There’s a lot of buzz about the increasingly image-driven nature of social media. At the forefront of this discussion is the latest hot social network, Pinterest. But it’s not only this virtual pinboard. Everywhere you look, memes are being generated to better marry words and pictures, kinetic typography videos are turning letters into animations, and infographics illuminate otherwise meaningless statistics. Pictures are the most highly engaged content on Facebook. Where is all this coming from?
I’ve recently been reading a book by Dan Roam called “Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work.” It’s a fun and thoughtful read, definitely recommended. At the heart of Roam’s argument is essentially this: our brain works in details (words) and big ideas (pictures). We’re enamored with words, and we’re very good at them, but we’ve lost some connection with the picture part of our brain. Pictures are primal; they represent the earliest form of visual communication (think cave drawings). Pictures are evocative, emotional. They really are, as the saying goes, worth a thousand words.
The image trend in social media is helping us reconnect with this essential part of ourselves.
Just as importantly, pictures help us tell stories. I love graphic novels for just this reason. There’s a big difference between describing a frightening moment, or a sensual smile, or tears of joy, and literally drawing that out. While words help us understand and frame thoughts, pictures bring those thoughts to life in powerful ways.
And we need them both – words and pictures work together to give us a fuller picture of the world around us.
This is a huge opportunity for Jewish organizations. Words, pictures, and stories – this is what social media is all about…and we’ve got plenty of all three elements to share. Perhaps even more importantly, though, is the opportunity social media offers us to listen to others’ stories; their words and pictures strung together, the way they’ve framed their ideas and the things they care about. Social media gives us the structure to open up in new and meaningful ways, and there’s a wealth of things to learn.
So in the spirit of Purim, I challenge every one of us to think deeply about the pictures we use, the words we choose, and the stories we tell. Social media spaces can help us craft our own illuminated Megillah, telling and celebrating the narratives of our people. It can also help us hear others’ stories, if we only listen.
Any “Sex and the City” fans out there? Me – guilty as charged. Skip down to the paragraph that begins with “in talking to” if you’d prefer to avoid the fabulousness that’s about to ensue…
The following clip does an especially great job of illustrating a point I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. (Be forewarned there is some naughty language sprinkled here and there.)
Carrie, the show’s witty protagonist, has just been broken up with by a depressingly lovable fellow writer, Berger. But she’s not so much upset about the break-up as she is bewildered at the medium through which the break-up message was conveyed: that most ubiquitous of office supplies, the Post-It. It’s clear to the stylish gaggle of ladies who lunch that the message and it’s delivery do not line up.
In talking to both individuals and groups about social media, many colleagues and I tend to stress that “it’s just a tool.” At the same time, we all know full well that social media is much more than that.
Here’s an analogy; let’s talk about food. Here in the U.S., eating is primarily done with forks and knives. Those are our tools and we don’t think too much about it. But what happens when those tools are traded out for a row of six different forks, or a pair of chopsticks, or a communal piece of flat bread? The cultural implications of the tools with which we eat are suddenly brought to the forefront.
Change the tool, and (to some extent) you change the culture. Or, similarly, to quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message.
To touch briefly back on the aforementioned saga, Carrie later goes on a rant about how a break-up should ideally be handled. She stresses that the message of ending a relationship should be delivered in a way that honors what the two people had together. Essentially, the message and the medium should match.
I’m confident everyone reading this post has had moments like this – moments in which we’ve questioned what is appropriate to share (or find out) via Facebook, or over email, or in a text. The screenshot below illustrates a very mild example.
And it’s not only due to issues of public vs. private in these spaces, but something deeper. There’s something about posting certain messages on Twitter, for instance, that feels like the digital equivalent of breaking up on a Post-It. But these media are all developing so quickly, becoming so deeply ingrained into our lives and even onto our physical selves, that’s it’s often unclear how to draw these boundaries. Or whether it is a fool’s errand to try to do so.*
How can an organization keep up and be successful in this environment? I’ll give you my thoughts on this in a follow-up post. But now, I’d love to hear yours. Have you ever had a Post-It moment? What are your impressions of the relationship between the medium and the message? What are the implications for Jewish organizations in the connected age?
*To further complicate the matter, “social media” is not some monolithic beast. The term refers to a field, a loose configuration of platforms and spaces that allow for certain kinds of interaction. Each space has developed a culture of its own. There are behavioral and conversational norms that are perfectly acceptable in one space that would seem quite odd in another. For instance, sharing pictures of your breakfast has become fairly acceptable on Facebook; doing so in LinkedIn may not go over so well. (But now I’ve gone off about food again…)
We are thrilled to announce that applications for the new Darim Online Social Media Boot Camp for Educators (2012-2013) are open! Learn more… and apply!!
