iSchool

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♦ Barbara Davis
In 1943, Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” In 1949, Popular Mechanics forecast “the relentless march of science” and predicted that “computers in the future may weigh no more than one and a half tons.” In 1968, an engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems division of IBM asked in regard to the microchip, “but what . . . is it good for?” And in 1977, the chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation stated unequivocally, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” As the long-defunct cigarette commercial used to say, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”
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♦ Arnee Winshall
The energy, stimulation and excitement are still palpable from the first North American Jewish Day School Leadership Conference. I doubt I will forget the experience, especially being installed during the momentous transition ceremony as the Chair of the first RAVSAK Board of Directors.
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♦ Alan November
Years ago, when farms dominated our landscape, children were responsible for performing meaningful jobs that were vital to each family’s success. Depending on their age, children would care for animals, repair farm equipment, prepare food to sell at local markets, and more. Children were essential to the very survival of the family. At the same time, these jobs taught children the value of hard work, leading them to become more productive citizens within their communities as adults.
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♦ Ian Jukes
During a recent break from my travels I had put some time aside to learn how to use one of the new electronic toys I’d bought on a recent trip. I thought that being a reasonably educated person, having taught at almost all levels of education and being somewhat technologically adept would more than prepare me to learn to use a simple gadget.
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♦ Gary Small
Many young people who are entering the work force today have perfected their skills for gathering and manipulating vast amounts of information and images on the Internet, but all that solitary computer time leaves their brains less exposed to the vital stimulation of face-to-face social interaction. These young tech-savvy Digital Natives often need to fine-tune their people skills. Many could use a refresher course in direct communication, including basic lessons in eye contact, empathic listening, and interpreting and responding to non-verbal cues during conversation.
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♦ Avi Warshavski
Abba Saul was the tallest man in his generation, and R. Tarfon came up to his shoulder. R. Tarfon was the tallest man in his generation and R. Meir came up to his shoulder. R. Meir was the tallest man in his generation and Rabbi [Yehuda HaNasi] came up to his shoulder. Rabbi was the tallest man in his generation and R. Hiyya came up to his shoulder, and R. Hiyya was the tallest in his generation and Rav came up to his shoulder. Rav was the tallest man in his generation and Rav Yehudah came up to his shoulder, and Rav Yehudah was the tallest man in his generation and his waiter, Adda, came up to his shoulder. Parshtabina of Pumbeditha came up to half the height of Adda the waiter, while everybody else only reached the loins of Parshtabina of Pumbeditha. –Babylonian Talmud, Niddah 24b
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♦ Dan Mendelsohn Aviv
Jewish educators seem to be hard-wired to worry about change and fret about the Jewish future. Now, with Web 2.0 firmly rooted in the collective consciousness and server clouds everywhere, these twin fronts of agitation have merged into a perfect storm of palpable anxiety. The urge to ask “Is Web 2.0 good for the Jews?” is ever-pressing, but, in 2010, it is also as useful as asking “Is furniture good for the Jews?” For children under the age of 18, Web 2.0 is as remarkable as a folding chair. It is an utterly mundane part of their landscape. Furthermore, these young Jews will endeavor to construct a meaningful Jewish identity in this brave not-so-new world, one where a substantial part of their identities will play out through social networking sites (SNS) and computer-mediated communication (CMC).
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♦ Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn
Academic research from neuroscience and cognitive science increasingly supports the notion that everyone learns differently. But there is considerable uncertainty about what those differences are, although researchers are making advances in this understanding all the time.
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♦ Tzvi Pittinsky
One problem that has plagued students for generations is boredom in the classroom. This is illustrated in a famous clip from the classic film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The teacher, played to perfection by Ben Stein, is trying to teach his high school history class about the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 and its connection to the “voodoo economics” of the early 1980s. The students are each portrayed by director John Hughes in different and unique stages of boredom. Although the teacher continuously attempts to engage in a conversation with his students by asking repeatedly “anyone, anyone?” there is little connection between teacher and student. Boredom not only leads to a lack of student engagement, but studies indicate that student boredom often leads to greater problems such as truancy and poor academic achievement. These problems are not unique to public school education but have pervaded our day schools, as indicated by a recent lengthy online discussion on this topic on Lookjed, a forum for Jewish educators.
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♦ Avi Greene
Technology is important because it has the potential to substantially impact and positively transform education. Technology can make the work of teachers, parents and administrators faster, easier, and more effective. In addition, employers and society-at-large expect students to have the skills and knowledge that are directly or peripherally related to the use of technology. While the implementation and application of technology to the classroom is time-consuming and resource-intensive there are best practices that schools can employ to maximize their assets.
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♦ Barry Joseph
Youth are no longer learning in schools the skills they require to compete and succeed in the classrooms, workplaces, and town halls of the 21st century. Expectations are being shattered about what learning is supposed to look like, when it should happen and where. As learning becomes 24/7, ubiquitous, and lifelong, it is turning the traditional academic environment into simply one node within a broader learning network traversed by its students.
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♦ Caren N. Levine
Social media and Web 2.0 resources can facilitate the ways in which we create and share educational resources. There is a developing trend towards a new openness in learning regarding access to people, content, and other resources. The power of new social media lies in its ability to help forge connections between people and other people, ideas, resources, and content. Characteristics of this new learning culture include transforming information and resources, creating one’s own resources and building on others, developing and participating in personal/professional learning networks, and personalized learning.
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♦ Sholom Eisenstat
It’s too late to make the case for classroom use of the tools of the 21st century. That’s been done over and over in many other places. We’re already 10% of the way through this century and we need to acknowledge that there are powerful modern tools that are here to stay and available to the vast majority of our students. Many of the most powerful tools are available at no cost, and the developer communities are creating ever more powerful and more robust tools for learning.
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♦ Ginger Thornton
Everything I know about professional development, I learned in an auditorium at a small school in Texas sometime in the 1980s.
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♦ Kelly Czarnecki
One of the tenets we learned in library school is that “the library is a growing organism.” Far more than just books are moving around at the library. With challenges in the economy and technology always changing, libraries are not the same place they were when we were growing up.
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♦ Interview with Sarah Lefton, Founder of "G-dcast"
Tell us about your background—how did you go from “nice Jewish girl” to “producer/director of ‘G-dcast’”?

