Liveblog of OJCS EdCamp

Are you curious how we are spending our time during our “Professional Day” today at OJCS?

Well, the first part of the day will be an “EdCamp”!

What is “EdCamp”?

EdCamp is an “unconference” – an opportunity, without intense preparation or anxiety for teachers to “own” their professional learning.  Teachers will show up at edcamp and find a blank schedule – only time slots and locations.  They will then decide what topics they want to present on or which conversations they wish to facilitate and simply sign up until the schedule is complete.  And then the learning begins!

Sounds simple, which it is, but its power is in recognizing how much teachers already have to offer and how strong their desire is to learn from each other.  It is also an important acknowledgment that they are already experts in important topics and, thus, there is no need for intense preparation – simply share the work.

Today, I’m going to liveblog our first OJCS EdCamp to give you a taste…

9:00 AM Blank Board

9:30 AM OJCS EdCamp is Ready to Launch!

Session #1: A Conversation About Language Arts

OK…we are up and running!

We have Language Arts teachers across the grades, along with the Librarian, are having a meaningful conversation about how we currently assess students in language arts – which assessments, which benchmarks, etc., – and how we have been and should use the data to help students.

Teachers are engaged in conversation around the CASI Reading Assessment that we currently use in Grades 4 and higher.  Teachers are sharing how they are currently using it.  The Librarian is sharing a little about the other kinds of reading assessments she has been exploring.  Our school also currently uses RAZ in Grades K -3.

What is great about the conversation is the attempt to connect the dots between the grades, between the assessments and about being clear about who the audiences are for the data – is this for students, teachers, parents, all of them, etc.?

I have to go peek in on the other sessions…but I look forward to seeing what emerges out of here and how it will enhance reading at OJCS!

Session #2: Exploring Collaborations Between STEM & Jewish Studies

What a great session!

We have Science and Jewish Studies Teachers exploring how to integrate our new 3D printer with Jewish Studies content.  This is what the magic of Jewish day schools is all about!  They are getting a tour of how the new 3D printer works and exploring fascinating opportunities for integrating Jewish Studies content.  What if we wanted to create a model of the Temple in Jerusalem?  What if we wanted to make a dreidel?

We can!  And imagine what it will do to inspire student engagement…

They are about to print a key just to see how it works, but the ideas that flow out of here are going to dramatically impact project-based learning at our school?  How?  Stay tuned!

Session #3: How Can Teachers, Parents & Students Learn Together?

Jumping in to the end of a session is always hard, but I can tell just from the layout of the table that the impact of the Design Team is already beginning.  They are engaged in data immersion as all those post-it notes will be created, synthesized and lead to new ideas and prototypes.  They have been engaged in design thinking around a prototype for Passover this year that leads to a family learning experience.

Teachers are sharing examples from prior years and are practicing the art of asking deeper questions.  For example, “What do parents really learn from some of our family experiences?”  If you want parents to be meaningfully engaged in the learning, you will need to consider them as learners in the planning.

Part of the conversation shifts to how to schedule best to accommodate parents…

But the most unexpected and amazing part of this conversation is listening to two non-Jewish teachers talking with passion about “derekh eretz” and how important the “Jewish” is for our families.  It reinforces a few things…

all teachers and staff at a Jewish day school are Jewish educators.

…that there is no reason for “OJCS” to exist, if not for the “J”.

…parent engagement is a critical component for making it true.

As the conversation moves towards the end, they are having a remarkable conversation about how religion and faith have changed in society at large and how it impacts parent engagement at OJCS.

Session #4: edpuzzle

Our Grade 6 General Studies Teacher is explaining her experiments this year in employing a flipped pedagogy for the teaching of mathematics.  She is showing them how she creates videos of herself teaching and how, using edpuzzle, she imports questions directly into the video so that after each concept is introduced, the video automatically stops and a quiz pops up that requires a student response.  She is then showing them how she can check the data the next day including…

…did they watch the video?

…how did they do on the quizzes?

