Spotlight on... edJEWCon
edJEWcon exists to support schools in navigating the transformational impact of the technological, information age on teaching and learning. Coaches provide resources and support to Jewish educational leaders and organizations seeking sustainable, systemic change. We employ blogfolios (blogs + digital portfolios) to create a reflective culture in all areas of curriculum. Blogfolios provide the concentric hub of awareness and exposure to the skills and literacies necessary to communicate, collaborate and share in a connected world. When teachers take the time to be deliberately reflective about their work, they grow, and their schools, colleagues and students all benefit.
By making learning transparent, people beyond the school also benefit. Most teachers admit to using the internet for ideas, resources, lesson plans and templates of all kinds; how many teachers also share their own? Many teachers feel that what they have to share is ordinary or unimportant. In his animated video “Obvious to You, Amazing to Others,” Derek Sivers narrates the self-talk that keeps many people from sharing: “You experience someone else’s innovative work. It’s brilliant, breathtaking, you’re stunned. ... Afterwards you think, ‘My ideas are so obvious; I’ll never be as inventive as that.’” He concludes, “Maybe what’s obvious to me is amazing to someone else. We’re clearly a bad judge of our own creations. We should just put it out, and let the world decide.”
When work is shared with the world, amazing connections can occur. But the alchemy is only possible if the risk is taken to publish, knowing that the audience could be anyone. That feels, at first, like a big risk for many people.
As teachers immerse themselves in documenting and sharing their work on a digital platform, they learn the skills and literacies necessary to teach students in today’s classrooms and are contributing to the world of tomorrow. That world will undoubtedly depend on sharing and collaborating, on fluency with open-ended, trial-and-error exploration, on the ethical behavior of global and digital citizenship.
Currently, edJEWcon is coaching a blogging cohort of lower-school teachers/admin from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. These intrepid educators are motivated to share their work in order to understand better how to capture and share the work of their students. They are open and humble; despite being experienced and accomplished in their fields, they embrace new ideas.
I asked some in the blogging cohort to reflect on how edJEWcon coaching has impacted their learning. To check out their blog, and comment, go to edJEWcon.org/cesjds.
Jessie Nathans, art teacher
The Bloggers’ Gallery
Art teachers know that practicing art-making supports meaningful classroom practice. For example, I make an “exemplar” before I give a lesson. I spend time with the materials and techniques. This helps ensure that all parts of the process are fresh in my mind and prepares me for a workshop classroom environment. These actions of design thinking, drawing, cutting, printing or coloring informs all aspects of my lesson planning.
Like an artist, blogging teachers hold the classroom experience in their hands. They notice and record student performance in nuanced measures of growth. They collect and reframe activity in words as artists do in color and line. The blogger crafts and reworks paragraphs to describe and elevate a moment of learning or remarkable aspect of teaching. This reflective practice creates a window into classroom studios. Come over and have a look in!
Kim Sherk, language arts enrichment specialist
Blogging as Reflective Practice
Professional blogging forces me to step back from the day-to-day teaching and planning. It allows me to reflect on whether or not best practices are being employed, and how to make my teaching more thoughtful and focused on the students. I have been learning how to share my work in a public forum, and manage new platforms for digital authorship. This has allowed me to connect with other educators worldwide and learn from their work as well. This collaboration would not have been possible a few years ago, and it is an area in which our students tend to be much more comfortable than we are. Learning alongside our students can be powerful for both teachers and students.
Hadas Heyman, Third grade Judaic and Hebrew teacher and IT mentor
Blogging as a Mirror to My JS Classroom
I was pretty nervous to use the EdJewcon blog during the first month of this school year. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my thoughts in public and was afraid to expose my feelings. Our four days of training with Andrea made me realize that blogging can serve my school and myself, as a Judaic teacher, in many aspects.
Most important for me was to reflect on my teaching and share this information with my own students and an audience outside our classroom. I had an opportunity to show the exciting things that we do daily in class. It was exciting to encounter many Hebrew and Judaic teachers who blogged. I also liked the idea of taking part in something quite new. Blogging may give our school the possibility to expose all the amazing things that we do and bring the community inside our doors when they are not physically in.
My hope is to connect with other teachers around the country and maybe collaborate with them on different projects in the future. I would love to make connections with other schools and explore new ideas to integrate technology in our classes.