Joel Lurie Grishaver
I am just learning about the second round of magic bullets. What magic bullets? The one that are supposed to save Jewish Education that has been according to every major Jewish newspaper and magazine is in complete collapse for more than ten years. All of a sudden, the discussed solutions are becoming more realistic.
For a long time there were two dominant views on Jewish schooling. The first was “end the drop-off (Hebrew)—send them to Jewish camp instead.” The second was “end the drop-off (Hebrew School)–use technology to let the kids study at home.”
Anyone who knows the history of educational change knows that the system resists inertia. Change does happen but rarely does all the water go with the baby. Change is incremental. To understand how change works, you know that first you are confronted with the radical, then along comes the incremental. We are now at the point where interesting, practical change is now happening.
The flipped-classroom is one of the hot new topics in education. It is a simple idea. Watch the lectures at home on line. Then, come to class and do the homework with the teacher’s help. It started like this:
Four years ago, in the shadow of Colorado’s Pike’s Peak, veteran Woodland Park High School chemistry teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams stumbled onto an idea. Struggling to find the time to reteach lessons for absent students, they plunked down $50, bought software that allowed them to record and annotate lessons, and posted them online. Absent students appreciated the opportunity to see what they missed. But, surprisingly, so did students who hadn’t missed class. They, too, used the online material, mostly to review and reinforce classroom lessons. And, soon, Bergmann and Sams realized they had the opportunity to radically rethink how they used class time. (Educationnext: The Flipped Classroom)
The flipped classroom seems to work best in math and science, but the idea is a great idea for “regular” schools. It also seems to have great application for “Complementary Schools.” I don’t know of one that has tried it. If you know of a school that (despite the ubiquitous homework prohibition rule) is trying it, please let me know.
The Jewish version seems to be—background content at home, experiential education when the sacred school community comes together. Most secular schools are creating under six minute videos (think you tube) for home use, usually created in a neo “power-point” kind of way. See “The Flipped Classroom Network.”
Camp and Israel trips have long been the winners on the Jewish Education scoreboard. There have been a lot tries at turning Religious Schools into camp like entities. Congregation Ohabi Shalom, Brookline, Mass., tried it years ago when it had a camp-director as its educator. Temple Judea of Tarzana has a much reported two-weeks of day camp called The Nisayon Program instead of Sunday school program. But Roberta Louis Goodman and her staff at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Il. have created the drop-off camp-style Religious School. It happens every week. It has bunks and counselors and all of that good stuff. And it has an emphasis on training 7th-12th graders as madrikhim (assistants) program. All of this happens in the synagogue building on a weekly basis with an emphasis on experiential learning.
One of the latest terms in tech. education is “coviewing. The Joan Ganz Cooney center, part of the Sesame Street Workshop, has released a number of research documents on the topic of coviewing. The bottom lines here are (1) media is useless below two years of age, (2) there are a series of skills that can be acquired through computer gaming after that, and (3) coviewing (parent and child on-line or watching together) and build their relationship and communication that way.
While there are cautions and limitations, family education can gain from the interaction. How much the more so Jewish family education?
Shevet: The Jewish Family Education Exchange
Family education had its ten minutes of fame in the 1990s. There was the Whizin Institute for Jewish Family Life. It served as a central address, a creative hub, and a voice for Jewish Family Education (EJewish Philanthropy: Jewish Family Education: New and Improved). American Jewish University sent the faculty of the Whizin Institute a “mission accomplished” letter and closed it down. For a few years the people who were Whizin continued as the Consortium for the Future of the Jewish Family and they ran a summer conference within the CAJE conference. In 2010, the Covenant Foundation funded the group who has now emerged as Shevet: The Jewish Family Education Exchange. Shevet is working on recreating a center for Jewish Family Education and growing the field. Join their group site to get involved.
Meanwhile family education has continued in virtually every synagogue in the country, even though just about no one has the job of family educator anymore, synagogues have carried on. Unfortunately, while there are lots of grade based programs and special events, the state of the field is no longer advancing. You can also check out the impact parental involvement brings in the article “Back to School: How Parent Involvement Affects Student Achievement (At a Glance)“. One of the most interesting attempts to involve parents in their children’s educational process is Yerusha. That has the parents take much of the responsibility for the learning that happens when families get together.
Put It All Together…
I want it all, I want a Jewish education that works like camp; that injects Jewish content through co-viewing and then provokes family education. I want parents active in their child’s education. I want that education both text centered and experiential. I want Jewish Family Education to be part of every Jewish education. I want it content rich. And, I want it to both connect the family to other families in the community and to build family skills in talking and doing things together.
I want a lot. I want it all. Clarity is beginning to come into the future. It has little to do with carpools.