Making Globally Connected Jewish Students

It is very important for students to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, traits, where they come from, their traditions and culture, etc, as all of these items build their identities. It is also important that these same students are exposed to the global community so that they are able to see how other people live around the world.  Once students make global connections, they are able to see the diverse cultures and traditions that exist. When we connect with these communities, it will give the students the opportunity to compare and contrast others’ traditions, etc, with those of our own.

For my “Professional Growth Plan” this year, my grade five students will have the opportunity to learn how to interact with students from different cultures all around the world. As Jews in particular, being globally connected is important as it shows us that we are part of a much bigger community, and that there are Jewish people living all over the world, speaking different languages, eating different foods, celebrating holidays a bit differently. It allows the students to feel validated and realize they are not alone in the world. In addition, it gives our students the understanding that we Canadians ought to feel fortunate that we have the freedom to practice Judaism.

To date, I have completed the first few steps in the process…

My grade 5 Judaic Studies class has been using the book “Friends Across the Sea” to learn about different Jewish communities around the world.

Students were assigned to interview a grandparent to learn about their migration path to Canada, how their families were affected by the Holocaust, and how their families assimilated into Canadian culture. This showed the students that even though our families came from all around the world, (mostly Eastern Europe and Morocco), we come together, as one Jewish community, here in Ottawa.

Grade five has prepared a list of questions for  Mystery Skype calls. We began by splitting the classes into two groups. Each group decided on the location they would “pretend” to be at for the mock Mystery call. They practiced in separate rooms to be ready for the call. Then we made a Skype call from separate classes, each with a teacher supervising. It took about 30 minutes for the groups to guess each others locations once we figured out all of the technology pieces.

Now the students were ready to make a Mystery Skype call with Silvia Tolisano in Florida. The students used their skills to choose their jobs, place the call,  review the rules of the call with Silvia, and ask the questions in order to guess her location. This only took about 15 minutes, however, Silvia already knew our location in Ottawa. The final step in the Mystery Skype will be to connect with another classroom somewhere in the world and try to find out each others’ locations.

Once the students and I are more comfortable using Skype, we will take my PGP to the next level. Using connections suggested to me by Silvia as well as some of my own, we will connect with other Jewish Schools around the world. We will interview them to compare and contrast our traditions at home, our schools, and our communities. In doing this, the students will hopefully see the value in connecting globally with Jewish students around the world.

In the meantime, talking about getting comfortable with Skype, Grade 2 has had the opportunity to Skype two times with a grade 1-2 class in Smiths Falls. The first call was to teach the students in Smiths Falls about Hanukkah and the second call was for the Smiths Falls school to teach grade 2 at OJCS all about Christmas. We plan to do round two come Easter and Passover.


Straws and Connectors

Woah! I am finished day two of three where I am learning how to document my learning AS a learner. Still trying to wrap my head around all of the information that is being hurled my way by experts and those passionate in their roles. Silvia Tolisano is inspiring me to reach beyond my comfort zone and to realize that straws and connectors are of no use alone. They need to be put together to build something that can make learning more meaningful, more current, less linear. We are the straws, and the world wide web, and all of it’s tools are our connectors.

I was way too shy to volunteer to be a moderator, but since these amazing ladies made it look so easy, I may just volunteer next time!


Today we had the opportunity to skype with the connector maven, Jocelyn Blumgart, in the field of documenting learning. How amazing that this woman, literally on the other side of the world, was able to have a live conversation with us. Imagine how I could connect with teachers all over the world to share ideas about what we teach in the classroom without even leaving my brand new living room couch!

As I slowly creep into the 21st century, I’m hopeful that I’ll be blasted off into the 22nd, with just a little more confidence and a little less panicking. Can’t wait to see what my straws and connectors can build!

This is before I realized I better stop taking pictures and listen to Jocelyn!

Josh was my rock star! As a brand new “twitterer” he volunteered to tweet out our skype date. So brave!


Ok, for some reason this picture won’t save after I rotate it. Hmm. Help!