Renegotiating Boundaries: Technology in the Home in Sh’ma

Peggy Orenstein, in her New York Times Magazine article this past weekend, considers the impact of opening up her family via Skyping with her parents 1500 miles away. She writes:

Now, I like my parents. A lot. I really do. Thats why I make the 1,500-mile trip to visit them three or four times a year. I did not, however, spend the bulk of my adult life perfecting the fine art of establishing boundaries only to have them toppled by the click of a mouse. If I wanted them to have unfettered access to my life, I wouldnt have put the keep out sign on my room at age 10. I would have lived at home through college. I would have bought the house next door to them in Minneapolis and made them an extra set of keys…
To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. [too much information] and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love.

Every new technology, from the telephone decades ago, to streaming video cams these days, and everything in between, beg many questions about how much information we want to share, where we will draw our boundaries, why, and how.

In this month’s Journal S’hma, I offer some thoughts on how these tools can enrich and starve our Jewish homes, and how we can draw on Jewish concepts of community, home, family and values to guide our intentional decision making about how, when and why we will use (or not use) particular technologies. Because ultimately, it’s not about the technology, it’s about relationships.

Read the S’hma article and share your thoughts, experiences and approaches on the new S’hma website, or leave a comment here on JewPoint0.

The Reason Your Church [Synagogue / Congregation / Organization] Must Twitter

Readers of JewPoint0 know we are pretty hot on Twitter and its potential for supporting the work of Jewish organizations and community building. You also know that we believe that Twitter is most effective when it is aligned with an organizations overall community strategy and culture.

Some of you may have already taken the plunge; others are still trying to get the hang of it. If you are looking for a good framework from which to consider integrating Twitter into the communications life of your congregation, take a look at Anthony Coppedges ebook, The Reason Your Church Must Twitter.

This highly readable publication lays out reasons for congregations to use Twitter and how it can be integrated into your communications and community building strategies.

Coppedge views Twitter as a means of engaging members in conversations; a way of accessing and getting to know congregational membership, clergy, staff, and lay leaders in different ways; exchanging information and putting out calls to action; and, supporting a sense of connection within the community as well as fostering connections with potential new members. In addition, he explains the basics of Twitter culture, how to get set up, and tips and techniques for effective communication.

The book is available online at $5.00 a copy (churches are encouraged to buy a copy for each staff member who would benefit from it, and to share it with volunteers for free).

Other articles and resources about Twitter and congregational life:

Reform Judaism: Cyber Innovations

Twittering in Church, With the Pastors OK, Time Magazine, May 3, 2009

Twitter Church post by Vertizontal

The Networked Congregation: Embracing the Spirit of Experimentation
by Andrea Useem

Twitter Group: Jewish Social Network

Jacob Richman’s Twitter List including Jewish and Israeli Twitterers

Nine Great Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Twitter

Twenty-Three Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

Be sure to follow Darim on Twitter!

Jewish Supplementary Schools That Work:ADCA Webinar Hosted by JESNA

What do we know about the makings of good Jewish supplementary education? What are noteworthy characteristics of schools that work? What factors enable successful learning communities? What are emerging policy recommendations toward creating and sustaining effective, vibrant complementary education?

These questions are addressed in the report, Schools That Work: What We Can Learn From Good Jewish Supplementary Schools, authored by Dr. Jack Wertheimer on behalf of the AVI CHAI Foundation, March 2009. In conjunction with the release of the report, JESNA recently hosted an ADCA webinar with Jack Wertheimer to discuss the report and the role of central agencies for Jewish education. The webinar is available at JESNAs Sosland Resource Center. ADCA is the Association of Directors of Central Agencies for Jewish Education.

We wrote about other resources on complementary and congregational education published by JESNA – be sure to take a look at them as well.

What are some of the most powerful characteristics of success in your school? What would you add to the report’s list of policy recommendations? What else do you want to know about successful complementary education?

The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape

In their recently published op-ed in JTA titled “Invest in Innovation”, Felicia Herman and Dana Raucher disagree that at a time of economic downturn we should follow the “calls for greater consolidation and a return to the more centralized infrastructure of yesteryear.” These two brilliant women (Felicia Herman is the executive director of the Natan Fund, and Dana Raucher is the executive director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation) are not looking backwards for solutions, but looking forward. They write:

We believe that the young, and often small, nonprofits that have emerged in the past decade, and the very de-centralization they reflect, are here to stay. We believe that this interconnected network of smaller, niche-based organizations reflects the organizational transformation now under way in American culture: a revolution in the way that people connect, organize and affiliate, brought about by technological advancements that have dramatically shaped our ways of looking at the world. That revolution already has utterly transformed so much of our lives — the way we shop, network, share information, learn and teach. We dont believe theres any going back.

I completely agree with their observations. In addition to encouraging you to read the new report, The Innovation Ecosystem, that they developed with JumpStart, I want to reinforce their de-centralized vision, and encouage us to questions our assumptions and the status quo of how we go about doing our business. The top down models that have worked in the past are no longer the only solution. Self-motivated, creative and empowered individuals and groups now have the ability to self-organize, creating the programs and organizations that embody the bottom-up culture that is so attractive.

Investments in innovative organizations are important, because we do need to evolve our Jewish community to continue to be relevant to its participants. Furthermore, we need to invest in helping more traditional organizations also make this shift to realign themselves with a rapidly changing paradigm. The “revolution” which Felicia and Dana refer to is in fact a tectonic shift, largely empowered by social media, that we cannot ignore. So where to begin? While the strategic questions may feel overwhelming and insurrmountable, dipping our toes in the water to begin to understand the evolving culture and the potential of the technology tools is a fruitful (and dare I say FUN) place to start.

