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The Value of Anywhere, Anytime Learning

The Value of Anywhere, Anytime Learning


By Ben Alpert

I just finished watching a web panel on Anywhere, Anytime Learning, offered as part of a year-long series by the Harvard Family Research Project, featuring expert panelists actively engaged in efforts to advance opportunities for, along with recognition of, education beyond the classroom. The panel explored the following:

“Children and youth learn anywhere, anytime, not just in classrooms during school hours. How can families, afterschool programs and community organizations work together to offer children meaningful learning opportunities outside of the school setting? What is the role of families in anywhere, anytime learning? How can we make quality after-school and summer learning opportunities accessible to all children?”

HFRP Webcast ScreenshotThe answer posed by participants was that it’s the responsibility of families and communities to extend, expand, and personalize opportunities for learning outside the classroom, through after-school programs, digital means, and by interweaving and complementing school curricula with opportunities available through public and community organizations. This idea of kids learning outside the classroom, and not uniquely during school hours, is not novel, nor is the want for students to engage in learning after school-hours unique to modern parenting. Panelist Gregg Behr, the executive director of the Grable Foundation in Pittsburgh, acknowledged as much, saying, “Parents have always embraced anytime, everywhere learning approaches. It’s just the term that’s new. The key is to identify those trusted adults in parents’ and caregivers’ lives… and equip those people so they can help be the guide for adults and children.”

The essence of Anywhere, Anytime Learning is that education is a community effort requiring a modern take on the age-old proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child.” In order for the model to be truly successful, parents, educators, and institutions need to encourage and draw support from a variety of otherwise unrelated persons, institutions and organizations to complement a student’s learning in the classroom. Libraries, after-school programs, community groups, and public resources all have important roles to play in a child’s development, and have massive potential for supporting families in their efforts to raise educated children.

Where do Children Learn HFRP ScreenshotIn terms of Jewish education, this concept’s potential is multifold. First, there is the emphasis on engaging not just students, but also families. In order to teach students about Jewish culture and learning, in-class efforts should be complemented in the home and outside of school. Digital resources, community organizations, after-school programs and summer camps are all incredibly helpful tools in this effort. Perhaps just as important, Jewish after-school and congregational educators have an important role to fill as complementing instructors for students’ classroom education, by putting subject matter into Jewish perspective with commentary on Jewish values, culture and history.

I’ll finish this post with tips from the web conference for engaging students and families in Anywhere, Anytime Learning, which could be helpful for educators interested in trying to incorporate this model into their lesson plans:

  • Pay attention to where, when, why, and how kids learn, and create appropriate learning experiences.
  • Co-develop with families a learning plan for each child that spans grades, ages, settings, educators, and learning supports.
  • Guide children and families to use libraries, museums, and other institutions that offer innovative opportunities for learning through digital media.

Interested in the Harvard Family Research Project webcast on Anywhere, Anytime Learning? Find it here.

The Proof: Alternatives are Worth the Trouble

The Proof: Alternatives are Worth the Trouble
Posted by Ben Alpert in Models Make a Difference

By Cyd Weissman


The Coalition of Innovating Congregations has spent the last five years building new models of Jewish education but has it been worth it? Does it pay for congregations to transform their iconic Hebrew School with alternative models?

The answer from The Rosov Consulting Group is: Yes. Alternative Models enable learners to experience 21st century learning more  than traditional Hebrew Schools. This conclusion came from Rosov observing 14 congregational education programs. The “traditional Hebrew Schools” according to communal leaders were “excellent.”  The new models ranged in reputation from excellent to emergent.

This study, done in partnership between  The Jewish Education Project and The Experiment in Congregational Education (led by Dr. Rob Weinberg and Cindy Reich) the bold conclusion:

The four design principles of 21st century learning (relationships, content, meaning making, life    relevant) are being more fully implemented within alternative models for congregation-based Jewish education than in  traditional models for congregation-based Jewish education. …consistent patterns of differences were seen between alternative and traditional models of Jewish education. (p. 6 of 48)

To conduct the study that compares traditional Hebrew school with alternative new models Rosov Consulting created a protocol that enabled congregations to watch design principles in action. I expected to hear that these models were better vehicles for learning that spoke to the whole person. I’m glad we don’t have to now rely just on what I believe and a major study proves it. Will that bring more parents, clergy and educators to act? Not sure. Does the proof move you? Click on the title of this post to share your thoughts.


Additional findings:

1. Rosov observed four Reform and four Conservative Congregations with Alternative Models:

  • Conservative Congregations: On average had higher existence of caring relationships and rich content.
  • Reform Congregations: On average had higher existence of seeking answers to the questions of daily life and constructing meaning.

This seems to indicate that the educational models are influenced by synagogue cultures.


2. Three characteristics were prevalent in alternative models that fostered the implementation of 21st century design principles:

  • Situate learning in real time settings (e.g. live Shabbat on Shabbat vs. learning about Shabbat).
  • Where families are at the core (not just a three time a year family education program).
  • Structure relationships intentionally among peers and across generations.


3. Full time educators had higher implementation of 21st century design principles than part time educators.

This pattern confirms ” that the employment of full-time learning facilitators increases the likelihood of implementing the design principles probably because such educators are better informed about and more experienced in the practices of whole person learning.” (p. 18)


4. Three forces seem to enable or impede implementation:

  • Contextual factors: These are factors that can’t be easily changed (e.g. location or congregational culture.) They make up the deeply embedded culture, philosophy of the congregation.
  • Intensifiers: Less fixed than the contextual factors there are broad forces that shape the implementation of the design principles. These include full time vs. part time educational leaders and teachers, and ongoing professional development.
  • Educational Models: Real time learning, family activities and near peer activities lay the groundwork for high levels of implementation of the design principles.

5. Content and Relationships accentuate one another …not cancel one another out:

Rosov continually found that learning can and does focus equally on content and fostering relationships. Put to bed the myth that if you do one the other suffers.


By using a careful research methodology, the research team has been able to explore the systemic factors that enable and impede the implementation of principles of whole person learning. ..it seems that when educational approaches are carefully grounded in clear and well conceived educational models they can bring about different, alternative ways of doing things. This seems to be why alternative models are correlated with higher levels of implementation of the design principles. The findings suggest that in contrast to approaches that focus only on professional development for teachers or attempts to transform the entire congregation, it may be possible to achieve substantial educational change through a middle path focused on new models. (p. 37)

Are you, or your team moved to action?


You can read the full report here:

Rosov Image

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