Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Big Bang - Adventures in Cyberspace

The universe is expanding.  That’s the core of the Big Bang Theory. As the cosmos gets older, everything in it moves apart.  Not to delve too much into such esoterica like Hubbles Law, I need to affirm - אני מאמין - I'm a believer.  In the last week I experienced something akin to this phenomenon in my own universe. Let’s call it the Virtual Big Bang.

Last Wednesday I participated in the first #jedchat., organized by  Dov Emerson, Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt and Rabbi Meir Wexler. What was special about this was its synchronicity. Dozens of Jewish educators from around the globe simultaneously came together on twitter to build a new professional learning network.  This  real-time inaugural conversation focused mostly on introductions and general brainstorming about how to use twitter to grow this nascent PLN.  Suggestions for the topic of this Wednesday’s (November 2nd at 9:00 PM eastern time) were thrown out.  We are all anxiously awaiting the result of the online poll that will ultimately determine what we’ll tweet about.

Then, earlier this week I took part in a Google+Hangout, initiated by Miram Brosseau, focusing on the bridge that is being constructed between technology and experiential education.  If you haven’t yet experienced a G+Hangout, you should.  All it requires is a Google+ account, a quick and painless browser plug-in download, a webcam and yalla…you’re in.  Video conferencing is old news, I know, but what G+ seems to have done is created a free and seamless environment for folks (up to 10 at one time, according to Google!) to come together to explore and learn together. What was exciting about this hangout experience was that it expanded my PLN that has, up to this point been, in a large way twitter based. Now, these tweeting encounters are being enhanced by virtual f2f encounters that deepen the educational experience. And it’s always fun to see the face and hear the voice behind the tweet.

We’re in the midst of a process of learning and development.  As we all know, technology has the tendency of not working at the most inopportune time. At a hangout I facilitated last week we found ourselves gazing at each other while using the phone - one of our participants had microphone issues.  But you know, that’s okay.  Let’s call it growing pains.

For the past few years there has been a lively discussion about the nature of community in the 21st century.  What does it mean to be part of a group of people who may never physically meet?  What are the ramifications of non-f2f encounters that take place in the cloud?  Paradoxically, as social networks evolve and expand, (like galaxies moving through space), we individuals are drawing closer. The technology that expands our worlds is becoming the very tool that brings us together.



  1. I thank you, Peter, for encouraging me to dive into Google +. Having engaged in a few "hangouts", let's imagine what else Google + can do: 1. bring together families on an ongoing basis to share their stories and history, enabling family reunions without limits; 2. learning and coaching sessions for families that want to get together to enhance their Jewish journeys across boundaries. Let's imagine more.

  2. Can you imagine a virtual minyan, using the Google+ 10 to bring together a prayer community? Not too farfetched, I know. The technology can bring us beyond a learning/teaching tool to an actual spiritual experience. Right?