Jewish New Media Innovation Fund Winners Go Beyond Those Awarded Funds

Today the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund announced the winners of the exciting process that help catalyze our community to focus on new media, our missions, and our strategy for the digital age. It was a fascinating experience to read the applications of the final 30, think deeply about the criteria of the fund, collaborate with an extraordinary team of advisors, and work with three visionary foundations. I am honored to have been part of this pilot year, and I hope that this initiative, and others like it, will continue.

While I’m quite excited about the projects that have been awarded funding, I’m even more excited about the broader impact that this fund has had on established organizations, entrepreneurs, and funders alike. Having worked to advance the Jewish community’s use of digital media for over 10 years now (wow, that went fast), I can see that even the announcement of the Fund changed the conversations among staff and lay leaders throughout the Jewish community. While a social media and mobile strategy might have been pushed to the bottom of the agenda over and over again, the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund forced them to put it at the top of the agenda, and to think about it strategically, not just tactically. Regardless of whether or not these ideas were funded today, providing an incentive, structure and time line I’m sure has deepened and advanced the work of many applicants.

It’s also important to note that the criteria used to evaluate the proposals has an impact beyond the short term decision making about fund allocation. For example, one requirement was that the projects would be able to launch or achieve results within 12 months. While in some cases this felt like a really compressed time line, the reality is that we are all in a permanent beta mode — we have to throw ideas against the wall, assess their effectiveness, and continue to refine over time. If you’re spending more than a year putting it together, either the idea wasn’t sufficiently thought out to begin with, or you’re not prepared to develop in an agile and iterative process.

The fund also set a priority on innovation – though the term was fairly broadly defined. In many cases, I think the made applicants really think beyond the obvious. I was impressed by how many applications viewed their mission through a new lens as they developed their applications. While the technology employed may not have been so “innovative” and new, the ways that they were thinking about their work clearly were. Kol hakavod to those that busted through the walls of their buildings, put the freedom of exploration in the hands of their users, and researched technologies, platforms and models outside of their immediate sphere of influence, or even their comfort zones.

There are many more lessons to be learned from the applicant pool, process, and over time, the outcomes of the projects funded. Regardless of who receives a check, this Fund was a tremendous gift to our community. I hope that those who used the opportunity to think in new and deeper and riskier ways will still find inspiration and value from the process, and will resolve to continue to take action on these ideas by incorporating these costs into their operating budget where appropriate, writing other grants, and seeking the support of other funders – foundations and individuals – who also recognize that these tools, ideas and approaches are critical to our communal future.

Are you an applicant to the #JNMIF who didn’t get your project funded this round? How are you going to proceed with this work? What non-financial assistance do you need? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Darim Awarded Covenant Grant for Work with Innovative Jewish Educators

Darim Online is thrilled to announce that The Covenant Foundation has awarded us a grant to work with two cohorts of innovative educational organizations in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The program will be a national Social Media Boot Camp for Jewish Educators, combining the best attributes of our Learning Network for Educators, and Social Media Boot Camps.

Participating organizations will bring teams of 3-5 staff and/or lay leaders to a series of online workshops and trainings to learn about the influence of technology and social media on their field, and practical applications of these powerful tools in their work for marketing, communication, professional learning, and program delivery. Participating teams will also receive private and small group coaching and consulting to help them design and implement a technology related project in their work.

Darim is seeking to build a cohort of innovative and risk taking organizations for this program. We define these terms broadly. Applicants need not demonstrate any particular level of technical proficiency or experience, but do need to have a track record of innovation and/or risk taking in some area of their work – from program design or teaching methods to communications or staffing.

Interested? Complete this brief form and we’ll make sure to notify you when the application and more information is available in the coming weeks.

Hot Off the Press: Jewish Educational Leadership “j ed tech 2.0” issue

Check out the latest issue of Jewish Educational Leadership, "j ed tech 2.0" in print and online, published by the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education (some articles are available to members only). Topics include conceptual pieces that address big picture issues around Jewish learning and identity in the 21st century, as well as articles on specific projects and curricular resources. Zvi Grumet lays out the blueprint of the publication in his introductory remarks:

