Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Monday, April 27, 2015

Motivation and Inspiration Require Teachers


Today almost every article on education some how talks about or is related to educational technology. I do am I supporter and believer in the benefits that technology can provide to enhance learning.  However let me be clear technology will no and should not replace the teacher.

Teachers are what and who matter. Teachers are the ones that create that personal connection and instill the love of learning in our students.  If technology is the number one topic then the 1A topic is creativity and innovation and here there is no doubt that those important skills can not be instilled and taught via technology but rather need that teacher interaction.

I was flipping through my Fipboard ( sorry for the pun ) and I saw an article written two years ago.

"Tech Isn’t Everything – Teachers Are! "

The words and sentiment expressed two years ago are even more important today!

The author expresses the point beautifully and I encourage you to read the whole article here are some highlights from the post:

"Teachers have always been and are always going to be the driving force in education. 
Teachers are on the front-lines with their sleeves rolled up, working closely with their students. 
Teachers have the power to motivate, inspire and instill a love of learning onto their students. 
In the school community, teachers have a direct influence on the children. No one else has more power to engage students in order to ignite learning.
Tech can assist in this, but it CANNOT do it alone. Teachers are the driving force behind these technological advances. They are the ones activating the apps, depressing the keys on their laptops and logging in.
And as the technology revolution in education expands and grows, we must never forget this!" 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My R & R ; Reflections and Ramblings


Over the last few days I have had the opportunity to have some meaningful discussions about educators. These discussions caused me to reflect on a number of different things and therefore I may ramble a bit.

Inevitably whether its on Facebook, Twitter or in person you can't escape the topics of blended learning, ed tech,  and online learning.

All of these topics are important and  I just wanted to share some of my reflections  with you from these conversations.

There are some important factors to keep in mind with all of these concepts and ideas.

  • Student Learning is the priority
  • Technology serves as an accelerator but pedagogy is the driver
  • Learning and lessons need to be meaningful 
  • Collaboration, critical thinking, ask questions etc Life skills or what others call 21st century skills are more important than merely knowing the facts 
  • Students need to understand that they are part of a global world and making goal connections are important 
Technology can provide and help with all of these and enhance the learning experience. However the education and learning goals need to drive the use of technology and using technology for its own sake is not effective and often can be counter productive.

While I understand and know what many refer to as the tuition crisis again this can't and shouldn't be what drives the use of technology in our schools. Student learning and learning goals come first. No educator would suggest ( at least in private schools)  a class size of 30-40 because it saves money. There it is clear it goes against educational norms and best practice. The same has to be taken into account when discussion a schools use of technology 

Those are my quick reflections and ramblings. 

Monday, April 6, 2015



This past Friday night began the holiday of Passover. Perhaps one of the most famous elements of the  Passover holiday is the Seder night, when we read the Haggada and retell and perhaps even relive our Exodus from Egypt. The Seder night is based on the idea that we are told to tell over the story to our children and when our children ask we should tell them. The Haggadah also mentions the idea of Four Sons and one of the more common interpretations of these sons is based on Maimonides idea "Chanoch L'nar Al Pi Darco", educated each child according to his needs. In other words differentiate.

Each Year I try to read a new commentary on the Haggadah and this year I have been reading, "The Jonathan Sacks Haggada" with commentary and essays written by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Through his ideas I believe that the Seder night holds a guide for us as parents and educators alike on how to educate our children.  Rabbi Sacks writes; "Abraham was chosen to in order to be a parent. He was also chosen to be an educator. The two concepts so different in many societies,.... are in Judaism inseparable."

We all the know the importance of having children ask  questions and that through questions and critical thinking we come to a deeper sense of learning. Rabbi Sacks adds that asking  a question shows a willingness to learn and when one asks that are in a way preparing themselves to receive the answer. 

As much as the Four questions are linked to the Four sons there is a reason the Rabbis created a standard text for all children to read at the Seder. Rabbi Sacks points out that we also need to remember that all children are precious. 

While this seems obvious I think if we are truly honest with ourselves we are all human and at times can favorite certain children over others, even unintentionally. I remember once I had a graduate student observe one of my classes for a paper she was writing and she was recording different statistics. She told me afterwards that I tended to call on the boys more often than the girls. I was very surprised as I always tired to be fair and call on my students equally. Remembering each child is unique and special is an important reminder.

As a Judaic teacher we often struggle with making the ancient texts relevant today. Rabbi Sacks I believe gives us an insight into this  as well. He adds that by telling we are not just reviewing what happened but it engraves it more in he memory.  Each year we add out own insights and new ideas so that we connect the past with the present. Therefore there is this constant renewal.

There is much written about the four sons and the purpose of this post is not to go into all the commentaries and ideas. I would like to share one thought mentioned in Rabbi Saks Haggada that I believe is important for educators.

" Wisdom in Judaism is not a state, but a process of constant learning. That is why it lies as much in  the question one asks as in the answers. Every answer is itself a prelude to a deeper question , and thus there is constant growth as we move to new levels of understanding." 

One of the hot topic today is project based learning and experiential learning and here too the Haggada by saying that we need to reel the story at the Seder night and not at the start of the month is because that is when we have the Matzoh and Marror before us.  Rabbi Sacks adds " The Torah however establishes a fundamental rule about how to pass values onto the next generation: tell the story while you are doing the deed.....Values are caught not taught. They are communicated by what we do more than by what we say."