Monday, July 29, 2013

Thoughts on Reframing Roles, from Stanford's online Design Thinking Course

This summer, we're enjoying Stanford's online Design Thinking course and wanted to share these interesting thoughts on reframing the roles in which we see ourselves:

As we advance in our education and careers, we accumulate or change titles -student, graduate, intern, specialist, executive, manager, CEO. But, what are roles that, even if they are not part of your official title, we can play in an organization, company or community to foster a culture of innovation?
In his book “The Ten Faces of Innovation,” Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO (*), describes the following roles:     

1. The Anthropologist

Anthropologists are constantly observing the world around them with a fresh eyes, and are capable of "seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one has thought." They are good at seeking inspiration from unusual sources, and reframing problems in new ways.

2. The Experimenter

Experimenters love to prototype and are creative gurus when it comes to using what is available to physically represent their ideas. Every stage of the ideation process can be prototyped so experimenters will usually be the first to suggest a prototype of a marketing or sales plan through acting out a storyboard or creating a short video.

3. The Cross-Pollinator

Cross-Pollinators draw associations between seemingly unrelated ideas, bringing in a stream of new content from other disciplines. Using a breadth of knowledge in many fields with a significant understanding in at least one field, cross-pollinators spark innovative hybrids.

4. The Hurdler

Hurdlers push through obstacles by viewing problems as opportunities. They take their passion for design and tie it with the passion to create things to help people so that when obstacles arise they are seen as opportunities rather than roadblocks. "The essence of a Hurdler is perseverance."

5. The Collaborator

Collaborators value the team over the individual, and act as facilitators that keep a constant flow of excitement and energy through a project team, while also providing the glue to bring together people from diverse backgrounds in order to make the perfect dream teams. With a huge heart, collaborators can always be counted on "to jump in when and where they are needed most."

6. The Director

Directors see the big picture and provide inspiration and empowerment to bring the best out of everyone in the organization. They keep the momentum constantly flowing by leading when it is needed and delegating when the time is right.

7. The Experience Architect

Experience Architects realize that there is no one method for every occasion; they are constantly designing experiences for every unique product or service. They keep their eyes open for "trigger points," which are the aspects of a product's design that need to be emphasized for the best possible experience.

8. The Set Designer

"Set Designers care about the intersection between space and human behavior." They adapt the physical space to balance private and collaborative work opportunities and to promote a culture of creativity. A Set Designer might be the team member prepared with markers and pens to create working spaces on the go.

9. The Caregiver

Caregivers, with big ears and big hearts, are always champions of empathizing with others. They are constantly listening to customers and take into consideration how ideas will affect their general audience.

10. The Storyteller

Storytellers understand that "stories persuade in a way that facts, reports and market trends seldom do, because stories make an emotional connection." Storytellers "capture our imagination with compelling narratives of initiative, hard work, and innovation." They not only transmit the values and goals of the organization or team, but they also make heroes out of real people.

As homework, we were asked to decide with which role we identify the most, and so we want to ask you the same. 

To learn more about Tom Kelley and The Art of Innovation, check out this video:

And what do you know? Tom and David Kelley of IDEO were at none other than the MIT Media Lab. Check out the talk they gave there here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day Three of the Sandbox and Next Steps!

High Tech High Sparks Discussion 

Day three of the Summer Sandbox began with participants watching the following video about High Tech High, a network of schools in California that employ passion-based learning; emphasize innovation, design, and engineering; and allow students with myriad academic and learning abilities multiple entry points into learning:

The video sparked a lively debate: about how comfortable Sandbox participants were with PBL; about their desire not to abandon tried-and-true teaching practices they find effective; about the college admission process which stokes anxiety in students and parents alike; and about the need to educate parents about different pedagogical approaches such as PBL, inquiry-based learning and student-driven learning. In fact, the discussion was the first of a few during the day that revealed that while the Sandbox was coming to a close, the conversation it had initiated was just beginning.

