Kohelet Yeshiva Tests Learning Platform


Kohelet Yeshiva Middle School is one of a handful of Jewish day schools nationwide partnering with a Silicon Valley-based educational technology company to try out a learning platform that can be adapted for each student.

AltSchool of San Francisco, which received an undisclosed grant from the Narberth-based Kohelet Foundation, is working with five schools nationwide this year and will double that total for the 2018-19 school year.

“This is not kids in front of computers all day long,” said Ben Kornell, vice president of growth for AltSchool. “This is project-based student-centered learning.”

The platform is applicable to both Jewish learning and general studies, he said.

Rabbi Gil Perl, who is the head of school at Kohelet Yeshiva, said the platform is a piece of software that can be incorporated into everything done in class.

Rabbi Gil Perl | Photo provided

“It helps teachers to organize what’s going on in the classroom,” he said.

Perl noted that data is constantly being generated in the classroom; for example, when a student takes a test, the right and wrong answers are an indication of what has been learned — and what hasn’t. More often than not, though, that data is lost.

With the platform, however, all that material is recorded, allowing teachers to better identify student strengths and weaknesses and then work to correct deficiencies. It also can be set up to allow students to manage both daily activities and long-term goals and give parents visibility into the progress of their children.

“I thought it was a really powerful tool for getting a deep understanding of where each student is,” Perl said, noting that the work students do doesn’t have to be conducted on computers. “It’s really about learning first and using the technology to enhance the learning.”

The school’s teachers are onboard with the platform, Perl said.

“What we see so far is exciting to us,” he said.

Perl is optimistic about the value of the platform — which is regularly updated — although he said it would take a year or two to fully evaluate. An added bonus has been the creation of an informal network of the other schools using the platform.

“There are other thoughtful, progressive educators doing this alongside us,” Perl said.

Bryna Leider, AltSchool’s head of partnerships for Jewish education, described the schools participating in the program as early adapters.

“A lot of the schools that have expressed interest … know in their gut that there’s something to help them get where they want to go,” she said.

Leider and Kornell said there was a nationwide search for initial participants, with about 300 schools applying. Only a handful were selected.

For-profit AltSchool was founded in 2013 and began developing its platform then.  It runs a network of tuition-funded pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade lab schools throughout San Francisco and New York City.

agotlieb@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0797


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