Our Research section opens with a mapping of the issues by Jonathan Woocher and colleagues*. Eli Kannai explores visions of the future of education; Judy Cahn and Rona Novick examine some of the social implications of new technologies; Devora Preiss shares highlights from her doctoral research on using technology to enhance spirituality in tefillah. Closing out this section is a short, insightful essay by Shifra Kaufman on how classical Jewish studies address some of the intelligences deemed necessary for the emerging new era. Our applications section is rich with ideas from the field. Sholom Eisenstat presents an overview of the integration of hardware and readily available, often free, software into educational settings; Lookstein’s Esther Feldman shares insights from five years of experience using distance learning for Jewish studies; veteran educational technologist Meir Fachler introduces the latest software from Gemara Berura to aid in the study of Mishnah. Efraim Feinstein introduces us to the Open Siddur project, Yechiel Hoffman describes how technology integrated into and enhanced a high school Jewish thought class, and Avital Drory shares some of the pioneering work being done in Israel in Jewish educational software development. Our Features section opens with Howard Blas’ description of the challenges, successes and lessons of creating an online Community of Practice. Selections from John Palfrey’s Born Digital provide significant food for thought, and Contributing Editor Levi Cooper continues to tantalize with a fascinating perspective on a previous technology revolution. Finally, our Perspectives column features Sam Lehman-Wilzig, a professor of communications, whose research at Bar-Ilan University focuses on the impact of future technologies on society.

*The article, Technology and Jewish Education: A Revolution in the Making by Monica Rozenfeld, Jonathan Woocher, Lisa Colton, and Caren Levine is based on our work on the JE3 project over at JESNA’s Lippman Kanfer Institute.

So, kick up your feet and peruse away. What captures your imagination? What are you integrating into your work? What are challenges that you are facing? What would it take to bring your work to the next level?

[cross-posted on jlearn2.0]

Hanukkah Entertainment That Educates?

in collaboration with guest blogger Rick Recht The ultimate form of ‘cool’ in the Jewish world is when your non-Jewish friends also think it, whatever IT is, is cool. Well, cool just happened – twice. [If you’ve seen the videos, feel free to skip below them to the bottom of this post. Unless, of course, you can’t help yourself but watch them again.] On December 4, the CNN.com top headline picture was a snapshot from a viral video by the Maccabeats, male a capella group from Yeshiva University. The video Candlelight, a parody of teen heart-throb, Taio Cruz’s top 10 hit, Dynamite, and Mike Tompkin’s a cappella version of it. The Hanukkah version has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, earning the Maccabeats appearances on The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN.com and The Washington Post, among others. Candlelight includes lyrics about the Hanukkah story and traditions such as latkes and dreidel spinning. The video humorously depicts the Maccabeats reenacting aspects of the ancient Hanukkah story in makeshift gladiator costumes occasionally flash-forwarding to present day Yeshiva college buddies flipping latkes, studying Torah, and singing on camera, Brady Bunch-style. Simultaneously, another new Hanukkah video, by reggae rapper, super star, Matisyahu, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Matisyahu’s song, Miracle, is a contemporary interpretation of Hanukkah, where in a dream sequence Matisyahu meets Antiochus, the King of the Greeks, and the father of Judah Maccabee (the hero of the Hanukkah story), also named (get this!) Matisyahu. At Shabbat services last week, I mentioned the viral videos and then many laughed and nodded in recognition of the achievement by OUR Maccabeats and Matisyahu. We’ve got communal pride because this caliber of media rarely emanates from the Jewish world, and when it does, Jews take notice. These videos have the perfect combination of ingredients — including high-quality talent and cinematography, great humor, a clear connection with popular culture, and a powerful story line that is authentic Jewish history. These guys took it to the next level by unashamedly expressing their Jewish pride by using fun costumes, humor, and symbolism to tell the Hanukkah story. We’re not just talking about playing dreidel, we’re talking about the pressure to assimilate, and the temptation of … well, "chocolate stuff". (Don’t know what I mean? Watch "Miracle"!) While they are surely educational, the approach isn’t shoving historical facts down your throat. I asked my 23 year old office manager, Seth, why he thought the videos were cool and he didn’t skip a beat in responding, “First off, they’re hilarious. They are a great example of the talent that comes from our Jewish community. Now that these videos are viral, not only within the Jewish community but everywhere, it gives us pride to be Jewish because Jews AND non-Jews are watching and loving these videos. Hanukkah has lost a lot of its religious meaning and understanding for many of us (young people) and these videos give us a different way to look at the holiday and put a modern spin on it. They highlight the Jewish people and bring attention, in a very good way, to our Jewish community.” For Seth and many other young Jews, these videos exceed their apparent entertainment value and become more meaningful because they have a clear educational purpose. They don’t just hover around the contemporary iconic Hanukkah symbols such as dreidles and Hanukkah menorahs. They tell the REAL historical story of Hanukkah. They serve as relevant and meaningful sources of Jewish education for this holiday that has lost much of its meaning having become a contemporary American Hallmark holiday. They employ the ultimate tools for reaching and impacting young lives – music and video – and then stream the content on YouTube, the most powerful platform for video sharing. It’s also a powerful place for expression, identity building, and discusComment on Maccabeats Videosion. A few comments on the videos are posted here – they are fascinating to browse to gain insight into youthScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.55.39 PM (and not-so-youth) culture today of both Jews and non-Jews. Timing is everything, and the chance of being exposed to anything by or about Jews is dramatically increased during the Hanukkah season. It is no coincidence that these 2 videos hit their rocket-like trajectory on the 3rd and 4th days of Hanukkah. Familiarity breeds popularity. In the case of the Maccabeats, their song Candlelight was a parody of one of the most popular songs in the country. Almost every kid in the country had already memorized Dynamite by Taio Cruz and only had to learn the new Hanukkah lyrics in the Maccabeats’ parody. Screen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.58.49 PMScreen shot 2010-12-06 at 10.57.43 PMSo let us rejoice for the blessing of these two incredible viral videos that have infused our Jewish lives with such excitement and pride during this holiday season. And let us contemplate a time when individuals in our Jewish community can achieve national recognition in between holidays, using the power of music, video, and genuine high-quality talent to not only entertain, but educate both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences about our Jewish rituals, values, and history. Rick Recht is the top touring artist in Jewish music, the Executive Director of Jewish Rock Radio, Executive Director of Songleader Boot Camp, and the JNF National Music Spokesman.

Shalom, Sez Me… Grover’s Big Adventures

[cross-posted on jlearn2.0] Shalom Sesame: NextGen. The good people at Shalom Sesame are rolling out the release of the first two of twelve dvds in their new series. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the first edition on video; I am pleased to report that Moshe Oofnik has not aged – nor mellowed – a bit.

The first two dvds, featuring the ever inquisitive Grover, include Welcome to Israel and Chanukah: The Missing Menorah. In true Shalom Sesame fashion, each episode contains groovy animations, Muppets and humans hanging together, joyous singing, and fun snippets of learning around Jewish values, Hebrew language, and Israeli life.

At a recent screening at Sesame Workshop, Shari Rosenfeld and Stephanie Wilchfort, the project leaders, described resources that will be of special interest to parents and educators. The accompanying Shalom Sesame website will feature over 100 free clips from the dvds and supporting materials for home and classroom use including games, interactive storybooks, art projects, Hebrew language reinforcement, and holiday e-cards. One of their goals is to make the material as flexible as possible and to provide multiple entry points into learning about Jewish culture. In the meantime, they are releasing clips on their Facebook page to whet your appetite and put a smile on your face (oh, kids will like it too – the little ones at the premiere were bopping along to the songs).

In celebration of Chanukah, many JCCS and synagogues will be sponsoring the debut of Shalom Sesame’s holiday episode, Chanukah: The Missing Menorah on Sunday, December 5th. Check with your local JCC / synagogue for details. Some local PBS stations will also be airing the Chanukah episode.

The videos are available online and in stores and can be ordered directly from the Sesame Street Store. Interested in learning more? Darim Online is hosting the creative team behind Shalom Sesame on a webinar to discuss the new series and how schools and parents can use it with their children. Register here – it’s free – and it’s fun!

Here’s a taste of Shalom Sesame – I love learning Hebrew with Grover! I know just how he feels: Grover Learns Hebrew: Boker Tov!

Job Opening: Jewish Education Social Media

Social media is increasingly transforming the field of education, and Jewish education. Three innovators in the field are collaborating to accelerate adoption of social media tools and increase excellence in their use in the New York area to change the landscape of Jewish education and family engagement. BJENY-SAJES (a beneficiary agency of UJA-Federation), the Experiment in Congregational Education, and Darim Online (Equal Opportunity Employers) seek to pioneer new approaches to education through more robustly engaging parents and networking educators, clergy, and lay leaders involved in educational innovation. The new social media tools offer the opportunity for us to take a leap forward in this vital work. We are now hiring for a new position, based at BJENY-SAJES in New York City. The Social Media Project Manager will lead and coordinate the design and implementation of two projects specifically focused on enabling early childhood centers and congregational education programs to share innovative educational approaches with member families and build learning communities among educators, clergy, and engaged lay leaders from across institutions engaged in these new educational practices. Find more details about the job here.

Open Learning, Open Content: Emerging Trends in Education

 

Originally published in RAVSAK's HaYidion. Spring 2010
Social media and Web 2.0 resources can facilitate the ways in which we create and share educational resources. There is a developing trend towards a new openness in learning regarding access to people, content, and other resources. The power of new social media lies in its ability to help forge connections between people and other people, ideas, resources, and content. Characteristics of this new learning culture include transforming information and resources, creating one’s own resources and building on others, developing and participating in personal/professional learning networks, and personalized learning.

Read more….
 

 

Professional Learning at Your Fingertips

Originally published in URJ: Technology at the Center. Spring 2009

The Internet and digital media are changing the landscape of professional learning. New technologies are making available different opportunities for learning, reflection and collaboration. The Darim Online Learning Network for Educators is a professional development and knowledge sharing program funded by the Covenant Foundation to help educators learn about, experiment with and share their knowledge about using various social media as tools in their curriculum. The Learning Network is built on a community of practice (CoP) model, a process of social learning where participants interact to help achieve their common goals. The multifaceted nature of the program is a useful model for illustrating some key variables that make online professional development attractive for Jewish teachers.