The big idea being that she is then able each day, based on the data, to tailor that day’s work according to which students grasped which concepts.  She can group students together according to their exact needs, can assign more targeted schoolwork, decide who needs teacher attention, etc., and it can totally change day to day based on student needs.

Teachers are now asking great questions about how to use this pedagogy with other topics and other grade levels.  What does this look like in a Grade 3 Social Studies class?  Grade 8 Jewish Studies?

Teachers are now asking great questions about how to create the flipped videos (she uses the app “Explain Everything“).

I have a feeling we will see more flipping at OJCS in months ahead…

Session #5: A Conversation About the Whole Child

Walking into a great conversation about what matters most in education…

…is it about how much they know?

…or is it about who they are?

What kinds of memories are being created?

[By the way, I can observe how members of the Design Team have already been impacted by our first site visit by the language they are using, the kinds of questions they are asking their colleagues and the willingness to be risk-takers.]

The conversation has shifted towards how the school can touch souls as well as it touches minds…

Now there is a bit of a healthy debate about whether student-centered learning can work in early language classes…

As the conversation starts to shift towards sharing ideas, the sands are almost through the hourglass and we have to move on to the last round.

Session #6: Supporting Student Mindfulness & Wellbeing

Emerging from the data immersion captured by the Design Team, two members of the team are leading a conversation on how to help students in our school (re)gain “Composure” (one of Ken Robinson‘s 8 “C’s”).

A teacher shares how he marries meditation from Calm and tefillah to enhance kavanah (intentionality)…and how he is also experimenting with Headspace.

That leads to a great conversation with one of our Rabbis about traditional modes of meditation, the impact of meditation on prayer, etc., etc.

Session #7: Fakebook

I can’t believe I am popping into our last session!

This is a conversation on how one teacher is incorporating Fakebook as a pedagogy in the teaching of Grade 3 Social Studies.  She is explaining her own learning as well as how she is introducing it with her students.  Teachers are now sharing ideas about how to enhance the unit and creative ways to play with the pedagogy.

This is a lively conversation and it reinforces again (!) how much impact I can see from just one site visit on the Design Team…and the Design Team’s impact on the faculty.

That’s it!  Our first OJCS EdCamp has come to a close.  I can’t wait to see how these conversations will impact teaching and learning at our school.  I look forward to more creative opportunities to harvest the excellence that already is, while adding new ideas to create the future that will be.

The OJCS Announces $50,000 Innovation Gift

“An older couple walk into a Jewish Federation…” is not the beginning of a borscht belt joke…but it just might be the beginning of the future of education in Ottawa.  I am not normally the b’sheret type of person.  I don’t often subscribe to the notion that the “universe” responds to what you put out there.  I am not even sure I believe that you “make your own luck”.  But I am paying attention now…

When I got an email from our Jewish Federation’s Executive Director, Andrea Freedman, that an older married couple had expressed interest in contributing to the future of Jewish education in Ottawa and did I have anything to propose, I tempered my enthusiasm.  Not due to their age, simply out of having had the prospect of a meaningful gift floated many times without landing.  But I definitely had ideas…

I just so happened to be sitting on two innovation proposals and with much help from Andrea and her team, we managed to put something compelling in front of the couple (they have expressed a preference to remain anonymous) in short order.  And thanks to Andrea’s stewardship, not only did they agree to fund them both…they also agreed to do more.

We have consistently described the school as being engaged in three critical conversations in this year of transition.  The first is a clarification of our Jewish mission and vision, the work of which continues to be shared out.  The second is an honest examination of our French outcomes, the work of which is ongoing with a first deliverable expected in early February.  The third is (probably) the most important of the three and if schools were not living creatures, would likely have launched first.  However, since change management in schools is analogous to fixing an airplane whilst flying it, it had been parked on the runway.  This conversation cuts to the heart of the very value proposition of the school and attempts to answer one very simple and consequential question: “What does the OJCS believe to be true about teaching and learning?”

