The program goals are to:
- Identify, direct and empower Fellows to develop and lead online collaborative communities in their professional fields.
- Provide leading edge professional development to outstanding Jewish educators from formal (e.g. supplementary, congregational, and day schools) and informal Jewish education settings (e.g. camps, youth groups, community centers).
- Advance new ways of learning and working together to bring about qualitative changes in the way Jewish educators work with others as they learn.
- Guide Jewish education to the forefront of 21st century education.
This is the early stage of what promises to be an amazing journey into the Next Level. I will share as often as seems relevant. In the right hand column of this Blog I have added a section called Next Level 2.0. It is a list of Web 2.0 applications that might help all of us take Jewish Learning and our own professional growth to the next level. Most of the apps listed were suggested by the fellows, and we all thank Barry Gruber for compiling the first iteration of the list. The current version (as of this posting - it will grow) reflects that first compilation and places I have learned about this week in California.
I tried twitter a few months ago, noodling around trying to see what it might do. Yesterday, Esther Feldman from the Lookstein Center told us all to sign up and log in. Many already had been tweeting. My previous impression (and I said as much) of Twitter was that it was a slick way of having People Magazine open all the time. I remember Kevin Spacey Tweeting on the air while he was on Letterman. Ridiculous.
Then we all began tweeting among ourselves. During presentations. It seems a bit like passing notes. Rude even. But the content of the tweets actually enhanced the conversation once we got used to it. We were tweeting our thoughts while listening. Not everyone got a chance to speek aloud, but we all had an opportunity to express ourselves to one another about what was happening. And we were creating a record of the learning at the same time. I had twitter live on the left side of my screen and Word on the right for note taking.
We went a little viral. Lisa Colton of Darim Online follows the tweets of one of the fellows. So she began to follow our conversation. (You can do that because we were attaching a hashtag that identifies the conversation thread!) She began to comment with us and share the conversation with those who follow her. At the moment that is 561 people.
Ellen Dietrick, one of the fellows, is the director of the Synagogue Early Childhood Program at Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is way ahead of the curve on all of this stuff. She has put a netbook in every classroom. Her teachers take some time everyday to post a very brief (4 -5 sentence) update about the happenings in their room and a photo (they digital cameras, too) to the schools Blog on Blogger.
Only those who are invited may see the blog (sorry, I do not issue the invites) to protect the privacy of the children and their families. But the parents (and grandparents who might live far away) can get a glimpse into their child's day and even ask their children better questions than "what did you learn/do in school today?" They can ask about the art project or the challah they baked! Every class posts each day. Wow.
And Twitter? Forget about it! Teachers will hand Ellen a note at random points in the day. A tweet can only be 140 characters, so it is very short. It says something specific about something wonderful that just happened. Ellen tweets it from a Twitter account that only the parents can follow (security again!). They might have their twitter feed tied to their phone or Blackberry. It might appear in a window on their iGoogle desktop or as an e-mail. The point is that they will get a nudge and a note moments after the event. I haven't spoken to any of the parents in Charlottesville, but I bet they love it! Did I mention she does school registration and sign ups for activities online using Google Docs? And that's only some of the work of one of the fellows.
So I have totally changed my mind about twitter. I don't think anyone wants to hear what I am ordering for lunch. Bit it is a pretty cool way to have a brief conversation, share a resource or create a backchannel for making meaning of something we are experiencing.
My twitter name is @IraJWise. What's yours?