From May 2016 through June 2017 Kulanu NNJ, a consortium of Reform & Conservative congregational schools that is partnered with the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JFNNJ) and the Jewish Theological Seminary, provided pre-service and in-service training in educational technology integration to a cohort of teachers from 10 Conservative and Reform congregations in Northern New Jersey.
JETS Israel provided the year-long training through the No Teacher Left Behind course. The project was funded by the Covenant Foundation and included application and reflection, follow-through and support from professional coaches, peers, education directors and student interns.
Plans for future expansion of the program are underway.
The final report, written by Rabbis Shelley Kniaz and Paula Feldstein, revealed some intriguing outcomes. They include:
- The teachers agreed that their students were engaged and excited while using technology in the classroom. They also agreed that the activities using EdTech tools were particularly effective.
- The teachers indicated that educational technology is now an integral part of their teaching and that they will continue to learn more on their own. They are thirsty for more intensive professional development in this and other areas
- Planning the EdTech activities changed their mindset; they incorporated more modalities (such as movement, for example) into activities not involving EdTech, as well.
- The EdTech activities lent themselves to more group and individual study (as opposed to traditional “frontal” teaching). This in turn increased social interactions, improving the class environment; provided additional variety to meet more students’ learning styles; and raised the level of the learning.
- Teachers want to continue to learn and add new tools to their repertoires.
- Teachers invested considerable planning time into incorporating the tools in their lessons
- Teachers expressed professional and personal satisfaction with the entire experience and its impact on their students.
- The participants influenced colleagues on their faculties who were not in the program to learn and use the EdTech tools.
Some participating teacher comments:
- “They loved it!”
- “They went crazy. Wanted to keep playing over and over.”
- “Once they got the hang of it they were totally engaged.”
- “The answers i got were useful and enlightening. I got to know the kids a little better. How much they enjoyed Hebrew school. Their goals for the year. How confident they were in their skills.”
- “Students familiar with tool and excited about it. Because I had the teams set up randomly, students worked with kids they may not often work with so that there was a very nice social aspect to it.”
- “Simple. Effective. The kids can also read what their peers have posted and perhaps be influenced.”
- “They were so excited that I lost my voice.”