Thankful

What are you thankful for this week? I'm thankful for this catchy Facebook post from Shannon Hall and her team at the Sarah & Irving Pitt Child Development Center of JCC Metro Detroit. With the discovery that the most popular posts on their page were the photo collages, and knowing that the children would be focused on giving thanks in celebration of the upcoming Thanksgiving (and Chanukah!) holidays, the team developed this creative idea. Using smart phones, the team snapped a few photos of children, noted what they were thankful for, and added the speech bubbles using the free PicSay app for Android phones. For iPhone users, the free app Bubble works great, too.

Then, in order to attract more attention then they would have by posting the photos individually, they collaged three responses into one photo using PicsArt, another free app for Android, iPhone users, check out the free and easy to use PicStitch. The result was a playful, eye catching photo.

They combined with photo with an invitation to a week long game. Comment on the post and they'd ask your child next. And comment they did! Parents responded with curiosity about what their own child might say, and also added their own grateful comments. The result is a community expression of gratitude, perfect for the week before Thanksgiving.

What was the strategy behind the team's thinking? As part of their work in this year's Jewish Early Childhood Social Media Academy organized by the Alliance for Jewish Education at the Jewish Federation of Detroit, the team wanted to celebrate the children and families within their preschool program in order get the word out to the larger community about their offerings. Their strategy is to encourage their current actively involved on Facebook parents to inspire others to join the fun. Focusing on organic, fun, and engaging posts, their Facebook page has been a model of successful early childhood engagement.

In addition to achieving this immediate goal, creating social content that gets people to comment increases your "weight" in the Facebook algorithm.  Your content is therefore more likely to show up in the newsfeeds of others who have liked the page, which leads to more engagement, which sets a very positive snowball in motion.

How are you stewarding a culture of thankfulness and engagement on your Facebook Page?

Design Thinking for Tech-Curious Educators

 

To say we do things differently in Portland (Oregon) is a given.  Unlike many of the groups participating in Darim's Social Media Boot Camp, Portland Jewish Academy's small but mighty team was made up primarily of teachers. It was therefore not surprising that with our individual classroom needs in mind, we looked for ways that this concept of social media could be used to educate ourselves, our students, or both.

Our journey began in October when we were charged with thinking about the kind of project that would be beneficial for our faculty and the children we teach.  PJA is a community day school with a Preschool, Lower School, and Middle School.  We have General Studies and Jewish Studies teachers all with differing levels of interest in and comfort with technology.  How could we identify a project that would have meaning for all of us?  Given that our team included a Lower School General Studies teacher, a Middle School General Studies Teacher, a Middle School Jewish Studies (Hebrew) teacher, our Principal, and our Technology Specialist, we believed it made the most sense for us to focus on the needs and desires of our Kindergarten through 8th Grade program while being sure to address the General and Jewish Studies dual curriculum and the various readiness levels of our staff.

ideate2.jpgIn keeping with our team's wish to develop a student-centered approach, our initial essential question centered on how we could leverage social media to enhance student learning and engagement across the curriculum.  Recognizing that our faculty has just finished our first year of our new technology integration plan and was ripe for additional opportunities for learning, we tweaked our inquiry slightly by asking, "How can professional development support teachers in their integration of social media in classroom instruction?" 

We were delighted to be matched with Boot Camp Coach, Andrea Hernandez, Director of Teaching and Learning at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, Florida.  Andrea's school had been successfully using a "Ning" for faculty idea-sharing as well as a blog entitled "21st Century Learning."  Seeing these forms of social media being used so effectively as a sharing tool, we considered reframing our question once again.  This time we wondered, "How can we use social media to promote sharing and professional development among our teachers?"

"Design Thinking for Educators" became our model for creating a project based on our essential question.  Being at its core a method that emphasizes collaboration, optimism, and experimentation, it seemed like the perfect construct for moving our work forward.

Design Thinking begins with a period of DISCOVERY, so with this idea in mind we decided to develop a survey to determine what our teachers want and need when it comes to integrating technology.  In our informal conversations with our colleagues about our project, we found that the term "social media" was limiting and sometimes confusing.  Thus, our team began to view "social media" as any collaborative, new media tool that supports learning in the digital age.

