About akevy

I have been an educator for over 20 years. This blog represents my personal views. My goals is to share my ideas about education and leadership with others.

Why should you Skype?

picture: geeky-gadgets.com

Over the last two years since I have been active on Twitter I have skyped a number of times with different schools and different educators.  I have also encouraged my teachers to skype with different schools.  Many of our teachers have skyped with other schools and have established e-pals and skype buddies.

I have become known in school as somewhat of the Skype expert and classes that want to skype come to me. The truth is skyping is really  very easy all it requires is a web cam and a skype account.

Some one asked me why do I skype so much.  I don’t really but the question got me thinking as to what are some of the educational benefits to skyping.

Here is my quick ( short list) Please comment and add your own ideas.

1. Makes learning real
2. Allows students to connect with experts
3.Lets students become experts and teach others
4. Allows students to collaborate and communicate with others
5. Allows for students to be engaged in the learning  and become active learners

6. Expands  the walls of the classrooms and allows students to learn with peers  all over the world

This week our first graders will be skyping with a another  Jewish day school about Chanukah. The teacher has been preparing them for the experience.  She came to tell me that when ever she mentions it   her students get all excited and can’t  wait. One of the students said to her ” They learn the same things that we are learning”.

Last week my fifth grade class had the opportunity to skype with @michellek107 class in Denver. The first question I was asked afterwards was when can we do that again.

That in a a nutshell is why I skype and would  encourage other to skype provided that it offers a learning opportunity for all.


To those of us who consider ourselves to be somewhat of a “Twitter” expert there is nothing as stimulating as a chat. I remeber my first #edchat being completely overwhelemed and just urking. It took me a while to get involved but I also marveled at the moderators and the people running chats.  You could basicly find a chat for almost anything on twitter and if you dont beleive me check our @cyberman1 website that has a list of the chats.

So as  I became more of a “twitter expert” I started particiapting in #edchat and sometime #leadershipchat  and some others when I have the time. However in all of them there was always something missing and there was always this voice in side of me that would say “but you are in a private Jewish day school and while some of the issues may be universal there are unique issues that you have”.

I have blogged about a number of them;how can we balance technology and religion or finding the balance between 21st century skills and being a people of the Book just to name a few. And every so often I would get a comment or some feedback but it wasn’t the collaboration that was neccessary.

With some encouragement from @tomwhitby  @Dovemerson, @RabbiWex and myself came up with the idea of having a twitter chat that would address some of the issues and needs facing Judaic Studies teachers today.

Great idea but to  be honest most of my followers and those that I follow on twitter are not involved in Jewish education and I wasn’t sure who would participate and really what to expect.

Well we picked a date set up a wiki (http://jedchat.wikispaces.com/) and started tweeting about it. The reaction we got was great people seemed really excited but still that unknown about how many people would actually participate in the chat.

Last night at 9 pm Et was that magical hour of our inagural chat.  the first word that came to my mind at 10:05 ET  was “WOW” . It was truly amazing. I beleive we had over 50 people participating and it was amazing.  Participating in a chat is great but moderating it and help create something that feeling was truly amazing.

If you couldn’t make it yesterday please join us next Wed night at 9 pm ET for our next chat. All are welcome.

I named this blog “Beyond the Classroom Walls” since I truly believe that there are no limits to  the places and the way we learn and as educators who also are life long learners the same applies to us and through this chat and all the chats on twitter we are learning and connecting with people that would have been impossible 10 year ago.

The sky’s the limit all we need to do is dream and reach for it

Way Beyond the Classroom Walls










Yesterday myself and Rabbi Shira Leibowitz were invited by Mr. Brett Clark to skype with his class about Judaism.

I want to thank Mr. Clark for the opportunity as well as his students at the  Lodge Community School in Evansville Indiana.

I also want to thank Rabbi Leibowitz for sharing the stage with me and adding a lot her special and unique insights to  the conversation.

Below you will find links to the press coverage of this event.

However I want to share with you my major Take Aways from this experience:

1. Not only did the students learn but it was an engaging and learning experience for me as the presenter ( I would assume Rabbi Leibowitz feels the same way)

2. With not very much technology ( a video camera and mic) the possibilities are endless and we can as the title suggests move “Way Beyond the Classroom Walls” .

3. I was very impressed by the question the students asked and when given the opportunity to think critically, ask questions, and make learning real you will be amazed what our students are truly capable of.

Again thank you to Mr. Clark and his students

As we say in Hebrew Kol Hakavod!!


Lodge Elementary Students Use Video-Chat in Class: EVANSVILLE- Seventh graders at Lodge Elementary School are traveling to New York and to Memphis without any luggage.










