Jay Strumwasser: Ahead of the Trend

Through the years, Jason (Jay) Strumwasser always found himself in teaching and leadership roles.  He was a swim instructor at 15 years old, and he later served as a firefighter and an EMT.
He went on to study law, but realized something through the process, “I didn’t think law was going to give me the same passion as education, so from law I went into education. I eventually went into technology.”
A law teacher at his high school told Strumwasser about Google long before it was a household name. His curiosity was peaked. He was teaching law and social studies, but decided to become a computer teacher because of the need.
Mr. Strumwasser taught at a special education school in Long Island until he began working for the NYCDOE as a social studies teacher.  He realized that there was a need for Technology Coordinators for the DOE. For the next 3 years he spent half of his time working with teachers and the other half in a classroom with students teaching social studies and technology.
His focus as a Coordinator was to professionally develop teachers by teaching them new skills. He showed teachers about technology integration such as how to use a Smart Board in the classroom to enhance student learning.

Mr. Strumwasser left the NYCDOE to work as an Educational Technology coach for the next three years working in various schools in NYC including private, charter, and public schools.  His work with teachers continued around Data Analysis and Professional Development.
With the opening of Challenge Middle in August of 2015, Mr. Strumwasser was excited that he had the chance to move back into education.
Here he teaches scholars skills that they use in other classrooms. Using platforms and programs such as Google Classroom and Google Drive, scholars use their Google Chromebooks to support learning through presentations, videos, and slide shows.
“Some of our textbooks are online, and we are utilizing those when possible for learning. All of this really personalizes the education for the student instead of just making them adhere to the traditional teaching model,” noted Strumwasser.
A big benefit that Strumwasser points out is that this use of technology allows for scholars to be self-paced in education and learning. A student has access to return to links, videos or other support materials multiple times because they are available during and after school.  
Strumwasser acknowledges that learning new technology is not always easy. There has been a good response from scholars and teachers since the start of the academic year, but he recognizes how hard it can be to let go of traditional teaching and learning methods. With interactive Smart Boards in every classroom, visuals, interactive videos, and the use of Google Chromebooks, the options for creating an enhanced learning experience are great for teacher and scholar alike. 
Reflecting back on the early days as compared to teaching now, Mr. Strumwasser said, “I was always stealing the projector from everybody. Lecture-based teaching and writing on the chalkboard didn’t work for me. I was making videos and putting them on my Google account, giving access to students and getting flack for it from other teachers. Now it’s a requirement for teachers to use these tools. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and now it is the norm.”
Strumwasser knows that the use of technology in the classroom will continue. He notes that some of the faculty that teach both at Challenge Prep K-5 and Challenge Middle want to use the same technology for the lower grades. 
And Strumwasser is keeping up with the cutting edge. At a recent conference for the International Society of Technology for Education (ISTE), he was working to get a trial field trip program through Google Education. The program allows students to take virtual field trips anywhere in the world using a smartphone.
As he summed up, “All of this use of new technology offers a great opportunity for our schools, scholars, and teachers, and I hope technology integration in education goes network-wide.”

-Article by Kim Messer, Communications Specialist for Challenge Charter Schools