According to a UN policy brief released in August 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces impacted 94% of the world’s student population.

From the onset of the pandemic, teachers were immediately tasked with implementing distance learning modalities, often without sufficient guidance, training, or resources. Teachers across the globe were largely unprepared to support continuity of learning and adapt to new teaching methodologies.

Nearly overnight, The Lookstein Center at Bar-Ilan University, which has been engaged in distance/online teaching since 2000 through various distance learning projects including its award-winning online Jewish studies school, Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy, became the go-to address for teacher training, supporting educators and ensuring learning continuity during school closures around the globe. From producing short videos with tips and tools to use in online classrooms and making team members available for consultations with schools — to offering free webinars for educators about the basics of online teaching and engaging students in the virtual classroom — Lookstein Center professionals have supported hundreds of teachers and schools worldwide in navigating realities never before faced. Much of this material was offered for free or at minimal cost.

The Lookstein Center is now launching an online professional development series for teachers in Jewish day schools around the world that will also be accessible to Rabbis, parents and supplementary schools. With basic classroom structure and organization now in disarray, the series’ sessions, led by Lookstein professionals, will focus on a range of topics, including:

  • virtual classroom organization skills
  • classroom management in an online classroom, offering tools to deal with disciplinary problems, on the one hand, while making sessions particularly engaging, on the other
  • making Jewish learning meaningful in an online environment

The series will run through January.

The Lookstein Center offers a broad range of teacher training opportunities to reach as many teachers as possible. The Center’s training opportunities ensure that Jewish studies teachers around the world are armed with requisite foundational knowledge, up to date with the latest educational research, and skilled in using critical tools for the 21st century. The Center’s approach is to combine theory and practice so educators can walk away from sessions with the knowledge, tools, and know-how to enhance their teaching and upgrade their classrooms.

“With the arrival of COVID-19, the fundamental skills that every single teacher used day in and day out were no longer applicable. Walking around the classroom was no longer possible. Checking in with students was no longer straightforward. Creating engaging lessons was no longer simple. That’s where we come in,” shares Chana German, Executive Director of The Lookstein Center. “The rules of sound education haven’t changed, but we can make sure that teachers know how to overcome the hurdles of the new medium, so they can get back to their bread and butter – facilitating learning with students. In offering these opportunities directly to teachers at-cost we are hoping to make a major impact in enabling teachers to keep doing what they do best without major disruptions.”

“You guys were masters of Zoom way before the pandemic made it cool!” the renowned author and professor Dara Horn, whose children take Lookstein Center courses, recently wrote. Horn reflects the sentiments of many educators who have tapped into Lookstein’s resources and written similar responses.  With the hope of returning one day soon to the traditional classroom, the Lookstein Center remains committed to enhancing the virtual classroom environment.

The fall/winter series is ongoing. Teachers can sign up for sessions at https://www.lookstein.org/pd-fall2020/.

About The Publishers
Bar-Ilan University
Bar-Ilan University, founded in 1955, is one of Israel's leading institutions of higher education, uniquely combining cutting-edge scientific research with education steeped in Jewish values and social responsibility. From 70 students to close to 19,000, its milestone achievements in the sciences and humanities, and all fields of human endeavor, have made an indelible imprint on the landscape of the State of Israel.
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