- Are you a creative, curious, risk-taking educator in a Jewish educational setting?
- Do you have a really great idea for using new media / educational technology that you’ve wanted to test out?
- Do you want Darim to be your personal coach and mentor as you plan and launch your project?
- Is your organization ready to think about what it means to achieve your mission in a digital age?
- Are you interested in joining a community of like-minded educators for 9 months of intensive professional development and collaborative learning?
Darim Online is pleased to announce the opening of applications for our next cohort of Social Media Boot Camp for Educators. This program will support innovative Jewish educators in using social media effectively in their work, and assist their organizations in evolving models for success in the digital age.
The Social Media Boot Camp for Educators program is made possible through a generous grant by The Covenant Foundation.
About the Program
Darim is seeking to mentor up to 10 Jewish educational organizations, represented by 3-5 person teams, that are engaged in innovation and risk taking and which serve North American Jews. These teams will participate in a year long professional development and coaching experience to advance their work.
This Boot Camp cohort will run during the upcoming academic year, September 2012 – May 2013. Boot Camp teams are expected to commit 5-10 hours per month toward related professional development and project implementation (including webinars, coaching, and project development).
The program includes:
- Participation in our series of monthly skill-building webinars which includes Darim’s overall Learning Network for Educators (teachers, directors of education, rabbis, lay leaders, and others interested in Jewish education);
- Private coaching and consulting with Darim consultants to address strategic and tactical goals, and to help design, implement, and refine a technology-supported project. Teams from each organization will meet with a coach approximately twice a month over the academic year, with additional communications as needed;
- Connection with other members of the Social Media Boot Camp, to learn from each others’ experience and projects through an online community and webinar-based sharing;
- Representatives of your organization are welcome to attend any and all Darim Online Learning Network webinars
About the Team Driven Model
This program seeks to support educators and their organizations in creating and implementing social media projects that achieve their mission, and serve to mature the organization’s strategy and operations for success in the digital age. To achieve this goal, we believe that it is important for teams to participate in the program. Suggested team composition should include: an educator, senior staff, and lay leadership or other volunteer.
Teams will focus on a particular goal and project which may include innovations in: curricular design, professional development, parent-school engagement, or marketing and communications… just to suggest a few ideas. While the team will focus on one specific project, we expect that the experience of the Boot Camp will pay dividends in many areas of your work. We hope through this experience you will become active participants in shaping the future strategic direction of their organization.
Eligibility and Expectations
Applications are open to educators and their organizations, including but not limited to classroom teachers, education directors, rabbis, and cantors who work with North American Jews. We welcome applications from educators working within traditional institutions as well as those engaged in new models of Jewish education.
Our current cohort includes national Jewish educational organizations, congregational / complementary school programs, and a day school.
We are dedicated to your success!
We therefore emphasize that regular participation in the Boot Camp is essential to gaining maximal value out of your experience and is important to the dynamic of the overall Boot Camp community.
Please be sure you and your team are willing to commit to this program. Below are our expectations for a successful experience. We recognize that we are working across multiple time zones and schedules and we are committed to being flexible and accessible within the program’s parameters so that you can derive the most benefit from your participation possible.
- Regular attendance at our series of skill-building webinars, which include education-focused sessions and general skill building sessions. Each member of your team is expected to attend at least 7 webinars over the course of the program, two of which can be downloaded and played instead of attending live;
- Regular participation in team coaching sessions with a Darim coach (approximately twice a month);
- Dedication of at least 3-8 hours per month to develop and launch your project;
- Regular participation in the Boot Camp’s online community;
- Presentation of your work in at least one Sharefest! Webinar;
- Willingness to share and disseminate lessons learned;
- Documentation of your experience in a format that can be shared with the community (e.g., a guest blog post on JewPoint0.org or a written case study).
Upon successful participation in this program per the terms above, each team will receive a budget of up to $250 to be used toward your project, subject to approval by Darim. Each team will be required to submit receipts for such purchases (e.g., securing a domain name, a private blog, a Flip video camera or other products or licenses).
Applications for the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators can be found here and are due Sunday, April 1, 11:59pm ET. Those chosen to participate in the cohort will be announced in late May.
A copy of the application form is available here to preview. We recommend that you prepare your responses in advance and cut and paste the text into the application form, since you will be required to complete the application in one sitting (but give us a shout if you run into trouble).
The Boot Camp runs during the 2012-2013 academic year (September 2011 -May 2012).
Please note: Although the program officially kicks off Fall 2012, we recognize that some participants may wish to begin their planning earlier; we are open to providing coaching on a limited basis to participants over the summer.
February 20, 2012 – Application process open
April 1, 2011 – Applications due by 11:59pm ET
Early May 2012 – Announcement of Social Media Boot Camp for Educators cohort
June 2012 – early coaching option for Boot Campers;
September 2012– Cohort Kick-Off, regular coaching schedule and webinars begin;
May 2013 – Final Boot Camp for Educators Sharefest!: to present work to the community; cohort concludes.
Please contact us at email@example.com
The National Jewish Outreach Program tonight announced the recipients of the first “Jewish Treats: Jewish Influencer Awards” during the organization’s 18th annual dinner. I am completely honored to be named among them, and am humbled by the excellent company on the list (more on that below). The announcement was listed as part of Social Media Week (SMW12) which kicked off earlier in the day.
Finalists were selected by an expert panel of judges and evaluated based on creative and strategic use of social media to positively impact the Jewish community. “We launched @JewishTweets in March 2008 and from the outset, embraced it for the way it allows us to connect with people everywhere. It has allowed us not only to be heard, but to listen and be inspired by others every day,” said Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder and director of the National Jewish Outreach Program. “In particular, we wanted to take time to recognize some of those who are leveraging the power of social media to raise Jewish social consciousness and shine a positive light on Jewish life.”
I appreciate that this list includes so many different types of people — entrepreneurs, community organizers, educators, consultants, institutional folk and very non-institutional folk. Just goes to show you that there’s no right or wrong way to tweet – just be yourself, help others, add value, and have fun. And as Allison Fine says, “social media a contact sport, not a spectator sport.” So get in the game.
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein @RabbiYonah
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is the executive rabbi for JConnectLA, which hosts events to help young Jews “connect to something bigger”. A popular blogger, Bookstein’s writings regularly appear in The Huffington Post, Jewlicious and LA’s JewishJournal.com. He also maintains the Facebook presence for both JConnectLA and the Jewlicious Festival, a popular youth event.
Lisa Colton: @LisaColton and @DarimOnline
Lisa Colton is the founder of Darim Online, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Jewish organizations and leaders effectively leverage social media to achieve their goals, including community building, education, communication and fundraising. In the past year, Colton has presented at conferences throughout the United States, and has hosted social media webinars online.
William Daroff: @Daroff
William Daroff is the vice president for public policy and director of the Washington Office for the Jewish Federations of North America. To the Jewish online community he is @Daroff, a prolific Tweeter who offers great insights into happenings in the American Jewish community. In 2011, Daroff co-chaired the social media committee for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Global Coalition for Israel.
Chaviva Galatz: @TheChaviva
Galatz is a popular blogger, Tweeter and social media personality. She created and co-chaired the only Jewish-themed panel at the 2011 SxSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX, entitled Jewish Synergy: Social Media and the New Community. She was named to The New York Jewish Week’s prestigious “36 Under 36” list where she was credited for “Connecting with Jews, one Tweet at a time”.
Allison Josephs: @JewInTheCity
Josephs is the woman behind “Jew in the City,” a popular website and video blog that helps promote a positive perception of Orthodox Judaism to non-observant Jews and non-Jews alike. In the past year, she has been invited to speak at numerous events and was interviewed by NPR for her work.
Esther Kustanowitz: @EstherK
Known to the online community as EstherK, Kustanowitz is a respected blogger, Tweeter and nonprofit consultant. Esther has traveled the globe presenting at various conferences on topics like Jewish communal engagement, social media and innovation. She was recently named a “Jewish Engagement Superstar” by Jewcy.
The Maccabeats: @Maccabeats
The Maccabeats, the male acapella group from Yeshiva University, has captivated American Jews with its hugely viral music videos promoting Jewish holidays. Their video for the song “Candlelight” has more than 7 million views alone. In 2011, the group was invited to perform for President Barack Obama at the official White House Chanukah party. The Maccabeats recently helped raise more than $88,000 for Gift of Life through their Miracle Match campaign.
Rabbi Jason Miller: @RabbiJason
Miller is a popular blogger on a wide variety of Jewish topics including technology, pop culture, politics and Jewish law. He is published regularly in the New York Jewish Week, The Huffington Post and the Detroit Jewish News. Rabbi Miller’s video response to former presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry’s “Strong” commercial has nearly 220,000 views on YouTube and was written about in dozens of national and international publications.
Dave Weinberg: @Weinberg81
A Jewish innovator who uses social media to rally people for causes he supports, Weinberg runs Causil, which offers nonprofit consulting, conferences such as the Future of Jewish Nonprofit Summit, aimed at educating the Jewish community on social media. Dave also was invited to lead the Social Media Boot Camp at the AJOP Convention earlier this year.
