This study explores how the relationships between congregational school Jewish educators built during ongoing havruta (partner-based) text study can carry over into a professional relationship that is aimed toward learning to integrate technology. Educator relationships were studied as part of the Jewish Educator Technology Initiative (JETI) professional development model, which included havruta text study, peer-to-peer dialogue, and instruction in technology integration theory and practice. Participants cited multiple relational contexts as prominently supporting both text and technology learning. These relational building blocks formed a foundation for a rich, supportive community of Jewish educator-learners expanding pedagogy to include new technologies.
Conclusion and Future Research
This study illuminates how bringing collaborative discourse and the building of a supportive professional relationship through Jewish text study can be a catalyst for Jewish educators progressing through essential technology adoption processes. Interactions with others in relational contexts are a key part of the technology adoption process and are present as educators work to identify and overcome barriers in educational change. Creating a professional development space that fosters collaborative relationships is key to successful professional development on technology integration (Vislocky, 2013).
The most significant theme emerging from the data was collaboration. In the final survey, participants cited learning from each other, collaborating in text study, sharing, and working together both online and in person as prominent components of the model and as supportive elements to learning. Using text study as a way to initiate conversations about teaching and learning rooted in Jewish ideas was also referenced by participants as a significant part of the JETI model. This is particularly notable in contrast to results from the midpoint survey in which there was a noticeable lack of mention of collegial relationships as a contributor to learning. Relationships in professional development progressed from initially being considered a potential concern to not being mentioned by participants midway through the series to being considered a significant component of the learning. The ongoing collaborative practice of havruta text study combined with opportunities for experimentation and discourse on technology integration with a partner provided multiple contexts for educators to build supportive relationships and work together to learn about digital technologies and their potential role in student learning. Based on participant feedback and survey results, close attention to text choice, logistics of choosing and maintaining consistent partnerships, and the presence of a reflective, flexible facilitator will all remain important considerations in future iterations of the JETI program.
Future research, including case studies on havruta technology partners, would shed light on the nature of the relational flow between havruta and technology integration experiences, including depth and application to other professional contexts. The JETI model also inspires other questions: Which aspects of the text study and technology integration learned as part of JETI effect changes in participants’ pedagogies over an extended time? How are elements of student learning—for example, increased student choice and connection to Jewish content—impacted by changes in participants’ educational technology pedagogies?
As educators look to the future of Jewish education, technology will no doubt play a role in student learning and thus necessarily teacher training. We cannot let the challenges and complexity of technology hold us back from understanding and using this powerful educational tool. The JETI model is one example of how melding our traditions with the expanding digital world around us, maintaining Jewish roots even as we broaden the goals and pedagogy of Jewish education, can enhance our ability to create meaningful Jewish learning experiences for today’s learners, teachers and students alike.
Vislocky, E. (2013). Five key elements to successful embedded teacher development. Northwest Evaluation Association. Retrieved from NWEA: Five Key Elements to Successful Embedded Teacher Professional Development.