Weave + Blend: Reflections on #NAJDS Day 1

Thoughts on Day 1 of the North American Jewish Day School Conference:

– the highlight of the conference, no surprise, is the ‘sessions between the sessions’ – the networking that takes place over meals, in the elevator and at the bar. The NAJDS Conference Weave is cool, but it still doesn’t compare to the spontaneous interactions that take place when meeting new and interesting day school leaders. Over dinner last night, I met fascinating people from other parts of the country, and reflected with them on national trends impacting each of our day school regions differently. The question of allowing, welcoming and even recruiting non-Jewish students was a hot topic at my dinner table. 

– I am learning that Blended Learning is, or at least is about to become, or so many people believe, a big deal. I attended a fascinating session with Rob Darrow of iNacol  and Eliezer Jones of YU2.0. Darrow discussed the growing number of schools that are using online methods to deliver parts of their curriculum. Eliezer reflected on the importance of the pedagogy of online or blended education. He issued a word of caution that he is concerned that the agenda encouraging the growth of blended learning in day schools is affordability rather than providing better education to our students. Hopefully of no surprise to any of the educators in the room, it turns out that when courses move from the real to the virtual classroom teachers still matter, often even more. I was intrigued by this presentation, wondering if I should attempt to teach one of my middle school social science classes in this manner. The opportunity to differentiate, offer more individualized learning experiences, and for students to learn more at their own pace seems appealing to me. However, I still wonder what would be the purpose of such a move. I also have many reservations about online learning based on my own experience as a student. After that session, I strolled around the vendors Expo, and discovered many, many companies that clearly believe blended learning is a great business opportunity. Are they right? I remain skeptical, but I’m eager to learn more. 

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