Thursday, February 18, 2010

The more things stay the same . . .

I thought this was as good a time as any to share with you a few choice quotes from David Resnick's terrific article, The Current State of Research in Jewish Education, which appears in Studies in Jewish Education, Volume III:
"... There is no deep-seated desire on the part of educational consumers to improve educational effectiveness. This is not to say that Jewish parents do not care about their children's Jewishness. Indeed, Jewish education for many American Jews serves as the key expression of their Jewishness, rather than as an instrument of educational mastery. 

"The nature of the dissatisfaction expressed by parents about school programs is usually more about the appeal of the program to the child, than about its failure to achieve particular subject matter goals.

"... Attending school, rather than achievement in school, is the primary, even if implicit, goal of Jewish education  —  at least in its supplementary form... The desire for identification rather than instructional effectiveness characterizes the culture of the Jewish school.

"Furthermore, community preoccupation with a host of other quasi-research issues — censuses of Jewish students; calculations of percentage of eligible students receiving a Jewish education; drop-out rates; retention rates; successful outreach programs — indicates concern with getting and keeping students in the educational system as the primary goal. Enhancing the instructional effectiveness of that system is not a priority.

"... Since failure to achieve even minimal learning levels has next to no social consequences (aside from mastery of Bar Mitzvah skills), there is little need for research related to the improvement of educational attainment. In this regard, it is worth bearing in mind that much of the recent push for excellence in general education has been at the behest of private industry and higher education, both of which bear the brunt of ineffective schools. No comparable institutional demand exists in American Jewish life."
This article was published in 1988.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why my Students were Texting in Class

This story has been making the rounds - I keep hearing people referring to it - so I'm posting the link in case you haven't yet heard this idea for using technology in the classroom from Rabbi Karen Reiss Medwed. Here is an excerpt:
In designing my lesson plan, my hope, as a constructivist educator, was to create an active learning experience that would engage the students by using tools that were familiar and comfortable for them. At first my plan was to play a game, something like "Mitzvah Jeopardy." But I needed something different, something new, which would push my boundaries as an educator. Answering a text on my phone in the midst of my planning, I found my inspiration: text messaging in class as a tool for collaborative learning.

"How many mitzvot are there? Let's text a sister, a friend, Dad, as many ‘lifelines' as we want." My students eagerly clicked on their cells, and the numbers started coming in. "Do we have to fulfill all the mitzvot?" A quick yes/no text poll of everyone sparked an engaged conversation about the different understandings of commandment as obligation.

Comments from our lifelines punctuated our conversations: "My mom thinks that the mitzvot we fulfill are about making our lives feel more connected to other people." "My dad thinks we can't do mitzvot that have to do with the Temple." One friend remembered that there was "something about Israel" and how that changed which mitzvot we do.
This original post appeared on the Jewish Education blog of Boston Hebrew College, and thanks to David Wolkin for forwarding this to me in the first place.