I’m recently back from 2 Jewish education conferences — #JEA59 (Conservative Jewish educators) and #NATEseattle (Reform Jewish educators). Both conferences shared a theme about technology, and I fully enjoyed the opportunity to both teach and learn. In Seattle, Charlie Schwartz and Russel Neiss of Media Midrash did a session on mobile technologies, which I loved. They demanded that we all bring our phones and ipads fully charged and ready to go. They reminded us of the educational power of the tools students bring with them into the classroom, and guided us to the productive and creative ways to use them. But it wasn’t PollEverywhere or SCVNGR that really got me excited. It was that we were all playing. That’s right. PLAYING.
Mid-text message, while the educator’s snarky responses to Charlie and Russel’s questions were popping up on the gigantic screens, and giggles were erupting throughout the ballroom, I had this vision in my mind:
We’re all lion cubs.
Children, of all species, play. They play not just because they’ve got nothing else better to do, but because they need to play to learn and practice the skills they will need to employ as adults. We play to learn balance, boundaries, social skills. As adults, we often forget how to play in this way. We’ve grown out of it. It’s natural. But in an environment where we continually need to be learning new boundaries, new skills, new tools, this kind of play is actually really important.
While we often focus on "professional development" and "training" (both of which are important and have their place), I was struck by these conferences’ ability to help us play. In my pre-conference Boot Camp at NATE, participants launched Twitter accounts, and tried their hand at blogging for the first time. Low risk, just play. At JEA, a "technology theater" gave participants permission to sample tools and dabble in a simple, exploratory way.
In our work at Darim, we often observe that the "accidental techies" are educators. "Accidental techies" are the people who are intrigued with a tool, play around, and start to accept responsibility for the organization’s social media activities. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Perhaps educators feel more permission to play. Perhaps people who like to play as adults become educators.
Regardless, I encourage you to embrace your furry playful lion-cub self. Go ahead, play a little! And thanks to Russel and Charlie for presenting your rich and educational session is such a fun and playful way. Kol HaKavod. You taught us more than perhaps you had planned to.