muse: n. a source of inspiration

What’s next?

The next GA (this November in New Orleans) will feature something the Federation has never done before: a Jewish Futures Conference. From the JESNA site it looks like it’s a sort of TED-like conference focused on, well, the Jewish future.

And, if you want to participate, you have the opportunity to create a 4-minute video explaining your answer to the question, As we move toward a world where learning happens anywhere and everywhere, authored by anyone, what could Jewish learning and life look like in the future?

There’s been a lot of talk about this question on the networked web – Facebook, Twitter, other bloggers. The guys behind MediaMidrash are even asking for the public’s help in creating their video so they can attend the conference.

So, of course, I had to spend some time this last week thinking about the question. And, after the amazing week I had at the JWA institute for educators, how I learn came into play as well.

Coupla thoughts:

1. It’s good they didn’t ask what will it look like? I admit to a certain negativism at times – I know that – but my first instinct would be to say what will it look like? Exactly what it looks like now. Why? Because the existing educational institutions and organizations have way too much at stake to embrace significant change. Look – my youngest is in her second year studying to be a Jewish educator in a program that’s been around for years and years, and I’m starting a MA in Jewish Professional Studies in just a week. And, to be honest, the education I’m going to be getting doesn’t look all that different than it did 30 – okay 36 – years ago when I started college.

2. Okay, Negative Nellie aside, what can it look like? Well, it shouldn’t look like the same thing for every person, that’s for sure. Have you read the PEW reports on the Millennials? Those teens and twenty-somethings who have literally grown up with a mouse in their hands? They interact with one another via the Internet, they think nothing of creating on the web, and they expect to connect with others via social networking software immediately. They don’t know from missed messages, passive acceptance of information, or Ethernet cables. They expect to be connected wirelessly everywhere they go. The Internet is in their pocket.

3. How we access information has changed. Even how we participate in the most passive activities – watching television and listening to the radio – has changed. I will admit to be completely addicted to several (perhaps more than several) television shows. The DVR has literally changed my life. I don’t mean that lightly. With a DVR I never worry about missing a show because of, well, life. I never have to choose between the newest Weeds episode or a social activity, work or a meeting. My younger daughter doesn’t even go the DVR route – she watches everything via the Internet. I don’t want to ask if that includes things for which you should be paying, but her attitude very much is that it needs to be available on her time, at her pleasure. And radio – gotta love a podcast. I’m a huge NPR fan, and with podcasts and iPhone apps I never miss a favorite show. The bottom line is we choose what information we want to get, we choose when we’re going to access it, and we choose the method.

4. Our relationships are no longer geographically driven. I collaborate just as easily with like-minded individuals in Israel as I do with those who live 15 minutes away. I do miss nuances of interaction. I miss body language, facial expressions and the immediate feedback of a real time face-to-face conversation. But, those drawbacks notwithstanding, the advantages of being able to share with people who are passionate about the things I love, no matter where they are, are tremendous.

5. Finally, I direct my own learning. I have always been an information junkie. My ex-husband used to (fondly, I think) call me the Trivia Queen. As a child I remember being frustrated because the cereal box didn’t have more interesting information on it. In my middle school years I couldn’t walk to the library and clearly remember my father driving me there every Saturday so that I could take out my 2-foot high stack of books. In my days of pre-Internet college I would go to the library, grab every book that I thought would have the information I needed and comb through them seeking “hits” and “context.” I’m still amazed that it’s all at my fingertips now. Literally – with an iPhone in my pocket there is nothing that I can’t answer, discover and mash. With the right feeds into my reader I can be exposed to the most fascinating thoughts, interesting information and mind-blowing ideas.

What can the future of Jewish learning and living look like? It can look like it looks now. It can look like an open community where Jews, regardless of movement affiliation, political views, sexual orientation, marital status or economics can learn together — where existing institutions will let go of their territorial baggage and work together (yeah, right – I swear all I’m drinking is coffee this morning). Or perhaps it won’t look like anything at all – it will be an invisible, individual-driven experience…


August 10, 2010 - Posted by | Thinking | ,

1 Comment »

  1. So what does your video look like?

    Comment by Harlene Appelman | August 18, 2010 | Reply

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