Source: Gleanings, Volume 5, Issue 2
Being a classroom teacher can be an isolating experience. You may not know where to turn for new ideas and wish there was a way you could benefit from the experimentation and expertise of others in classrooms like yours across the country. Fortunately, in the past few years, Jewish day school educators have been able to find networks designed to incubate and spread ideas and practices. As a network-weaver working at the AVI CHAI Foundation, I have an interest in understanding and documenting these networks, which could range from organized programs, such as the JDS Collaborative, for which I serve as program officer at AVI CHAI, to a much less formal Twitter chat. Let’s look at what these networks are, which ones are more likely to scale through successfully spreading ideas, and why.
Ariella Falack, a teacher of Torah and halakhah at Magen David Yeshivah Celia Esses High School, was an early adopter of game- and project-based learning at her school. She was able to explore this interest through the JDS Collaborative, a program of Prizmah: the Center for Jewish Day Schools led by EduCannon Consulting. JDS Collaborative puts together educators from multiple schools to implement a project in their own school’s context, with continual opportunities to collaborate, learn from implementation at other schools, engage in workshopping challenges, and share and document ideas and solutions in a continuous feedback loop. Each project is designed to further some aspect of schools’ Jewish missions. In this case, the focus was on applying game-based learning to the Judaics classroom. As her personal way of implementing the project in her school, Falack experimented with creating an escape room–style experience. She designed this game and executed it in her school, and then posted her game on the Basecamp site used by the collaborative and on JEDLab on Facebook, looking for feedback and suggestions from fellow educators. Falack also presented what she was doing and learning to participants at the 2017 Prizmah Conference, along with Alanna Kotler, project manager for the collaborative.
“In that room, the excitement for this was unbelievable. When it was actually done using Judaic material, the teachers saw the possibilities for their own classrooms,” said Kotler.
As a result of this presentation, five of the teachers got their schools on board to participate in a new collaborative project specifically built around the escape room methodology (“breakout”). The project included a five-part webinar series led by Falack that broke the methodology down into pieces. Then each participant designed his/her own escape room game for use in his or her own classroom.
“It wasn’t easy. It took some educators 20 hours to develop a breakout, but the cohort kept them accountable. They had Ariella to support them and sharing the challenge of it was a motivator. The network and their fellow teachers kept them going. Now they have a relationship with Ariella and can continue the enthusiasm,” Kotler said.
Ideas spread when networks of peer educators come together to share ideas. This methodology is powerful and most effective when three components are present: trust, a coordinating network-weaver, and documenting and sharing.
Read the entire article in Gleanings.