Rabbi Josh Yuter: @JYuter
Rabbi Josh Yuter is not only a pulpit rabbi. He’s a popular blogger, tweeter, and podcaster (his Jewish-themed podcasts were downloaded more than 20,000 times last year.) After he launched an impressive Facebook page and Twitterfeed for his synagogue, he was chosen by the Rabbinical Council of America to teach other rabbis about social media and “Using the Web to Teach Torah” at its 2011 Annual Convention.
Over the past five years, we have had much success with our open houses and tours. The ratio of applicants that have attended our open houses and tours has been high and our focus groups have indicated that we are successful in this area. However, when we started to think about ways in which we could show off the 21st century learning skills that are emphasized in the classroom, we realized that open house could be a significant opportunity for this. In understanding the importance of balancing traditional skills with 21st century skills, we upheld the conventional format of our open house by showcasing our choir, hearing an 8th grader deliver the D’var Torah, and having our administration share information that they consider important for prospective parents to know about our school community. In recognizing that telling our parents what we thought they wanted to hear may not be the most satisfying approach to open house, we started to consider alternate ways in which we could educate our parents about our school and integrate 21st century skills. After brainstorming and sharing our insight, we decided to “flip” the open house experience. As a result, the prospective parents became the content directors, which made for a rewarding open house experience.
Upon arriving to the school, signing into our lobby, and being greeted, each parent was given an ipad. Parents were told that the ipads would be used as part of the questioning process but in the meantime, to please explore the wonderful educational apps available to the students while waiting for the open house to begin. Once we were ready to start, the parents were asked to click on the Twitter app on each of their ipads. In order to facilitate the navigation of locating the Twitter app, we made sure that the Twitter app was anchored at the bottom of the ipads so that it would show up on each screen. Prior to the open house, we created a Twitter account for each ipad with Twitter usernames like Davis Academy Guest 1. Once the parent clicked on the Twitter app, they would see that they were already logged in with their unique username and could see a message welcoming them to the open house.
Once everyone was settled in with their ipad, I proceeded to explain that we really wanted to hear what the parents wanted to know. Our hopes were that parents would feel comfortable tweeting their questions in an anonymous format throughout the open house. This would serve several purposes: 1) while parents were in classrooms hearing from teachers and students, learning about the curriculum and seeing the classrooms, they could instantly tweet their questions that would be addressed later 2) parents would feel uninhibited in seeking answers to their questions and 3) it would demonstrate the ways in which we are incorporating technology into our instruction and encouraging students to share their “voice”.
As the tweets were being received, I tagged them with descriptors enabling me to generate a Twitter cloud. An example of this is the question that was tweeted that said, “How do you meet the needs of diverse learners?”. This question was tagged as “differentiation”. After being in the classrooms, the parents returned to the media center where I displayed the Twitter cloud on a large screen. The remainder of the open house consisted of the administration, the teachers, and current Davis parents addressing questions that were raised via Twitter.
Although we have had positive feedback regarding our open houses in the past, using technology in this way generated a new level of enthusiasm and excitement. Providing the technology as a tool to encourage open communication while still allowing parents to get a strong sense of all that is offered at The Davis Academy, created an environment rich in collaboration and an environment that ensured that all questions could be addressed. We are pleased with the outcome and will continue to explore innovative tools that will enrich our open house experiences.
Drew Frank is the Lower School Principal at The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy in Atlanta Georgia, where he previously served in multiple teaching and administrative roles in both the lower and middle school. Drew is a proud member of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) cohort 5, and he has incorporated many of the constructivist and collaborative learning activities (spiritual check-ins, fishbowls, case studies, and consultancies) in to these and other school and faculty programs. You can follow Drew on Twitter @ugafrank.
Networks and network weavers are quickly becoming the hottest terms in Jewish life (and elsewhere). Deborah Fishman’s been doing a series of interviews with ‘network weavers’ on eJewishPhilanthropy, The AVI CHAI Foundation, The Schusterman Foundation, The Jim Joseph Foundation and others have been making big investments in not only developing their own network strategies, but also in help their grantees and fields of interest start to work in more networked ways.
Last night I gave one of the first ELI Talks at the North American Jewish Day School Conference (NAJDS). As I sought a “network” image for my presentation, I noticed how different the shapes of these maps can be. In a fascinating discussion with Deborah Fishman we explored different types of skills and personalities in network weaving – those who have deep connections with a modest network. Those who have tentacles that reach far and wide. Those who are nodes, connecting people to one another.
I’m going to hypothesize – I don’t have data on this, and I’d be interested to know if it exists – that different styles of network weavers (personality, skills, training, preferred tools, strategic objectives) will produce different patterns of network maps. For example, compare the structure of the following:
I hypothesize that we could codify these types in some way akin to a Myers Briggs Type Indicator evaluation to better clarify network weaver types. Further, I think that organizations, if they are able to clarify what they want from a network weaver, would have a preferred “type” of network weaver.
In our challenge to develop excellent network weavers, and encourage more organizations to effectively use them, could this sort of “type indicator” help organizations clarify what they are looking for, and help match-make employers and employees more effectively?
I wonder to what degree these types are influenced by personality, training and/or experience? Can you train or assign someone to be a type of network weaver, or are they predisposed to certain styles because of their personality?
I welcome input, research, challenges here – I’d love your help in refining these ideas.
Guest post by Rabbi Arnie Samlan
There is a great deal of buzz about the use of networks in moving the Jewish community forward. It tends to rely a great deal of some of the big name thinkers from the general world in areas such as networks, and some “first cousin” concepts and practices, such as Communities of Practice, Professional Learning Communities and the like.
Here’s something incredibly cool: the networking that took place historically, and continues to take place around Jewish wisdom has unique characteristics:
- The Sages of ancient (and modern) times communicated and innovated using many of the practices that are at the core of networks today.
- Unlike today’s networks, the Jewish networks that built a new Jewish life in the Talmudic Era and beyond, included communication between people who literally could never have spoken to one another: the network extended beyond distance and, incredibly, beyond time restrictions. Rabbis were “talking to” rabbis who were long deceased.
My teacher, the late Rabbi Selig Starr, of blessed memory, of the yeshiva in Skokie, IL, once took me aside. He said to me, “Samlan, you are a social being. The people will love you. But you need to socialize with Rabbi Akiva, Hillel, Shammai. When I go home and study, I have conversations with them.”
It took me over 30 years to understand that what he was telling me was: The rabbis and scholars who came before us are very much a part of our network, in every sense of the word.
Here’s an example of how it works, a social network representation of a page from the Babylonian Talmud. The text of Talmud Shabbat 21 a-b takes a conversation about the wicks and fuels that can be used for Shabbat lights and moves from there to a conversation about the lights used for Chanukah.
The Talmudic text begins with Rav Huna, who is right in the middle of the graphic above. He is in the middle of the Talmudic period, and lived in Sura, Babylonia. In the text, Rav Huna, the Chachamim (rabbis who lived long before his time), Rava, Rav Hisda, Rav Zeira, Rav Matna, Rav, Rav Yirmiah, “The Rabbis”, Abaye, Rabin, Rav Yochanan, Rabbah bar bar Hama all enter the conversation.
What then follows is the famous disagreement between the followers of Hillel and the followers of Shammai as to whether a pious person begins the holiday of Chanukah lighting one light and increasing to eight, or beginning with eight and decreasing to one. This leads to interaction with two later sages, Rav Yosi bar Avin and Rav Yosi ben Zevida. and to Rabbah bar bar Hama mentioning two unnamed characters, each of who backs either Hillel or Shammai. This “discussion” takes place (without benefit of phone or Internet) across great geographic distances, in Babylonia and in the land of Israel. It also occurs across several centuries.
One interesting caveat: The rationale attributed to Shammai’s opinion about the Chanukah lights brings a relationship between the holidays of Sukkot and Chanukah into play. The origins of Chanukah in the holiday of Sukkot dates back to the apocryphal books of the Maccabees. While these books are not directly quoted, Shammai (and those who explain his views) clearly have an intellectual connection to those books, which I show in the graphic.
In the diagram above, the conversation continues (and it mentioned on the Talmudic page in the margins) with later codifiers of Jewish practice – Maimonides, Rabbi Jacob and the two authors of the Shulchan Aruch code of law – entering the conversation by codifying the current practice (putting them in “direct” conversation with Hillel, who lived over a millennium before).
As Jews, we are networked. It is part of our heritage. In bringing the use of networks to build and spread ideas, what we need to do is to re-educate the Jews of today to join the networked Jewish conversation that has existed since the dawn of the Jewish people. This isn’t about taking a new idea and translating it to the Jewish world. It is about taking an ancient habit of mind, teaching it to this generation of Jews, and giving it new life.
Rabbi Arnold D. Samlan is Founder and President of Jewish Connectivity, a Jewish Life Coaching and Consulting practice. He is also a staff member of the New Center for Collaborative Leadership at The Jewish Education Project. Arnie is on Twitter @JewishConnectiv, and his blog is at the notorious r.a.v.