3 Key Lessons from the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy

This year, I had the privilege to attend Darim Online’s JDS Social Media Academy together with a team from Frisch. Our team consisted of myself who handles the academic side of our social media, Mrs. Cheryl Leiser, our Alumni Coordinator, Mrs. Rachel Roth, our Director of Development, and Mrs. Elaine Weitzman, our Executive Director. Entering the program, we already had an active presence in social media through our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube channel, Flickr, and Instagram and have used our social media effectively for high profile events like Shiriyah.  We were very excited about this opportunity that would enable us to further hone our practices and expand our social media capacity.

Over the course of the year, we were given a personal coach, Ms. Farra Trompeter from Big Duck and access to regular webinars, both those presented by the ever knowledgeable Ms. Lisa Colton of Darim and those coordinated from our fellow Jewish Day Schools in the Social Media Academy. Farra gave us much to read about, think about, and discuss and the webinars also greatly expanded our knowledge base about what was “out there” in the non-profit social media world. Most importantly, our participation in this program forced us to reflect on our own practices, both what was working well, and what could be improved upon. This type of reflection is highly important, to “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey says, but often hard to schedule time for in the busy world of a Jewish Day School.

The numbers speak for themselves. Our Frisch Facebook page has doubled its fan base. At the start of the year, our Likes were in the 500 range, and currently we have crossed the 1000 Like threshold. More importantly, we have increased our level of Engagement with our stakeholders and this in turn has greatly expanded our Reach. These terms might seem foreign to you. I did not know much more than the idea of collecting Likes prior to attending this Academy. But through the patient prodding and explanations of our coach and the research she shared with us, I have learned how important these items are. Let me explain.

1.  Learn the Facebook algorithm to increase your Reach and Engagement.. This is obvious to most users of Google. You search with Google because it does not just list every single website with a given term but has a mathematical formula to rate what it gives back to you based on level of importance. The more useful the information is to you, the more you will continue to use Google for search. What I discovered in this academy was that Facebook does the same thing, not with Search but with the ever important Timeline. Facebook is not Twitter. It does not just give you a constant stream of everything that your Friends and the organizations you follow post. Rather it collates these posts and decides to show you only the posts that it deems are most important to you.

Why should Jewish Day Schools care about this minutiae? Because we have to if we want those who Like us to see our stuff. Facebook gauges who to show our posts to based on something called Engagement. It recognizes that there every Page has a small group of highly engaged fans. It first sends each page’s posts to these fans, usually about 15% of the total number of people who Like your page. Then if these fans engage with the post by clicking on it, liking it, commenting, or sharing, then it sends it to more fans and if they engage with the post more. This is what then helps increase the total Reach of your post. So you do need to care about this if you want parents, students, board members and other stakeholders to see your posts. Our Facebook can only be a “Window into what’s happening at Frisch”, if people can look through the window. These are all items that we learned through the JDS Social Media Academy.

2. Plan Your Posts. We also learned the need to try to post every day, preferably two or three times daily. Less than that and people will not be engaged. More than that and Facebook will stop putting your posts on users’ timelines. We learned to look for the best time to post. We found that posts in the afternoon got higher levels of engagement than posts in the morning. And the time that the largest number of our fans were online was actually later at night between 9-10PM. We learned the best types of postings to maximize engagement, lots of pictures, links, and videos, not just Status Updates.

3. Putting it all together: Although we have punctuated many past fundraising campaigns with posts on our social media, we were able to put together all of these valuable lessons from this past year to run our first ever fundraising campaign primarily driven through social media, our Support the Cougar Campaign for our Sports Breakfast. In this campaign, we not only reached our fundraising goals but were able to help develop our branding and school spirit by bringing our Cougar back as a symbol of our various sports teams. This campaign involved every member of our school community including our parents, students, teachers, alumni, parent alumni, and the list goes on and on. One suggestion that Farra gave us was to photograph students, teachers, and faculty with the Cougar at various events or just around the school holding up signs saying things like “We Support the Cougar” or “The Hockey Team Supports the Cougar”. This became so popular amongst our students that out student produced newsletter decided to create graphics and write articles about Supporting the Cougar and our Frisch Student Video Production Club created a video with a Rocky theme, since our special guest at our Sports Breakfast was the Modern Orthodox boxer Dmitriy Salita. You can watch a recording of our presentation to our fellow JDS Academy members using this link. (We are around the 45 minute mark.) Here is the presentation about our Support the Cougar Campaign.