Finishing our Protoypes

By 10:30 am, participants were spread around the Ma'ayanot classrooms and lunch room, iterating their PBL prototypes. At this time, Emma Goldman of Innovation: Africa popped by the Sandbox to meet with educators who are interested in partnering with the organization. Innovation: Africa uses sustainable Israeli technologies to improve life in Africa, and working with the non-profit is a great way to build soft advocacy for Israel into a curriculum. We were glad that over the course of the three-day Sandbox, both Innovation: Africa and Areyvut stopped by in order to show how social action learning can be used in a Jewish educational setting.

The Coffeehouse: Big Ideas Brew

Lunchtime at the Sandbox -- the Coffeehouse, as we like to call it -- saw another thoughtful discussion, this time about ways schools can create open, healthy dialogue between administrators and faculty, particularly when school employees might be feeling edgy and scared about budget cuts. The discussion highlighted how thirsty educators are for chances to participate in real ways in discussions about the health of the institutions they work in. 

Final Presentations: The Prototypes!

After lunch, it was back to iteration and then . . . the final presentations!

Meryl Feldblum of Frisch went first, telling us she'd been inspired by her colleague Dan Rosen's suggestion that curriculum be organized in a game-based way around solving world issues. After getting suggestions from math teacher Becky Katz of Ma'ayanot and science teacher Batya Kinsberg of Moriah about how to engage left-brain thinkers, Meryl created a PBL about female empowerment, a world issue she wants her students to know more about. PBL asks teachers to build many types of skills and subjects into a unit, so in addition to honing students' reading and writing abilities, Meryl is having her students develop financial literacy and philanthropy skills, as kids learn how to assess and raise money for different charities and raise money. 

If you want to check out the PBL Planning Forms Meryl is holding in the picture above, here they are!

TABC English teachers Nancy Edelman and Lauren Burstein presented on their awesome semester of PBL and digital literacy and citizenship, which we describe here. Following are links to Nancy and Lauren's project:

Ma'ayanot Tanakh teacher Leah Herzog unveiled what she'd been working on for three days. After taking advantage of the human resources at the Sandbox -- Leah tapped Penina Warburg and Akiva Mattenson for their student viewpoint of PBL and curriculum; Ma'ayanot colleague Pam Ennis for her legal background; and Rabbi Aaron Ross for his PBL knowledge and Sefer Devarim expertise -- she came up with an extensive overview of Devarim, using her essential question of What is (Torah) Law? 

Leah spent her time at the Sandbox developing her complex overview of the Sefer, though she's inserted where she'd like to include PBL units:

SAR history teacher Judith Ballan and Solomon Schechter Westchester High School Tanakh Chair and English teacher Dorothy Weiss presented their work next: cashing in on the Paleo craze, they created a PBL unit that has students focus on the shift humans made from living in hunter-gatherer groups in Paleolithic times to being city dwellers in the Neolithic era. Students will see through art and history just what it meant to create monumental buildings and artwork and what the Torah's response to this building frenzy is (hint: think Babel and Sodom). Students will blog and use additional edtech tools to show their mastery of understanding textual inferences and writers' attitudes towards their subject matter. Judith and Dorothy really embraced the "anti-disciplinary" ethos at the heart of the Sandbox and worked hard to adhere to that standard in their unit.

The last presenters were Peter Eckstein and Tzvi Daum. Peter, who leads a congregational school at Temple Beth David in West Palm Beach, FL, and Tzvi, who founded and is a Jewish day school educator, came up with an extensive PBL on tzedakah that they put on a Moodle. The unit includes PBL basics such as a four-week calendar of the project; interactive quizzes asking for participants' and their parents' reflections on tzedakah; an art project integrated into the unit; and rubrics letting students know what they'll be graded on. Like Meryl, Peter and Tzvi focused on developing financial and philanthropic skills in their students, though Meryl's project is for sophomores and Peter and Tzvi's for elementary school students. Building future Jewish communal leaders seemed to be on more than one educator's mind at the Sandbox, though doing so seems a natural way for Jewish educators to build authentic purpose into a PBL unit. For authentic purpose in PBL, click here

You can access Peter and Tzvi's amazing Moodle using the following link and the guest login:

Next Steps

We all left the Sandbox feeling charged for change, not only because we have projects we can implement in our classrooms and schools but also because we feel excited to share our ideas with others. Our next steps include smoothing out the rough spots of our units -- continuing to iterate -- and reaching out to members of our different communities about the exciting pedagogies that are making their mark on 21st-century learning. 

