|Educator Avram Mandel and Rabbi Julia Weisz|
Seven other educators, Rabbi Julia Weisz and I sit together with convener Eve Fein as part of the Clinical Faculty meeting at the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education of Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. We gather a few times a semester to reflect upon the field of Jewish education and to improve our own work as Jewish educators.
This fall, we are focusing on studying Milton Chen’s Education Nation. [Read KQED’s interview with Milton Chen.] Chen argues that we must “move the innovation occurring on the edges of our school system to occupy the center…”. Moreover, let’s “put the edge into education and create a sense that teaching and learning are exciting, contemporary and cool. As its most important enterprise, education should be on the ‘cutting edge of society, technology, and culture, rather than trailing other sectors.'”
Chen writes about 6 edges of education:
- Thinking edge – move toward a child centered approach
- Curriculum edge – go beyond “subject matter silos,” and embrace project-based learning
- Technology edge – face the “death of lectures”
- Time/place edge – learning happens beyond the classroom walls, beyond discrete time periods, beyond a specific time of day
- Co-teaching edge – increase teacher professional development
- Youth edge – they have mobile computers in their pockets, how are we using them?
These edges, Chen says, should be drawn into the center of educational thinking and work.
A worthwhile read, Chen’s Education Nation, pushes educational innovation in our public schools. Similarly, his perspectives necessarily shine light on the practice of Jewish education. It raises many helpful questions to reflect back on Or Ami’s educational process. (A great institution – whether business, educational or religious – should always be reflecting upon its own work, vision, processes, successes and failures.).
- How might we place the child at the center of his/her Jewish learning, especially as our teens?
- In what ways might the synagogue introduce project based learning into our curriculum?
- We usually tell our kids to unplug when they enter the synagogue. How might allowing them to plug in more deeply deepen their bonds with their synagogue and Judaism?
Have you read Chen’s book? What have you learned from it?