Altogether, we found this experience to be a very positive one. We learned how to utilize social media to further engage with our students, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders so we can continue to spread the word about all of the great goings on as we provide a view inside the Frisch experience. Thank you Lisa, Farra, and all of the other people at Darim Online, See3 Communications, and the Avi Chai Foundation for making this possible.

 

Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky is the Director of Educational Technology at The Frisch School. He tweets at @TechRav.

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2013-14 nationwide cohort of 15 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here with the tag #jdsacademy

Complete the Social Media Self Assessment for your school at http://www.dayschoolacademy.org/assessment

It’s Everyone’s Job. Plan For It.

As we often say at the Davis Academy, life is a journey: a journey of learning and discovery; a journey that embraces family and community; a journey that broadens our world.  As we embarked on the 2013-14 school year, our advancement team joined together on a year-long journey to better define what social media looks and feels like at the Davis Academy. This journey has provided us the opportunity to reflect on how we utilize social media and how we can better engage our constituents via the various avenues of social media. Prior to embarking on this journey, we were already using social media (Facebook and Twitter, in particular, to various degrees); however, we had not been very strategic about our approach.

This journey, our Jewish Day School Social Media Academy experience, has given us the coaching, guidance (and nudging) we needed to go outside of our comfort zones and to experiment with new approaches, strategies, and projects. Our biggest takeaway has been the simple realization that social media is everyone’s job and that timing is everything. That being said, with the guidance of our amazing coach, we have taken a closer look at defining our social media policy, developing our content curation strategy, and are striving to further empower the members of our community to authentically become involved in the SM storytelling through formal trainings. 

Many members of our community (faculty, parent ambassadors, alumni and administrators) have an established social media presence, and it has been a yearlong goal to streamline this activity into a more collaborative effort.  All of our constituents have amazing content to share individually, but by sharing collectively the impact is significantly more powerful. In order for the shared effort approach to work, we have quickly realized that some formal training is imperative.

We have identified a core group of Host Committee Members/Parent Ambassadors/Faculty Members who already recognize the tremendous value and the impact that social media can have, and we are using this core group to train and engage others as well.  While much of this training took place midway through the school year this year, we recognize that there will be much greater momentum in future years when these trainings occur right from the start. In the fall, as part of our Host Committee kick off, our parent Co-Chairs will begin with a dialogue around social media (as we have done for the previous two years).  This dialogue will then be extended into a hands-on application session in our Tech Lab where the co-chairs will walk parents through the ins and outs of Facebook and Twitter (aka Facebook/Twitter 101).  Together, they will have the opportunity to explore the Davis Academy Facebook page, Twitter handle and grade level specific hashtags, interact with the already existing content, and curate new content themselves in a supported setting.  We want our parent ambassadors and host members to feel empowered to post, share, tag, like, and comment as they go about their everyday activities. In a similar fashion, our faculty and administration also are taking a more formal approach to SM training and are holding sessions for other key players like parents, grandparents, and teachers to join in the collaboration. 

Thanks to the monthly webinars, coaching calls, and ShareFests with other JDS Social Media Academy schools, we feel we are better equipped to use social media as a communications tool to reach more families and community members.  We look forward to involving more constituents and improving our practices to tell The Davis Academy story through these valuable channels.

 

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2013-14 nationwide cohort of 15 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here with the tag #jdsacademy

Keep Momentum Over the Summer

The Jewish calendar is great for pacing our lives, for embracing the seasons, and appreciating things in their own time.  Summer, however, sometimes feels like it can derail the communications momentum we've worked so hard to build over the year.  Especially in educational organizations where classes don't meet over the summer (and where staff may be only working part time, or not at all), it's important to pay special attention to your summer social media plans.  Thus from our staff, and the wisdom of the crowd!

CONSISTENCY  Maintaining consistency is important both to keep up your ranking so your content will appear in newsfeeds, but it's also important to keep people in the habit of being engaged.  You've worked to get people engaging with your posts — keep it up.  It's also a great way to introduce and integrate new families into your community.   Make a point of posting at least once or twice a week.  Use the scheduling function in Facebook or a third party tool like HootSuite to schedule posts if you need plan ahead.

CONTENT  If you've used the POST planning process to identify the "sweet spot" of content that's both mission centric and of practical value to your audiences, you know how important it is to find the right content.  What do your audiences need over the summer?   Tips for events and opportunities in your local community?  How about ideas of fun summertime care packages to send to camp?  Or links to back to school preparedness? Tova Otis suggested in the JDS Social Media Academy Facebook Group that she posts links to school supply sales in their community.  Even links to fun activities like this list of creative things to do for under $10 or how to make quick kosher dill pickles with your cucumber harvest, other fun things you can find on Pinterest. (Got links to share?  Add them in the comments)

CONTRIBUTIONS  How can you get people participating in your Page even if they are not walking through your door?  How about a photo contest to have people submit a picture of their adventures over the summer, or wearing their school t-shirt in exciting places?  Invite your audience to send a postcard — a real one which you can scan and post online, or a virtual one by posting on your Page.  Do a virtual scavenger hunt.  Promote these invitations both on your page, and through email and other vehicles with links to help them take immediate action.

CONVERSATION  Keep the conversation going.  What questions can you ask that inspire people to speak up ("Where are kids going to camp this summer? What's your favorite ice cream flavor?) or chime in?  Ellen Dietrick asked her community to vote on the color t-shirt for the coming year and got dozens of responses – some serious, some silly!  Remember to be LISTENING as much as TALKING. If you're not in the office make sure you're getting notifications (by email, or on your phone or tablet) so you can monitor and facilitate conversation as people chime in!

How will you keep momentum during the summer?  What kinds of content will you post?  How do you structure your time over the summer to keep momentum?  Share in the comments.  Happy summer!

 

 

Teachers Teaching Parents to Parent: A Lesson in Content Curation

Adding value in your social media channels is the number one way to compete in an attention economy.  Knowing what value to add means being empathetic – understanding deeply where the pain points are for your audience, so you know how to help in mission-centric ways.

For many parents today, questions around appropriate use of technology and screens (large and small) are a daily preoccupation.  From handing an iPhone into the back seat to keep a toddler occupied while in traffic, to helping teens navigate appropriate use of their own devices and freedom on the internet.

The bottom line is: Parents today are doing this for the first time.  We’re pioneering.  This technology did not exist when we were kids, so we have no models of how to parent around it. While there are no simple right or wrong answers, parents can learn a lot from a) experts in the developmental ages of their children, and b) what Jewish values and wisdom can offer to help guide our decision making.

That means Jewish schools and synagogues have a huge opportunity to curate content from expert sources and contextualize wisdom for parents.  This kind of content can be curated throughout the year, but especially in the summer when there’s less “boots on the ground” storytelling, such curated content can become even more important to keep momentum on your channels.  We asked some wise Jewish educators (including those in JEDLAB and Darim Educators Facebook Groups) for their best sources.  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

We love the folks over at The TEC Center and The Fred Rogers Center's new Ellie initiative. Both are about supporting educators in making informed developmentally appropriate choices for their schools and students. (Shariee Calderone)

Digital Decisions: Choosing the Right Technology Tools for Early Childhood Education. (Iris Koller)

Raising Digital Natives is a fantastic website run by Devorah Heitner who brings lessons and insights about creating a positive media ecology in one’s family. I particularly like this recent post about teaching  your children responsible media behavior by modeling it as you take (and share) photos of them. / (Lisa Colton)

Danah Boyd's book, It's Complicated – The Social Lives of Networked Teens.  Really a great counterpoint to a lot of the fear-mongering that's out there, and fabulous reporting. You can download as a PDF too! (Sophie Rapoport)

NAEYC has good resournces on technology and young children (Iris Koller)

Award winning app, Circle of 6, recognized by the White House Apps Against Abuse Challenge.

I like the new book "iRules" very much a parent's perspective–not research based. I also like selections from "The Parent App" and "Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out." (Devorah Heitner)

Anything from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center is great just for context (Russel Neiss)

Following American Academy of Pediatricians Guidelines on children and media is a must. (Russel Neiss)

Common Sense Media has great reviews of content, movies, sites with a breakdown on various attributes (violence, language, etc.) which I find very helpful as a parent, and is always available for quick reference on my phone when I need to answer if my kids can see XYZ movie, etc. (Lisa Colton)

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel is great for Parent discussions! (Susan Rosman)

 

Any other suggestions or resources you'd add to this list?  Add them in the comments!

