Lamplighters is an experimental learning community engaged in rigorous research, data collection, curriculum development, and teacher training to customize the whole learning environment for every child; a replicable model poised to change the future of Jewish education.
We recognize the importance of ‘hard data,’ assessment protocols and careful documentation, yet we also recognize the role of the ‘white space’: nuance, anecdote, the sense that nothing is still and there is always something left to learn. Through our experimental model, we are researching and developing a fully customizable model of education that can empower and transform Jewish education across the spectrum of Jewish community, moving schools of purveyors of information to integral focal points of dynamic community. While we have really only one goal--increasing the wholeness of each member of our learning community--how that is done varies from person to person. The general principles are the same, but the implementation details are different. Creating such an model requires continuous adaptation and constantly increasing insights into the ecology that enables learning by children, parents, teachers, staff and leaders. From experience we have found that there are five generic areas that must work together in an integrated way to produce a learning environment that increases the wholeness of each member of its community:
- Culture: It must be a culture that supports collaboration, transparency, vulnerability, action research, and accountability.
- People: Each teacher has to have both a Big Heart to love the children and the practical tools to turn that love into learning and growing for the students. There are many ways to give them the practical tools this but certainly this involves individual and team training, active mentorship and the right curriculum.
- Space: It must be a beautiful, living space that supports the culture. The classrooms must promote wholeness and collaboration. In addition to the beautiful classrooms there must be open spaces where teachers can meet, share insights, view data together, and do action planning. Spaces for holding seminars and training.
- Curriculum: Many of the issues of translating a Big Heart--the desire and drive to succeed with all children--into success reside with creating the right curriculum for many different styles of learning, capabilities and motivation.
- Technology: Sharing insights and data requires the right user experience as social media, large data, optimized sensors, storage and access strategies, the right analytics, and right developer community. It has to evolve and continually change.
Combining all of these together in the right proportions is what we call The Visible Classroom (VC). This is one of our cornerstone endeavors at Lamplighters Yeshivah.
When walking into our “teacher room” and looking at the large screen on the wall displaying all the classrooms, or observing teachers in active discussion in front of that screen or seeing a child who is watching their own class to help develop better self regulation, one might get confused and think that the VC is the technology. However the Culture, People, Space, Curriculum and Technology have to work together. Without the other four elements, the technology of observation using cameras becomes simply another surveillance system that can possibly exert coercive control over teachers and students. The very opposite of the VC.
Currently, we have high definition cameras and audio recording devices in every classroom in the school, as well as common spaces. With these cameras in place:
- Classes are recorded all day for later review during teacher mentorship and case-by-case meetings;
- Live classroom videos are projected in main administrative spaces at the school as Lamplighters’ Heads of School,
- Behavioral Scientist and teachers observe classes, record and collect student and teacher data, and create nuanced strategies for all children.
- Parents watch their child’s classroom LIVE while teachers and administrators narrate classroom activity and student behavior through a scientific, pedagogical lens.
This present system, primitive when compared to the next versions, still allows our school to maintain its rich scientific culture of inquiry, experimentation, teacher mentorship, and customization for each student.
Check out this video of Morah Shirah Finman using the Visible Classroom to improve her teaching technique:
The Future of the Visible Classroom
By using object tracking with fisheye cameras, artificial intelligence, live text communication, and creative interactive displays of data on large multitouch screens, learning can be visualized and recorded as it happens. However, this data analysis is effective only if there is a living community of fellow ‘scientists in the classroom.’ Their learning, discussion, and action planning produces real life changes for the children’s learning and classroom environment.
At the core of this innovation, along with the design and implementation of the training model, is the further development the technological infrastructure to record and store data, tag and track key data points, create the online platform for uploading and sharing video materials, and ultimately, perpetuate the broader community of teachers-as-scientists, empowered to customize the learning environment for each student-- moving from pockets of excellence to sustainable ripples of revolution, for Jewish children everywhere.