout the high school, students were using technology to deepen their knowledge of everything from Jewish texts to video production. In Hebrew class, students video-recorded their partner speaking about the story they were reading as a class, and over the course of the year students build a video archive of their progress. While analyzing the text of Elie Wiesel’s “Night,” students reflected on book passages using an online tool that allowed them to see each other’s thoughts and respond to them.

We then went to our fifth and final school, Harkam Hillel Hebrew Academy. Group participants were thoroughly impressed with the school’s focused philosophy. Every teacher and administrator understood why the school has chosen to use technology to help further educational goals. Technology and learning are truly in harmony with the ethos of the school as a whole. Whether iPad apps were being used to teach first-graders math, or fourth-graders Chumash, it was always clear that the technology was helping students learn at their own pace.

As our group headed for the airport and began the journey home, the bus was abuzz with conversation about the future of education. We saw many ways technology helps different kinds of students learn. There is something wonderful about seeing great learning in action, especially when the technology is meaningfully integrated to help all students learn.

See live tweets and photos from our journey together right here: