I’m sitting on a 20 seat minibus with fourteen North American Jewish educators on an unseasonably warm December day. We are accompanied by three teachers and an amazing tour guide, and we are on the road from Mount Carmel in Israel to our base, the Jim Joseph Educational Building at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Rachel Meytin, a new friend and the Vice President of the Panim Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values/BBYO turns to me and asks if I will serve as guest speaker on an upcoming service learning conference call. All she had to do was share the proposed title and I was in! For a guy who directs the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England, an overnight camping program for children and young adults with special needs, this was a dream come true. I would get to speak to BBYO professionals across the country on the topic of “Integrating and Partnering with Students With Special Needs!” We opened our laptops, confirm the dates, and start generating ideas (which we share by email, thanks to Israeli wireless Pelephone technology!)
I am most appreciative to Rachel for the opportunity to share my talk and Power Point slides with her colleagues from LA, Austin, St. Louis, and DC. Where else could a Ramah director and BBYO professionals share information and best practices?
Thanks to the Jim Joseph Foundation Fellows-Leading Educators Online Program, the fourteen of us in the first cohort are working with the staff of the Lookstein Center at Bar Ilan University and with experts from around the world as we learn to develop and lead online collaborative communities in our professional fields. Our group of fourteen Jewish educators come from formal (e.g. supplementary, congregational, and day schools) and informal Jewish education settings (e.g. camps, youth groups, Jewish Community Centers and early childhood programs, we come from eleven states (California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia), and we represent every imaginable movement in the American Jewish community. And we are loving the excitement of sharing and beginning to collaborate with colleagues from “across the aisles” of the Jewish world.
We have discussed ways to use Wikis in afternoon schools, blogs in early childhood centers and Animoto and Make Beliefs Comix in community day schools. We schedule meetings on Meeting Wizard and chat on Oovoo. We regularly Tweet during our conferences and lectures. We have experienced the frenzy of collaborating on a Tu B’shvat on an admittedly early version of Google Wave. We’ve even had fun sharing fun facts about ourselves using worlde.net!
And this is the tip of the iceberg. We firmly believe that it is time for Jewish educators from all parts of the Jewish World to share technology, best practices, ideas, thoughts and support. The fourteen of us and our teachers have decided to create a blog. After a pretty crazy “naming contest,” we have all agreed that our blog should be called, “Davar Acher: On the Other Hand.” In that spirit, we invite you to join us—read our blog, share your ideas, thoughts and perspectives, and consider being a guest writer! Beruchim HaBa’im and Welcome to Davar Acher!