Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pre-Day One at VSS11 and Personal Connection Online

Today was the pre-conference at the Virtual School Symposium 2011. First, I want thank the Avi Chai Foundation for bringing a group of excellent educators together who are involved in the field of Jewish education online. Besides the actual sessions, the time spent with this group has been a highlight for me. In the brief time together I see the tremendous positive impact we could have collectively in the area of online/blended Jewish learning.

Today I sat in two four hour sessions. One was on blended learning and the other on Best Practices for Online Teachers. Both had tremendous take aways and I hope to share them with you over the upcoming days. The first one is related to this video below. The Best Practices for Online Teachers was facilitated by Kristen Kipp who is the National Online Teacher of the year for 2011 (Check out her blog In the four hours we were with her, it was clear why. Here is a video highlighting a day in her life and the value of online education.

While there was a lot I took away from this session, Kristen, the panels and the breakout sessions, one thing stood out.

I often get asked how can you create a meaningful relationship with your students online? As an online teacher, I can tell you first hand it is possible and it involves many of the same techniques employed in the classroom. Be genuine, compassionate, caring. Reach out to the students who not engaged. Be fair and inclusive. Show interest in your students. All these things are nessceery in the brick and mortar school and online. The only difference is the medium used to accomplish them. However, what I find is as I explain that a relationship is possible, it is hard for those I am speaking with to fully conceptualize it. This is where Kristen did something great. She had one of her students skype into the session we were all in and talk to us.

The moment the student appeared on the screen live it was clear there was a strong connection with Kristen. There was a joyful smile and a sweet "Hello Ms. Kipp." She was excited to be doing this for her teacher and her teacher was truly proud of what her student was doing. That connection could not be described and only experienced. To highlight the connection, when Kristen was talking about the success of her students later on she got teary eyed. She truly cares.

Day in and day out I am engaging with my online students in the YU School Partnership Certificate Program. I have closer connection with some students over others, but the same goes for when I taught in a brick and mortar. However, while it may be easier and quicker to form relationships with students in a brick and mortar classroom, I do not feel that the quality of that relationship over time is any different.
The bottom line is, we as educators are struggling with the idea on introducing online and blended learning into Jewish education. There is certainly a lot to discuss and best practices to seek out. However, we should not dismiss the power of online or blended learning because we think relationships cannot be built. They can. They are strong. They are real.

I am looking forward to sharing more about today at VSS11 and what I learn tomorrow. This post is cross-posted at
Eliezer A. Jones, PhD
Educational Technology Specialist

Institute for University-School Partnership

Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration

Yeshiva University

Phone: 917-836-2257


skype: eliezerjones

Twitter: DrEliezerJones

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Jane Taubenfeld Cohen said...

ELiezer, this video is truly inspiring. THanks for including it.

Dr. Eliezer Jones said...

Thank you Jane. I will say that while the video is inspiring she is even better in person. She is a great example of what an online teacher should and could be.