The answer to this question lives in the messy world between mission statement and curriculum (both of which we presently have).  The answer to this question serves as the connective tissue between our pedagogical choices and our academic benchmarks and standards (both of which we kinda-mostly have).  The answer to this question anchors the school in a vibrant present while leading with clarity, strategy and purpose towards an innovative future.

The answer to this question is the work and the work just got real.

It is important to know your limits.  Is something I try to remind myself of in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, night-dreaming of all I want to do.  Here in my third headship, with all the lessons learned working with schools all across North America and a deep-dive into innovation, I have tried on patience.  I know that the system can only manage so much change in a given year and that it takes time to lay the ground for what’s to come.  I know what I believe to be true about teaching and learning, but that simply imposing that on a school is doomed to failure.  That is why so much of my focus this year is on systems and structures and processes.  I am in the weeds with the nuts and the bolts and the fire-putting-outs.

We have introduced “bandwidth” to our shared vocabulary here at OJCS because its maintenance is an important reality check against all proposed change.  And I have it as well.  So when it became clear to me early on that in order to get us from here to there we’d need a little help from our friends, I knew exactly who to turn to for proposals. You are going to get to know them all much better in the months ahead, but let’s introduce the partners who are going to help the Ottawa Jewish Community School become the most innovative school in Ottawa.

Sometimes it’s the haystack you need to find, not the needle.

NoTosh is a global consultancy with a passion for learning and a conviction that innovation and creativity can change the way people think, the way they learn and the way they work – as individuals, teams, organizations and communities.  NoTosh was established in 2009 to improve student engagement by challenging the status quo of teaching and learning in schools.

Beginning in January, NoTosh will work with the OJCS leadership team and faculty to:

  • Unpack some of the big questions that need answered to achieve its ambitious goals;
  • Co-design some of the nuts and bolts that will help get the school up and running with design thinking at the heart of its approaches;
  • Unpack what the unique value proposition of the school is and how does it stand apart from all other schools in the area.

Research has proven that a reflective learning culture is one of the best indicators to increase student learning.

Silvia Tolisano is a leading global educator and proponent of the documentation of learning as part of the learning process.  [She has also been a colleague and inspiration during my last three stops.  As part of my faculty at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, part of my team at the Schechter Day School Network and at Prizmah, and cofounder (along with our third partner Andrea Hernandez) of edJEWcon, I can attest firsthand to what an extraordinary educator she is.]   The work we will do with Silvia beginning in the Fall of 2018 will be a powerful learning opportunity allowing teachers to experience that shift in their learning and make documentation, reflection and sharing part of their practice.

Selected faculty will build a learning network, and share their practices, successes and failures to benefit the school community, including parents, colleagues and students.  While there is no one magic solution to excellence and this process will take time, developing a culture of shared documentation is the key to building an innovative school ready to tackle the challenge of preparing students to be successful in the 21st Century.  It creates the spine upon which student, faculty and parent culture and communication thrive.  It sets the conditions for project-based learning, collaboration and integration of new literacies.  This is the future of education and we are ready to lead.

What’s this “more” you were referring to in the opening?

Great question!

In addition to funding these two amazing proposals which will transform teaching and learning at our school, this remarkable couple is also enabling us to double the number of iPads in the school. The great news is that our teachers are already doing such wonderful work with them that we can take advantage of this blessing immediately…and will.

As we enter Winter Break and the end of a (secular) calendar year, it is natural to look a bit back and dream a bit forward…

With a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears from our talented and loving faculty, administration, and board, it is starting to happen.  We can feel it in the walls and hear it in the parking lot.  We see it in the new students joining us this January and the tours being booked for next year.  The blessing of this gift will accelerate and amplify what has already begun.  We meant it when we said that the future of education will be written at the OJCS.  That future just got closer…

Trifurcation: Three Paths Forward From “Innovation Alley”

[Originally posted in my final Prizmah blog post in “Innovation Alley“.]

