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Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education

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					     Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through
             Jewish Integrated Experiential Education

                                  Richard D Solomon, PhD


Recently there has been a spate of articles written about reinventing
Jewish education1.

Toward this end Jonathan Woocher writes:

“It's time to reinvent Jewish education. That isn't because Jewish
education today is bad; it's because it can be much, much better than
it is.”

In his article Dr. Woocher offers four paradigm shifts.

One: The need to incorporate the strengths of formal and informal
experiential Jewish education across Jewish institutions and
denominations. Dr. Woocher writes:

If we think about Jewish education as an unfolding set of experiences
that can, will, and should take place in multiple settings - synagogues,
schools, camps, Israel, service programs, the home, art studios, on
line, etc., etc. - then it becomes clear that all of these settings need to
work in concert with one another to create the richest possible array
of experiences, diverse (affording multiple entry points and
pathways), but inter-connected (allowing for reinforcement and
graceful handoffs), in order to attract and affect the largest possible
number of learners.

1
 Read http://blogs.rj.org/reform/2011/08/reinventing-jewish-
education.html
http://www.kavana.org/family/middle-school
http://www.jedchange.net/video/salman-khan-lets-use-video-to
http://www.ujafedny.org/reinventing-congregational-education/
http://techrav.blogspot.com/


    Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   1
                                    Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
Two: The need to create models of Jewish education that sharply
focus on the needs of the learner.

Three: The willingness to bring innovations and innovators from the
margins of the Jewish educational system to its center.

Four: The need to create Jewish education programs that are
proactive, not reactive.

The purpose of Jewish education should be to provide learners with
the resources from both Jewish tradition and the contemporary
Jewish community to help them live meaningful, purposeful, and
fulfilling Torah-based lives.
Heretofore, the reigning paradigm for Jewish education has been
reactive. We feared, he writes, ʻthe loss of Jewish identityʼ through
assimilation , and thus ʻJewish education ʻ was charged ʻwith
preventing this loss by making us "more Jewish."

Accepting Dr. Woocherʼs four paradigm shifts, letʼs explore how we
might create a new model for Jewish education that (a) incorporates
the strengths of both formal and informal experiential education (b) is
learner-centered, (c) is open to innovation and (d) is pro-active.

What are some of the perceived strengths of Jewish formal
education?

In comparison to informal experiential education (i.e. the learning that
occurs through participating in camp and youth activities, mitzvah
projects, trips to Israel, etc.) one can make the following
generalizations about the strengths of Jewish formal education.

Jewish formal education

   • provides Judaic text-based learning and instruction
   • emphasizes teacher-centered pedagogical methods
   • has planned and often written lesson plans with learning
     objectives that are aligned with enduring Jewish understanding
 Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   2
                                 Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
  • offers instruction that takes place in a traditional classroom
  • is similar to what students expect in secular education


What are some of the perceived strengths of Jewish informal
education?

In comparison to Jewish formal education, one can make the
following generalizations about the strengths of Jewish informal
education.

Jewish informal education

  • provides Judaic experiential learning and instruction
  • emphasizes learner-centered instruction
  • is perceived by students as affording a unique, spontaneous
    and individualized learning experience
  • offers instruction that takes place outside of the traditional
    classroom. Indeed, it is the milieu, context, the location of the
    learning environment (e.g. museum, nursing home, Masada)
    which enhances the learning experience
  • is quite different to what students experience in secular
    education


Accordingly if we were to reinvent Jewish education, it would
incorporate the advantages of both Jewish formal and informal
learning, and be learner-centered.

But how would this new model for Jewish education be open to
innovation?

The Innovative Role of Instructional Technology in Jewish
Education

With the advent of recent instructional technology hardware (i.e. flip
video cameras, smartphones, lap tops, tablets and smartboards, etc)
and web-based software (i.e. Skype, Google Docs, Flickr, Twitter,
 Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   3
                                 Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
Facebook and new apps for mobile phones) the divide between
instruction and learning inside and outside of the classroom is
narrowing. Accordingly, with this new technology the real and virtual
worlds outside of the classroom can now enter the four walls of the
school room, and the strengths of Jewish formal education can be
integrated within Jewish informal experiential education.


           What is Jewish Integrated Experiential Education?

Jewish Integrated Experiential Education is the general term that
describes the incorporation of the assets of formal and informal
Jewish experiential education in any Jewish instructional venue (i.e.
day school, complementary school, higher educational institution,
camp, youth center, museum excursion, trip to Israel, etc.). For this
construct to be implemented it requires three additional components,
(1) the curriculum specialist or designer , (2) the staff developer or
teacher trainer, and (3) the application of computer hardware (e.g.
smartboards, lap tops, tablets and smartphones) and web-based
software (i.e. email, Google Docs, Skype, audio files, video
applications, mobile apps, etc.)




The Application of Jewish Integrated Experiential Education

Given the conceptual framework, Jewish Integrated Experiential
Education, learning can be ignited through text study, a teacherʼs
lesson plan, a student question, or the milieu, context or setting (i.e.
the traditional classroom or a visit to a Jewish museum, etc.) for
learning.

For simplicity2, letʼs assume the spark for inquiry comes from text
study in a traditional classroom setting.


2
 The spark for inquiry in Jewish Integrated Experiential Education can occur in any educational setting. or
milieu.
  Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education, 4
                                    Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
In Parshat Shelach-Lecha (Exodus, 3:8) there is a description of the
Land of Israel as a "land flowing with milk and honey."

The role of the teacher:

The teacher can share this text and invite students to generate their
own questions such as:
   • Is Israel still the land of milk and honey?
   • What does Israel produce?
   • What doesn't Israel produce?
   • How does Israel feed and nurture its people?
   • What phrase would you use to describe Israel today? Why?


