Educational Technology in Jewish Education
Educator Spotlight: Championing Change with Diane Taub and Ilana Traub
In this Educator Spotlight, Diane Taub and Ilana Traub share their experiences from our JBlend Miami professional learning and how they support teachers who are integrating educational technology.
Diane Taub, a native Miamian, has been teaching adults and children how technology can help them since before IBM developed the PC! Diane’s first exposure to technology was in her last semester at the University of Florida, when she had the opportunity to take a class with a former IBM mainframe programmer. Diane has worked with technology in day schools in Miami for over 25 years. As the Technology Coordinator at Lehrman Community Day School, Diane enjoys helping others find new ways to learn and share information. She loves all of the new opportunities that “playing” with technology brings like augmented and virtual reality. She especially loves challenging her four grandchildren with coding opportunities!
Ilana Traub is a graduate of Mills College (BA in Education) and Nova Southeastern University (MA in Educational Technology). She is a veteran educator who came to Lehrman Community Day School from Hochberg Preparatory School after spending 10 years at Hillel Community Day School as their Director of Educational Technology. Ilana is responsible for Educational Technology as well as Lehrman's media center, the iKnow Emporium.
What are your roles at Lehrman? Where do you specialize and how do you work together?
Diane: I am primarily responsible for everything technology related. I interact with the teachers and the administration, work in our database on enrollment, troubleshoot technical problems and work directly with students. Ilana and I also work very closely together.
Ilana: I focus on educational technology. I teach students technology in third through fifth grade and I’m the media specialist in charge of the library and the makerspace. I also teach robotics. There are a lot of things happening at the same time.
How do you help teachers use technology to support learning in their classrooms?
Ilana: I talk to them to see what they’re doing. We discuss which technology they want to integrate and we talk about it together. I show the teachers how to use the tech, and by the middle of the year, everybody is comfortable - both the teacher and students. The technology is just a tool to enhance learning, so all I’m doing is introducing an idea to enhance whatever lesson they already have. What I do a lot of the time is model the technology use with the teachers watching. They start chiming in and become part of it and that’s when I know I’ve succeeded.
Diane: Both Ilana and I make ourselves very available to all the teachers. We walk around the classrooms and look for opportunities to assist with the use of technology. Sometimes integrating technology originates from the curriculum and sometimes from the teachers. For those who may not know what to ask, we know what tools to suggest.
You’re both part of Lehrman’s group of educators participating in our JBlend Miami professional learning. What have your roles been in JBlend Miami? How do you support your school’s JBlend teachers as coaches?
Diane: Ilana and I are both coaches for our teachers. We are in and out of classrooms as observers and serve as a second pair of hands as needed. The teachers can bounce ideas off either of us. We’re there to help them discuss their ideas and figure out a starting point. Then we help them figure out how to tweak it. We have team meetings for the JBlend teachers, the head of school, the administrators - the whole JBlend Miami team - and they have been unbelievably successful. Everyone from JBlend has shared how they’ve felt and what they’ve worked on. Then, other teachers on the team have started using those ideas and trying out those tools. The teachers have found the team meetings to be a rewarding experience.
Ilana: We are champions for the teachers. Whenever they have small suggestions, like what tool would be useful, we always pull for them and champion those ideas. We are the in-between for them and the administration to make sure it happens for them. We’re always ready to jump in and help make their ideas for integrating technology happen. We’re lucky that the school is very supportive. We also make sure the teachers know that if an idea doesn’t work, it’s okay and not a failure. We can learn from it and do something else instead.
What have been the highlights of JBlend Miami for you?
Ilana: Talking to teachers from other schools and actually discussing what’s going on in their world. These friendships and collaborations have continued via email and phone calls and have been extraordinarily helpful.
Diane: I find it very exciting to see a teacher trying new things and adapting as they go. That learning process for them is exciting for me to participate in.
How has the JBlend Miami experience influenced the work you do not just with JBlend teachers but with other teachers at Lehrman?
Diane: Whatever support we’re providing for the JBlend teachers, we provide for the other teachers as well. For instance, we had an opportunity for all teachers in several grade levels to use adaptive learning software. We’ve seen that as the JBlend teachers use these programs and talk to other teachers, there’s a natural tendency for them to see the advantage of the adaptive software. They see how they can use it to personalize learning for their students. They’re incorporating the new methods very fluidly and it’s now becoming part of their teaching style.
Ilana: What we’re seeing is that there is an overflow of concepts. A teacher from JBlend will be doing rotation groups, and then other teachers are observing, seeing that it’s successful, and starting to do rotations in their own classrooms.
Can you speak a little more about what it’s been like to bring in adaptive software?
Ilana: We did all the setup work like creating accounts for every single student and making sure everything would run smoothly, so the minute a teacher felt like using it, it was ready. We always think ahead to make sure whoever wants to use a new tool can do so. We make the transitions as simple as possible.
Diane: The rest of the school heard about the adaptive software from the JBlend teachers, so it was a natural tendency for them to be interested. For reading, we provided iReady for all first, second, and third-grade students and we held professional development for all the teachers at those grade levels. I’ve had teachers coming to me and saying that they’re using iReady and liking it and want to learn more about it. We got them started and now they’re flying with it on their own.
How else has JBlend Miami influenced how learning happens at Lehrman?
Diane: The teachers really like the advantages that adaptive software offers their students. They are spending time thinking about which program will work best for each child. What I love most about blended learning is the personalized approach and we’re definitely seeing our teachers thinking about that and doing that for each individual student.
Ilana: I also noticed that teachers started with rotations, wanting 15 minutes per center, and eventually they did 45 mins per center. We are seeing adaptations of adaptations and it’s fascinating to watch it evolve. The teachers are innovating in their own classrooms.
What’s a great lesson you’ve seen taught by a JBlend teacher?
Diane: Allison Shusterman, whom you interviewed before, is doing some amazing lessons in her second-grade class. One she did just recently was about Helen Keller. She found a website that let the students learn about braille and write in braille. That was one group’s activity. Another group was working on a vocabulary list about the Helen Keller story. There was also a group playing a board game about Helen Keller and a fourth group using paper and glue and handwriting their names in braille. Allison was also able to work with students in small groups to make sure they all understood the story. She rotates around to different groups but also pulls students aside to work with one-on-one.
What’s been most rewarding about bringing technology into the school to support learning?
Ilana: Technology is something that many of our students now use naturally. We’re using the tools that they use, so we are meeting them where they are. That’s how it should be and that’s how it is here as we provide more and more different tools so they are comfortable with all sorts of devices, whether that is tablets, Chromebooks, etc. It will help them in the outside world, which is now so technology-driven. Wherever they go from here, we feel we have provided them opportunities to feel comfortable with a whole variety of technology. It’s truly an opportunity to make sure no student is left behind.
Diane: What I love most is when our students have those “aha!” moments that technology has helped them get to. They take pride in their presentations or from learning something new in the robotics program. Every step of the way they’re so proud of what they've accomplished, and I love seeing that. It’s also been a great experience seeing our teachers grow and knowing our students really have their learning personalized for them. That’s what makes me really happy to be a part JBlend Miami.
Yonah Kirschner, former Project Manager, Digital Content and Communications at The Jewish Education Project.