The true power of a community (or “community”, depending on how far you feel we have come) such as Jedchat is not in the ability to create one hour speed-dating-like conversations that focus around a given topic in education. Nor is it in its ability to bring together educators from across the country, and sometimes the world, on a regular basis whereas previously we could only meet at the occasional conference.
No, for me the true power of Jedchat is when it becomes the springboard to further and more substantive communication and collaboration. For all of the wonder of twitter chats, the fact is that we communicate in that forum in mere soundbites; and while many of us have become quite skilled in saying a lot in 140 characters or less, there is clearly so much more we can say when given fuller forums.
I have had the privilege of taking advantage of this aspect of Jedchat twice in the past few weeks. A recent Jedchat focused on the issue of Project-Based Learning (PBL), a topic that I have recently become very interested in in my own teaching, and thus a topic that I had much to comment about during the Jedchat. I signed off of the chat feeling both exhausted from the usual breakneck pace of the chat and exhilarated from being able to have such a substantive dialogue with my colleagues about something that I was deeply involved with in my day-to-day teaching life. However, that was only the beginning.
A few days after the chat, Debby Jacoby, a wonderful educator in San Francisco and a super-avid tweep, contacted me wanting to speak in more detail about PBL. And so it was that Debby and I found time to Skype from one coast to the other to discuss the various benefits, challenges, and possibilities that are involved in PBL.
Around the same time, Dr. Moshe Krakowski of Yeshiva University got in touch. In addition to serving as a professor in YU’s Azrieli graduate school of Jewish Education, Dr. Krakowski also moderates a CoP (community of practice) of educators who hold a monthly phone conference on the topic of PBL. Dr. Krakowski asked if I would join the CoP and if I would lead the next discussion, relating my experiences and future plans with this approach to teaching. I happily agreed and this past Thursday I had the privilege of speaking with roughly ten educators from across the country in a very spirited dialogue about PBL.
To my mind, this is the true power of the Jedchat community – when the once-weekly “meetings” become a time to lay the ground work for future conversations. I have already had encounters with colleagues from Jedchat where our live conversations have simply picked up from where the Jedchat discussion left off, and the chance to parlay Jedchat discussions into live meetings, conferences, and skype sessions is indicative of the fact that Jedchat is becoming a significant tool in the creation of a cohesive and coherent network of Jewish educators.
(cross-posted on jewishedd.blogspot.com)