Harkham Hillel Rabbi Recognized as Apple® 2015 Distinguished Educator (ADE)

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Apple announced the awardees of the highly coveted Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Program for 2015, a biennial award given to teachers who, “are part of a global community of education leaders recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom. They explore new ideas, seek new paths, and embrace new opportunities. That includes working with each other — and with Apple — to bring the freshest, most innovative ideas to students everywhere.” Among those selected was Rabbi Michael Cohen, Director of Educational Technology at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy.

Rabbi Eli Broner, Director of Campus Life at Harkham Hillel explained how there are so many ways that technology plays a part in the learning curriculum at Hillel. “In 2012 Rabbi Cohen started at Hillel as a computer teacher in our computer lab, but technology has gone beyond the walls of the lab. Now, he supports every one of our educators in their classrooms and helps them design curriculum that focuses on technology as a tool versus an experience. From a shared Macbook Cart in elementary to 1:1 iPads 5th through 8th, all the technology at Hillel is used with thoughtful intent with a focus on meaningful learning, not meaningful technology. Through the use of technology, learning is no longer confined to the classroom alone. We might have a class running in six different locations on the campus, where small groups of students are filming each other or acting something out, researching a project or creating in other ways.”

Our 7th grade students used their iPads on their recent trip to the Olympic Park Institute in Seattle. This wasn’t to play games. The iPads let them record their trip with details that would otherwise have been overlooked or forgotten culminating in their first attempt at filming a nature documentary. Our 8th graders recently created a 3D model of the Mishkan including even the most minute detail to scale using Google Sketch-Up, a 3D architecture program. Using DARQI’s augmented reality software, student were then able to view their model through the lens of their device in 360 degrees.

Technology must have a purpose says Rabbi Cohen. “For my students, the iPad is a tool for curating purposeful learning. A tool for developing meaning and value when learning. The iPad provides student a vehicle for personalizing their learning experiences. My students see technology as way to socialize learning and develop valuable collaborative skills built on sharing and supporting colleagues. These are requirements for success in EVERY industry today. My students learn together, reflect together, and share together, regardless of whether they are inches apart or a two thousand miles away.”

Not all our learning is high-tech but we live in a high tech world and so our classes have to be designed with this in mind.. We also use iPads for note taking and to enhance ideas, to modify a presentation and frequently to redefine how the subjects are learned.”

“It is exciting to be a part of an educational environment that allows its educational staff to pioneer on behalf of the students,” explained Rabbi Y. Boruch Sufrin, Head of School and Covenant Educator Award Recipient. “Students of the 21st Century thrive when their educators open vistas and allow them room to discover.”

The school prides itself on its willingness to include technology. Jason Ablin, General Studies Principal of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, serves as the educational mentor and guide to the students. He ensures that Rabbi Cohen, has the platform to engage and collaborate with the school staff and community while integrating the latest in Apple technology into the curriculum. Hillel’s 600 students and extended community of learners are privileged to have these learning options and are proud, but not surprised, that Rabbi Cohen has been acknowledged.

To view ADE educators’ creative teaching ideas in action visit http://www.apple.com/education/apple-distinguished-educator. Rabbi Michael Cohen ADE can be tweeted at @TheTechRabbi