Social Media Super Powers

It’s Monday morning and the children are eager to come to school.  On a normal day, they are greeted with a “Hello” or “Good morning.  How was your weekend?”  But today Ben walks through our doors and I say, “Hello Ben.  How was your day out with Thomas the train?”  And right then, something amazing happens. 

Ben looks at me like I am almost magical.  How did I know that he saw Thomas over the weekend?  Is she psychic?  Clearly she must be magical!  Little did he know about my secret super power known as Facebook.  Instead of simply saying hello back to me, Ben went into an excited story about his weekend adventures.  This is what I call the Facebook connection; a special moment that would not have happened so easily and naturally without the super powers of social media.

So how did we gain these super powers?  It certainly did not happen overnight and we weren’t bitten by a spider.  It was a complex formula of trainings from the Jewish Community Center Association and Darim Online, mixed with dedication, teamwork and trial and error.  We began by posting more and simply having a more visible presence on Facebook.  Then, with the encouragement of Darim Online, we included more people to be admins and curators on our page and asked parents and staff to be intentional commenters.  Along this journey we started to find out what worked well for our program and what posts were reaching farther outside our norm.  Those that were successful we would duplicate when we could.  For example, our Monday Morning Mystery.  

Each Monday we would post three clues about a teacher and encourage our fans to guess who it was and the winner would receive a free challah on Friday when we revealed the teacher.  We had so much fun with this that it actually evolved into baby pictures of staff rather than clues.  Through this our families were learning more about our teachers and seeing into their lives a little more.  And we were beginning to learn more about our families’ lives outside of the JCC through their posts, too.  The Facebook connection was happening.   Teachers and parents began to playfully banter through our posts.  Parents began to see a more social, but still professional side of our staff.  Relationships began to grow and our overall sense of community became stronger.  Throughout the year we have heard our parents and fellow JCC staff tell us things like, “I love what you are doing on Facebook,” and “I check your page every morning to see what fun things you have posted.”  For that alone we will continue to grow our community and keep our posts alive and fun.  We have hopes of infusing more educational pieces for our fans and continuing to create an environment of discussion through our page.  Until then, we will keep letting the children think we magically know what they do when they are not at school!              

 

 

Shannon Hall is the Assistant Director of the Infant and Toddler program at the Pitt CDC.  Shannon, along with Fredelle Schneider, Director, Robin Herman, Assistant Director of Preschool and several of the Pitt CDC teaching staff has participated in the Detroit Jewish Early Childhood Social Media Academy this year, coordinated by the Alliance for Jewish Education at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and generously funded by the Hermelin-Davidson Center for Congregation Excellence.

 

 

 

Lessons from a Social Fundraiser

After completing our first-ever social fundraiser on Crowdrise this spring, there is no doubt it was the best learning experience of the Social Media Academy. We met our goal, reached new donors and developed new fundraising ideas for the future–all while having a lot of fun doing it.

Of course, we learned along the way and have a few lessons to share.

The Social Fundraising Age Gap: While it’s true that all ages are on social media these days, it’s not necessarily that everyone is engaging on social media—commenting and taking the call to action that we seek in our posts. Contrast these two cases:

  1. One donor who learned about our social fundraiser actually contacted The AVI CHAI Foundation (which was providing matching funds through the JDS Social Media Academy) after seeing no mention of their matching grant to us on their website. Really? Because it was certainly on the school website!  That person had never heard of Crowdrise and was entirely skeptical. And although she was kind enough to donate, she did it by mailing in a check. It’s possible that she never uses her credit card online.
  2. Now, consider our seniors (students), who we engaged for Campus Fundraising. They wanted no information about our campaign after finding out that money went to our school. A fundraising team captain would say something like this: “You know Crowdrise? Well, go there and find the ‘AlmostAlumni’ link. Give me some money, and our team will win.” And then that student would whip out his phone and credit card and do exactly that. Engaging our seniors and planting the seed for future donations was the best part of our campaign.

Don’t Base Results on the First Few Days: We raised over $6000 in one week. It took three more to raise another $2500. Enough said.

