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Gray Academy Embraces Technology-Based Learning at edJEWcon 5772.0

Independent Schools Collaborate for Student-Owned Approaches to Education at First Annual North American Conference

by Ashley Morgan, Coordinator of Marketing & Communications


This past May week, four staff members from Gray Academy of Jewish Education (Gray Academy) went to Jacksonville, FL, to meet up with 20 other North American schools at edJEWcon, a three-day educational conference, hosted by Martin J. Gottlieb Day School (MJGDS), that focused on how 21st century learning principles can and must be implemented in our schools for effective and purposeful learning.

"It was inspiring to hear renowned keynote speakers at the calibre of Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Angela Maiers,” says Lori Binder, Vice-Principal at Gray Academy. “They reminded us that 12 years into the 21st century, we, as educators, have to embrace our discomfort and bring the tools of the 21st century into our school and classrooms. We have to commit to being lifelong learners and adopt the tools that our students use on an everyday basis.”
To encourage participation and experimentation with these tools, edJEWcon gave a take-home toolkit to each of the 21 school teams, consisting of an iPad, iPod touch, Flip Video camcorder and a paper notebook. The Twitter hashtag #edJEWcon was adopted before the event started, and at its height, #edJEWcon saw nearly 600 tweets and reached 117,000 people in less than 24-hours. In addition, many of these 140-character messages were delivered by educators who had never before used their varying technologies or the popular social media site.
“edJEWcon both inspired and invigorated me,” says Judy Doctoroff, educator and ICT Department Head at Gray Academy. “I returned to school excited to bring new teaching methods and tools into my classroom and the classrooms of the teachers with whom I collaborate. I fully grasp the connection between interactivity and learning, especially after seeing how the students of MJGDS participated in our sessions.”
As part of the educators’ learning experiences, edJEWcon planners had students involved in the keynote discussions and had them collaborating with keynote speakers to drive the message home – a message that was loud and clear to many participants.
“What struck me was the observation made by Heidi Hayes Jacobs about relevancy,” says Karen Richter, educator and Judaic Studies Department Head at Gray Academy. “You wouldn’t go to a doctor who hasn’t changed his methods in over 30 years, so we as teachers are just as professionally obligated to update our teaching methods. We’re still using tools from 30 years ago, while our students are on the cutting edge.”
“edJEWcon was a tremendous validation for our community that the path our school has chosen is indeed the right one,” says Dr. Jon Mitzmacher, Head of School for MJGDS and edJEWcon organizer. “This ‘21st century learning’ thing is no fad and no slogan. We can become schools who prepare our students to be successful in these modern times. We can provide our students with authentic tasks that motivate them to learn and be their best. We can recognize what technology allows us to do. We can take the ideas, suggestions and inspiration from edJEWcon and use them to move our schools down the 21st century learning road.”
edJEWcon was hosted by Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, FL, from April 29 – May 1, and saw 21 schools from Canada and the United States collaborating with each other and major sponsors AVI CHAI Foundation and Schecter Day School Network to bring our schools into today’s world of learning.
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