Stay tuned for more information about what the Sandbox participants will be up to next! 

Favorite Sandbox Ideas

* We echoed edjewcon Andrea Hernandez at the Sandbox, telling participants to "start the journey where they are." Those words calmed us when Andrea began edjewcon with them, letting us know that wherever we are on the journey to changing and improving our educational practices is the right place to be.

* The idea we kept returning to again and again at the Sandbox was student engagement. That's the driving reason behind our desire to constantly re-think teaching practices. We want students engaged with the curriculum; not only because they'll remember content better if they're really connected with it, but also because we want to keep deepening their spiritual, intellectual, and emotional development in as effective manner as possible.

* We got out of our comfort zones at the Sandbox. We were sometimes ("deeply") uncomfortable -- and we survived and thrived and grew. We want the same for our students.

* We saw that collaboration among educators, parents, students, community outreach organizers, and members of institutions and organizations led to truly unique and inspiring educational ideas. We look forward to creating additional opportunities for democratic creation and serendipity by design!

Thank you to all who participated in the Sandbox! Each of your voices added something truly special to the experience. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Sandbox: Day Two!

"The Sandbox is a process. It is a laboratory. It's a frame of mind in which we experiment, fail, learn and try again. It is the first steps to bringing an idea into the real world." -- Peter Eckstein, on JEDLAB today.

Day Two of the Sandbox featured a variety of ideas presented to participants in order to help them clarify their PBL goals and objectives and provide them with ways to incorporate student choice and voice as well as the arts into their projects. 

Q and A Session about PBL with Rabbi Aaron Ross

The first one to offer clarity to the PBL-making process was Rabbi Aaron Ross, Assistant Principal of Judaic Studies and Judaic Studies Middle School teacher at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, NJ. [Full disclosure: Tikvah Wiener's children either graduated from or are attending Yavneh and two of them have been Rabbi Ross' students). 

Rabbi Ross telling us how he uses the Socrative app to make sure
students understand basic information they need to know
in order to create their PBL projects

Rabbi Ross first explained his use of PBL in his Talmud and Torah classroom, showing us the wiki on which he posted many of the resources he has students use in their work (he added that some of the resources aren't online and must be distributed as hard copies; a collective gasp was heard across the room). Once Rabbi Ross had given us an overview of his projects, he then opened up the session to Q and A. Here are some tips we learned from him:

The Buck Institute of Education was Rabbi Ross' go-to site for planning PBL. He found the site's rubrics and standards really helpful and downloaded them for free. (We've linked The Buck Institute to our PBL/IBL resource page as well. We also linked Rabbi Ross' ruminations on his PBL to our resource page).

* Rabbi Ross recommends reading the work of journalist and PBL advocate Suzie Boss

* Though Rabbi Ross teaches Honors students, he has observed his colleague Rabbi Simcha Schaum's use of PBL in a class of non-Honors students (we hate labels such as Honors and non-Honors; anyone want to suggest new ones?). PBL is successful with all learners.

* Establishing the culture of a PBL classroom is important. Students must feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their projects. Rabbi Ross suggested having students sign contracts that commit them to their work and delineate what roles they'll have in fulfilling  the PBL assignments.  

* Rabbi Ross feels that because student engagement in course material is high with PBL, in the Judaic Studies classroom PBL offers a way for students to connect with their Judaism and Jewish texts in deep and meaningful ways. 

RealSchool Session

Inquiry-based, student-centered learning demands that teachers be flexible about what happens in class, thus allowing students to probe more deeply into areas of learning that interest them. Therefore, though the schedule for Day 2 originally said Sandbox participants had to choose between Q and A sessions about PBL and RealSchool, this morning it became clear that people wanted to hear both. We said OK, though having two Q and A sessions back to back meant participants were going to be sitting at desks all morning. Apparently, this was OK: Rabbi Ross had told in his session that frontal teaching is still allowed in PBL and in an unschooled classroom. Whew. 