The teacher with the participation of his or her students can
generate ways of finding answers to their questions. These resources
may include:

  •   Finding print material
  •   Locating pictures
  •   Researching the internet
  •   Emailing Israelis and Israeli institutions (e.g. Ministry of
      Tourism)
  •   Speaking to Israelis about these questions through Skype,
      Oovoo
  •   Texting Israelis
  •   Asking students in a class in Israel to investigate these
      questions and report their findings
  •   Inviting students who will be taking a trip to Israel to answer
      these questions by transmitting pictures, music, video and
      audio recordings, power point presentations via email, Skype
      and apps on their mobile phones

Now letʼs imagine that students in either a formal classroom in Israel
or and Israeli youth group are planning a trip to the United States and
they also have a set of questions that they wish to pose to American
Jewish students. Would it not be possible for students in the United

 Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   5
                                 Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
States and Israel to exchange information using the new web-based
instructional technology?

As a culminating project students in any learning environment (i.e.
traditional classroom, virtual online classroom, non-school room
venue) will individually or in learning teams investigate text-based
student-generated questions, analyze the resources discovered, and
prepare a report (e.g. paper, poster, song, role-play, video, audio,
mime, multi-media presentation, picture album, etc.) and share their
findings with their on site or virtual classmates. For more details refer
to the Jewish Integrated Experiential Activities Learning Chart by
clicking on this link,
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mtHLXpMqNZROxCLY_3z50R
g5sJg34WKE-TSuDoHeyEU/edit?hl=en_US&pli=1


These collective learning experiences provide a snapshot of what
Jewish Integrated Experiential Education might look, sound and feel
like. You will note that these experiences cannot be reduced to either
Jewish formal or informal experiential learning, nor simply be defined
as a text-study, teacher-directed or learner-centered unit. It is, in fact,
an example of Jewish Integrated Experiential Education.

How is Jewish Integrated Experiential Education Pro-active?

According to Dr. Woocherʼs thesis, a new model for Jewish education
should not be derived out of fear of assimilation into the larger culture;
it must become a vehicle to empower our students to live meaningful
and fulfilling lives. Toward that end, Jewish Integrated Experiential
Education affords our students the opportunity to study Judaic texts,
participate in Jewish experiential learning activities, and create Judaic
knowledge products (e.g. movies, audio files, power points, multi-
media presentations, etc.) which both measure student learning, and
transmit our sacred heritage to the world.




 Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   6
                                 Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
Is Jewish Integrated Experiential Education Already Here?

There is no question that Jewish Integrated Experiential Education is
presently being implemented in many different Jewish formal and
informal programs around the globe. However, the name of the
construct, Jewish Integrated Experiential Education, is not commonly
used at this time. Letʼs explore this further.

In formal Jewish educational settings Jewish experiential education is
referred to as active learning, cooperative learning, inquiry-based
learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning and
student-centered learning.

Formal Jewish educational settings teachers are increasing using
smartboards, and in some day and complementary schools students
are using tablets, and smart phones inside and outside of the
classroom to facilitate instruction and enhance learning.

Jewish informal education programs (i.e. day and sleep-away camps,
youth activities, congregational trips, museum visits, etc.) have
always been sterling examples of the efficacy of Jewish experiential
learning.

On the chart below you will find institutions that have already begun
to implement Jewish Integrated Experiential Education.




 Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   7
                                 Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
 Institution            Website      Contact                       Contact Personʼs
                        Address      Person                         Email Address
Temple Beth         http://www.tbsh Rabbi                       rabbijames@tbsholom.o
Sholom              olom.org/       James                       rg
                                    Greene
Temple              http://www.time Rabbi                       RabbiAdam@timemphis
Israel              mphis.org/      Adam                        .org
                                    Grossman
Auerbach            www.acaje-      Dr. Gloria                  Gbecker@acaje-jop.org
Central             jop.org         Becker
Agency for
Jewish
Education

Jewish              http://www.jewi           Rabbi             tzvidaum@gmail.com
Foundation          shfoundationsc            Tzvi
School of           hool.org/                 Daum
Staten Island
United              http://www.usy. Ms. Amy                     dorsch@uscj.org
Synagogue           org/            Dorsch
Youth
Beth El             https://bethelph Ms.                        jsilverman@bethelphoe
Congregation        oenixed.wordpre Janette                     nix.com
                    ss.com/          Silverman

Bi-Cultural         http://bcds.org/          Mrs.     ysinger@bcds.org
Day School                                    Yocheved
                                              Singer




 Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   8
                                 Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011
Conclusion

Now is the time for our Jewish formal and informal educational
programs to work together so that what happens outside of the four
walls of the classroom is intentionally and seamlessly integrated
within the curriculum of our day and complementary schools. With the
advent of new technological hardware (i.e. smartboards, laps top,
tablets and smartphones) and new software for communication and
collaboration, and the creation of Judaic web-based products, we can
fulfill the promise of teaching our children what it means to live a
meaningful Torah-based life.

Reference

Woocher, J. (August, 2011). Reinventing Jewish education. RJ.org.
http://blogs.rj.org/reform/2011/08/reinventing-jewish-education.html
(Retrieved September 4, 2011).




 Reinventing Jewish Formal and Informal Learning through Jewish Integrated Experiential Education,   9
                                 Richard D Solomon, PhD, ©2011

				
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Description: Here is the original article as a PDF file that was published by JESNA's Jewish Education Change Network on September 9, 2011. It was written by Richard D Solomon, PhD.