Netbooks, Document Cameras, Google Apps, Educational Apps, Student blogs, we floated all of these ideas around as we tried to come up with where to focus our technology training this summer. There are so many opportunities it is often overwhelming. With training being a fundamental component of our technology plan at the Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School, we struggled to determine a school wide technology goal for the coming year. As we spoke and brainstormed, inspiration from the NAJDSC, and our recent participation in the Darim Online Jewish Day School Social Media Academy came together, and an idea formed based.
One of the famous benefits of working at Google is the 20 percent time program. Google allows its employees to use up to 20 percent of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. At Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Google, "many" of their best and most popular products come from the thin sliver of time they granted employees to work on whatever they wanted to.
We decided that instead of us choosing a school wide goal we would allow each teacher to choose a technology based project that they’d like to implement in their classroom. We’d take the money we would have spent training and pay our teachers to spend the time to research, create and implement a project that they were passionate and excited about. We have a treasure of knowledge, experience and skill amongst our staff and with so many learning opportunities readily available on the internet we know we will have a rich, informative and exciting journey. The program has no outcome benchmarks but process requirements. The focus is on the experience. Because we are offering the freedom to “work on whatever you want” we are also offering the freedom to fail, without failure there can be no innovation or true experimentation. Regardless of whether the project plays out as we hope it to we know there will be valuable lessons learned from the process.
In addition to choosing and implementing a project there will be a reflective and reporting process where teachers will reflect, share and teach each other about their project and what they have learned. Not only will teachers benefit from their projects and experience they will learn from everyone else’s research and projects. And at the end of the project we will have a staff where each teacher is well versed and experienced in different areas of technology and available to support each other in their area of expertise.
Miriam Esther Wilhelm is the founding Head of School at the Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School. She has enjoyed the journey of taking the school from a start up to a growing and thriving Jewish Day School.
The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation. Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy
The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.