(Courtesy of Tenafly Chabad Academy) Tenafly Chabad Academy announced that it recently won a microgrant from the Tech for Learning Initiative, a program of The Jewish Education Project, supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation. The recipients of the grant are Stacy Katzwer, elementary school principal; Jennifer Davis, middle school principal; Jenny Kritchevski, educational technology coordinator; and Marina Hazina, math teacher.
The goal of the project for which the money will be used is to “increase student engagement by tailoring the learning to each student’s unique needs and learning style. In order to accomplish this goal, teachers need to become more comfortable, and therefore more proficient, in small-group instruction, and students need to develop the skill of learning in small groups within the larger space of a traditional classroom.” An important component of TCA’s plan is to create a learning space for teachers within the existing staff room; there, the educational technology coordinator can work with groups of teachers on how to use technology to enhance their lessons. Some TCA teachers have already been exploring online adaptive software programs and a few have begun implementing components of online learning in their classrooms. The project’s title, “Teacher Technology Learning Lab,” underscores that vision of supporting teachers as they explore and learn to use new types of educational technology, which will provide them the tools to better guide students in their education.
The TCA administration believes that learning should be lifelong and consistently seeks to provide learning spaces for both teachers and students, as we are all partners in learning. “As a new and growing school, which this year has its very first graduating eighth-grade class, we recognize the importance of helping our students become 21st-century learners,” said Katzwer. “As we grow, our teachers need to have access to more up-to-the-minute data on student performance, which will then enable teachers to adjust lessons to meet the needs of each student. Being that there is a wide range of experience and comfort with technology integration among our staff, our plan is to help the students by helping the teachers as well.”
As part of the grant, TCA will be assigned a dedicated coach who will provide ongoing support and advice throughout the school year. “We hope that Tenafly Chabad Academy’s plan for a space dedicated to professional learning will empower teachers to be more confident using technology meaningfully in the classroom,” said Tatyana Dvorkin, the coach who will be working with the school.
According to Davis, “We want to ensure that technology is seamlessly integrated into the classrooms and into the curriculum in a meaningful and productive way; technology needs to enhance the classroom learning and not replace it.”
Initially, as education technology coordinator, Jenny Kritchevski will be working with teachers and students on a variety of projects, including learning to use Google Classroom efficiently, preparing activities and lessons using programs such as Quizlet and Animoto, and researching various educational programs that will provide targeted instruction in language arts and math and assist teachers in tracking student progress data. TCA’s expectation is that teachers will be able to use the data to provide individualized student learning in a classroom setting that allows all students to receive the same information but at their instructional level; track a student’s progress throughout the year and over several years; and inform discussions between teachers and parents.
Katzwer and Davis have been working with teachers to identify programs that will foster the educational development of both advanced and weaker students, while also providing them the emotional, social and other age-appropriate skills that they require.
“Our hope with this grant and coaching project is to help schools better address student needs through using innovative methodologies,” said Dvorkin. “It’s first and foremost a project about learning, and only secondly one about the technology itself.”
“Technology comes from the Torah,” says Rabbi Mordechai Shain, TCA’s executive director. “In Pirkei Avot it says that everything in this world was created by Hashem. Technology is a gift that Hashem gave us to use to enhance our learning. It is another tool we can and should be using to enhance the educational experience.”