(March 23, 2020 / JNS) Amid the unprecedented transition to distance learning made by thousands of schools, congregations and adult-education programs, The Jewish Education Project (TJEP) launched a hub of resources, an EdTech help desk, virtual educator coaching and webinars accessible to anyone.
More than 1,200 participants engaged in webinars on how to provide meaningful virtual learning experiences for others. And more than 3,500 educators, education leaders, parents and other professionals accessed a range of resources, on everything from Google classroom coaching, to mindfulness exercises, to self-care and more.
“I’m encouraged knowing that there are others to turn to and appreciate the added efforts that are being expended during this troubling time,” says Chana Zucker, principal of Be’er Hagolah Elementary School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
TJEP’s EdTech Help Desk is also offering 30- and 60-minute individual appointments to meet via Zoom with its director of online educational content for specific questions and online strategies.
“We need to proactively support educators with the best and most useful tools and strategies for virtual learning,” adds David Bryfman, TJEP CEO. “At the same time, we need to answer individual, very specific, tactical questions about what kinds of technology and tools work best—and how each educator with their own skill set actually can use them effectively. Many educators are adapting on the fly; there was no plan in place for this.”
Veteran educators in particular are going outside of their normal comfort zones, learning how to use new platforms to reach and engage students, often while their parents and colleagues can see them succeed or fail online in real time.
Ellen Dietrick, an early-childhood educator at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Mass., says, “I don’t love being on camera, but emergency times call for throwing all non-health-related caution to the wind.”
Educators are seeing video and live feed options through an entirely new lens, notes Shariee Calderone, TJEP senior educational consultant for early-childhood and family engagement. Educators see it “opening the door for them to offer stability, community, routines, rituals and the continued developmental-growth opportunities that their students need right now.”
She continues, “Using technology with young learners is the only thing my colleagues in the field of early childhood and family engagement can talk about.”
Feedback from educators and other conveys the need for these resources and an understanding of the critical role they play for families during this crisis.
“As I was reflecting on these fabulous educators [through an online forum],” adds Julie BenAvram, a teacher at Westchester Jewish Center, Mamaroneck, N.Y.,” I realized that beyond giving the children educational/academic experiences, these teachers were providing their students a sense of community, continuity and care in incredibly tumultuous times. I was charged and motivated!”
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