My Answer to Education Reform: Focus


During tonight’s ( 10-4) #edchat a number of us myself included tweeted that what we really need is not a lot of talk about reform but just focus on meeting the needs of our students.

Then I saw a blog post titled “Why I don’t like Differentiated Instruction”

While I agree with the author that the focus cannot be on the teacher or on the instruction, but rather we need to focus on the learning.

However if we are truly focusing on meeting our students needs and if we are truly facilitators in the learning process then by definition we must differentiate. No two children learn the same way, and different children have different needs.

We can talk about differentiation, and technology, and grades, and standardized testing and any other hot topic in education but if truly want to help our students and maximize their learning ( after all isn’t that what it is all about) then we need to FOCUS on one thing;  HOW CAN WE MEET OUR STUDENTS NEEDS or in other words WE NEED TO PUT KIDS FIRST.

If that becomes our focus everything else is really secondary

My thoughts



What is 21st Century Learning – Better Question what Skills do we want our students to Have?

Last week I wrote a blog for connected principals about Technology and 21st Century learning.  That posted got mentioned by a friend mine Amanda Dykes in her blog   http://upsidedown.edublogs.org/2011/09/06/it-is-21st-century-right/ When I read that blog it go me thinking at to what 21st Century skills are.  However I have to be honest I don’t like that term since we are already a decade into the 21st Century and perhaps the better question should be what skills do we want our students to have.

Here is my short list:

a focuses on student centered learning



critical thinking


the ability to communicate

global learning

And while technology plays a large role in many of these areas it is a tool to help us teach the skills that we want our students to know.

I have created a Google doc and would like you to share your list.


A New School Year- Filled with Excitement and a Challenge

This past week was the start of another school year.  There is nothing like the first day of school the excitement is in the air.  Students and Teachers are ready for the new school year,the building is clean and looks almost new and everyone is  ready to learn.

In those first couple of days our students are engaged and teachers are using new tools and techniques that they learned at in-service or over the summer.

I am no different for the first day of school I create a Xtranormal  video and a wallwisher for my class. By the second day some  of the students were being introduced to their new Google accounts.  Don’t get me wrong I think that is all great. However here is the challenge:

How do we take this excitement on both the part of the teachers and the students and bottle it so that the same enthusiasm and engagement that we have on day one we have on day 71 and on day 181.

I am asking the question for myself as well. Since last year I was guilty of this. I made a Voki for my welcome back blog at the begining of the year and that was the first and last Voki I made.

So as I said this excitement leads to the challenge of how do we keep it ?

Please share your thoughts


Looking Back To Look Forward

This year we are focusing on 21st Century Learning. For many myself included while this is exciting it can also be scary. What does it mean is it something new? Do I need to change the way I have taught for x years. To be honest some of the answers are Yes, but 21st Century learning is not new. The terms may be somewhat new the focus maybe new the ideas aren’t. As Rabbi Perl our Head of School showed during in-service there are many examples of critical thinking and questioning found in the Talmud, which are key skills that we talk about when we talk about 21st Century learning. I also read today the following in Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book, “To Heal a Fractured World”. Rabbi Sacks shares the following story about Janusz Korczak who was Polish physician in the early 1900’s. :

“Early in his career, he was drawn to the plight of underprivileged children.  He had revolutionary ideas about the young. He believed in trusting them and giving them responsibilities. He got them to produce their own newspaper, the first children’s newspaper in Poland. He turned schools into self governing communities…..He used to say Children have the right to be taken seriously…”

Some very 21st Century ideas.

Yes today because of technology and our global economy and this new world we live in there is more of a focus on what we call 21st Century learning and it needs to be the norm rather than the exception but it is not something new.

It also not a term or tools we use but rather a mindset of learning that is predicated on what Carol Dweck call a “Growth Mindset”. A mindset that pushes our children to question and take risks and where when we take those risks we tell our students it is OK to try ands fail as long as that failure leads to success. It is also about the skills of critical thinking, questioning, investigating, collaborating, and being creative.


Therefore perhaps as we look forward we to take a moment a look back and understand that while the terms and methods may be new but the mindset and skills have been around do a long time.

Looking forward to year of risk taking and growth


21st Century Learning Video



Teachers Are Leaders


Friday was  Leadership day and unfortunately I wasn’t able to write a post then so here is my post a  day late.

I just starting reading the book “Leaders of Learners” by Robert J. Marzano. There are a number of great quotes in the book and I only just started. Here are two:

       “All Leaders Teach and all Teachers Lead”

                             A School is people and therefore to have school improvement you need people improvement”

I think these two quotes lie at the heart of school reform.

