I am a Jewish Education technology and art resources teacher/facilitator for a conservative Jewish religious and Sunday school. You can find me at the school's computer and technology lab every Wed and Sun, yet like many of you, spending a lot of my own time in preparing school work and blogging.
For the last three years I had tried to help update our program and curriculum to a 21st level and provide teachers with new educational resources to enhance their teaching.
As you can expect, I had hit a lot of obstacles on my path. One of them had been to engage veteran teachers to use new technology resources. Most of them, are still not familiar with computers nevertheless other social media and technology tools.
Time constrains had been the biggest challenge: We went from a two days a week RS program model to an one day a week. Yet, learning expectations for kids keep mounting up.
I have always been interested in encouraging creativity at all levels, and I had been specially interested in learning about current technology methods and tools used in Jewish education. I've also realized that unlike me, the majority of my peers are not jumping in to bring 21st century resources in their classrooms. Not a lot of people were either trained to do so.
I then realized that I could try to help in narrowing down the distance between the old and new ways.
There are so many amazing resources available to enhance learning and make teaching more fun and interesting. Yet many teachers are unaware of them. Simply speaking someone has to bring it to them.
Tell and show, show and tell
I started sharing with teachers every good and new Jewish resource I thought they could use in their lessons. I realized that 70% of them did not even had an e-mail account. I then started printing samples of such resources and giving them out during school time. Half of the teachers will not even look at the papers. Then, I started to show them from my laptop, in every single opportunity I would have. I am sure some of them got fed up with me at first.
For years, computer time was not considered a priority in our school. With time (and luckily with the help of some very pushy parents beside myself) "computer lab" (as we call it) had became part of the regular school program.
All grades are scheduled to have technology and computer time on a regular basis. Teachers are required to inform me (by e-mail, phone call, in person, or smoke signs) their lesson plan and goals for that day.
If given enough time, we discussed in advance about what resources are available and we agree on which could better serve their purpose for that day. Other times teachers trust what I have prepared for them. It is very rewarding when teachers share with me that they had also learned something new, different and fun along with their students.
In order to accommodate teachers and students I decided to start working with mini- projects and micro-lessons; often times all you have is 40 min of time to do it.
Editing and proofreading is done out of class time (Usually by me).
Computer lab time varies from class, grades, and lesson requirement. It includes: research time, games, exploring new websites, Hebrew and praying online practice, virtual tours (Jewish and art museums, Israeli archeological sites etc), digital art (on and offline) watching movies and videos, etc.
We hope that soon we could move on into, blogging and joining other school communities.
Yet the the core and structure of congregational schools must undergone important re-structuring:
1. There has to be more financial resources allocated to update purchase or update computer equipment and professional training.
2. Our limited class time restrict the resources and activities that we could do (such as Podcasting, skyping, and video conferencing).
3. Adapting materials and resources to our technology needs, require time, yet this has to be done on our own time.
4. Parents are demanding more and more from teachers such as posting online their kid's works and class materials, yet teachers do not have enough time to do this during class time.
5.Teachers have to get familiar yet with new technology but some of their new responsibilities include blogging and using other social media. Problem is that, congregational teachers are paid by the hour.
As always educators are supposed to find a way to magically work everything out!
I am looking forward in sharing experiences and learning from you.