Adventures in Learning: Matan and Darim Go Viral

Over the past six months Matan, founded 12 years ago, launched the inaugural Matan Institutes for Jewish Educators.  In March, 18 Education Directors came together for two days of intense learning related to Jewish special education; in August, 40 congregational school teachers spent one day with Matan learning how to make their classrooms accessible to all learners. 

What we love about special education is that in actuality, it is simply really good education.  Special educators pay close attention to the learning styles of each of their students – whether their preferences are visual, oral, tactile or kinesthetic.  These teachers plan their lessons making sure there are elements within that will reach every type of student.  In the 21st century classroom, technology is a remarkable tool that helps students access information in the ways that work best for them, often bridging the divide between different types of learners.

And so, when Matan was accepted into Darim’s Boot Camp for Jewish Educators, we saw a remarkable opportunity to combine the best of what special education and technology have to offer.  We made a conscious decision to focus our time with Darim on the educators that we train, with a particular eye towards the launch of The Matan Institutes.  In so doing, we have had the unique opportunity to model the use of technology with educators looking to increase their skill set for engaging children with special needs, thereby impacting over 8,000 congregational school students across the country.  In “social media speak”, Darim and Matan went viral.

Matan modeled various techniques we learned from Darim, and we will continue to do so with future cohorts of educators.  Among the most well-received: a thumb-drive for participants containing every presentation, every handout and lists of relevant resources (in addition to printed and screen-projected documents, because every adult also learns differently from one another); the use of Poll Everywhere (never before seen by Matan’s participants and a great way to engage tweens and teens in the classroom); and tweets that highlighted the messages of our nationally-renowned speakers with a much wider online audience.

Perhaps most importantly, we have the opportunity to continue working with these educators through webinars (a skillset learned from Darim), thereby making Matan the first Jewish Special Education organization that provides ongoing support and mentoring to the educators we train.  Having the ability to move beyond “one off” professional development sessions provides Matan with the opportunity to truly change the landscape of how children with special needs are included in Jewish education.  Thank you, Covenant Foundation! Thank you, Darim!

Meredith Englander Polsky is the Director of Training and Advocacy at Matan, and, along with Orlee Krass, Matan's Director of Education, participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, which is generously funded by The Covenant Foundation.

Dipping Toes into Mobile, Thanks to Mobile Commons

At our recent Social Media Boot Camp kickoff event on Long Island, we completed evaluations through text messaging on our phones. Yes, the prevalence of smartphones (iphone, Blackberry, etc.) means that more and more is going mobile. For example, the recent success of Twitter is largely due to the fact that many users participate via their mobile device, not (or more than) their computer. Like the rise of broadband made online video possible, the rise of smartphone use is driving a whole new world of mobile connectivity, information, advocacy and action.

Mobile evaluations on an iPhone
Mobile evaluations on an iPhone

Thanks to generous support from Mobile Commons, we designed our evaluations via text message to model this, help participants experience this sort of mobile activity, and to make data collection easier for us! Mobile Commons set up a short code and keyword. When participants send the keyword to that number, they got the first question. Rate on a scale of 1-5 … type 4 and hit send. Next question pops up. And so on. And on the backend, we have a spreadsheet of data that’s easy to crunch, sort, and process.

I learned about this when NTEN did their session evaluations with Mobile Commons at their last conference. I really didn’t believe how easy it would be until I tried it.

Mobile Commons does great advocacy campaigns with their product. At our “Facebook, Twitter, Mobile, What’s Next?” session at the GA next month we’ll be learning to text-to-pledge fundraising campaigns too.

As Dru Greenwood, head of SYNERGY at UJA Federation of New York said in her closing comments, “and, I just sent my first text message!” Many heads nodded. In fact a decent handful of people had just sent their first text, including some Blackberry users!

Long Island Social Media Boot Camp Kicks Off

Social Tagging Introductions
Social Tagging Introductions

And… they’re off! Over 60 representatives from 19 congregations joined the kickoff of our first Social Media Boot Camp, for congregations on Long Island. Gathered in the UJA Federation of NY offices in Syosset, we introduced ourselves via a Jeff Pulver-style social tagging activity, and then learned about the themes and concepts of social media tools and culture.

While a focus of the program will be to help the participating congregations design and implement social media projects in their communities, the not-so-subtext of the program is about a major strategic shift from top-down service provision to bottom-up community building and education. Some congregations are already headed this way, and others are struggling to even wrap their heads around the ideas.

Because the underlying shift is about much more than starting a Facebook page or a blog, it’s critical that both staff and lay leadership participate in the process, to engage the whole organization in this learning and reflection. Teams worked on the P and O steps of a POST analysis to begin planning their projects. People – Objectives – Strategy – Technology. You can learn more about the POST process from Groundswell.

Working on project planning in teams
Working on project planning in teams

Their first assignment? LISTENING. Some resources on listening if you’d like to play along at home:
Beth Kanter’s Blog (great nonprofit social media blog)
NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) We Are Media project, Module 1: Listening
Another Beth Kanter special – second half has a useful checklist
These include many examples and links to further resources.

And thanks once again to UJA Federation of NY for supporting this program!

Hey Northern New Jersey, It’s Your Lucky Day

We won the grant, but you’re the real winners. Darim’s running a Social Media Boot Camp in your backyard, and it’s time to apply. Thanks to generous funding from a Berrie Innovation Grant, Darim will be offering a year-long intensive social media training, consulting and coaching experience to 20 lucky Jewish organizations in northern New Jersey.

Social media isn’t just about new widgets and gadgets like Twitter and Facebook. It’s about a rapidly evolving culture, and a fundamental shift in communications, community building and decision making. To succeed in the 21st century, you need to know what this is all about, and how you can align your work in this new era.

The Social Media Boot Camp will kick off with a full day intensive on December 10th, and then provide a webinar series in 2010, as well as private coaching and consulting as your organization designs and implements a social media project. We encourage you to form a team of 3-5 people (staff and lay leadership/volunteers are welcome), and think about what your goals are. We’ll help you determine what social media tools and approaches best fit your needs, and teach you how to use them.

Applications are now available online! Answer a few questions, list your team members, and throw your hat into the ring. It’s thousands of dollars worth of consulting and training, and you’re only responsible for chipping in $500 – the Berrie Innovation Grant pays for all other expenses.

Learn more about the program and sign up here.