Technology wizard is not a name that the three women behind Mensch Modules would bestow upon themselves. Both The Women’s Jewish Learning Center and The Learning Shuk – the two organizations that came together to build Mensch Modules – have relied on others to build our websites and suggest software that will be useful for our organizations.
When the two groups came together on a project through the Darim Online Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, it was time to fumble through the intimidating process of selecting the proper piece of technology for our online project. Our mission was to create flexible, digitally friendly, do-it-yourself learning kits designed to help facilitate learning around Middot (qualities of character) and, specifically, the trait of gratitude.
Under the guidance of our mentor, Miriam Brosseau, we began to consider the seemingly endless options that lay before us. Were we going to create a website as a platform for curating content, designing context around it and package it for the self-directed study of Hakarat HaTov? Were there better methods for delivering our materials to educators and parents to use with their 3rd through 5th grade students?
We examined many possibilities, tried out a few, and, in the end, we determined that MentorMob was the best platform to deliver our Mensch Modules. We appreciated its flexibility, the ease with which we could make changes, and the ability to embed a live site or video directly into the playlist we created on MentorMob.
Selecting the right technology for a project can be daunting. We have a few suggestions we think will help:
Know your strengths. At the beginning of our project, we envisioned animated video clips to help introduce the topic of Mussar and character development to children. We quickly realized that video production was not our forte and that we would be spending too much time (and money) to put together the quality of video we wanted to provide. An examination of our strengths – individually and as a group – helped lead us to a better choice.
Know your needs. It is difficult to select the proper piece of technology if you do not know what you need it to do. It is important to consider your needs today, how your needs might change in the future, and the needs and skills of the people you are designing your project for.
Talk to others.Not only did we seek the guidance of Miriam, our treasured advisor, but we sought out other organizations and projects that we could learn from. Some of those were Jewish educational institutions but many were not. When we saw a website using a technology tool that we thought would be useful for Mensch Modules, we contacted them, asked questions, and played around on their site.
Experiment and be willing to change.Once we moved away from the desire to create videos, we explored several different pieces of technology. Often times, we would find something that seemed like it would work but after using it for a few days or weeks, we discovered that it was lacking some of the features we identified as needs. While it’s difficult to throw away “all that work”, moving on helped us find something even better. Assessing a technology platform based on a list of what it can and cannot do will not provide you with all of the information you need. It is important to get your feet wet and play with it.
Repurpose the tool. Once you are comfortable with the technology you have selected for your project, it is easier to envision additional ways you can use that piece of technology. In our experience, for example, we created the Mensch Module of Gratitude (HaKarat HaTov) on Mentor Mob and shared it with local educators who piloted the program. The Learning Shuk went on to use Mentor Mob to create curated online learning playlists on a variety of Jewish learning topics that are now being shared with parents and educators on local and national levels.
Selecting the proper piece of technology can be a daunting task – especially if you are not the most savvy of techies. We hope the guidelines above will make your process of selection a peaceful and successful experience. We invite you to share additional considerations for technology selection, software or technology platforms you use and love, or your thoughts on non-techies trying to look techie.
Lisa Pinkus is a member of the Mensch Modules team, which 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.