What’s Up on JEDLAB

Peter Eckstein

Peter EcksteinOne of the themes that has guided many of the conversations in the JEDLAB Facebook group (now, in the middle of February, numbering over 2600 members) is how to take the rich conversations that take place in the cloud and apply them to real life.

In the last month or so, we have seen an accelerated phenomenon of “meet-ups” – in which JEDLABers gather in some location to talk about topics ranging from “what JEDLAB can do for me” to sessions that focus on exploring how the B’nai Mitzvah ritual impacts Jewish education (recently held in Los Angeles); meet-ups with authors (in Boston with Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators and another with Frank Moss, author of The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices). At the just concluded RAVSAK day school conference and at the Jewish Educators Assembly (conservative movement) Conference – both in January, JEDLABers got together to talk shop and to meet one another in real life, in some cases for the first time.

Future meet-ups are being planned for New York, the Mid-Atlantic area and there is talk about trying to get something organized in South Florida. These gatherings are being planned with the idea that not only will the conversation be about JEDLAB, but will serve a greater purpose – face to face professional development, along the lines of the events that took place in Boston and in L.A.

This past month also saw conversations about the relevancy of MOOCS in Jewish life: Do “Massive Open Online Courses” have a place in our work of engaging Jewish learners? What can we learn from this new experiment in education? What do Courseria and Stanford have to teach us? There were those who counseled that the success of MOOCS is not certain, given their notorious non-completion rates. Other contributors pointed out that MOOCS are still experimental and it is too early to pass any judgment on their efficacy.

An intriguing (and fun) discussion was a crowdsourced vision of what the Jewish educational future might took like in 2040. Answers ranged from forecasting an increased emphasis on Hebrew language to current trends being perpetuated (though what that meant was questioned) to the tongue in cheek: Chabad opening up a branch on Mars.

Folks also began to debate the recently announced “Prime Minister’s Initiative” (You can read more about it here). Do we, as Jewish educators mostly in North America, welcome Israeli government involvement in our education programs?  Views ranged from welcoming this development – Israel is central to what it means to be Jewish, so it makes sense that there be a partnership;  to downright hostility, with some interlocutors questioning how the Israeli government can become involved in American Jewish life when it doesn’t recognize non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel. It proved to be a very spirited conversation.

If you want to become part of the conversations that take place on JEDLAB, both in the cloud, and on earth, go here.