As I linger one last time in Innovation Alley, permit me the opportunity to bookend this blog post with a few, brief personal thoughts…

What a blessing these last four crazy years of professional life has been for me!  Truly.  From a headship I treasured at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, to an executive directorship I was just figuring out at the Schechter Day School Network, into a vice presidentship I never anticipated here at Prizmah – with overlapping timelines and characters, I feel like I’ve enjoyed an entire compressed career without a forwarding address.  It is dizzying to think about, but the feeling that best captures my attitude as I prepare (again!) to shift lanes is simply gratitude.  I am forever enriched for the experiences and relationships these last years have brought me.

“Gratitude” is also an appropriate word to describe how I feel about my year at Prizmah.  To have had a chance to dig deep in the world of innovation, if only for a year, has opened my eyes as to what is possible and has inspired me to play my part to help the possible become reality.  At the heart of things, that’s what this work is really about – helping Jewish day schools transform teaching and learning to the greater good of the Jewish People.  All the rest is commentary…

Do I wish we had accomplished more in Year One?  Yes.

It is certainly the case that the most obvious, externally-facing work we did this year was the “Playground” at Prizmah’s inaugural conference.  There were smaller successes in terms of edJEWcon (which I’ll discuss below) and there were/are a ton of internal conversations that have contributed to other of Prizmah’s work, but in terms of the larger catalyzing contributions that we described upon launch, it is perfectly fair to note that we simply didn’t get there…at least not yet.

Trifurcation

Since sharing back in January both Prizmah’s plan to reincorporate “Innovation” back into the corpus (instead of it remaining as a distinct department) and my plan to continue my career path elsewhere once my transition responsibilities were complete, we’ve been sorting through how (some of) the distinct components of the “Innovation Department” will move the work forward in the year to come.  I am pleased to share with you how three of these components are taking shape for the year to come: Prizmah, edJEWcon, and…well…me.

Prizmah

The story of innovation at Prizmah will no longer be mine to tell, but I can assure you that it will continue.  In addition to the innovative work which will now weave itself into the fabric of the whole, I am hopeful that three of the current vehicles for sharing and discussing innovation will not only continue, but grow and evolve in the hands of my current (and perhaps new) colleagues moving forward.  This includes the blog you are now reading, a standing column of the same name in HaYidion, and Reshet Innovation (for Prizmah members).  I look forwarding to seeing how these vehicles are improved (or changed/replaced) with new thinking and new leadership.  Furthermore, Prizmah plans to continue advancing the powerful insights framed by edJEWcon – notably the approach to active capturing, documenting, reflecting and sharing around use of technologies and innovation.  Finally, it is my hope and expectation that entirely new innovative ideas and opportunities for uplifting the field will come from the work Prizmah will share, launch, link, catalyze and support in the years to come.

edJEWcon

As you likely gathered from the last paragraph, edJEWcon itself will no longer continue as a branded program of Prizmah.  We are pleased that the work of edJEWcon has made a positive impact on Prizmah and will live on not only as described above, but also in the person of edJEWcon co-founder Andrea Hernandez who continues on as part of Prizmah’s team with “innovation” part of her ongoing portfolio.  This does not mean the end of edJEWcon!  As has been the case (more times than we could have guessed!) in the past, we (Andrea, co-founder Silvia Tolisano and I) will revisit edJEWcon’s value proposition with funders and the field and look forward to sharing our thoughts on edJEWcon’s future contributions to thought leadership, social media, and work in the field on its website soon.  We look forward to active collaboration with Prizmah when possible in future endeavors.

Me

As for me, I am preparing to take all that I have learned these last three years and apply it to my return to the headship as the incoming Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School.  I don’t know how “innovative” I’ll be on Day One, but you can continue to follow my journey on my website or on social media.

As it says in the Mishnah: “Lo alecha ha’mlacha legmor…” – “It is not incumbent on you to finish the work, neither are you free to exempt yourself from it.”  (Mishnah: Avot, 2.16)  It has been an honor and a career highlight to have had the chance to help birth Prizmah and be part of its first year of life.  I look forward to watching it grow and succeed with, perhaps, a few more degrees of separation, but no less pride and joy.

Kol tuv and l’hitraot…

There is a Price to Pay for Having a Price to Pay: Where Should Innovation Live in the Jewish Day School Ecosystem?

