The dust is settling after the January JEA and NATE conferences. Synagogue educators of all stripes and flavors are returning to our old haunts: Congregations and real life. A taste of what is possible still remains in our mouths, though. We need to ask: How do we keep the spirit that we felt in Mt. Laurel and Seattle, alive? How do we move forward? What’s next?
Now is the time for us to translate what we started to learn last month into our everyday routines. What this means, IMHO, is that we need to work harder to create our own Professional Learning Network (PLN). We have learned that we don’t have to be in the same room/city/state/continent to learn from each other. We have learned the real strength of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Now we need to take the next step and get involved in these networks, learning from each other and building something brand new.
The laboratory that was NATE or JEA was great: A controlled environment where the best of the brave new world could be displayed in all its cyber glory, pointing a way to what could be. But we all know that when we’re on our own in our offices back home, life has the annoying habit of happening: Distracting us with emergent issues like the kid and her mom who goes to soccer practice instead of the B’nai Mitzvah family program; the teacher who can’t get it together enough to turn in a legible lesson plan, let alone any; the board member who doesn’t understand why religious school teachers should be paid a reasonable wage. We all face these issues daily. We must not let them get in the way of our moving forward to build a vibrant edifice that IS the Jewish future. We can’t let the mundane get in the way of the sacred: L’mavdil ben kodesh l’hol.
Let it be proclaimed through all the lands and Second Life: The tools we need to learn how to construct tomorrow’s educational systems are available in the cloud, from teachers and thinkers at #jed21, from networks, sites and blogs like the Jewish Education Change Network, YU2.0, Welcome to the Next Level, The jewish-education Daily and many many more. They are a mere mouse click away.
Yes, these resources are there to teach us, but what we need to do is to organize, to work together, regardless of affiliation or movement. This is my Unified Field Theory for Jewish Education: One “place” where we can all “meet” and discuss and build. Rather than the disparate links that can become overwhelming to us and especially to those who didn’t attend either conference, we should create a clearinghouse that will enable us to learn from each other. We don’t have time in our ridiculously busy days to follow every tweet or blog. I know how traumatic missing 12 hours of tweets can be. We congregational/supplemental/complimentary school educators need to (If I may mangle my friend and colleague Ira Wise’s blog title) get to the Next Level and create one forum that will be OUR Professional Learning Network, irrespective of denomination or movement.
I’m ready to work on this experiment. Anyone want to join me?
And if not now, when?