Well, I went to NYU to study film and interactive media. That led me to work in the advertising world for six years, creating web sites and videos for entertainment brands and celebrities. I didn’t love what I was doing all the time, but I learned a ton. Later, I took my marketing skills and went to work as the Outreach Director for Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp just outside Yosemite National Park. Although I was very involved in the community already—belonging to a synagogue, going to a lot of events, volunteering—working as a “professional Jew” really opened my eyes to a lot of ways in which my professional skills could make the Jewish world a better place.

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♦ Esther Feldman
Video conferencing technology for schools has been readily accessible for many years, but there are few Jewish day schools that employ this technology. In addition to the classic distance learning lessons, today there are countless students in educational institutions around the world who regularly benefit from these video conference platforms in their schools. On a daily basis there are hundreds of museums, universities, community centers, science centers, art institutes and cultural centers offering ongoing video conferences and lessons—as well as contacts and collaboration with artists, scientists and other experts—to schools and their students.
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♦ Eli Kannai
In September 2006 The AVI CHAI Foundation sought to partner with innovative teachers who believed they could respond to a pedagogic challenge using technology. Hundreds of teachers submitted proposals for the foundation’s consideration, and 16 teachers received a grant of up to $10,000 each towards their idea. In the current school year a second group of 17 teachers received educational technology experiment grants, and they are in the midst of executing their ideas. In this article I describe some of the lessons learned by the schools and AVI CHAI during the course of these experiments, also thereby demonstrating some of the most troubling pedagogic challenges in Jewish day school education.
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♦ Michael Fahy, Jeff Kupperman, Jeff Stanzler
So there we were on top of Masada when the conversation turned to the question of the Sudanese refugees who have made their way to Israel, and what Israel should do about them. Does Israel among all nations have a special humanitarian responsibility, even towards these people (who mostly happen to be Muslim)? Solomon Schechter thought that it was wrong for Israel to be held to a higher standard: “I think that people put Israel on a pedestal, just to watch her fall…we will truly only be the country we have dreamed of for so many years once we have the respect and treatment of a normal nation.” Albert Einstein agreed with him, but Irena Sendler did not: “I think that no country is perfect, no person is perfect, but some countries need to be held at a higher standard than others…being held at a higher standard, though it is more work, should be an honor not a burden.” Then Elie Wiesel said…
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♦ Shu Eliovson
The fall of the record companies over the past ten years has been but a harbinger of the challenge rising within the world of faith-based institutions, Jewish schools included. For the relationship model of institutions of both music and faith to their clientele share striking similarities, and an understanding of what happened in the universe of music can shed urgent light upon the critical challenges now facing the Jewish community, and the importance of how we choose to respond.
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♦ RAVSAK Staff
This column features books, articles and websites, recommended by our authors and people from the RAVSAK network, pertaining to the theme of the current issue of HaYidion for readers who want to investigate the topic in greater depth.
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iSchool in Our Schools