Teachers were asked to comment on prior professional development experiences as well as their current use of equipment, ease of use, impact on student learning, and technical support and training.  Ultimately, 25 faculty members responded to our January 2013 survey. 

As part of the INTERPRETATION phase of the Design Thinking for Educators model, we found it most surprising that teachers were less interested in using social media for idea sharing (as we had proposed) but rather wanted to learn about student resources.  Our teachers are looking for "how-to" workshops featuring the use of various Web 2.0 tools for learning and the opportunity to share successful digital age teaching practices "face-to-face."  They are interested in a wide range of topics and are generally open-minded about trying new things.  Not surprisingly, the teachers see time constraints as the number one challenge for participating in this kind of professional development but are willing to do some learning online outside of the regular school day.  To paraphrase Field of Dreams, it is clear that if we build a professional development program that focuses on real classroom applications, they will come.

ideate1_0.jpgIn April, we honed our essential question once again.  This time we asked, "How might we support teachers in professional development on our journey towards digital age teachers and learners."  We then participated in the next phase of the process: IDEATION.  Using brainstorming rules outlined by Design Thinking for Educators, our Darim Team began to generate a list of ways to go forward with our professional development initiative.  We then took this brainstorming process to our Lower School and Middle School faculty knowing that their collective wisdom would help guide our next stage: EXPERIMENTATION.

Within weeks of beginning our Social Media Boot Camp work, our team ultimately did away with the conventional understanding of what social media means to most.  We were no longer talking about Facebook or Twitter, Blogs or Wiki Pages, but rather we were widening our lens to include all the potential that learning in the digital age represents.  Our project evolved into something quite different from the other participating schools but one that is just right for the needs of Portland Jewish Academy.  As we look ahead, we hope to create the kind of training that our faculty desires to make learning in the digital age relevant, engaging, and meaningful to teachers and students alike!

Elana Cohn-Rozansky is a member of the Portland Jewish Academy team that participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, a year long program generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.  This series of blog posts this spring chart the learnings of the 10 teams in this year's cohort.

 

Four Lessons for Maturing Your Social Media Practice: Evidence from the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy

Over the past nine months, 20 day schools from around the country have been immersed in an intensive Academy to catapult their social media work – and strategic goals of their schools – forward.  The Academy combines training, coaching, project-based learning and peer networks to help schools develop a social media strategy, put it into action, and measure their results.

The three projects throughout the year – a social media experiment, social fundraising project (with matching funds from The AVI CHAI Foundation) and the drafting of a social media policy are intended to help schools work in purposeful and reflective ways, and then to see real results, beyond just likes and follows.

The following 4 lessons emerged from the participating schools as important themes in advancing their work, and we offer them in the hopes they help you as well.  Links go to blog posts by each school with further detail about their Academy experience.

1.  Content Content Content.  Knowing your goals, and the interest of your target audiences is critical for developing a content strategy.  Schools that previously talked all about themselves experimented with different types of content to see what resonated, with home, and how.

Shulamith School for Girls and  The Westchester Day School focused on re-engaging alumni.  Posting photos of classes from the 1970’s got many people reminiscing. People tagged their friends which brought more alumni to the page.  Some photos had dozens of comments and several shares, leveraging networks and re-energizing and reconnecting the alumni community.

Solomon Schechter School of Queens realized that people organized, intentional and reflective was the key to their success.  By creating a content calendar they were able to plan thoughtful and relevant content, and then measure the cause and effect of various approaches.  This practice built momentum on their Facebook Page which they were able to leverage throughout the Academy.

Some schools found great value in decentralizing content creation.  Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy now has several faculty members tweeting, sharing student adventures inside the school walls and around the world.  Carmel Academy realized their teachers were a great source of content, and the faculty was eager to provide stories and photograph events.

2.  It’s About People, Not Technology.  While the myriad of tools and their (seemingly rapidly evolving) functionality can seem dizzying at first, schools learned that social media is really human. It’s about connections, relationships, emotions and listening more than talking.

At the Robert M Beren Hebrew Academy, they learned this lesson through their social fundraising project.  They recognized the social part of social fundraising, and instead of just using a “social” platform to take online donations, they set up a system of ambassadors to help amplify their campaign, and reinforce that it’s about supporting the community, not just an institution.  “Our school transformed into a community of PR ambassadors and fundraisers within a matter of hours,” they reported.

Many schools learned through trial and error that people love content that they identify with, not only information that they find interesting.  When they identify with it, they comment, and even better, share with their own networks.  At the Lander Grinspoon Academy, they found that “people want to share posts that say something about themselves: their children are highlighted; their values are reflected; they have a reason to be proud of the school and community.”

3.  Demonstrate, Don’t Pontificate. Often our instincts are to market market market our schools. But demonstrating the real and authentic manifestation of the things you do well speaks volumes more.

At the Milwaukee Jewish Day School, they featured current students and alumni in their social fundraising campaign. The stories conveyed the mission, vision, culture and impact of their school and emotionally touched the viewers.  Their ‘fan fundraisers’ had powerful human interest stories to tell to their own networks, which brought in many new donors from outside their usual community of donors.

At the Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School, prospective families (even those who had decided not to enroll, but were still fans of the Facebook Page) felt the benefits of the school.  Several schools reported an increase in total applications this year (without intentionally shifting any other recruitment efforts) and a few new families who enrolled specifically because of what they were seeing on Facebook.

4.  Build a Culture. Not a Billboard.   Online spaces are like any other. They have a culture, values, and social norms.  As the host of your spaces, it’s your responsibility to help set the tone.  Sometimes doing so can catalyze more conversation once people have some cues about tone, length, humor, etc.

The Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School realized that many of their parents weren’t on Facebook, for a variety of reasons.  One of their challenges was to show parents that Facebook can have real value for their lives, and is in fact “kosher”.  They recruited ambassadors and offered articles and training for parents who were just learning, all of which not only helped their social media efforts, but was an educational and relationship building experience in and of itself.

At the Lander Grinspoon Academy they set a goal of increasing the likes on their page and making it more participatory, communal space. At a major Hanukkah, instead of the typical announcement asking everyone to silence their cell phones, they began the assembly by asking everyone to get their cell phones out and like them on Facebook, and invited them to take and share photos of the evening.  It increased their likes by 40% in one day, and they soon had many comments on and shares of their content.

The 20 participating schools have progressed in leaps and bounds this year, and they have worked hard for it.  They attended webinars, pursued projects, met with their coaches, shared their progress and learning, and integrated their work into their school culture and operations.

You can do it too.  The next cohort of the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is now in formation.  Applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis now through the end of July.  Learn more at http://darimonline.org/jdsacademy201314.

 

Vine vs. Instrgram Video. How Do They Compare?

 

This past week, Facebook launched a video component to their already immensely popular photo platform, Instagram, in order to compete with Vine, the short form video app by Twitter.

Vine

vine_icon.png Launched by Twitter, Vine is a micro-video app that allows you to record six-second videos on your phone and share them on Vine and Twitter. You can record all 6 seconds at once, or break up the six seconds to record separate images in a series or "stop motion" style. Vine then displays the videos in a loop, similar to a GIF.  (Yes, you might be thinking, 'aren't animated GIFs so 1999?'  Yes, but they are making a retro comeback, especially through Tumblr and with new tools like Vine).  In some cases the looping effect holds your attention longer, and allows for a deeper understanding of what might appear simple on the surface.  But in some cases the looping effect can be annoying.  Perhaps in the future Vine will allow it as an option.

After downloading the app, you can start and stop the video by tapping and holding the screen. When finished, you simply upload the video and can add comments and hashtags. Similar to Twitter, when tagged, a video can be seen by anyone, but you only see videos by users you follow in your feed. Vine videos can be embedded anywhere on the web and uploaded to Twitter and Facebook as well. A quick Vine tutorial is here.  Warning: it's slightly more than 6 seconds!

Instagram Video

instagram-icon.pngTo compete with Twitter’s new mini-video feature, Facebook launched its own version of Vine, via Instagram.  Instagram video is not a separate app, but rather incorporated within Instagram. Users simply download the updated version of the app and a new video button appears when taking photos on your phone. This video feature can be started and stopped like Vine, but can record up to 15 seconds and allows for editing and filters, similar to Instagram photos. Unlike Vine though, Instagram video can only be uploaded via Instagram or Facebook, whereas Vine can be embedded anywhere on the web.

Instagram video also includes a cover photo (you can choose which frame of the video you want to show when it's displayed as a still image — it doesn't have to be the very first frame), and video stabilization.  These videos do not loop as Vine does.  A quick Instragram tutorial is here.  Also more than 15 seconds!

 

So what should I be using?

Vine does have the largest audience in terms of short video app users. But that audience is only 11% of the total video sharing market, whereas Instagram holds 35% of the photo sharing market, and has 130 million users. Despite the newness of Instagram and the fact that you're not currently able to embed those videos, its audience and relevancy eclipse Vine’s, and it offers more features.

The looping of Vine and the ability to embed the videos elsewhere online can, and will, probably be added to Instagram in the future. But since both are free, it doesn’t hurt to download both and see which one you like better.  If you're already a regular Instagram user, it may make sense to integrate your short format video work into that existing channel.  If you have not created an Instagram channel for your organization, you may find Vine more attractive since you can embed those videos elsewhere to augment other channels.

Here’s a breakdown via TechCrunch (read the whole article here):

instagram-vs-vine5.jpg

 

 

 

Learning to Like Facebook

 

“How do you get people to ‘like’ you?” is not usually a question of much concern to a group of academics, but that’s exactly the challenge we took on when our team at American Jewish University’s Graduate Center for Education endeavored to create a new communications channel to expand our online community of alumni, students, colleagues and friends through Facebook this year. Without a communications department or dedicated staffer to build our social media presence, it’s been hard to consistently lean in to our Facebook ambitions without getting carpal tunnel. That being said, we’ve come away from Darim’s Social Media Boot Camp for Educators with some great strategies for managing and promoting the page, with the valued input of our fantastic coach Debra Askanase:

1) Develop and implement a content calendar.

2) Keep experimenting with different kinds of content, and check the analytics regularly to monitor what the fans want.

3) Based on #2, we discovered that our fans love and share photos, videos and announcements of awards the most.

4) Post regularly and consistently to keep up the flow of traffic.

5) Don’t feel sheepish about buying likes (which we haven’t tried yet).

While we are proud of what we have developed so far, a challenge is that there are members of our community missing out on our shiny new vehicle for sharing content, good and welfare and relevant education news and links. Not all of our constituents (alumni and Jewish education professionals) are on Facebook. Not everyone who is on Facebook uses Facebook for professional interests. Not everyone who is on Facebook checks Facebook. And so on.  We are still wondering: how many of our constituents use Facebook for really engaging with professional content?

Personally, I entered Darim’s Boot Camp committed to a pretty solid boundary between the personal and professional when it came to Facebook, resisting the invitations to post professional content and reserving my Facebook use for sharing photos of my kids with actual friends and (and viewing photos of their kids). Now I’m kvelling over the latest accomplishments of our students and alumni, sharing education news items and op-eds of interest, reflecting on the teachers who have inspired me, and posting photos of my students and campus, all with a couple of quick clicks on the Pages Manager app on my droid.  My new use of Facebook has become a vehicle for work/life integration in surprising ways.

So after a few months of work, the Graduate Center for Education’s Facebook page now bears the unique stamp of our learning community and the personalities and professional interests of the faculty leadership. We discovered that Facebook is a medium that can easily convey our institutional culture of intellectual curiosity, passion for creative education, sincere caring for members of our community and deep appreciation for the hard work and commitment of educators. We can be serious and playful in one space.

We’re a boutique graduate school of education, and we take a lot of pride in the warm and nurturing yet rigorous and professional learning culture that defines the “in-person” experience of being an AJU student. With the help of the Darim Social Media Boot Camp, we have slowly begun to transmit that culture online through our Facebook presence. Our next step is to share the love with an ever-growing circle of fans! You don’t have to be an AJU affiliate to join; anyone passionate about Jewish education can “like” us at www.facebook.com/educationmasters.AJU.

 

Dr. Miriam Heller Stern is Dean of the Graduate Center for Education at American Jewish University. Follow her on twitter @mirhstern. The Graduate Center for Education participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, a year long program generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.  This series of blog posts this spring chart the learnings of the 10 teams in this year's cohort.

 

Using social media to enhance student learning

Q: What do you get when you cross a former social media nerd turned marketing guy with a couple of tech-savvy teachers and instructional technology coaches, plus an expert at integrating social media technologies into Jewish education?

A: A toolkit of social media case studies highlighting how teachers can use common social media and Web 2.0 tools and technologies to facilitate student interaction, collaboration and learning.

At Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, a community Jewish day school in the city of Chicago, we came into the school year with a healthy knowledge of what social technology tools were out there and a thought that we'd like to identify a few of those tools for widespread teacher and student use. Thanks to our participation in Darim Online's Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, we're heading out of the school year with some key technologies identified and faculty members who have designed learning experiences around those technologies that are scalable across the organization. In fact, after some in-house professional development, we already have teachers trying new things that have worked in other teachers' classrooms.

Specifically, we've recognized the power of simple platforms including Twitter, Skype and YouTube to both facilitate interaction within our school community (among students and teachers, for example) and to facilitate interaction with students, classrooms and experts in other states and countries.

A handful of case studies highlight how our faculty members have used these technologies to drive cross-cultural communication, collaboration and learning. If you've never heard of or conducted a Twitterview, or an author-Skype session or mystery-Skype session, or if you've never Explained Everything via a Youtube "flipped classroom" video, we can help…

These things don't just sound fun—they are fun, and, per the title of this blog post, they enhance student learning. Once teachers see what these tools can do and hear from colleagues about the excitement created around learning by incorporating these technologies, we're pretty sure they won't hesitate to try their hands with social media. Here at BZAEDS, after hearing from another faculty member at a professional development session about an eighth grade / author Skype session, one of our third-grade teachers set up an author Skype for her students, much to their excitement and enjoyment.

So if you'd like to hear more about our success with a social media toolkit of case studies, or read more about any individual case study and see photos or videos that accompany these, please don't hesitate to reach out to that former social media nerd (if you check my Twitter timeline you'll see how rarely I use it anymore–even Facebook is no longer a regular thing)—he's here to help!

Derek Gale is the Director of Communications at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago.  They participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, a year long program generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.  This series of blog posts this spring chart the learnings of the 10 teams in this year's cohort.

 

80-20: Work on Whatever You Want

Netbooks, Document Cameras, Google Apps, Educational Apps, Student blogs, we floated all of these ideas around as we tried to come up with where to focus our technology training this summer. There are so many opportunities it is often overwhelming. With training being a fundamental component of our technology plan at the Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School, we struggled to determine a school wide technology goal for the coming year. As we spoke and brainstormed, inspiration from the NAJDSC, and our recent participation in the Darim Online Jewish Day School Social Media Academy came together, and an idea formed based.

One of the famous benefits of working at Google is the 20 percent time program. Google allows its employees to use up to 20 percent of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. At Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Google, "many" of their best and most popular products come from the thin sliver of time they granted employees to work on whatever they wanted to.

We decided that instead of us choosing a school wide goal we would allow each teacher to choose a technology based project that they’d like to implement in their classroom. We’d take the money we would have spent training and pay our teachers to spend the time to research, create and implement a project that they were passionate and excited about. We have a treasure of knowledge, experience and skill amongst our staff and with so many learning opportunities readily available on the internet we know we will have a rich, informative and exciting journey. The program has no outcome benchmarks but process requirements. The focus is on the experience. Because we are offering the freedom to “work on whatever you want” we are also offering the freedom to fail, without failure there can be no innovation or true experimentation. Regardless of whether the project plays out as we hope it to we know there will be valuable lessons learned from the process.

In addition to choosing and implementing a project there will be a reflective and reporting process where teachers will reflect, share and teach each other about their project and what they have learned. Not only will teachers benefit from their projects and experience they will learn from everyone else’s research and projects. And at the end of the project we will have a staff where each teacher is well versed and experienced in different areas of technology and available to support each other in their area of expertise.

Miriam Esther Wilhelm is the founding Head of School at the Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School. She has enjoyed the journey of taking the school from a start up to a growing and thriving Jewish Day School.
 
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 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 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
 
The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.
 

 

 

 

See3C: Scheck Hillel Reinvents, Stays Connected

 

As a school who strives to be on top of the latest and greatest forms of social media, this year was the time for Scheck Hillel Community School to explore one of the most popular outlets used today: Instagram. With one click on the app, you can quickly see what is going on around campus and in classrooms. In the past, Scheck Hillel has used Facebook and Twitter to reach out to the community and share what is going on at school. Now we have taken the jump not only with a school account (@eHillel) but also individual classroom accounts to reinvent photo sharing, making it easy for families and students to stay connected. Instagram also links to other forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. This allows our followers to branch out and explore eHillel across the social media world.

instagram.jpgIn the classroom, Instagram has taken a different turn. Students as early as third grade are excited and eager to explore the social media world with their iPods, iPads, and iPhones. What better way to do it than linked to school! With followers in many grade levels, we are sharing our classroom with the rest of campus. Parents are slowly but surely starting to follow and engage in Instagram by liking and commenting on photos. Siblings and former students are among our greatest followers, and are encouraging their teachers to jump on the bandwagon.

photoclose.jpgAs a third grade teacher, I was unsure of how Instagram would impact my class. Would parents be interested? Would students want to follow their class?  My worries were quickly erased as I have only seen a positive response! Students are excited to be involved in writing captions, adding filters, and creating appropriate hashtags to share our photos. Another third grade teacher was persuaded to create a page when her students started to follow my class page @see3c. She found that her students were eager to get involved as well. Teacher Jennifer Cohn, @3bpics, says “Students are commenting on photos after school. It gives them a chance to go back and reflect on what was happening in school that day.” Scheck Hillel’s third grade was recently empowered with a couple iPads for each class, so the students can get involved with our Instagram page more easily. It has become a class activity and the students are deciding what is important to share with our friends in the community. We look forward to sharing our achievements as we engage more teachers and classes to connect to social media!
 

Jenna Kraft is a Grade 3 teacher at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, Florida. Taking a lead beyond the classroom, she recently co-authored Scheck Hillel’s Social Media Guidelines & Policy with the School’s Advancement department.

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 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 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
 
The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.

 

Contractually Blogging: Maturing Systems in a Congregational School

Shearith Israel is a conservative congregation in Dallas with a strong religious school, approximately 200 students.  We have pre-k-10th and we are in the midst of developing a HS component through 12 grade back into our program. 

The biggest challenges we face are related: apathy and communication.  Over the last couple of years we have tried to address both of these issues.  Each of our teachers was required to communicate with parents on a bi-weekly- monthly basis, giving them information about what their children were experiencing in the class. 

We also have a weekly newsletter from the school, but this is more general information, and not usually specific to classes. We also decided last fall to use a text system for updates for parents: Remind 101.  We had many parents sign up for this- but not all. 

Ellen Dietrick has been our mentor in the Darim Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, and she has guided us through various explorations.  Each year Dallas has a Yom Limmud- day of learning where all of the educators come together and this past fall one of the featured presentations, from November Learning www.novemberlearning.com , was about tech in the classroom, featuring Twitter.  So we eagerly joined Twitter as luddites.  Ellen helped us explore what to do with it, but learned that our best bet was to set up blogs for our classrooms.  This would be a better focus for students, parents, and even our teachers to interact with and learn from each other.  Back in February we presented this idea to our teachers at a professional development session.  At first they were reluctant, but they grew very interested when they found out about the various ways to communicate, engage and share the content of what goes on in their classrooms.

