Peter Eckstein

Peter EcksteinThe summer of 2014 saw a continuation of the shift in the culture of JEDLAB. Yes, for many it is still a virtual place for the exchange of ideas — a safe place to vision, ponder and discuss. But for many, it’s become a real launching pad for face-2-face professional development.

Over the summer there were a number of JEDLAB meetups in cities and venues around the U.S and notable, Israel. While the same ideas and concepts that are discussed in the cloud may have been the topic of these “in-real-life” encounters, what was different was the quality of the relationships formed. It made concrete the JEDLAB ethos of creating connections to enhance learning and engagement.

During August’s New-CAJE, held in Los Angeles, this idea was made more salient through a number of sessions about JEDLAB, facilitated by Yechiel Hoffman and yours truly. During these discussions, the idea of sharing for growth, the concept of collaboration and giving were elaborated upon. No less important was the phenomenon of denizens of JEDLAB who may interact online frequently, meeting each other, “in the flesh” for the first time. These earth based experiences served to strengthen the already existing (albeit internet based) connections.

Another phenomenon over the summer was how JEDLAB became a venue for discussion and planning of JEDcamps that took place in the early fall. These conferences (unconferences, as they are called) are professional development events in which the session presenters/facilitators are teachers who wish to share their knowledge and expertise. They are collegial learning events that incorporate discussions, and interaction among participants who share ideas, questions, resources and more, with others who have similar interests, or want to explore new territory. The JEDcamp idea embodies the JEDLAB idea of taking control of one’s learning, and of collaboration. It reflects the idea that learning is community and should be innovative.

And still another example of how JEDLAB left the cloud was a series of Google Hangouts, held over the summer, focusing on the question of how Israel fits into our lives as Jewish educators. These conversations grew out of an article written by David Bryfman: “Educators are Real People, Too” in which he challenged educators to find time and opportunity to truly discuss their relationship with Israel in light of the recent Gaza conflict, and how this impacts their teaching. The Google Hangouts that ensued, organized by Sarah Shapiro-Plevan and Michal Morris Kamil Camille followed on Bryfman’s call for real dialogue.

As the school year ensues, it will be interesting to see how the ideas behind JEDLAB become more concrete.