National conference on incorporating new technology into Jewish day school education

Jacksonville Jewish school prepares to convene first ever national conference on incorporating new technology into Jewish day school education

Schechter Day School Network to cosponsor edJEWcon, April 29-May 1

First-grade students at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, Fla., practice Hebrew writing on iPads.<br />Photo courtesy of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School.

JACKSONVILLE – Next week, 21 Jewish day schools will come together in Jacksonville for edJEWcon, a conference designed to help day schools incorporate 21st-century technology and other innovative teaching techniques into their classrooms. The Martin J. Gottlieb Jewish Day School (MJGDS) in Jacksonville has planned and will lead the three-day program that will facilitate educator teams in hands-on learning taught by technology and curriculum experts, provide class observations demonstrating how to seamlessly integrate technology into teaching, and teach new skills development. As a Jewish day school well on its way to becoming a dynamic 21st-century learning environment, MJGJDS’ faculty is eager to share its vision of teaching and learning that transcends physical boundaries and connects across geographic borders and time zones.

MJGDS is part of the Schechter Day School Network, an association of Jewish day schools that is working to inspire and encourage member schools to chart a new course to excel in the future. Part of the path forward is adopting successful elements from the general education milieu, as well as positioning Schechter Network schools at the forefront of a paradigm shift incorporating new technologies such as social media and digital and online expertise, happening across the continent in education.

“There’s no question that with the high cost of Jewish day school education, day schools must prove to parents and students that we offer an exceptional and worthwhile educational experience,” said Dr. Jon Mitzmacher, MJGDS’ head of school, and the organizer of the conference. “edJEWcon represents an opportunity to demonstrate that Jewish day school can be synonymous with excellence in secular education. Jewish day schools are uniquely qualified to lead the 21st-century learning revolution that is currently underway and edJEWcon is a powerful demonstration of that leadership in action. This is all about highly engaged learning and doing, and we want schools to have the chance to collaborate and learn from each other.”

Not surprisingly, more Schechter schools than other Jewish day schools are participating in edJEWcon because the conference’s approach to curriculum and instruction is aligned with inquiry-based and discovery learning, tenets of Schechter school pedagogy.

“The Schechter Day School Network is working every day to live up to the standard that our schools approach education through inquiry; we seek to stimulate critical thinking as a cornerstone of academic excellence,” said Dr. Elaine R. S. Cohen, director of the Schechter Day School Network, which is cosponsoring the conference. “Our curriculum is integrated across the disciplines and distinctively hands-on. The edJEWcon conference exemplifies these commitments and best practices. It will equip educators at Jewish schools nationwide to work collaboratively and to motivate, challenge and stimulate their students’ engagement in learning through the purposeful incorporation of technological applications.”

The entire conference will be digitally recorded and broadcast via social media platforms including Twitter – the feed is available at https://twitter.com/#!/edjewcon – and blogged at edJEWcon’s website: http://www.edjewcon.org/.

Mitzmacher secured funding from the AVI CHAI Foundation to support the conference, and all schools sending teams were given travel subsidies to make it easier and affordable for their teams to attend.

“The incorporation of 21st-century teaching and learning is of paramount importance to the future of Jewish day school education,” added Rachel Mohl Abrahams, program officer at AVI CHAI. “AVI CHAI is pleased to support edJEWcon as a wonderful opportunity for day school educators to develop best practices in this arena. We are proud of MJGDS as leaders in this emerging field and commend them for wanting to share their work with other schools.”

Additional schools remain on a waiting list to attend. Future plans include turning edJEWcon into a yearly opportunity, as well as expanding it to the larger educational sphere of congregational religious schools, Jewish camps and foundations.