AVI CHAI concluded its general grant making on December 31, 2019.

Chanukah Acts: Engaging Our Students by Design

Posted by: Deborah Fishman

December 13, 2012

Our Chanukah Acts series seeks to answer the question, “What can parents and Jewish educators learn from [Chanukah] about how to inspire others to more active participation in Jewish life and connection to the State of Israel?” This response is by Sarah Blattner, founder of Tamritz and a Jewish Day School Fellow of Joshua Venture Group’s 2012-2014 Dual Investment Program. Read more about the AVI CHAI-funded fellowship here and more about Sarah here.
By: Sarah Blattner
Students today have an infinite amount of information at their fingertips and literally in the palms of their hands. Because information is so accessible and learning can happen anytime, anywhere, we as Jewish educators are being challenged in new and invigorating ways. We must teach by actively engaging our students. Learning today is not about filling vessels with knowledge; but rather, it is about teaching students how to actively seek out knowledge, evaluate sources, synthesize data, collaborate with others, create innovative solutions and make connections in meaningful and inspiring ways. We must learn to be artful coaches and facilitators of the learning process, helping our students navigate the information superhighway. And, as Jewish educators, we must be mindful of how we interact with new media, modeling digital citizenship and respect for intellectual property. Ultimately, we must design learning experiences for our students that are relevant, have real-world connections, and that keep pace with pedagogical trends and new media.
Artful instructional design parallels the silent act of communicating the Chanukah story – in our intentional design, the lamp of learning will light a fire within our students, sparking a “need to know” for seeking out new understandings and building innovative solutions. In fact, the “new Bloom’s” taxonomic hierarchy for learning demands this kind of active engagement, including the verbs creating, evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding and remembering.
A variety of instructional design elements spark the quest to learn. New media can be leveraged to create social and participatory learning opportunities for students. Digital citizenship can be modeled and woven into these experiences as a natural part of the learning. Offering choice and multiple learning pathways further engages our students.
A “one size fits all” industrialized model no longer supports today’s global classroom. We need to appeal to our students’ multiple intelligences, encouraging a variety of learning modalities and passions. Project-based learning provides real-world, relevant applications of learning, challenging students to solve problems and engage in the full range of the new Bloom’s taxonomy. As students engage in solving real-world problems and mine the ethersphere for viable sources, they become curators of content.
Teachers are no longer the keepers of the information, and our students must learn to evaluate information and select pertinent sources. And as a final design element, providing students with low-stakes opportunities to test out theories of their understandings creates an atmosphere of experimentation and curiosity. This “prototyping” approach to learning is the opposite of embracing failure – it is all about encouraging iterations of understandings and taking risks.
“The act of lighting candles at the window so that Jews and non-Jews alike recognize our celebration of the miracles that occurred” reminds us that we must encourage our students to engage in their learning. We are lucky enough to witness a digital revolution, affording us with tools and possibilities like never before. By leveraging new media in the artful design of learning, we quietly invite our students to engage, to discover, to share, to learn.
Sarah Blattner is the founder and executive director of Tamritz, a national learning network for Jewish day school students and teachers, and a current Jewish Day School Joshua Venture Fellow. You can follow Sarah on twitter @tamritzlearning.

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