This issue helps teachers figure out the best technology for their own learning.
This year each issue of Vshinantam will be on a different topic in the area of technology and written by our Educational Technology Specialist, Renée Rittner. Renee received her Master's of Education in educational technology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She also holds her MSW, MAJE, and MAJS degrees. She is currently the Director of Education at Temple Israel of Greater Miami.
Vshinantamis organized around the three pillars of Torah, Avodah, and Gmilut Chasadim. In the Torah section you will find an overview of the topic, in Avodah, applications for your classroom, and in Gmilut Chasadim additional resources.
Technology as a Tool for Professional DevelopmentNo. 4, 5766
TORAH: Professional Development for the Avocational Teacher
Congratulations! By taking the time to download and read Vshinantam you are already using technology as one avenue for professional development.
School is out, summer is here and Sundays are again free. Aside from relaxation time, summer also represents the perfect time for teachers to play, read and discover. The computer can be a pathway to all of these activities, helping you to grow personally and develop professionally. The essence of a good teacher is a good learner. As models of lifelong Jewish learning, teachers in Jewish settings should make the time to continue their own learning. Many of us are not teachers by profession but decide to teach out of a love for Judaism and a dedication to our congregations. Professional development activities can raise the bar in our classrooms. The computer is a wonderful option, particularly in the summer, for flexible, inexpensive and tailor-made professional development opportunities.
AVODAH: Finding the Professional Development that is Right for You
Professional development includes attending workshops, reading books, watching videos or live presentations, listening to audio feeds or conference calls or using software or the Internet. The process or medium used to learn only is only as good or bad as it contributes to a good professional development experience for the person using it. That said, using advanced technologies to access professional development opportunities has many advantages. Technology-based professional development is multifaceted. It can be self-directed or facilitated, asynchronous or synchronous, on-demand or scheduled, project-based or journal-based, etc. How to choose? Analyze what you want to learn, how you best learn and your ultimate goal for the learning. Also consider the amount of time you have to commit to learning, where and how you can to access learning and your motivation to learn.
Step 1: Personal Teaching Assessment Identify the Development Need
Review the past teaching year and plans or needs for the upcoming year. Look at your successes as well as areas that you might like to improve, refocus or learn. Bring your ideas and self-reflection to your school educator or supervisor and choose an area of focus. For example: work on classroom management skills, broaden your repertoire of teaching styles, learn about differentiated learning, improve your lesson planning, acquire tools for student assessment or learn a new technology to integrate into your classroom.
Step 2: Personal Learning Styles Assessment Identify How You Learn Best
As you decide on learning options first evaluate your learning style. Are you are an independent learner or someone who is motivated to learn by the presence of others? Do you enjoy raising your hand to speak in a class setting or rather thinking and replying at your own pace? There are options using technology that meet all of these needs: Internet-based, software-based, audio-visual distance learning or classroom learning.
In conjunction with your own understanding of how you like to learn, consider the following research on how adults learn best when choosing a professional development option.
Adult learners approach learning with:
Diverse life experiences and learning goals or needs
Clock-driven lives (time conscious)
A desire for personal choice in what to learn
Rich cognitive skills that should be challenged
Adult distance learners tend to:
Want access to speakers or topics they cannot reach another way
Want flexibility in their learning
Be self-starters and independently motivated
Be willing to experience new styles of communication, socialization and collaboration with peers (that they may never meet)
Also use these criteria for excellent professional development, which:
Motivates individual reflection and group inquiry into practice
Pertains specifically to the teachers work in the classroom
Provides time for peer collaboration and communication
Speaks the language and knowledge base of teaching
Is easily accessible and responds to many needs
Has a specific outcome (certificate, work towards a degree, recognition, etc.)
Step 3: Personal Development Goal Articulate What You Hope to Achieve
This may be less concrete in the world of supplementary Jewish education. Some religious schools award teachers raises based on their participation in professional development. Others recognize teachers publicly for their achievements. Find out what your school offers. Also get in touch with your own personal motivation for continuing your learning. In the case of Jewish avocational teachers, much learning for professional development is also learning for personal enrichment. For example, taking a class in Hebrew liturgy will help you in class as well as in your own worship. Your community Jewish educational agency might also provide certification or recognition or accomplishments. Distance learning/technology based degrees may also be a viable option. An online advanced degree from an accredited institution rather than a certificate may be a viable option and motivator. The key is to know what motivates you and to choose your learning modality based on that motivation.
Step 4: CommitmentDecide What Kind of Commitment You Can Make
Once the issues of what to study, how to study and why to study are hammered out, the where question must be considered. The where question includes both physical location and time commitment. For example, am I going to move to Los Angeles and pursue my Masters of Jewish Education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (HUC-JIR), am I going to Kutz Camp for a Hebrew retreat, am I going to watch a DVD on using Mikadem in my pajamas, or am I going to take an online course in using the CHAI Curriculum once or twice a week at my computer? Where you study is linked to your overall goal. Perceptions that real degrees come from real schools with walls now need to be reexamined. Today the lines are blurred. Legitimate institutions of higher learning offer distance learning opportunities using technology. Accredited universities offer online learning opportunities either for a degree (e.g. Siegal College of Jewish Studies, Cleveland, OH), for a certificate (e.g. Spertus College, Chicago, IL) or simply for the sake of learning (e.g. Princeton University, NJ). The choice of where to learn really comes down to your own resources, such as time and money, that you can devote to the learning experience.
A Personal Story
When you go through this four-step process to select a professional development experience, you may be surprised by your own answers. When I was encouraged to learn about educational technology, I planned to take a few classes in the topic. When I answered the above questions for myself, I realized the only way to really understand the topic was to take classes towards some type of certification. I lived near the University of Missouri-Columbia (MIZZOU) that offered a masters program, but I traveled for work so I could not be time bound to attend classes. I learn by manipulating things in the physical world and I am energized by learning with others. Online learning should not have been my cup of tea, but it was the best option considering my goals and resources. As it turned out, the online courses I took were constructed to encourage interaction between people through joint projects and papers. To do many of the projects I had to set up mini-experiments or surveys of my colleagues, so I learned by doing. I was able to speak both synchronously in town meetings and asynchronously in chats. I traveled with my computer for two years to earn the degree, and it was conferred on the campus. Although the result was different than I anticipated at first, the process outlined above helped me to find an option that best met my needs.
GMILUT CHASADIM: Additional Resources
When deciding if distance learning is for you, remember:
· Many universities and programs allow you to take a class online before enrolling in the full program, sometimes for a reduced fee. There are also free courses available for some types of professional development.
· Distance learning might involve many modalities, such as:
o Watching a streaming video online and then answering questions or posting to a discussion
o Watching home video or live feed of an event at your home and attending a one-time a year retreat on site
o Reading articles online and creating projects you can post for others to view
Following is a partial list of Web sites and articles to help you in choosing a professional development opportunity. Read the previous two Vshinantam issues for more ideas.
Articles and Web Sites about Online Professional Development