Fittingly, Akiva Mattenson and Penina Warburg led the session about RealSchool (Check out the website and video RS member Ari Mendelow made this past year! Ari is awesome!).

RealSchool as an after-school club or as an elective is easy to implement in a totally student-driven manner: When a teacher doesn't have a set curriculum, students can decide what and how they want to learn. However, by the end of the session, Sandbox participants were discussing the value of finding out their students' passions so they could unlock them in subject-specific areas as well. 

Badge Learning

Since 21st-century learning always includes connecting to the outside world, we were delighted that Sarah Blattner of Tamritz could join us in a Google Hangout to discuss the credentialing program known as Badge Learning. Check out the resources Sarah shared with us for our Badge Learning page. Sarah also used Nancy Edelman and Lauren Burstein's PBL on 1984 as a case study for Badge Learning (the questions in larger print are the ones we spent time on today): 1984: A Case Study in Badge Learning.

One idea Sarah has taught us and that has become a favorite of ours comes from the world of gaming. Rather than focus on student failure, a gaming approach to education teaches students to "pivot or persevere," that is, change course in their learning or continue to master a skill. "Pivot or persevere": we love it. The concept re-frames learning so that it's not about failure or success but about mastery and self-development.

Another key point Sarah made was that kids love to learn from and with each other. The truth is all humans are social beings and love to learn with and teach each other. Fast Company introduced us to the notion of socialstructed learning. How are schools reflecting the change in how students learn and acknowledging how much kids can learn from each other?

Sarah, thanks for taking the time to drop by the Sandbox and share your deep knowledge of badges, connected learning, PBL and all manner of 21st-century learning tools. 

Ken Gordon also joined our Google Hangout, and here's a shout out
to Ken's son Ari, who made a cute appearance as well
Our re-scheduling of the morning meant we'd had no time to iterate our PBL prototypes, though we headed to lunch -- our Coffeehouse -- with a lot of information in our heads. The Coffeehouse discussion ended up being about women's roles in Judaism, a function no doubt of the fact that Nishmat's Yoetzet Halakha program has been sharing the Ma'ayanot space with us.

After lunch, most participants stayed for the project and book fair, where they could hear about how to get "anti-disciplinary" in the classroom and browse through the books that have inspired us. The project fair was another time to get participants thinking about how to create multiple pathways to learning and how to engage students through the arts, something we love to do at RealSchool. 

Tzvi Daum and Peter Eckstein ducked out of lunch early, as they were anxious to continue working on their PBL. We love the picture below; it's one of our favorites from the Sandbox, and we posted it on JEDLAB today with the following status update:

High tech/low tech, Congregational School Leader/Jewish day school educator, we're mixing it up at the Sandbox!

We love that the Sandbox, like JEDLAB, is a trans-denominational space where the glue among participants is that we're all passionate about Jewish education. It seems appropriate that one of the ideas to come out of the Sandbox is an inter-school project about Jewish unity:

Batya Kinsberg, Meryl Feldblum, Dan Rosen and Becky Katz are not only planning an interdisciplinary day of learning on Jewish unity, but they also want to help each other formulate PBL ideas around the topic of solving world problems. Batya teaches science at Moriah, Meryl and Dan, English at Frisch, and Becky, math at Ma'ayanot, so the world problems discussed were as varied as environmental issues, female empowerment and human geography.

We have to say we're impressed with how Nancy and Lauren have used their time at the Sandbox. English teachers who work together at TABC, they had the advantage of knowing what they wanted to come to the Sandbox to do: plan a PBL for 1984. However, they've ended up sketching out an entire semester, which turned into a look at how language shapes our understanding of ourselves in civilization. They linked their 1984 PBL with a unit on digital citizenship as well as an analysis of the bullying of Piggy in Lord of the Flies. Extensive digital literacy assignments will connect the two novels not only with each other but with an outside reading book, Life of Pi. 

It seemed like no time at all had passed before we were ready for our presentations. Presentation time is key in PBL, so it's something we've been careful to carve out time for at the Sandbox.