[Originally posted in my Prizmah blog, “Innovation Alley“.]

When you live your life by the school calendar – as I have only ever done – you know that we are in the season for closings and openings.  The period of the omer in many Jewish day schools is not simply the counting up from Passover to Shavuot; it is often the mad rush to do all that needs to be done to close out the year in which we are in and to lay the foundation for the year to come.  What is true for Jewish day schools is also true for the organizations that serve them and Prizmah is no exception.  We, too, are in the process of assessing the year that (is) was and setting expectations for the year that is to come.  As I have indicated before, it will be my intent (in a May blog post) to clarify how Prizmah intends to engage with Jewish day schools in the innovation space.  And in the spirit of tying up loose ends, I have clarified and shared my post-Prizmah plans and how to follow my journey when a new (school) year begins.

Here, in my penultimate “Innovation Alley” blog post, I’d like to zoom in on how disruption and collaboration function – or don’t – in the Jewish educational ecosystem.

Fun fact.  JEDLABedJEWcon, and the I.D.E.A. Schools all began around the same time with folks who knew (and know) each other well.  They were each created to be disruptive, innovational forces in the Jewish educational world.  They were each dreamed up by practitioners unsupported and unconnected to the hierarchy (at least at the times of their launches).  They all generated a wave of positive Jewish press around the time of their launch and early work.  They then took different paths, received different amounts of funding and patronage, were (or weren’t) connected to larger organizations and foundations, engaged (or didn’t) in fee-for-service work, added/subtracted leadership, collaborated, shared, etc.  Each one evolved along its sui generis path.  I don’t speak for JEDLAB or the I.D.E.A. Schools.  They speak (wonderfully) for themselves.  What I’m interested in is what they (along with edJEWcon) represent – three different models for encouraging innovation in the Jewish educational ecosystem.

A largely democratic, leaderless, agenda-free, extremely popular Facebook group…

A clear set of ideas for how to transform teaching and learning in a Jewish day school through project-based learning, packaged with coaching and a small network of fellow travelers, at a price…

An ever-shifting collection of ideas about connecting schools interested in 21st century learning through conferences, thought-leadership, fee-for-service coaching, a website…

…what can we learn from these different attempts to encourage increased innovation in the Jewish education space and Jewish day schools?  How should Prizmah think about its role in supporting innovation in Jewish day schools in light of this learning?

Having had the unique experience of shepherding edJEWcon from a passion project of a small Jewish day school, to a signature program of a national organization, to a crossroads as that national organization became part of an even larger national organization, here’s what I presently believe to be true:

  • It is a much sexier story to disrupt from below or from the outside.
  • There is a price to pay for having a price to pay.  Whatever skin in the game you gain through fees you seem to lose in global enthusiasm and participation, especially true for folks who view themselves as innovators, entrepreneurs and disrupters.
  • People love to ask their questions and get answers.
  • You can transform teaching and learning in Jewish day schools.
  • There are truly inspiring educational leaders throughout the system doing amazing work.  And that work remains largely unconnected…

We have an abundance of networks to join, listservs to subscribe to, blogs to follow, etc., but we (edJEWcon, Prizmah, the field) have failed to create a vehicle for facilitating and supporting innovation that truly incorporates the kind of transparent sharing and active collaboration our schools and children deserve.  At least so far…

As Prizmah contemplates its role in this work moving forward, here are some of the guiding questions we’ll be contemplating:

  • Does the world need another network (reshet) for “innovation” or would a “network of networks” be more appropriate?
  • How can we inspire a field wide culture of meaningful sharing?
  • What really is “thought leadership” and does it matter?
  • Where will new ideas come from?  Who is doing R&D?  Who is funding it?

Feel free to add questions or suggestions of your own to the comments below or in any of the social media you used to get here.

10 Quotes to Inspire Innovation in Education

[Originally posted in my Prizmah blog, “Innovation Alley“.]

