Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You Call This Working in Jewish Education?

Let's forget for a moment about the current unemployment rate. Most of us in Jewish education are still working, sometimes even happy with our careers. But what counts as working looks, well, odd in comparison to what working looked like back in the day.

It used to be, not that long ago, that if your computer showed interactions between people, cool graphics and sound, it meant you were "wasting time" on video games and subject to dismissal. Today's work, on the other hand, is immersed in interaction and multimedia, and includes time on social networking platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Second Life.


Coffee or lunch with a colleague or friend was usually considered your "lunch break" or "coffee break". Today, it IS the work.

For my father, work was producing and selling corned beef sandwiches. The task was clear, outcomes unmistakable, the product also clear. there were no communities of practice for guys working in delis. Today, communities of practice, learning communities, critical colleagues groups and similar groupings are available for just about any profession you can name.

There are other shifts as well. Daniel Pink has written about the shift from an information society to one based on creativity and emotional intelligence. For years, beginning in the tech industries, work hours and conditions began to look different. Nine to Five is the name of an oldies song, a play and a movie, not a description of work hours in large numbers of workplaces.


The shift is not merely to creativity however. It is also towards relationships and networking as a means of managing information. According to Lyman & Varian's 2003 study from University of California, new knowledge was doubling every three years! Nobody can know everything about education (or about anything else). But, if you are serious about social networking -- in the real world or using social networking sites -- you can, through your connections, exponentially increase the amount of information available to you to guide your practice in just about any field.

Working in Jewish education, the shift has been huge. To its credit, the field, driven by creative thinkers, is experimenting with new models of teaching and of learning for professional learning and for the work of educating students. Accompanying the collapse of a number of time-honored organizations are new patterns of learning that bring practitioners together in powerful ways that look less like the annual local and national conferences of days past. They are taking shape as professional learning communities, webinars, communities of practice, and Facebook groups.

The work of Jewish education looks different. How does it look to you?