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Alumni Focus: Kelly Cohen

Kelly Cohen (Cohort 10) is in her third year of teaching elementary school Judaic Studies at the Davis Academy in Atlanta, GA.

When I think about the work of the teacher I am often reminded of Parshat Lech Lecha. This is a parsha about leaving what it is that you know, taking big chances, embarking on journeys with unknown destinations and endings and dealing with the challenges that come up along the way.

This year, my school started a big Twitter and Web 2.0 Initiative. My initial thought was, “I am never going to have time for this in my day.” I have a very busy schedule as a 3rd- 5th grade Judaic Studies teacher. I have 206 students that I see in 11 different classes twice every week. Keeping up with that many kids can make you crazy. I took a deep breath, summoned my inner Abraham and took a leap of faith. The use of Twitter and Web 2.0 in my classroom has dramatically changed my teaching, how I think about what I do and what is possible in the time that I have.

Let me just say that, as a teacher, I like things to be very planned out. Those people who know me might understand that that is a bit of an understatement.  Not knowing at the beginning of the year that my class and my teaching would look the way that it does is pretty unheard of for me. I was willing, though, to be like Abraham and go on this journey. I left behind some of the teaching techniques and tools that I had known before and took a risk on something new.

At the beginning of the year, I had the idea to do a photo scavenger hunt, in which students went around the school taking pictures of things that represented our school's new menschlichkeit values. The question was what to do with the pictures after the students took them. My school's 21st Century Learning Specialist suggested I set up a class blog. Well, when you have my job you can't have just one blog. I teach 11 classes.  Then I needed four more blogs for the 5th grade Torah Services and another blog to share what we are doing in class with the parents and community. I now have 16 blogs with content generated by myself and my students. You can see most of my blogs and get a taste of the work my kids have been doing by checking out my weekly update blog (which hasn’t actually been updated in a few weeks – darn snow days) at http://kidblog.org/3-5JudaicStudies/.

I also now tweet from the handle @MorahKelly. I tweet out things that my students are doing in class. I ask questions of my PLN (Personal Learning Network – a term I didn't even know at the beginning of the year). I read what others are sharing on Twitter. I use Twitter to connect to others. Twitter and the blogging really go hand in hand.

I would love for more of my colleagues in Jewish Education to be on Twitter. I know I use the PEP alumni support list serve to ask questions and to get advice when I need it. That sharing of ideas doesn't need to take place in closed email lists. It can be happening in real time throughout the day. We need to throw open the doors to our classroom, both letting others see what is going on and learning from others in the field.

I think the journey of Abraham must have been a lonely one. Thanks to Twitter and Web 2.0, my journey only serves to further my connections with the world at large!