Competition Was More Effective Than Prizes: The most aggressive fundraising happened when fundraising champions were motivated by winning. It didn’t really matter if they won a prize or not, they were excited by the challenge of beating their friends (or losing!) in public. Our best results came from alumni who knew each other and were motivated to stay ahead. One would get a donation and another would ask for that amount, plus $1 just to keep the lead. As for prizes, we didn’t see higher results from our champions or our donors based on incentives like Amazon gift cards, iTunes and even Passover shopping gift cards.

Wendy Margolin is the Director of Communications at the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago, IL.  The school was on of 15 schools chosen to participate in the 2013-14 Jewish Day School Social Media Academy.

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2013-14 nationwide cohort of 15 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy

Also, check out the Jewish Day School Social Media and Video Academy website, which includes a free self-assessment to help your school focus on key areas of growth in your social media work.

A Place for Us to Listen

JCDS started off the 2013-2014 academic year with what I would have considered a strong social media presence. While the school has been active on many social media channels for some time (Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn), most of my focus had been on Facebook, as it is a quick and easy way to share photos, videos, and important updates with our parents, grandparents, donors, and alumni.

Looking back, I wasn't thinking about social media in the right way. While I posted nearly every day, the most engagement I got was a couple of likes here and there. I was posting, not connecting.

Through experimentation over the last six months, I've learned that my role, as the voice of the school on Facebook, is not to be a news source, but to create an environment that starts conversation. Once I was able to get the conversation started, Facebook became a tool unlike any other. It became a place for me to listen to what our audience values, which in the end, is the most important thing of all.

By analyzing the engagement levels and analytics of our recent posts, here are the top 5 Facebook strategies that have been successful for JCDS:

1. Tag those who are involved, and those who you want to be involved.

When you tag someone in a post or photo, it will show up on their Facebook page. Not only will it directly call attention to the person you want to be involved, but your post will also be visible to their network, and therefore, reach many more people who you otherwise would not have access to! I’ve had success asking people to tag themselves and their friends. The benefit of this is twofold: they are actively engaging with the post, and they may tag people who we are not yet connected with.

2. Ask questions.

Asking specific, pointed questions is a great way to get the conversation rolling. Sure, I’ve had a few flops, but those helped me learn what our audience likes to talk about. I've seen success in action in many of my #ThrowbackThursday posts, where I've asked (via tagging) people in the photo specific questions about what's going on in the picture. One comment leads to the next, and pretty soon anyone who sees the photo gets a deeper understanding of what was happening when the photo was taken, and hopefully feels more connected to story I am trying to tell.

3. Be genuine.

In January, JCDS students were surprised with a visit from the 2013 World Series Trophy. First, I posted that we had big news with a photo of one of our staff members dressed as a Red Sox player. The next day, I posted a photo of excited kids (and tagged their parents) and shared that the trophy would be coming. Then — the most successful post of all — was a video of a 4th grade teacher telling the kids that the trophy was coming. Seeing their pure and genuine reaction definitely resonated with our social media audience: 38 likes, 19 comments, and the jackpot, 12 shares. The video was even written about in the local newspaper, the Watertown Patch. This kind of engagement was unprecedented for us.

4. Repeat successful themes.

Between the regular daily posts, I've committed to a few repeating themes. One universal theme, #ThrowbackThursday, has been a great way for us to connect with our alumni and alumni parents. I’ve gotten a tremendously positive response from our throwback photos. Because this is a weekly theme, the audience knows to expect it. And because there are usually a lot of comments, people are not shy to participate.

I also created a new theme, called #JCDSCharacter. I felt it was important to celebrate our students through short stories that capture the spirit of our school. Parents love to see that they are sending their kids to a school that helps them grow into mensches. It's also a great tool for prospective families. Every time a #JCDSCharacter post is shared, a whole new audience is exposed to the great things that happen in our school.

5. Engage with other organizations.

Celebrating successes of other schools and organizations is a beautiful thing! Just as much as we want people to engage with our school Facebook page, it's important to interact with others. While I am on Facebook, I make sure to take the time to look at what other organizations are posting. If they post something that relates to our school or community, I share it on our page. Fostering good-will between organizations is priceless, and the favor is almost always returned.

 

The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2013-14 nationwide cohort of 15schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation.  Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy

Also, check out the Jewish Day School Social Media and Video Academy website, which includes a free self-assessment to help your school focus on key areas of growth in your social media work.