Often I hear staff say “but where are we going to find the time to do this social media stuff? I don’t have even 10 minutes a day to spare.” While that may be true, we are spending a tremendous amount of time and energy (and dollars) in our “business as usual” routine, the products of which may or may not be the most efficient and effective way to achieve our goals and mission.

Take for example the synagogue newsletter. This 12 or 24 page monthly publication takes thousands of dollars per year in paper, labels and stamps, plus who know how many hours to write, edit, layout, photocopy, stamp and send 500, 1000, or 1500 copies each month. Can you tell me how many people read it cover to cover? What’s the most popular column? How many throw it in the recycling without even a glance? Even those who do read it cover to cover — what’s the impact on their participation, education, engagement, identity or support?

Now, can we borrow just 10 minutes a day from the team of people who put countless hours into that newsletter? I’ll help you measure the return on your 10 minutes. My guess is you’ll find it worthwhile.

There is no looking back. So we might as well start looking forward. How do you spend your 10 minutes of social media per day? What are the outcomes?

Torah at the Center: Centering On Technology

Get “Centered” – URJs Torah at the Center, Spring 2009 is hot off the press! This must read edition focuses on technology and Jewish education. Articles include: The Digital Culture that Shapes our Educational Environment (Brian Amkraut); Professional Learning at Your Fingertips (Lisa Colton and Caren Levine); Podcasting for Smarties (Heidi Estrin); Tech-Kun Olam: Using Technology to Make a Difference (Deborah Stern Harris); Integrating Modern Technology Into Jewish Supplementary Schools (Eran Vaisben); Taking the Siddur Live (Rabbi Judd Kruger Livingston); Assistive Technology: Opening a World of Possibility for Individuals with Special Needs (Shana Erenberg); Youth Culture on Facebook (Scott G.Hertz); and lots of other tasty morsels for your learning pleasure!

Getting Social Media Buy-In From Above

Oftentimes we hear from someone who is eager to ramp up the use of social media in their work — starting a Facebook group or page, starting an organizational blog, or otherwise allocating some of their hours to “getting in the game”. One of the greatest challenges is when the powers that be (your boss, or peers, or board members) just don’t understand social media, and either think you’re wasting your time, or are not supportive of the initiatives you’re trying to get off the ground.

If this speaks to you, you’re not alone, and there is a wealth of support out there for you. A few suggestions:

  1. Be goal oriented. If you can frame your social media project to be in support of larger or more specific goals of your organization, then you’re defining yourself on the same team.
  2. Sometimes there are egos involved. Two thoughts here: First, give credit to your boss for great goals and big picture, so he/she feels validated, and not challenged. Second, the unknown is sometimes scary — think about how you can help teach that person about your work in an exciting and not belittling way. He/she may feel “out of date” or “being passed by”, and if you can temper these negative emotions, the whole conversation may be smoother.
  3. Find low costs ways to begin, so all you’re asking for is a bit of time, not an outlay of cash.
  4. Make sure you can articulate how you’ll measure your success, and then measure it. You must be able to declare victory in order to build trust and future support.
  5. Find relevant examples from related organizations or people who have the same job responsibilities as you do. While some leadership might assume that “all technology things belong with the IT guy”, we believe that all staff (and volunteers) need to be using the most up to date tools in their work. The phone, photocopier, fax and email are all “technologies” that we use in our daily work.
  6. Listen to their fears and objections. If someone is terrified about a negative comment on a blog, consider meeting them half way by more aggressively moderating comments (needing to approve before they go live, etc.) to reduce fears and help everyone take baby steps forward.
  7. Ask about privacy policies and any other guidelines that you should know about and use as you implement your project. Avoiding accidental mis-steps will buy you good will down the road.
  8. Consider framing your project as a “pilot” — short term, very focused, low cost – so that leadership feels they have an opportunity to reflect and assess whether the project will move forward.

Check out this blog post from The Buzz Bin on the topic, and if you’re hungry for more, read chapter 11 in Groundswell for strategies on how to move forward with social media in your organization. Better yet, buy a copy for your boss!

How have you approached “selling social media” in your organization? How have you been an advocate? How are you teaching others? What sort of feedback do you provide to others to demonstrate your impact? What support do YOU need?

Hot off the Griddle Tasty New Publications from JESNA on Complementary and Congregational Education

[cross-posted on jlearn2.0] Looking for some good reading to round out 2008 or start off 2009?

Take a look at JESNAs Compendium of Complementary School Alternative Models/ Programs.

See whats happening with in-home learning programs, family education, camps, tutoring, choose your own courses, art-focused initiatives, complementary education programs with online components, and more. Each entry includes background about the program and contact information for follow up.

The Compendium is published by JESNAs Center for Excellence in Education. Also be sure to check out the companion volume, Compendium of Complementary School Change Initiatives (Summer 2008).

And to further whet your appetite for the new year, download your copy of Transforming Congregational Education: Lessons Learned and Questions for the Future published by JESNAs Lippman Kanfer Institute (December 2008). The paper is organized around three questions:

  1. What are the goals of congregational educational change? What can and should we hope to achieve through these efforts and for whom? What visions are guiding these endeavors?
  2. What is the content of congregational education change? What is it that needs to be changed? What are the primary drivers of success in this endeavor?
  3. What is the process for congregational educational change? What needs to be done, by whom, to make congregational educational change efforts succeed?

The paper reflects a synthesis of experiences and observations by key players in Jewish congregational learning. It concludes with ten questions that outline a learning and planning agenda for next steps in congregational educational change.

Dig in Btayavon!