We love that Judith Ballan of SAR and Dorothy Weiss of Solomon Schechter High School in Westchester met at the Sandbox and are planning an interdisciplinary PBL with each other. Here they're discussing the major idea they've honed in on: how cities in the ancient world are oppressive places for the majority of people and how the Torah is a response to that injustice. Their entry point looks like it's going to be: What's wrong with a tower? and will ask students to look at how monument building in the ancient world  reflects the exploitation of the masses by the elite. 

Today we were also joined by Pearl Mattenson who had insightful and useful suggestions and observations for us as participants refine their projects. Pearl always makes us see things in a new light. (We're also happy she had the nachat of seeing her son present a session!).

All in all, another great day at the Sandbox. We can't believe it's almost coming to a close -- especially because we still have so much prototyping to do!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Sandbox Begins!

What an amazing first day at the Sandbox!

The Demographics

First, some demographics, which we've been asked to supply. Attending the Sandbox are:


Judith Ballan, history teacher, SAR High School
Michael Bitton, Director of Educational Technology, Magen David High School
Ephraim Botwinick, Areyvut
Joni Blinderman, Associate Director, The Covenant Foundation
David Bryfman, Chief Learning Officer, The Jewish Education Project
Lauren Burstein, English teacher, TABC
Charles Cohen, Manager, Day School Affordability Project, PEJE
Shelley Cohen, Founder and Director, The Jewish Inclusion Project
Tzvi Daum, Founder,
Peter Eckstein, Director of Congregational Learning, Temple Beth David, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Nancy Edelman, English teacher, TABC
Pam Ennis, Director of Development, Ma'ayanot High School
Meryl Feldblum, English teacher, The Frisch School
Ken Gordon, Social Media Manager, PEJE
Devorah Heitner, Founder, Raising Digital Natives
Leah Herzog, Tanakh teacher, Ma'ayanot High School
Becky Katz, math teacher at Ma'ayanot High School and board member at Yeshivat Noam
Terry Kaye, Director, Behrman House Training and Educational Services
Batya Kinsberg, science teacher, The Moriah School
Jenny Levy, Chief Academic Officer, Magen David High School
Pearl Mattenson, Education Consultant
Deborah Pultman, Intern, Areyvut
Daniel Rosen, English teacher, The Frisch School
Daniel Rothner, Founder and Director, Aryevut
Dorothy Weiss, Head of Tanakh and English teacher, Solomon Schechter High School in Westchester
Marnina Winkler, Areyvut

Sandbox Coordinators:

Akiva Mattenson, RealSchool and Frisch School alumnus
Penina Warburg, RealSchool and Frisch School alumnus
Tikvah Wiener, RealSchool and Chairman of the English Department, The Frisch School


The day began with Ken Gordon, one of JEDLAB's founders, explaining how the ethos of the MIT Media Lab can be seen in JEDLAB and in RealSchool. Those ethos are:

* big dreaming
* hard fun
* democratic creation
* collaboration
* anti-disciplinary learning
* iterative prototyping
* failing fast to fail forward

The Challenges of PBL

Since educators are spending the Sandbox iterating a PBL we want to take back to our schools, all stakeholders at the Sandbox got involved in discussing the challenges of project-based learning:

Session results from the PBLchat at the Sandbox:

Daniel Rosen spoke for Group One:

The P in project-based learning. How does it differ from what we’re doing already? We think passion-based learning is a better term: allow students to follow what students think is important to them.

But how is that good for the student?

Lauren Burstein spoke for Group Two:

There is fear of change. All parties -- parents, teachers, students, administrators -- are comfortable with roles and don’t want to change. Hard to break people out of their comfort zones and make them see a larger picture. How do we empower all stakeholders -- sorry, Ken, we said the word -- so they feel comfortable making change?

Tzvi Daum spoke for Group Three:

Practical PBL. How does PBL actually fit into our classrooms? Does PBL work? What needs to be in place for PBL to work? What skills do students need to develop? What resources can we have kids access? PBL takes a lot of planning. Some students might not enjoy PBL. Maybe they like frontal learning better.