“In quoting others, we cite ourselves.”
― Julio CortázarAround the Day in Eighty Worlds

As we (Prizmah) continue to work on our plans for next year, which we look forward to sharing out upon readiness – and I look forward to discussing its connection to ongoing activity in the innovation space as discussed previously – I wanted to make sure that some of the learning that my team has done this year about innovation was captured and documented.  We have had the blessing to collectively read a variety of books, speak with a variety of folk and even visit a variety of places as part of our process.  I thought it might be fun (wee!) and possibly useful to those who like to keep quotes handy as triggers for meetings, blog posts, papers, etc., to share our learning through the quotes we actually collected and shared with each other during this year of learning.

So without further adieu and in no particular order, I hope you may be as inspired to think differently about teaching and learning, schooling, and leadership as we were…

“As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve, but to unleash their talent.  If innovation is going to be a priority in education, we need to create a culture where trust is the norm.” – George CourosThe Innovators Mindset

“The first step in teaching students to innovate is making sure that educators have opportunities to be innovators themselves.” – Suzie BossBringing Innovation to School: Empowering Students to Thrive in a Changing World

“You cannot empower students to be self-directed, responsible, critical-thinking people if they can’t ask their own questions. At that point, you’re teaching compliance rather than responsibility.” – A.J. Juliani and John SpencerLAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student 

“What doesn’t work any longer is our education system’s stubborn focus on delivering a curriculum that’s growing increasingly irrelevant to today’s kids, the outmoded standardized assessments we use in an attempt to measure our success, and the command-and-control thinking that is wielded over the entire process. All of that must be rethought.” – Will RichardsonWhy School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere

“Curiosity is, therefore, strongly correlated with intelligence. For instance, one longitudinal study of 1,795 kids measured intelligence and curiosity when they were three years old, and then again eight years later. Researchers found that kids who had been equally intelligent at age three were, at eleven, no longer equal. The ones who’d been more curious at three were now also more intelligent, which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider how curiosity drives the acquisition of knowledge. The more interested and alert and engaged you are, the more you’re likely to learn and retain. In fact, highly curious kids scored a full twelve points higher on IQ tests than less curious kids did.” – Amanda LangThe Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success

“One of the most important questions any school or teacher can ask is simple: ‘How can we be more thoughtful about what we do?’ Unfortunately, it’s not the question we ask most frequently. The question schools and teachers have fallen in love with—’What more should we be doing?'” – Chris Lehmann and Zac ChaseBuilding School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need

“What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort. And that’s what they were doing—getting smarter. Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.” – Carol DweckMindset: The New Psychology of Success

“You can lament the changes that are happening today—tomorrow’s history—convincing yourselves of the negatives and refusing to be a part of a constantly changing culture. Or you can shake off your technochondria and embrace and accept that the positive metamorphosis will continue to happen, as it has so many times before. Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one. And as you will soon see, developments like these new words are helping create significant and meaningful new communities and new relationships that are an essential part of our changing culture and our wireless future.” – Nick BiltonI Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work & Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted

“The new survival skills—effective communication, curiosity, and critical-thinking skills—“are no longer skills that only the elites in a society must muster; they are essential survival skills for all of us.” – Yong ZhaoWorld Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students

“Establishing prototyping as a core competence for innovation, requires more than creating a research and development department or team.  It requires school wide value for innovation, understanding of innovation processes, and that the bumps and disruptions are worthwhile discomforts of relevant student learning and success.” – R&D Your School: How to Start, Grow, and Sustain Your School’s Innovation Engine

The Story of #Prizmah17 #Playground

[Cross-posted from my Prizmah blog, “Innovation Alley“.]

It has just been a few days since returning from Chicago, but I am still thinking and reflecting on all that took place…

There will be other reflections to be shared about the overall experience, but my piece of #Prizmah17 was the “Playground” and what I want to do first is use one of my favorite reflective apps, Storify, to summarize and share the story of what took place.

Coming soon?  Taking what we learned and applying it to the work Prizmah plans to do.  Stay tuned!

If you would like a brief tour:

 

 

If you would like a full tour: