07 September 2011

New Jewish Education From the Inside Out.

I've been giving a lot of thought of how to help teachers to get excited about all the new technology tools and resources they will be utilizing this school year. On a recent teachers training, with only 45min to spare, I shared with them great Jewish education websites, beautiful animations, relevant videos, cool tricks etc. I know that at least for me, just learning about these resources will immediately motivate me to exploring them right away.
But, even thought non of the teachers expressed otherwise, I have the feeling that for some of them, specially those who had barely step in the technology world, all of this could come across as bit intimidating. Then I wonder, am I really reaching my goal of get them excited about it?

Part of my job is helping teachers with the logistics and technical aspects of  learning and using new tools and resources. At times, this task could be a little challenging specially when the resources are not ready when you need them or when there is non existing time for proper training. Ultimately, with time anyone can learn how to operate any technology tool.
Mistakenly, some educators think that once they are able to use one or two new technology tools, they had done their share with 21st century learning. Assuming that technology equals 21st century learning is wrong. Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt elaborates more on this idea on his post "Technology Does not Equal 21st Century Learning" which I highly encourage you to read.
Parents and school's boards are pushing teachers into using more innovating ways of teaching;  teachers must now blog, or plan lesson plans around Smart Boards, IPads and IPods. .
What people do not realized is that even thought we are living in a golden technology age, technology is only one way of innovating and engaging students in the class.
Technology has created a bigger gap between pedagogy and methodology of teaching:
Good teaching will be enhance with technology. However, technology will only worsen bad teaching.

Organizations of every kind believe that providing updated systems and new structures will guarantee "a change" in culture. They are wrong. What they are really missing is to foster a change in "behavior" a change from within.
In order for change to take place, people must first experience the need to change. You can not make someone change their ways unless they experience change from themselves and from within themselves. And yet, not everyone is either willing or interested on changing and this is a fact.

I have always been someone who loves, looks for and welcomes change. I had have the opportunity to live, study and work in different countries and change has always highlighted my life's journey. However I have realized that this "journey of change" could be quite lonely (at least, it used to be before the invention of web networks).
Every time I learn about or do something differently, I get so excited that I want to share it with the world; I want the world around me to see it the way I see it; I want to help people to experience it the way I experience it and this, is really not the way to go.
My Jewish education teaching style has always been very organic, out of the box and respectfully away from old  methods. I had tried to create joyful experiences for my students and have my students as partners in the planing process. Over the years I have worked with several peers in the Jewish education world and they have not been very supportive in adopting a similar teaching style because, as they had expressed, it involved a lot of changes and extra work.
So, I get it. Not a lot of people embrace changes as openly as I do.
Then what is it about change and doing things differently that attracts me so much?
Today, I am able to answer this: It is overall excitement and anticipation, it is the intense feeling of being interested on something, it is the tingling in my stomach when I create something, work on a new project, take on a new challenge or embrace something new.

Author Mitch Ditkoff, co-founder and President of Idea Champions writes on his blog "The Heart of Innovation",  that "The origin of innovation is fascination". He also thinks that a person who is fascinating about doing something, "does not need to be motivated". He continues: "All that a person needs is time, some resources, meaningful collaboration, and periodic reality checks from someone who understands what fascination is all about".(Read more on his post "Innovation from the inside out with fascination".

I could not agree more with Mitch's wise words:
Fascination for Jewish education is what keeps me working in this field. 
Fascination on technology is what made me look into it as a new career path for me (even though I held my first computer at 30yrs of age). 
Fascination in working with children and learning from them is what has made me worked in education for this long. 
Fascination on working with my peers is what has made me want to help them, work and provide training for them.
Fascination on art and creativity has made me a "hunter" for finding ways of doing things in a beautiful and esthetic way.

Back to planet earth

We'd like to think that everyone working in Jewish education is fascinating by it. Unfortunately as we well know, this is not the case. Some people had became Jewish teachers by accident; only a few of us had became Jewish educators by choice. Therefore, after reflecting on the idea that innovation comes from fascination, I wonder, how can we instill or spark innovation on people who are not fascinating with what they do? Is there anyway that we could do this? Should we do this?

While I leave you with this post as some food for your thoughts, and hopefully I could be honored with your feedback, I think that we could start by innovating the ways we teach innovation and 21st century learning skills: Let's start from the inside out.
Let's give teachers the opportunities of self-discovering, lets give them the opportunities of finding out what they think and what they love (and I am not talking about teacher's surveys). I am talking about engaging them and providing them with tools to do so.
No time to do that during school time? No problem, start a Facebook group page and have them do this in their own time. Start small but think creatively.

This is actually what I will be posting on our Facebook school's teacher group page today:

From "Innovation from the inside out with fascination" 
(An excerpt from Mitch Diktoff  book "Awake the Wheel")

1. On a piece of paper, create three parallel headlines -- "What Fascinates Me," "People I Admire," and "What I Would Do If I Knew I Couldn't Fail."
2. Jot down at least five responses beneath each headline.
3. Look for intriguing, new connections between your responses. Any insights? Has?
4. Jot down your new ideas.
5. Circle your favorite idea and brainstorm it with a friend. Then pitch anyone who's influence can help you launch your ideas for how to bring more fascinating projects into your work life.

Let's keep the conversation going. Share the practical ways that you foster innovation and self reflection in your teachers.
Have a wonderful and fascinating day.


Andrea Hernandez said...

Great questions you pose...and I really like the "from the inside out" approach. Please keep sharing your process and ideas. I would like to know how it goes with the FB activity. Maybe I will try something similar.

Jewlearn-it said...

Thanks Andrea,I will keep you posted on how the FB activity unfolds. I have already posted it. Hopefully this could be an opening door to heartfelt conversations.

Lois said...

Sounds great - now we just have to get our teachers on Facebook! To further illustrate your point: as hard as we've tried, only 6 out of 18 (that's 1/3) of our teachers have actually used our "Teacher" FB site!

Anonymous said...

I like the way you're framing your thinking, and look forward to hearing more and interacting with you and those who gather around your blog