Mindy Gold, Miriam Raider-Roth and Elie Holzer

Teachers Learn and Learners Teach: Shared Teaching Presence in Online Havruta Text Study

The immediate impact of COVID-19 thrust teachers and learners into newly imagined online learning spaces. Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI) faced this reality while transitioning a summer face-to-face seminar to an online experience. MTEI is an immersive 2-year learning experience for educational leaders responsible for leading professional development in their organizations (Dorph, 2011). Building on our principles for professional development, we faced essential pedagogical challenges in creating learner-centered, relational and inquiry-based Jewish text study opportunities (Raider-Roth and Holzer, 2009) in an online synchronous space. In the summer of 2020, we piloted an online adaptation of a line-by-line method for text study (Holzer, 2007; Holzer with Kent, 2013). Now, we are revisiting this version of online text study in a new iteration and through a research lens to better understand its effectiveness and impact.

Ziva Hassenfeld

Discussing Bible in a Pre-K/1st Grade Full-Time Remote Classroom

Starting from the theoretical perspective that student-to-student discussion over text is essential to comprehension, this study sought to examine how it unfolds in the novel context of a full-time remote, synchronous early elementary classroom. Education historian Larry Cuban, in his work on the grammar of schooling, writes about desks in rows versus desks in a circle. The desks in rows signal a teacher-centered classrooms while the desks in a circle signal a more student-centered classroom. What about in Zoom boxes? How does a teacher-centered Zoom classroom distinguish itself from a student-centered Zoom classroom? And in the latter, how does a teacher foster the student-to-student connection necessary for meaningful and respectful text discussion on Zoom? To explore these questions I embarked on teacher-research, becoming the pre-K-1st grade Judaics teacher in one Jewish K-8 school, in their full-time remote track. This research is being conducted with the Student-Centered Religious Learning and Literacy Lab (SCRoLL Lab) team at Brandeis University.

Joshua Ladon

Instructional Practices of an Online Adult Talmud Class

The Shalom Hartman Institute’s sudden shift to online learning, coupled with the intensive nature of that instruction, in which key faculty quickly accrued a significant number of hours of online teaching experience, offers an opportunity for reflection about the nature of this teaching. SHI faculty are master Jewish text teachers who have a robust and mature language for discussing the craft of teaching Jewish texts. This study aims to illuminate how the online setting transforms the pedagogy of these select master educators and tease out the unique qualities of online Jewish text instruction. This study aims to contribute to the body of work focused on Jewish text teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge, moving the discussion beyond the curricular focus of teacher orientations to explicate pedagogical approaches and, more broadly, the ways the medium mediates the teaching process and teacher thinking. It will also investigate the extent to which practitioners’ technological pedagogical content knowledge facilitated perceived success or growth as they entered this new domain of teaching online.

Daniel Olson, Dan Smokler, Erica Frankel, Leah Kahn and Arielle Krule

What Happens in Online Jewish Education? A Proposal to Study Hillel’s Jewish Learning Fellowship in Fall 2020

Hillel’s Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) is one of the most widely taught Jewish educational curricula, with an average of over 1500 students worldwide participating each semester. These classes focus on building an in-person community and designing physical spaces to promote social connections among students. COVID forced JLF to quickly adapt to an online format for the spring 2020 semester. By fall 2020, educators could plan with greater intention and more experience.

This project seeks to understand how the move to online affects the teaching and learning of JLF in the Fall 2020 semester. How do educators apply the emerging signature pedagogies of Hillel educational work — authentic use of self, curating space, and artful facilitation — to a virtual space? How might the educational work of JLF change when it takes place in a time of pandemic? How might it take students’ social-emotional wellbeing into consideration? How does the movement to online cohorts alter the meaning of social capital, cohort and community? Are these terms still operable? What new meanings do they take on?

Matt Reingold and Dalia Schaffer

Mensch High

One of our curricular goals in Israel Education is to introduce students to complexities in Israeli society while reinforcing a love for Israel. Experience teaching and learning in a grade 12 elective on Israeli culture and society has allowed us to identify a number of hotbutton or sensitive texts. While each group of students is different and what might trouble one group might not another, these texts consistently elicit strong reactions and transformative conversations. We are studying whether shifting the site of learning to a remote environment will lead to a different way of relating to these texts and to the complexities of contemporary Israeli society. The research is important as we try to understand the ways that online learning can best be conducted in order to ensure that meaningful and enriching education is provided.