PBL doesn’t have to happen all the time. Maybe it can happen once, twice, three times a semester. In order to take discussion further, because we can’t solve these problems here: maybe we can have subject-specific message boards, so teachers can share their obstacles, challenges and successes with each other. We can have a network.

Additional challenges:

Students need basic literacy.

Schools are geared towards standardized tests and the college admission process.

Some solutions:

How do we empower schools to change? We have to change school culture.

Students have to be part of the culture change.

Dividing into Teams

Speaking of students, here they are: the students who started RealSchool!

Inquiry-based and project-based learning experts Penina Warburg and Akiva Mattenson explained how the Sandbox participants, like the students in RealSchool, will divide themselves into teams based on their interests. In this case, those interests were what kind of PBL's the participants wanted to construct.

The birthing process of a PBL idea was sometimes messy. Here, Meryl, Batya, Becky, Shelley, Charles and Ken work out what kind of essential question should drive a project on Jewish unity.

Lauren and Nancy, both English teachers at TABC, both came to the Sandbox knowing they wanted to create a PBL about the novel 1984, so they were able to get right down to work. What the Sandbox afforded them the opportunity to do was, as Nancy put it, "use Akiva as a crash dummy to test the project." Other participants also tapped the students, experts and simply each other as resources, confirming for us that "chance [really] does favor the connected mind." For an understanding of the concept of Serendipity by Design, take a look at the video we watched before lunch, or as we called it, The Coffeehouse:

Here are Tzvi, David and Daniel brewing some good ideas for Jewish education:

After lunch, we continued to iterate our prototypes, that is, plan our PBL projects. Participants worked on an essential question and, if they had time, began to design the plan of their project.

Here Dorothy explains the ideas she and Judith discussed: how the transition from the Paleolithic hunter-gatherer society to a Neolithic, more settled existence creates anxiety in Sefer Bereishit [the Book of Genesis]. Dorothy and her teammate Judith connected that transition to the one we're undergoing now as we move into a new technological world. We were able to see that the transitional time we're in right now may bring us anxiety but can also be seen as a time of limitless possibilites, perhaps in the way the original Creation era was.

A Brief Summary of Projects being Iterated:

Leah: What is (Torah) Law?: A PBL Look at Sefer Devarim [the Book of Deutoronomy]
Lauren and Nancy: 1984
Becky, Batya, Meryl: Jewish Unity: How can we acknowledge and accept the differences of all types of Jews and still have Jewish unity?
Judith and Dorothy: Still planning the Essential or Driving Question of the PBL
Tzvi and Peter: A tzedakah [charity] project run by elementary school students in which the students research what organizations interest them and are in most need of money. 

Awesome day's work, everyone!


Homework:  Watch Ken Robinson's "Changing Education Paradigms" video:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Guest blog post: Inquiry-based and Self-Directed Learning in the Judaic Studies Classroom

Thank you to Rabbi Avi Bernstein of The Moriah School in Englewood, NJ for guest blogging about inquiry-based and self-directed learning in his seventh grade Talmud and Dinim [Jewish law] classroom:

As our ever-changing world continues to amaze us all while enhancing our lives, it challenges us to constantly advance our every skill in order to enable us to interact successfully with the rest of humanity. Being the precursor to and prerequisite of life, education forms the foundation and serves as the active laboratory that prepares us for this brave, new world. It is, therefore, the sacred mission and moral obligation of our schools to empower students with the necessary tools to function within the society around them. 

Classically, one of the more difficult challenges in schools is to inspire students to become full participants in every class and maintain that level of interest. Children, as adults, have predipositions towards certain areas of study, areas that do not require much encouragement on the part of the teacher. In such areas, students are internally driven and thirsty for knowledge and understanding. How may we address the other classes? Which strategies may be conjured up to elicit greater involvement and present better opportunities for deeper learning, even among classes of interest! 

