Schooling in Seattle - DJLN visits the West Coast

| By Tatyana Dvorkin, Associate Director at DJLN

This year, as we continue working with our New York and New Jersey area schools, we are also expanding our work to other areas of North America. For instance, we have partnered with the Samis Foundation to develop and implement a community of practice for a cohort of teacher-leaders from six Seattle Jewish day schools. The initial focus of this group has been to facilitate foundational understanding of the drivers of technology in K-12 learning. This in turn provides the foundation for teacher-leaders to not only implement blended learning in their own teaching, but also to become the in-house experts who support other teachers from their schools on this journey.

Last week, DJLN program Director Gary Hartstein, and Associate Director Tatyana Dvorkin took a trip to Seattle to visit our partners there and enjoy a welcome reprieve from the East Coast’s bitter cold. On this visit, one of our main goals was to come together with participating teachers in a face to face session to exchange ideas and learn about what they have been doing recently within the realm of educational technology. Among the participants were teachers of all grade ranges from both Judaic and General Studies. Each of the participating educators has been working this year on one key project in the area of educational technology to help make their classes more engaging, efficient, or personalized.

With all the projects at different points, this meeting served as an opportunity for everyone to share their ideas and receive feedback from others. We heard a lot of exciting plans across many different disciplines, some already being executed in classrooms and others still in the planning stages.

To personalize and differentiate learning for her high-level students, one math teacher has created videos for 5 students in her class to teach more complex content while other students work with a different level of materials. This has enabled her to challenge these students while also ensuring that others are not left behind.

On the Judaic Studies side, we heard about a great plan for differentiating in a Gemara class by giving of the stronger students agency to research and plan his own lesson for the others in his class. For a younger audience, one Judaics Studies teacher is having her students use the iPad app Book Creator to create interactive digital books retelling the Birkat Hamazon.

Outside the classroom, one librarian has developed a plan to address decreased circulation of library books by asking students to create their own digital reviews of books they’ve read with Adobe Voice. Her hope is that by giving students the opportunity to speak out and give their opinions she will give them a chance to engage more deeply with their reading and increase their interest in library borrowing.

Everyone’s shared ideas were so different and particular to their specific classes, it really went far to highlight how many incredibly unique ways there are to address student needs. Not every implementation of classroom technology or blended learning need look the same, nor should it. This cohort of teachers in Seattle was an exciting example of the variety of classroom innovation possible!

While in Seattle, we also had the opportunity to visit a few of the schools we are working with. We took tours of the campuses, met and strategized with administrators, and got to know the teachers and students in these environments. Seeing the great variety of models that exists in Jewish day school education was also a great part of our West-coast adventure. Each of these schools has a unique philosophy, classroom layout, and different student needs. Uniting them, is a commitment to ensuring the continuity of the great tradition of Jewish learning by educating critical thinkers, 21st century learners, and committed Jews.

A big thanks to all of our hosts and event participants in Seattle!