One thing is to feel wowed by technovisionaries. It’s another thing altogether to experience the benefits of a new technological platform firsthand. HaYidion asked schools to write about one program of technological development and innovation that made a discernible improvement in the classroom. Below are four examples, ranging from a schoolwide plan for technological overhaul to the use of one new tech product in the revamping of Zionist education.
♦ Greenfield Day School, Miami, Florida
Greenfield Day School participated in the initiative Project Day School Excellence, funded by the Center for The Advancement of Jewish Education and The Greater Miami Jewish Federation. The goal was to create teacher learning communities, embedding daily practice for more meaningful school-wide improvement. The National Staff Development Council provided a two year learning opportunity for our leadership team. Our team shared what was learned with our staff. All of our faculty participated in reading research articles, making peer classroom visitations and formulating an overall goal for our school.
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♦ Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Chicago, Illinois
Our middle school students are growing up in a world much different than the one their teachers grew up in. Theirs is a world of cellphones, iPods, and Wiis. It’s a world where technology is woven through their most favorite activities. This reality led us to wonder how we could bring that technology into the classroom and move the study of Zionism into the students’ wired world.
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♦ Vancouver Talmud Torah, Vancouver, British Columbia
As educators, our mission is to create learning environments where students are challenged to think critically, collaborate meaningfully and communicate effectively. With the remarkable increase in the growth and use of technology, how do we incorporate these powerful tools to meet our learning objectives when the teacher is no longer the primary owner of information? We are living in an age where students capably navigate the many social networking tools of the digital age while those charged with instructing them often lack the know-how to keep up. With children continuously “plugged in” and “tuned out,” traditional methods of instruction need to be enhanced to better connect students and to engage them in more authentic learning.
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♦ Hebrew Academy of Morris County, Randolph, New Jersey
With the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, educators have devoted their efforts toward the academic advancement of all American students. It is not enough to simply revise the curriculum, but instead to incorporate within it problem solving, creative thinking, technological know-how, and interpersonal skills. The administrators and faculty of the Hebrew Academy of Morris County (HAMC) strive to achieve these goals for each and every student. This positive approach is also the impetus to switch our educational model from a pull-out program to an inclusion-based one where students who require remediation (or enrichment) are educated in the typical classroom setting. Without the support of technology this transition would be much more challenging.
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HaYidion: Cover of the iSchool issue
Sue Einhorn
RAVSAK has provided extraordinary opportunities for Jewish educators to be inspired and transformed.”
Sue Einhorn, Middle School Principal
Donna Klein Jewish Academy

News

Dr. Marc Kramer and fellow leaders have been awarded an alumni collaboration grant from The Wexner Foundation to research the learning needs of special needs students in North American Jewish day schools.[More]
Articles and resources for helping students understand and contextualize the recent Israeli conflict.[More]
RAVSAK Executive Director Dr. Marc N. Kramer is quoted in this piece from the Baltimore Jewish Times on the varied responses by Jewish day schools to the Common Core standards.[More]
Students from seventeen Jewish day schools across North America used their creativity, knowledge of Hebrew and passion for Judaism to create original works of poetry for RAVSAK’s annual Hebrew Poetry Contest.[More]

Membership

Members of RAVSAK enjoy many benefits which support the overall work of the school and the professionals who lead them. Find out more about membership benefits and how your school can become a member.

Use our interactive map of member schools to find a Jewish Day School near you.

In addition to serving Jewish community day schools across North America, RAVSAK has a special category of membership for Jewish and educational organizations, consultants and companies which share our vision of excellence in Jewish day school education.