Bubbling up in JEDLAB

Peter Eckstein

Peter EcksteinIf the conversations found on JEDLAB, that Facebook based community of close to 2000 Jewsh educators, technologists and futurists, can be characterized in one word, I’d use effervescent. New ideas and concepts are always bubbling up. Someone will make a comment, and what may burst forth is an intense flurry of thought provoking discussions. Sometimes these exchanges last for an hour or two, sometimes for a week, and at times they never end. They all, however, have the potential of impacting the way we teach and think about Judaism and Israel.

A very extensive exchange took place about the findings of the Pew Research study. Many people felt that the findings revealed nothing new. Others said that while the information wasn’t surprising, what was important was that now there is data backing up many educators “gut feelings”. Folks like Jonathan Woocher commented that the survey results indicated not that American Judaism is in crises, but that we have new opportunities to engage unaffiliated Jews. The question is what we learn from the trends and data.

Following on the PEW discussions, the topic of teaching Israel came up, turning into one of the most intense set of conversations held in JEDLAB. The initial question focused on how Israel is taught in our schools. Is critique of Israel and it’s government policies permissible in an educational setting? How should the different views of Zionism (as well as non and anti-Zionism) be presented? Most folks seemed to support the idea of a pluralistic approach, but then the conversation moved into an unexpected and important area. One JEDLABer proclaimed that she “isn’t sure that the modern State of Israel is an important part of my Jewish identity”. Suffice it to say that this lead to a very spirited and civil conversation about Jewish identity, Israel and Diaspora. Many participants reveled that they too struggle with how to present Israel to their students in light of the conflict and the debates over what it means to be a Jew in 21st century America. Everyone (mostly) agreed with the idea that Israel is central but how central, or the way this can be presented in the classroom was (and still is) up for debate. What’s important about this series of discussions is that it illustrates the complexity that characterizes American Judaism’s relationship with Israel, as was born out in the Pew Study results.

A new web based video animation tool called “moovly” was introduced to JEDLAB through a post in the goup. It went viral. Found at moovly.com, it is an application that allows the user to create RSA-Animate-like videos and other types of multimedia presentations. Once a group of JEDLABers got their virtual hands on it, the fun began. The participants began to experiment with moovly, sharing their creations, on Facebook in the discussion thread. This groups of experimenters have taken the step of creating a Google + community (called the JEDLAB Test Kitchen) devoted to experimenting with web 2.0 tools in a Jewish context, sharing their work with one another.

The cohort of online educators are about to have their second webinar, featuring the use of Twitter in the classroom, moderated by Tikva Wiener. Click to find out more about this JEDLAB event.

There are many layers to JEDLAB. It is fun, interesting, sometimes frustrating, but always informative and at times transformative. To join the conversations, go here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jdsmedialab/