Monday Web Favorites: A JewPoint0 2013 Retrospective

As 2013 winds down, I found myself poring over past JewPoint0 blog posts. A LOT of stories, insightful moments, cool tools, and practical wisdom has been handed down in these pages. I thought I'd take a moment to share some of my favorites from the year that's passed…

  • Four Lessons for Maturing Your Social Media Practice: Evidence from the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy – All of our social media academy and boot camp participants share amazing moments, and it's tough to choose one or two to highlight…so here's a post that brings you some great moments from not one, not two, but ten different institutions. What a bargain, eh? One of my favorite take-aways from this post is the idea that social media is about people, not technology. Keep that in mind and you're already ahead of the game.
     
  • Using Social Media to Strengthen Culture of Welcome – I especially love this small moment shared in an overall lovely and reflective post by Rabbi Ed Bernstein, "…we then went right to the issue of creating a culture of welcome at the synagogue. People were asked to complete the sentence: “My first time being welcomed to Temple Torah was…,” and there was great response. One older congregant was bold enough to post that she didn’t feel so welcome, but I utilized this opportunity to reach out to her publicly and privately, and she appreciated that.”

    This must have been such a powerful moment for this woman, for Rabbi Bernstein, and a potentially meaningful one for dozens of others who saw the interaction. I commend the Rabbi not only for his actions in this situation, but for sharing this story here; it’s a great example of transparency and what it means to live and learn in the connected age.

  • Two posts about thankfulness: Thankful and Being Thankful – Ellen Dietrick's post "Thankful" is not only a great story, but shares some clever tools for generating, and repurposing, content from and with your community. Michael Hoffman's "Being Thankful" is a super practical guide to showing appreciation to the people who help make your work happen, all year round.

We're looking for new stories and new voices to share in 2014!

Have a bit of insight, a great case study, a cool resource or tool and interesting implementation, a personal reflection, or a big question you want to pose to the community? We'd love to hear it, and perhaps share it here. Be in touch with Miriam Brosseau in the comments or over email to find out about guest blogging. Here's to another year of learning together.

Just Do It-Getting Over the Integration Hurtle

As a newly minted “Technology Integration Educator” in my community, I’m struggling with the definition of my job title.  What does the phrase “technology integration” really mean? How do we integrate technology?  I can’t help but wonder if, when the overhead projector, or the radio, or even the blackboard for that matter, were introduced into the world of education, taskforces and positions were created to explore how to “integrate” these new technologies.  I think not. 

What may be unique about our time is that there are so many new learning curves for us to scale that many folks don’t know where to begin.  We’re afraid, or are overwhelmed. Or both. To prevent the onset of this future shock, we create the idea of “integration”, of gradually weaning ourselves from the old so that we can embrace the new. Unfortunately, we may run the risk of prolonging this process: We might get so caught up in how we adapt and adopt innovations that we forget that we need to actually “do it”, and use the new technology. So how do we overcome this “fear of flying”? What do we really mean by “integration”? 

Maybe by understanding the process of learning new skills, we can prepare ourselves better as we take the next steps. Thinking about how we learn helps us to understand that it doesn’t happen in one fell swoop.  There’s a process, a pattern.  Wendy Passer, in a piece posted here, describes the “Four Levels of Competence” – Unconscious, then Conscious Incompetence; followed by Unconscious Competence, then Conscious Competence. The idea, on one foot, is that we start out not knowing what we’re doing, and then go through a learning spectrum of being aware of, and at times overwhelmed by, our knowledge deficits. We might freeze, becoming ostriches with our heads in the sand. We then gradually gird our loins and learn the skill, thinking about how and what we are learning, and ultimately master the task so well that we stop thinking about what it is that we are doing, as it becomes second nature.  For you visual folks, here is a graphic of the process I found at MindTools.com.

When we climb this ladder we create something new.  What we learn becomes part of who we are and what we do. We are transforming the world and, therefore ourselves. We are integrating these new skills into the way we act, in AND on, the world.

So when we talk about “technology integration” we mean that we are integrating these new skills and approaching the art of teaching from a different direction. This type of integration is not merely incorporating new tech into pedagogy. It’s something far more profound: it’s the act of weaving connections between the educational practitioner and sources of new skills that can transform how the educator interacts with material and the learner.

