New "Flipped Classroom" Program for Jewish Educators to Empower Students to Take Charge of Their Own Learning

Zvi Grumet
Zvi Grumet, Co-Director of the Lookstein Center's "flipped classroom" program

New York, NY – Bar-Ilan University's Lookstein Center is set to kick off the new school year by training New York-area Jewish day school teachers to use its "flipped classroom" in their Jewish studies program. In a "flipped classroom," what students normally do at home is done in school, and what students usually do in school is done at home.

The Flipped Jewish Studies Classroom Program is being funded by a generous grant from the Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal (COJIR) of the UJA-Federation of New York. Lookstein Center programs such as this that enhance the skills of Jewish educators in the United States are supported by the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University.

"In a time when technology is transforming education, Jewish day schools are searching for ways to harness new tools in support of student learning," said Avi Herring, planning associate on UJA-Federation's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. "The Lookstein Center's Flipped Learning Program for day schools brings an innovative idea from the world of secular education and applies it to Jewish studies, giving teachers and student new ways to engage with Jewish texts and values. We hope that through the program, participating teachers will begin to create an online Jewish educational resource where new videos and lesson plans become available to thousands of teachers and students across New York."

The Lookstein Center

Teachers in a flipped classroom assign short, recorded presentations for students to view on their home computers. Then, in the classroom, they review, process, apply, and expand their understanding of these materials, while actively facilitated by the teacher. The flipped classroom model has gained popularity in general educational circles for the past decade but has not yet been explored systematically for use in Jewish studies.

"What I find exciting about this program is that it will give me the ability to help students become more actively engaged in their own learning. The program affords me and other Jewish educators the opportunity to open up our classrooms. This will provide students with a more meaningful engagement with teachers. It will also free up Jewish educators to better meet the different needs of students, and tailor fit lessons for them," said Avi Bloom, Director of Technology Integration at SAR High School in the Bronx.

The first sixteen participants in the program will include educators representing Salanter Akiva Riverdale High School; Solomon Schechter of Westchester High School; Magen David Yeshivah high school of Flatbush; Yeshiva of Flatbush elementary school; Magen David Yeshivah elementary school of Flatbush; Shulamith middle school in Cedarhurst; Ramaz middle school in Manhattan; Yeshivah of Flatbush high school; Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway middle school and high school; Hebrew Academy of Nassau County middle-high school; Solomon Schechter Day School of Manhattan elementary school; Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett Bay Park; and Ramaz, upper school.

The initial cohort for this program was selectively chosen by the Lookstein Center, which chose educators who have displayed long-term commitment, creativity and talent in the field of Jewish education. Members of the group will work collaboratively to examine the best ways to use this new methodology for teaching Jewish studies and energizing their students. The lessons developed in and learned from this program will become publicly available so that others can learn from the experience of the cohort. The ultimate goal of the program is to create an ever-expanding cadre of professionals equipped with new tools, as well as developing a community of practitioners with a central repository for "flipped" lessons.

"When we met with the candidates for this program we were inspired by their professionalism, commitment, dedication, and creativity. These are teachers who will not only learn a new skill, but who will become leaders in their own schools and beyond, as they become a group of leaders working together," said Zvi Grumet, Co-Director of the program.

"I am a huge advocate of the flipped classroom seeing first hand in our own school the power it truly has in helping to engage our students and master the content, " said Rabbi Michael Bitton, Director of Education Technology at Magen David Yeshiva High School, one of the schools participating in the project.

A two-day opening seminar will take place in Tarrytown, New York from October 7-8, and training will last for nine months. The seminar will include group work, education technology training, and presentations by expert practitioners in the field. Teachers will be paired together to form eight groups that will begin working almost immediately on designing lessons using the flipped classroom methodology. Once every two weeks they will share these lessons, and their challenges and successes with the entire group during online meetings. Periodically they will be joined by guest speakers to learn new processes and techniques.

For additional information, contact: Esther Feldman (esther @ lookstein.org) or Zvi Grumet (zvi @ lookstein.org)

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