HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Editor: Educational Innovation

by Elliott Rabin, Editor Issue: Educational Innovation Prizmah

The old will be renewed, and the new will be sanctified. - Avraham Kook, Igrot HaRa’ayah 164


This famous expression of Harav Kook, cited in this issue, would make a perfect mission statement for the field of Jewish day schools. It captures the magnificent, heroic efforts the teachers in our schools make every day. They expertly choose from our ancient writings and traditions, endowing students with the skills they need to read, understand and interpret them, giving students a platform to articulate their thoughts and, in the process, develop self-understanding as old-new, 21st century Jews. They also fearlessly incorporate the new, in the form of new thinkers and artists or new technological platforms, while helping students elevate the new, and use new media selectively, wisely, to find the wheat and discard the chaff. And that elevation takes place largely through the guidance and insight derived from our ancient wisdom.

The articles in this issue represent the balance between the old and new, sacred and profane embodied in Jewish history. The issue tells the story of the drive for innovation, an imperative in modern education that has gained strength on theoretical and practical levels in recent decades. It features efforts to learn from, adopt and adapt innovative programs and pedagogies from the larger educational universe. However, even as they adjust to shifting times, some authors advise caution, patience and planning around such changes. They observe that innovation often requires an enormous investment of time, people, money and more to achieve lasting success, and that sometimes, investing in deepening what already exists may be the wiser move.

In the first section, “Innovation Infrastructure,” Jakobovits writes of a visionary program implemented in a chareidi women’s school in Israel that enables inclusion on an unprecedented scale. The next two articles describe ambitious collaborations between day schools and university education schools: Stowe-Lindner on Bialik College in Melbourne and Harvard regarding the “Cultures of Thinking” project; Malkus and Sikorski on Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland, and George Washington University regarding STEM and Jewish studies. Next, Cohen, the “Tech Rabbi,” gives advice for creating capacity for student innovation, and Mendelsohn Aviv discusses the creation of a new blended-learning school. Goodman and Frim present a Jewish multicultural school as a model that may appeal to millennial Jews. Articles by Kress and Truboff approach the challenge of making innovation stick from different perspectives, and English shows how some innovative day schools market themselves.

Our center spread features innovative ways that schools ignite student passion and inspire student ownership in tefillah. The next section looks at innovative initiatives within and beyond the classroom. The first two articles concern assessment. Soleimani explores how her school conducted a a curricular audit that gave direction for change and improvement, while Arcus-Goldberg charts the transition to student portfolios. Five articles then portray a variety of innovative educational programs. Marson takes principles of gifted learning into arts education; Jacobs and Spector detail the workings of I (Integrated) PBL; Nagel showcases her updated approach to modern Jewish literature; Reiss and Westman present a game-based app for biblical literacy; and Matas features a school that takes time off to solve real-world problems. In an excerpt from a recent book, Couros and Novak riff on cultivating creativity, and Freundel displays the creative energies and vision of day school leaders. Freundel's article represents the launch of a partnership between JEIC and Prizmah, including a series of articles on the Jewish Day School of the Future that will be featured in the months to come.

May this new year be one in which the innovative ambitions of school administrators and the innovative skills of teachers enrich and nourish the growth of our students’ capacities for innovative learning—while renewing the ancient wisdom of our tradition.

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Educational Innovation

The articles in this issue represent the balance between the old and the new, sacred and profane embodied in Jewish history. The issue tells the story of the drive for innovation in modern education that has gained strength in recent decades. It features efforts to learn from, adopt and adapt innovative programs and pedagogies from the larger educational universe, even as authors advise caution, patience and planning around such changes.

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