Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Picture courtesy of
As many of you may know,  I am active on twitter.  I recently saw a tweet requesting that the educational community no longer refer to educational technology as “Ed Tech”, but rather just “education”. I completely agree with this sentiment since technology is not something extraneous to education.  If used in the proper way, technology , it should be PART of education Just as we go about our everyday life utilizing technology to enhance access to our surroundings, so too technology, if used in the proper way, should be improving our children’s education.
@AngelaMaires a noted educator and author offers the following acronym to highlight how technology should be used in the RIGHT way.
R-Real: Technology must make the learning real
I-Impact: Technology must have an impact on our students
G-Global:Technology allows learning to be global and reach beyond  the classroom walls
H-Honor: Technology allows our children to be passionate about their learning
T- Talent: Technology allows students who may struggle with traditional academic approaches to show their true talent and shine

Below are some of the ways  that technology is being used at OCA in this RIGHT way  to advance and improve our student’s education:

1. Learning is not confined to the classroom, but students connect to the outside world in ways never before possible. Our 4th grade did a mystery geography skype with a school in Denver and our 5th graders participated in an online Hebrew class with teachers in Israel. 
2. Not only do student connect to the world, but they  experience things through technology which would not be possible otherwise. Imagine exploring the surface of the moon through your web browser, swimming to the bottom of the ocean, or exploring the Beit Hamikdash- Our 3rd grade did a webquest about Native Americans and will collaborate and develop projects based on their Internet research. Mrs. Taragin has created a Edmodo group called "Native Americans" which each student has joined so each student can easily access websites  they  identified  to do their research. 
3. Technology allows for opens lines of communication between administration, teachers, parents, and students. 
4. Multimedia can enrich the overall learning experience.  Our math curriculum provides the students with  hands on, interactive math lessons.  Students record themselves reading as they read a story on the iPad downloaded on  "audionote", student replays and judge themselves whether or not they used expression and  how long it took them to read. After listening to the recording, students reread the paragraph and try to beat their initial time 
5. Technology allows students to publish their work rather than just handing in a report. Our 5th graders published their own auto biographies and our 2nd grade  created a "Homophone Pictionary" in Publisher. To do this, the children merge language arts skills on homophones with hands on computer skills.
6. Technology allows students to take ownership of their learning and individualize their learning goals 
7. Technology is a fundamental component of our world and our children are learning the relevant 21st Century skills to help them become contributing members of society.
8. Technology also allows children to engage in important traditional lessons such as increased collaboration and  creativity.  A prime example are the voice threads and Prezis that our Middle School  girls use in both Judaic and General studies. Our children focus on evaluating ideas, analyzing data and comparing different  opinions in a respectful way.  

The usage of technology the within the classroom for the hype and excitement is not the educational philosophy of OCA.  Our primary focus is to ensure the well being of our students, to maximize our children’s learning, teach them to respect their peers  and to expose them  to the wonders of the world in which we live.  We must remember that technology is simply a means to that goal. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Quick Thoughts and Reflections on Why School by Will Richardson

This is my first post for 2013 and the 100th post since I started blogging. As we look at moving education forward  I thought that this was a most appropriate post to recognize these two milestones. I wrote this article for our weekly school newsletter.

I hope everyone had a chance to relax and rejuvenate a bit over the break. In addition to  relaxing I tried to catch up on some reading, and  I read a book by Will Richardson entitled Why School.
There has been much chatter over Twitter about this book, and, as a progressive, “out-of-the box” educator, this buzz got my attention and I am certainly glad I was able to find time to read this book. While I may not agree with everything Will Richardson writes, it definitely left an impression on me.  . I would like to share some memorable quotes from the book that are relevant to the  students, teachers and parents of OCA.

“Stephen Downes(a Canadian education researcher) says, “We have to stop thinking of an education as something that is delivered to us and instead see it as something we create for ourselves”
“A recent IBM survey of CEO’s asked them to name the most crucial factors for future success, and their answers had nothing to do with SAT scores or AP tests. Instead they cited creativity and managing the growing complexity of the world”
“In this new narrative, learning ceases to focus on consuming information and knowledge that’s no longer scarce (The author does believe knowing basic facts and the building blocks of reading and writing are critical). Instead it is about asking questions, working with others to find the answers…It’s about developing the kinds of habits and disposition that deep, lifelong learners need to succeed…”
“Tony Wagner recently said. “There’s no competitive advantage to knowing more than the person sitting next to you….What the world cares about is what can you do with what you know…” “And I’d add the world cares that you keep learning”
“ I believe there remains a great deal of value in the idea of school as a placed our kids go to learn with others, inspired by caring adults to pursue mastery and expertise……What doesn’t work is our educations system’s stubborn focus on delivering a curriculum that’s growing increasingly irrelevant and outdated…”
“Remaking assessments starts with this: Stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a Google search”
“Herbert Gerjuoy predicts that the illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those that cannot reads and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
 “We have to stop delivering the curriculum to the kids. We have to start discovering it with them.”
“…The adults in the room need to be learners first and teachers second”
“In the end the “Why school” question comes down to somewhat of a larger one of what we want for our kids….. I ask parents this all the time and not surprisingly the first answer on their lips is not “I want them to be good test takers”. Nor is it “I want them to know a lot of stuff”. What I hear instead are things like this: “I want them to love learning, I want them to be able to solve real problems, and I want them to be independent thinkers”

The ideas and concerns brought up in this book is a conversation that may revolutionize Jewish education, and needs to be discussed openly among our educators and parents. Therefore I would propose that OCA  establish a Parent Action Committee that provides a forum in a constructive manner to discuss new educational and school related issues. More details as to the role of such a committee and appropriate guidelines to follow.
Secondly, it would be fun to model innovative learning to our children.  What better way then by establishing a monthly Parent Book Club – details to follow as well.
Please email me if you are interested in helping establish a monthly book club or a Parent Action Committee
Shabbat Shalom