Showing the various steps of the learning process, as well as what the students take away for it will definitely serve the students better, and help their parents understand and hopefully engage them and us a bit more.  We decided to make this compulsory as of the coming school year and it is written into the teacher contracts that they need to submit a post each week we have school.  At this point we are exploring whether to use the template we created on Blogger or to invest in using Edublogs (which is part of WordPress).  We are very excited about this and will be suspending our weekly newsletter that we send using Constant Contact in lieu of this improved and interactive tool.  I am already thinking about who will be our ‘plants’ on the blog- hoping to quietly designate parents to generate/comment on posts to build and keep the conversation going.

We should tell you as well that back in the fall as part of a separate grant, we began creating a teen Israel blog which is a blog about Israel by teens, for teens.  This has been a great learning experience for the teens and the professionals working on this project. 

In addition, we are fortunate to have smartboards in our classrooms, as well as iPads for teacher and student use.  Our students have been working to create apps…. Now we can actually tell the world about this and use them to enhance our blog communications.

We hope that this project will improve parent communication, as well improve the students’ engagement with what they are learning.  We want to thank Ellen Dietrick for her assistance and Darim and The Covenant Foundation for the opportunity to make our school a better learning environment.

 

Shearith Israel participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, a year long program generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.  This series of blog posts this spring chart the learnings of the 10 teams in this year's cohort.

 

Using Collaboration to Create Content

 

Our goal upon entering the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy was to utilize social networks as a means to tell our story.  So many wonderful things happen at the school every day, and we felt with Facebook, in particular, that we had a great opportunity to re-energize our current parents and to reach new audiences in a visually compelling and easy-to-share (or “like”) format. 

We took a very strategic approach to launching our Facebook page, from the type of content we wanted to post, how we would promote the page, and who we would target.  We found our social media strategy to be an outgrowth of our website strategy.  When we launched our new website nearly three years ago, we took very deliberate steps to tell the story of the school through photos on the internal (password-protected) pages of our website.  So whereas many schools struggle to produce quality content on a regular basis, we had already laid the groundwork that would become essential to our success.  Our experience with the JDS Social Media Academy pushed us to refine this process of collaborating with our community members to drive the content that tells the story of the school.

Our content curation strategy began with us trying to figure out where the story was, and realizing we would need input from faculty members, administrators and parents.  We have to rely on these key players to let us know the compelling events and stories happening day by day.

We felt the best way to truly paint the picture of life at CESJDS was through cultivating these relationships.  I reached out to faculty members individually, urging them to let me know when they had special projects taking place in their classrooms.  And every time a teacher contacted me, I went to take photos which would later be posted to the Facebook page and school website.  It didn’t take long for them to get excited about being featured; it validates their hard work in the classroom and gives our community a window into life at the school.  It soon became second nature for them to email with interesting classroom news or projects. 

A great example of how parents contribute to our strategy is Families in Action Day, a day of service where 800 people volunteer at more than 20 projects in the area.  I coordinate directly with the parent volunteers to generate photos from the various locations, something I could not do alone.  We use this approach for many of our larger events–Dor L’Dor, Color War, Arts Chai-Lights—and find it works well because people are excited to be a part of the story.  I also work with our student photographers (from the student newspaper and photography class) to feature their work online.

Many other individuals in the school have news to share, and we have worked to make sure this news gets passed to us to post to Facebook and the school website.  The athletic director, guidance and college counselors, development director, and other members of the administrative team routinely share news, accomplishments and other updates.  All of this helps to tell the story of CESJDS.

By changing the dynamic of the school, we established a network of collaboration where others create content and invite me to the story, rather than me searching it out.  This process has been vital to accurately portraying life at CESJDS through our Facebook page and school website.

 

Kimberly Dudash is the Marketing Associate at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.  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 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 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
 
The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.