Let’s take the second one first. We talk a lot about technology, 21st Century learning ,and standardized tests just to name a few. However at times we forgot that it is not the technology or types of desk and classroom set up we have or even the technology but rather it is the people we have in our schools. We could be the most advanced high tech modern school but if the people in the school mainly the teachers and administrators still don’t understand what it means to educate the students of today all the technology wouldn’t  really help. What is often lost when we talk about leadership and reform is that it often boils down to basic people skills. Leaders need to listen, understand, show empathy and trust those that we lead. Therefore to me the first step is that we need to as Jim Collins says have the right people on the bus. Once we have the right people in place , those that undderstand that there needs to be a culture of learning, growth and change then reform can happen .

However getting the right people on the bus or in this case in the building is the first the step. The second step is that we need to empower these people mainly our teachers to become leaders. It has been said often that the true goal of any good leaders is to produce other leaders.  Therefore the goal of any good administrator should be to produce Teacher Leaders. Teachers that take the initiative and responsibility to grow and change.

How does that happen. I believe it happens when a culture is crested that allows teachers to take risks and where it is OK to fail. Where administrators lead by example and not with a top down approach.

Finally perhaps the simplest thing to d o is what I mentioned earlier remember that we are all people. What we want from our teachers in the way they act and treat their students then we as administrators need to act and treat our faculty  the same way.

School= People   Leadership is about people  therefore those People in School are Leaders.



Way Beyond Outside the Walls; My Reflections on RSCON3

When I started this blog my intention was to share ideas of how we can and must expand learning so that learning isn’t limited just to the walls of the classroom. To be honest my focus was on student learning. However as was echoed often during this weekend’s RSCON on- line conference what is true for our students is true for our teachers as well. Therefore teachers need to expand their learning beyond their classroom, their school and their community. There is no shortage of ways of teachers t o that with Skype, wiki’s. Google chat and video, and Google+ hangout just to name a few.

However then there are times when you experience something that is just way out and blows all of that away. That was my feeling this weekend when I participated in the RSCON3 on line conference. Where for three days people came from all over the world to learn and share ideas together of how we can reform education. To say it was inspiring and that I was inspired would be an understatement.

The learning was amazing. Whether it was about technology, 21st Century Learning, Differentiation, or my topic about building relationship between teachers and administrators you heard from Educational leaders and true education rock stars (present company excluded).

However the learning was great the ideas were great and I didn’t attend as much as I wanted and it may take me until RSCON4 to digest all the learning. But that wasn’t what made it so inspiring.

If I had to sum up in one word what inspired me I would have to say “passion”.

Even over the Internet you felt the passion that the presenters had and how much they care about reform education and helping teachers and students grow.

What was even more inspiring was the passion of the participants. Over 200 people on a Sat night in the summer listened to the ending day 2 key note.  Hundreds if thousands of people participated in PD when for most of us we are on summer break.

I challenge someone to find a profession with more passionate people than educators. I am truly blessed and privileged to be an educator.

However as I was participating and presenting I did have one other thought. It was great the so many people came but for the most part we were probably preaching to the choir or to the already converted and those that already passionate about education reform. Our challenge is how do we reach the others who are not yet passionate?


I don’t know what the total number of participants was but whatever number that is let us make an effort to ignite that passion in others so that we can triple the number of participants for RSCON4

Learning 24/7/365

Picture: Laborposting.com

Editors Note: This post may ramble on a bit since I am sharing a series of events that occurred to me this week.

The slogan that is often used by Olympic athletes is that of 24/7/365.  The truth of the matter is that through Social Media and developing a PLN learning can also be 24/7/ 365/.

I would like to share with you some events that took place this week that really showed me how true this year and how learning has no real boundaries.

This year our school will be offering a JH class in digital citizenship for the first time ,and I am teaching the class.We have nothing really in place as terms of curriculum so I put a tweet out there to my PLN and in just two days I have received a number of different resources and ideas.

This week I have also be spending time preparing for my RSCON3 presentation. This is my first time presenting at such a conference and that amount of time and support I have gotten from the organizers has been amazing they have made me feel a lot more comfortable.

One of the conversations this week that I participated in on Twitter revolved around Teacher Evaluation. The topic caught my interest as Teacher Evaluations is directly related to my RSCON3 presentation. As an outcome of that Twitter conversation I have arranged to skype and chat with some of the participants.

Tonight there was another conversation about grades and tests a topic that seems to stir up a lot of strong feelings and debate. It really was a great conversation and here as well I hope to follow up in a more detailed conversation with some of the participants.

Finally as I am writing this post my cell phone rings and someone in my PLN suggested that this person call me for some ideas of incorporating technology in a Judaic Studies classroom.

There is a lot of talk about the importance of Social Media and developing a PLN and for some it may be overwhelming, but with just Twitter, Skype, and Google chat there is so much we could learn “Beyond the Classroom Walls”.