In this article, Esther Feldman of The Lookstein Center shares the history and development of The Lookstein Center’s Remote Teacher program, and presents what Lookstein learned from its experience about conducting successful video-conferencing classes.
From the article:
The Lookstein Center is a pioneer in the field of live, interactive distance learning for Jewish studies. What began as an experiment nine years ago in one school expanded to a broader pilot including multiple schools. Over the past five years The Lookstein Center, with the support and generosity of the Avi Chai Foundation, has provided 17 different day schools the opportunity to benefit from a master Jewish studies educator in Israel via a video-conferencing IP platform. In the current academic year, eleven schools are using the video-conferencing platform to broadcast interactive lessons twice or three times a week to their Jewish studies classes. These schools ranged in location from Teaneck and Birmingham to El Paso, Phoenix, St. Louis and Vancouver; topics taught included Bible, Israel studies, Prophets, Jewish history, Prayer, Jewish Law and Mishnah, bar/bat mitzvah preparatory classes, and more, based on the individual needs of the schools; grades taught range from grade 4 through 12.
In each case, the Israel-based teacher (also called the “Remote” teacher) is the teacher of record in the classroom, providing both content and delivery of the entire course. In addition to the Remote teacher, in every classroom there is always an adult presence – usually a novice teacher. This person is responsible for ensuring discipline as well as ongoing communication between the Remote teacher and the school administration. Many of the teachers have developed the relationship into successful collaborative/supportive co-teaching partnerships, in which the Remote teacher takes the lead teaching role while the onsite teacher rotates among students to provide support. The development of these relationships adds an unforeseen professional development facet to the program – offering novice and/or inexperienced educators the unique opportunity to observe as well as collaborate with a master educator at work in a classroom setting.
After working with these classes for five years, The Lookstein Center has found that the following can be particularly helpful:
- Graphic organizers for the students
- Assessment tools
- Highly Interactive lessons
- Ongoing group work
- Eliciting discussion and supervising small group work is challenging, but essential to the students’ satisfaction with the platform.
In conclusion, a successful video conference class provides a unique educational experience for both the student and teacher. It is very organized, extremely interactive, as well as educationally challenging and stimulating."