In the context of the literacies of the digital world (read Howard Rheingold’s Netsmart to learn more) a crucial component is collaboration. No longer is learning something that is performed by an isolated individual building a one-on-one relationship with content and the instructor. Today content is collective. Knowledge is built through collaboration with a crowd.  No longer is there just one teacher — there are many.  By necessity, then, teaching is not just transmitting information, and thus educational uses of technology are not simply about transmission of information.  Teaching is weaving strands between content and learners, all in the context of connected educational communities.

And that’s the point. Technology integration is taking new, ever-changing technology and seamlessly incorporating it strategically to aid in the construction of knowledge. The teacher becomes the learner; the learner becomes the teacher, and tools of the trade facilitate this process.

So getting back to our pedagogical fear factor. Learning new tech isn’t really hard.   It’s just that we are so inundated with updates and new products that we get intimidated.  We suffer from what I call “Technology Fatigue”.  Too many emails.  Too many tweets.  Too many Facebook updates.  And too many new widgets and gadgets.  All of these “distractions” get in the way of our advancing the art of teaching and learning; preventing us from seeing the big picture. We need to get a handle on it, taking one step at a time.  We build on what we already know. That’s the key – that’s how we help ourselves incorporate what we have experienced and will soon encounter in our craft.   Rather than concentrating on the tool, let’s focus on what we want our students to learn and how we can help make that happen. That way we see the whole process in a less off-putting light. We’ll stop being afraid.

Integration then, means that the teacher is able to focus on the true goal of education:  Not the subject matter and not the means. Technology is a tool that helps us to focus on what’s really important: on learning and the student.

In The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall, I found a great piece of text that says it all: "…we do not focus on the hammer or the nails, but on what we can build with the hammer and the value of what will transpire inside the space once we’ve created it". Technology integration means leveraging our knowledge of how we learn and develop our competence, applying it to how we train one another to achieve the real goal:  Creating environments enabling our students to expand the frontiers of their competence.

Let’s Just Do It.

Peter Eckstein is the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Beth David (Conservative) in Palm Beach Gardens and is the Technology Integration Educator for the Friedman Commission for Jewish Education. As a volunteer, he currently sits on the Conservative movement’s Jewish Educators Assembly (JEA) national board and on the the Reform movement’s National Association of Temple Educators (NATE) Professional Development Committee. Peter has been participating in this summer’s Social Media Successes for Jewish Educators webinar series produced by Darim Online. He tweets as @redmenace56 and blogs as The Fifth Child at http://jcastnetwork.org/5thchild

 

 

Monday Web Favorites: The #Unselfie Campaign, Giving Effective Feedback, and “Be the Shamash”

It's time for our Monday web favorites, and there is much light to share over Chanukah…

First up: We love the #unselfie campaign! A bit of background…as of last year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been declared "Giving Tuesday," to change the focus from buying and acquiring on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to giving back and thankfulness. (Fun fact, this was started by the folks at the 92Y in New York.) Meanwhile, the term "selfie" was chosen as the 2013 "word of the year." This year, Giving Tuesday added this cool #unselfie campaign, to get people taking pictures of themselves (or of their faces behind a sign they made) saying/showing what they're doing to give back. Taking and posting an #unselfie could be a great activity for a teen group, for a family to do together, for a synagogue staff to do as a group. It's quick and fun activity to help share the light at Chanukah, and tap into a broader online campaign/conversation.
 

And our next selection: Another great opportunity has come up for tomorrow, this one on the professional development side. The talented  and vivacious Deborah Grayson Riegel is offering a free teleconference on giving effective feedback, Dec. 3rd, 2-3pm Eastern. Click here for details and to sign up.
 

Finally: We've got one more example of a lovely campaign we wanted to share – Shira Kline, also known as Shirlala, is using the eight nights of Chanukah to run a "Be the Shamash" (the candle that lights all the other candles on the menorah) campaign. It's a great example of using your social media to highlight that sweet spot where the things you care about and the things that matter to your community come together and shine. Hosting these kinds of mini-campaigns on your Page, or through any social media outlet, helps keep you at the front of your community's mind. That way, when you're ready to tell them about an event or other offer, they're already listening.

What have been your favorite things on the web recently? Share them in comments, or with Miriam through email, and they could appear here next week! Happy Chanukah, everyone!

Top image credit: GivingTuesday Facebook Page