School administrators usually organize their professional development sessions by grade level or subject. These groupings generally place educators in PD sessions with other educators who teach similar material.
In a break with this traditional arrangement, Yeshivat Noam of Paramus, NJ organized a year-long PD course that combined live Face2Face sessions with online meetings for educators who spanned the spectrum from Judaic studies teachers to general studies instructors, Hebrew specialists, and resource room professionals. Some of the participants had extensive experience in online learning while others were just beginning to get their feet wet in the new technologies and techniques of today's elearning. Participants were grouped according to their familiarity with technology rather than by subject matter.
Students at Yeshivat Noam have access to chrome books and ipad tablets in the classroom, and the school invited teachers to join the course in order to promote strategies and methodologies that would allow them to maximize student learning via 21st century platforms and tools. Each month a different set of online tools was presented. The course covered audio, video and written tools, with a focus on those most applicable to the chrome book.
During the course the participants explored the use of Learning Management Systems as a technique which helps students organize their work, stay better connected with the teacher, remain clear on instructions, and work collaboratively with peers. The course facilitator, JETS director Smadar Goldstein, highlighted Haiku LMS as a preferred LMS system and gave examples from her own innovative Contemporary Jewish Issues class that she has been teaching this year at YeshivatKadimah in St. Louis.
The final sessions of the course focused on guided Project-Based Learning models. The participants reviewed and practiced PBL strategies including developing driving questions and maximizing students' voices and choices. This topic was highlighted by two Yeshivat Kadimah students who "joined" one class session – virtually from their school in St. Louis -- to discuss their experiences with their PBL Contemporary Jewish Issues class and display their projects that they created as part of their studies. The participating teachers ended the program by generating driving questions and student based methodologies for a PBL unit that they hope to implement next year.
At the end of the course many teachers shared their impressions of their experience.
"…allows the student to think outside of the box. "
"…made for some excellent class discussions! "
"I think this will be helpful/useful in my class -easy to set up and create. ""Easy for students to use"