Yeshiva University’s webinar in honour of the first Digital Learning Day, 1 February 2012
In honour of the first annual Digital Learning Day on February 1st, the YU School Partnership hosted a live webinar facilitated by Dr. Eliezer Jones, YU School Partnership’s Educational Technology Specialist along with Esther Feldman, The Lookstein Center for Jewish education’s Director of Information Technology and Financial Services and Smadar Goldstein, Founder and Director of JETS – Jerusalem EdTech Solutions. These three experts in the field of Jewish online education discussed this emerging field, best practices and experiences from the field.
- The webinar, hosted by Dr. Eliezer Jones, began by defining the three terms often used when referring to learning through computers:
- Distance learning – Any type of educational activity when participants are separated in space.
- Online learning – Instruction and content are delivered over the internet. This does not include printed material.
- Blended learning – Learning that takes place in a classroom. Any time that a student learns in part in a brick and mortar class away from home, getting an education partly online. Use online instruction/activity, but the teaching is mostly done in a brick and mortar environment. Online education, not necessarily online teaching.
- He also defined the often-used terms:
- Asynchronous – online, not necessarily at the same time
- Synchronous – online together. In terms of education, a teacher and a student online at the same time.
- Vendors – content providers. At this point Eliezer mentioned Jewish Interactive, who had exhibited their content Shabbat Interactive at the recent NAJDS conference in Atlanta.
- In 2010, 4 million students enrolled for online learning. So we can’t stop online learning – we just have to make it effective.
- Blended learning offers opportunities to:
- Focus on the material
- Bring in 21st century learning
- Most states in the USA are ready to require at least one blended learning class in high school. If this is so, then teachers must learn how to teach this way and students must learn how to learn this way.
- 21st century learning skills do not necessarily mean online learning.
- 87% of youth use the Internet.
- Allows for more flexibility and differentiation.
- When educator and student are in the same room, there is face-to-face teaching and an opportunity for online research. This leads to more effective learning.
- The challenges facing Jewish schools with implementing blended learning:
- Getting the teachers, students and parents on board
- The whole community must understand what blended learning is and have buy in. Schools should aim towards:
- Global citizenship
- An expert in the school – on the ground
- Remember that if teachers are not comfortable with it, they will not use it.
- Blended learning is a very effective way of learning:
- Seems that older children are more comfortable and more successful with the blended learning
- Younger children seem more comfortable with face-to-face, synchronous learning
- The difference between elementary and high schools:
- Older students are used to the technology and are more sophisticated in its use.
- Younger students – there is the “Wow” factor. The content must be more engaging.
- How to get the faculty and community to buy in?
- Judaic staff – there is much resistance to change. There is a strong sense that teaching Judaism has been the same for hundreds of years and if we start teaching using new technology, we will lose the Mesorah. We have to be sensitive to that.
- Know who your teachers are:
- Convene the teachers – institute a collaborative process to make a plan. Present it as an opportunity to grow and learn something new together. Work together with them, not through something at them. Teachers are the greatest assets.
- Emphasise that online learning does not replace teachers!
- Remember that demos from peers are more effective than from an outside entity.
- The Rebbe-student relationship is not lost if in a blended environment.
- Instructional design is as important in a blended environment as in a classroom.
Some links that were suggested during the webinar:
International Association for K-12 Online Learning
The Jewish Education Project (inviting North American day schools to explore online learning)
Rocketship Education (the leading public school system for low-income elementary students – eliminating the achievement gap. Rocketship Education has pioneered the transformative Rocketship Model, which combines teacher development, parent empowerment and individualized learning to improve student achievement)
Grading the Digital School
Recent series of articles in the New York Times discussed on the webinar. General feeling was that it did not show the full story.
What do you think about blended learning?
Please send us your thoughts and examples of how you use it.