Towards the end of this past year, I presented a rather radical idea to my 7th grade Gemara [Talmud] and Dinim [Jewish law] students. Essentially, I offered them a new way of learning, one that was inquiry-based and self-directed. I posed a simple, yet powerful question to them, "What is one area or mitzvah [commandment] in Jewish life that you never seemed to understand and wish to know more about?" After spending a few minutes elaborating on my question, the students sat in thought before writing down several options on index cards. After several more minutes, they were able to fine tune their choices and nail down a single topic.

In the ensuing week, the students diligently research their respective topics, unearthing facts that they were unaware of before. Among the fascinating topics were animal cruelty in Jewish law, the process of a Jewish wedding, mezuzah, factors of kosher food and the laws of lashon hara [gossip]. As the week passed, the students remained fully engaged and excited each time they learned something new. Once the material was collected, the students chose their own means of presenting and teaching their information to their classmates. Several students created Powerpoint presentations, while others decided to put together Prezis. Ultimately, the students were quite proud of their achievement and enjoyed a sense of mastery and ownership over their particular topics. 

Reflecting upon the project, I believe that there were several facets that enabled the project to be as successful as it was. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the students truly appreciated the ability to choose, both their topic and style of presentation. This fact alone was at the very core of the success. Also, they each felt a certain uniqueness since no two topics were alike. They had a sense of purpose, motivation and ownership that fueled them forward. 

Looking towards next year, I will undoubtedly incorporate and perhaps expand this system into the classroom as often as possible. I have witnessed the success it brings, both in terms of content and student engagement, all of which offer a heightened academic experience - the very goal of our profession. 

The Summer Sandbox Schedule!

What’s your Dream for Jewish Education?

The Summer Sandbox is a time for you, someone who is passionate about Jewish education, to get together with those who are like-minded in order to make a project you can implement in your educational setting. Using, as RealSchool does, lots of progressive learning models, you’ll get to experience the kind of lab environment that emphasizes hard fun, iterative prototyping, serendipity by design, failing forward, big dreaming, and democratic creation. In this way, the Sandbox is a space that echoes the ethos of JEDLAB.


9:00-10:00 am             Welcome and Orientation
                                                 You Mean I’m Allowed to Dream Big in Jewish Education?
 Moderated by Ken Gordon

10:15-11:15 am           What the Heck Is PBL and Other Critical Sandbox Questions
                                    and Answers                                    

11:20 am-12:15 pm     The Essential Question: What is It and What is Yours?
12:15-1:00 pm             Serendipity by Design and The Coffeehouse: Big Ideas Brew

1:00-3:15 pm               Hard Fun: Iterate Your Prototype
                                    Include: content standards, integration of different subjects,
                                    student choice and more

3:15-4:00 pm               What is RealSchool?


9:00-10:00 am             Good morning!
            Democratic creation: Choose your own Q and A session:
                                    RealSchool from a Student Viewpoint
            PBL in the Judaic Studies Classroom
                                    PBL in the General Studies Classroom
                                    Digital Citizenship                   

10-11:45 am                What do Learners Have to Know and When do They Have to
Know It?: Calendars and Rubrics in your Prototype
11:45-12:30 pm           Beyond the Boy Scouts:
Badge Learning with Sarah Blattner of Tamritz Learning      

12:30-1:00 pm             The Coffeehouse

1:00-1:30 pm               Steal Ideas from our Project Exhibit and Book Fair

1:30-3:00 pm               Iterate Your Prototype

3:00-3:30 pm               Poke Some Holes: Get and Give Feedback

3:30-4:00 pm               Failing Is Good?
                                    Show and Tell on JEDLAB


9:00-9:30 am               Good Morning!
                                    Uh-oh: Someone Is Going to See This? Decide on a
                                    Presentation Mode

9:30-11:00 am             Finish Iterating Your Prototype

11:00-12:30 pm           Prepare Your Presentation

12:30-1:00 pm             The Coffeehouse

1:00-2:00 pm               Project Fair

2:00-3:00 pm               Step Back and Assess
Share Your Final Day’s Work on JEDLAB
How Will We Continue What We’ve Started at the Sandbox?

The Summer Sandbox will take place at Ma'ayanot High School
1650 Palisade Avenue, Teaneck, NJ 

To find out more about the schedule, please email