Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stepping Through the Door Together - Now's the Time

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!”  I feel like the white rabbit.  You know, rushing hither and yon, trying to figure out how to get where I need to go without being too distracted by all the tweets, network posts, and blogs I follow; not to mention the old technologies like the printed word and emails. There is so much information available to us.  If I miss a day of twitter, I feel it’s a catastrophe.

I’m not a technical neophyte.  I sort of know what’s going on.  Can you imagine being someone who has never tweeted, doesn’t know what a wiki is, thinks a glog is a type of fruit, and is trying to just stay afloat in this ever changing new world, let alone explore the Jewish educational cloud?  There are so many resources and new technologies that appear daily.  It’s easy to be intimidated.  There are probably fantastic teachers in the front lines who are so afraid of trying to figure this stuff out that they retreat into their old tried but true habits, becoming increasingly irrelevant in the classroom.  I know that there are folks who left both the JEA and NATE conferences with a sense of despair at not knowing how to proceed. Those who were unable to attend either conference are even more lost.  I believe that the time has come for us to help our teachers, especially those working in congregational/supplemental schools, break out of their shells to find a new comfort level in tomorrow.

We can lower the level of stress associated with learning new edtech skills by creating an accessible portal through which our teachers will learn to use the tools they need to move forward.  We are all searching for scrapes of knowledge wherever we can find them.  There’s too much out there that’s spread all over the place. We no longer have the one conference a year where we all came together to learn.  Now's the time to get organized again!

This is what I propose:  Let's create a new trans-denominational platform for Jewish educators of all flavors to gather virtually or, if practical and affordable, f2f  to explore the possibilities that tomorrow presents.  This collaborative cloud-based venue would be a forum that would promote dialogue, teaching and learning. It would be a consortium of all professional development providers that would “push” the opportunities to learn to us all.  I’m talking one-stop-shopping - a mall for Jewish education. It would be one venue that would offer educators and knowledge seekers ALL the opportunities and resources to enhance the field of Jewish education:  A 21st century virtual Pumbadita, if you will - an on-line center for Jewish learning that would be comprehensive, all inclusive and easy to access.

This idea will be made real as a result of cooperation and collaboration between all Jewish education service providers, both those affiliated with a movement, like NATE and the JEA, as well as others like JESNA and PELIE. We all need to work together.  We need to move forward now.

I’ve started to have conversations about this vision with individuals affiliated with different groups and organizations. People are interested in seeing this come to fruition. I believe it is now the appropriate moment to widen the circle and have an expanded group of those who care about the future of Jewish education come together and brainstorm how to make a new Jewish Professional Learning Network happen.  Dr. Jonathan Woocher, the Chief Ideas Officer and Director of  the Lippman Kanfer Institute, has indicated that he is happy to host such a web meeting.

This is a concrete call to action. If you are interested in joining in the conversation and taking part in a virtual brainstorming session, email me, Peter Eckstein at

If not now, when?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Swimming to 31°47'N, 35°12'E - A Shabbat Homework Assignment

Howard Schwartz is a storyteller, a folklorist, a scholar, and a poet. He's collected many Jewish stories, my favorites being found in Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, Elijah's Violin & Other Jewish Fairy Tales  and Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism.

He has a new collection of poems out: Breathing in the Dark. This is a sample (which is also posted on the publisher's website cited above. You can buy the book there.)  I love it because I feel like I am always on a quest. I'm also searching  for my Jerusalem.  I thought I'd share this as a Shabbat gift to you all.

It's also a Shabbat homework assignment. Where is your Jerusalem?  Can you always find it at 31°47'N, 35°12'E?  Shabbat Shalom.

The first time
I went on a quest
for forbidden fruit.

The second time
I built an ark
and tried to get there by sea.

The third time
I came in search of my ancestor,

If the sun was hidden
I let the stars
guide me.

If the tablets were broken
I carved
new ones.

In the future
my bones
will roll to that city.

Last night
I dreamed
I was swimming there.