The Darim Online Learning Network has been experimenting with both synchronous learning (participants interact together in real time; for example, at conference calls, webinars) and asynchronous learning (participants engage at different times, according to their availability; for example, through online discussion lists, archived webinars). As an example, we use webinars (think “audio-visual conference call”) to gather a group in real time and present material, such as a PowerPoint presentation, or walk through a case study by sharing one’s desktop. These live events also serve to create a sense of community and shared experience as participants ask questions, exchange stories about their work and support each other. We also archive the webinars so that those unable to join (or those who want to review the material) can replay the event. In addition, we use email and social networks to keep the conversation going between webinar events. New topics often emerge from these discussions, which we integrate back into future webinars.

Our teachers, especially those in complementary settings (who often have full-time jobs in addition to this position), are generally over-extended, with very limited schedules and little discretionary time to invest in ongoing professional learning. We have found that it is essential to provide asynchronous learning opportunities for congregational teachers, as these activities tend to be a better fit for their busy lives. By removing the logistical barriers of having to be in a particular location at a particular time, online learning can increase the total available opportunities for and, thus, the total consumption of professional development.

Social media facilitate the building and strengthening of relationships, which can lead to immediate and long-term transmission of knowledge, experience and support. In many cases, Jewish teachers are relatively isolated in their particular domain (only one third grade teacher in a particular congregation, for example). Teachers develop personal learning networks and share ideas through online discussion groups, blogs, virtual communities, virtual worlds, social networks and special interest networks. Members of the Darim Online Learning Network for Educators have access to a private social network developed on the Ning platform. In this password-protected network, each teacher creates a profile, with space for blogging and sharing photographs, videos and documents. Members can create and join groups defined by particular shared interests (for example, digital storytelling or b’nei mitzvah preparation). The platform helps those with similar interests to efficiently find each other and share knowledge, ask questions and support each other.

Another way of professional learning and sharing is through the creation, dissemination of and access to content. Podcasts, wikis, social bookmarks, presentation sharing platforms such as Slideshare or Google Presentations, online video platforms such as YouTube and TeacherTube, and videoconferencing tools such as ustream.tv are all mechanisms for creating and sharing resources.

Beyond the technologies themselves, the online models for learning are increasingly social and attuned to the real human needs of the learners. Furthermore, many of these tools are free or very low cost, making professional learning opportunities more accessible than ever. If you have not had the opportunity to engage in online learning, come try it out. No technical proficiency is required, simply a computer, an Internet connection and a thirsty mind.Want to get started? Find out what your professional development organizations offer. Learn about social media tools through short videos by Common Craft (www.commoncraft.com/show), read Liz B. Davis’ blog about developing personal learning networks online (edtechpower.blogspot.com/search/label/ PLN), browse through jlearn2.0’s bookmarks on delicious (delicious.com/jlearn2.0), and check out our blog, JewPoint0 (jewpoint0.org).

And Now, A Word From Your Sponsor… Upcoming Darim Webinars

If you are a member of Darim Online’s Learning Network, you already know what’s coming up … lots of tasty webinars to enjoy this Spring: Ellen Dietrick’s session on tools for schools; the first of our A Taste Of… series featuring JT Waldman of Tagged Tanakh and Shayna Kreisler of Build A Prayer; Foundations of Social Media; Blogging for Success; Social Media Policies and Guidelines; Fundraising with Social Media; our Community Sharefest series focusing on Communications and Marketing, Eduction, and Boot Camps; Strategic Storytelling with Lisa Colton and Deborah Grayson Riegel… and more! Previous guest presenters included Monique Cuvelier, Michael Hoffman, Avi Kaplan, and Esther Kustanowitz.

Don’t miss out! Interested in becoming a member of our growing Learning Network? Learn more about Darim here, then c’mon down and step this way to sign up … Memberships are available for individuals and for organizations. Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact us!

darim webinar in wordle

Jewish Education 3.0: A Revolution in the Making

je3 logo

Kudos to the Lippman Kanfer Institute at JESNA for launching their JE3 project, Technology and Jewish Education: A Revolution in the Making! [Full disclosure: your friends over here at Darim were involved in its development]

The project revolves around the question: “What does it means to ‘do’ Jewish education in a 21st century digital world?” The JE3 site features a core narrative that explores various aspects of the integration of technology-facilitated: visions of Jewish learning, the transformation of learning and teaching, examples from the field, concerns and challenges. Along with this context-setting narrative, the site provides a platform for articles from leading Jewish educators.

Want to get in on the conversation? Read, reflect, respond… submit materials, add comments to articles, tweet using the hashtag #jed21…. C’mon over….!