In August, The Jewish Education Project proudly launched the Tech for Learning Initiative Summer Institute, supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation. Teams of educators from nine Jewish day schools came together at our Manhattan office for a three day intensive learning experience that focused on meaningful use of technology in the classroom and culminated in a micro-grant application process. The participating schools were at very different points in their technology integration journeys and came from different denominations and regions within the Tri-State area.
The inaugural Summer Institute was a hit! Learners left enthusiastic about building a community and excited to implement their ideas. The learning was scaffolded to guide the teams toward projects that felt meaningful and appropriate for their specific school. Each school sent an administrator or technology leader along with at least two teachers tasked with planning a team project to be implemented at the school in the coming year. At the end of the institute every school team demonstrated a deeper understanding of how technology can be used in service of active, creative, and collaborative learning.
The Summer Institute was designed and led by Bryna Leider, Tatyana Dvorkin, Gregg Alpert, and Gary Hartstein, all full-time staff at The Jewish Education Project. All four coaches were selected for their extensive experience in innovating in Jewish day schools, as well as in varied areas of technology integration. More information about the individual coaches can be found here.
We were also joined by a number of experts from the field. Rabbi Boruch Sufrin from Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills kicked off the institute with a keynote in which he spoke of the imperative to use technology in day schools to meet current and future needs of students and employed various Jewish texts to demonstrate how this work is grounded in Jewish tradition. The institute also played host to four EdTech leaders who ran workshops on their respective fields of expertise. The workshops included learning about tools for authentic assessment with Avital Aharon from TanenbaumCHAT, examining failure as a positive force with Rabbi Michael Cohen AKA The Tech Rabbi, getting hands-on experience with coding and makerspaces guided by Katy Garnier from Avenues: The World School, and checking out virtual reality field trips with Michael Voskoboynik from the Hasten Academy. Following the workshops, our experts took part in a panel detailing their own experiences with implementing education technology at their institutions that allowed participants to get more specific answers to their questions.
The schools spent the final portion of the three day institute outlining their own plans for piloting new initiative this year and working on applications for micro-grants to fund these pilots. The applications include some exciting projects which The Jewish Education Project staff are ready to fund and support with coaching in the 2017/2018 school year. Our team hopes that this learning model has the potential to create change and we look forward to seeing what emerges in the schools as a result of their participation. Although we have just begun this work, we see it as a means of creating eventual widespread and permanent shifts in the way day schools approach the intersection of technology and learning.
The Tech for Learning Initiative team is now wrapping up the process of reviewing applications and issuing micro-grants to schools for their projects. Stay tuned throughout the year as we will continue to share updates on how the schools are progressing with their project implementations!