A great piece before Shabbat from eJewishPhilanthropy explores using badges and Project Based Learning in Jewish Education. I would love to see how this would work in a synagogue-based school! Anyone want to play with me and figure it out? Posted on March 12, 2013 written by Sarah Blattner.
It was fun rewatching this film with my own children recently, where
they were confused that a computer system took up the space of an entire
room. As an educator contemplating learning in the digital age, I
noticed the subplot. The audience gets acquainted with David’s student
profile, a kid who blows off school and finds himself pretty bored in
general. At first, he pings the computer system, exploring which doors
are open (which is humorous to my kids, as he uses an old-fashioned
telephone to connect). After researching the designer of the system, he
makes contact by uncovering a password, which eventually engages the
So what does WarGames have to do with digital badge learning
and project-based learning? Let’s first frame the story through the
lens of David’s actions. He begins his learning journey from a “need to
know.” His quest is passion-based and interest driven. His curiosity
takes him down multiple paths. He is engaged in game play and finds it
invigorating. He seeks out an adult mentor, Dr. Falken, who can assist
him in stopping inevitable war. He researches Falken, his contributions
to computer science, and he discovers clues about the computer system,
Joshua, as well as how to make face-to-face contact with his mentor. He
continues to seek out more information to solve his problem. He is fully
engaged, intrinsically motivated, curious and steeped in a real word
Project-based learningProject-based learningProject-based learning is
defined by the Buck Institute as an experience where “students go
through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex
question, problem or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn
key academic content and practice 21st Century skills, such as
collaboration, communication and critical thinking.”
And why is PBL so
awesome? The Buck Institute explains,
“students gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and standards at
the heart of a project. Projects also build vital workplace skills and
lifelong habits of learning. Projects can allow students to address
community issues, explore careers, interact with adult mentors, use
technology, and present their work to audiences beyond the classroom.
PBL can motivate students who might otherwise find school boring or
David’s adventures in WarGames looks a lot like PBL, doesn’t
it? The deep content he explored focused on the computer system and how
to teach Joshua that some games have no winner. He had choice; he had a
voice; he revised solutions as he experimented along the way; he had a
public audience; the experience was inquiry-driven; and his mentor
helped guide his thinking. The only piece that doesn’t support ideal PBL
learning scenarios is the high stakes situation of impending war.
Ideally, we want our students to have low-stakes learning opportunities
where they can explore, take risks, prototype and revise their
understandings and models along the way.
David were to earn a digital badge for teaching Joshua about games with
no winners, what would it look like? He might have a badge learning
advisor (teacher or mentor) who helps him map out his learning journey.
The mentor may identify required elements in his learning journey, like
learning a computer programming language, reading and responding to a
collection of articles and writing a reflective blog as a transparent
Together, David and his mentor may craft a “need to know” question
or guiding essential question that focuses his work and future project.
Along the way, David would receive frequent feedback from his mentor,
experts in the field and maybe even feedback from his peers. Ultimately,
David would produce some sort of product that demonstrates his learning
and understandings. The artifact would be published out to the world,
rather than sit on a shelf in a classroom or in a pile on a teacher’s
David would earn a digital badge that is hard coded with metadata,
revealing his learning pathways, rubrics for achievement, skills learned
and maybe even a link to his work. He could share out this badge to the
world through social media interfaces like blogs, wikis and more. And
along the way, he may even earn smaller digital badges that serve as
milestones in his learning journey. He may also get promoted to “peer
reviewer” status within his online learning community, reviewing work of
other students on computer science learning quests.
Digital badge learning is naturally framed within the tenets of
project-based learning, providing opportunities for students to hone
their 21st Century learning skills sets through a “need to know” quest.
Teachers serve as mentors and coaches along the way, guiding students in
pursuing new understandings and in building prototypes. Students are
engaged, motivated and empowered. Learning is relevant, authentic and
John Dewey said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob
our children of tomorrow.” Digital badge learning is one innovative
approach that teaches for tomorrow. TAMRITZ (“incentive” in Hebrew)
seeks to empower Jewish Day Schools to teach for the future through a
digital badge learning network. TAMRITZ is a Jewish Day School
initiative incubated by the Joshua Venture Group Dual Investment Program and supported by the AVI CHAI Foundation.
Unique to the Tamritz Badge Learning Network is a badge-based professional development e-course, “Digital Age Teaching,”
where teachers are immersed in the experience and hone their 21st
Century teaching and learning skill sets. Through face-to-face training,
teachers also have the opportunity to develop their own badge learning
curriculum, based on their school culture and program.
A “Digital Media
Literacy” badge-based e-course prepares students for future badge
learning experiences and sharpens their connected learning toolkits. All
within a digital learning environment, teachers participate in an
ongoing community of practice and students participate in a badge
learning network. This means that Jewish Day School students in
California can collaborate with students in Boston, review peer work and
benefit from collective wisdom.
Jewish Day School teachers can share badge learning curricula and rubrics within the network.
TAMRITZ just launched a request for proposals for Jewish Day School middle schools. The deadline for applications is Friday, April 12th.
Sarah Blattner is the founder and executive director of Tamritz.