When JESNA staff travel around the continent, the question we are asked more than any other is: “What’s happening out there that’s exciting and innovative?”
The question is indicative of two realities: First, that there is a real desire to identify new and promising ways of doing Jewish education, innovative models and creative resources that can be adapted for use elsewhere. Second, that such information is not easy to find.
The good news is that there is lots happening in Jewish education today – especially in the arena we call complementary education – that is promising and worth knowing more about. But, our vehicles for identifying these programs and resources and sharing what is useful to know about them remain quite scattershot and rudimentary.
Several years ago, JESNA sought to provide a modicum of assistance in this regard when it published its first Compendium of Alternative Models in Complementary Education. But, this was a static resource, not readily searchable or easily expandable.
The focus of this resource is on “innovation” – initially in complementary (i.e., supplementary or part-time) Jewish education, and perhaps eventually in other domains as well. What’s innovative? In large measure, we’re willing to let the field and the users of the InnovationXChange decide that. It’s probably a good subject for debate and discussion in the blog. We’re starting with a broad definition: Anyone who is reconfiguring or remixing one or more of the “commonplaces” of education – who is learning, who is teaching and how, what content is being studied, what settings and methods are being used, how the community is involved – is innovating. Hopefully, what’s “new” is also “better” in some respect (engaging more learners, providing a more satisfying learning experience, having a greater impact on learners’ lives). But, whether that is in fact the case is also part of the conversation we hope to stimulate. What innovations are working, for whom, under what circumstances? What are we learning that can lead to even more powerful new models and approaches in the future?
What we’re introducing here is a “beta” version of the InnovationXChange. It needs and we seek input from you on the content, the design, and the functionality. The initial list of programs and resources included is far from complete. Please submit and help us identify others that should be included. The tags we’ve attached to the various entries to ease in searching for specific categories of programs represent our initial judgments. Help us refine and correct them so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. If you have experience with one or more of the programs and resources, tell us about it. If you have ideas you want to share with a like-minded community, submit a blog post. Ultimately, whether the InnovationXChange sparks valuable conversations and helps build a community is up to you.
During the early weeks of the InnovationXChange’s presence on line, we’ll be posting questions about how we can improve it regularly on the site. Please take a few moments to respond to these. We’ll be making changes as we go, and we want your feedback.
So, welcome to the InnovationXChange. One of my favorite quotes comes from the science fiction writer William Gibson: “The future is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Complementary education today is alive with energy and creativity. Hopefully, together, we can take the future that is already here and distribute to every child and every family.