The Future is Here.
In today’s eJewishPhilanthropy, Josh Miller and Seth Linden make the case to funders that supporting Jewish online learning is worthwhile.
Miller and Linden represent the Jim Joseph Foundation, an organization “devoted exclusively to supporting Jewish education of youth and young adults in the United States.” So what’s the ḥiddush here? Wouldn’t foundations interested in supporting Jewish learning embrace online learning? Not necessarily… Like many legacy institutions, the Foundation had been leery of online learning, hesitant because of the “too many unknowns.” They were also confined by an understanding of Jewish learning that did not reflect how Jewish learners were actually learning in the 21st century.
Their 2017 report (in collaboration with the Willian Davidson Foundation) Smart Money: Recommendations for an Educational Technology and Digital Engagement Investment Strategy, reflected a process, an evolution in thinking. They continued the conversation in mid-March 2019 with The Future of Jewish Learning is Here: How Digital Media are Reshaping Jewish Education. This report is not a culmination of a much-needed process, but further evidence of how the Jim Joseph Foundation is thinking differently about Jewish learning in the 21st century.
Miller and Linden’s concluding paragraph drives the point home:
More and more, the Foundation approaches its own learning by investing in R&D to pursue innovation and to try new experiments. This approach is warranted both in traditional learning and in online learning experiences. In the limitless world of online learning, R&D is an important way to push the field forward and to bring offerings to scale. The possibilities for where, when, and how learning can happen is entirely different than a decade ago. Let’s explore these new opportunities together, as a field, so that anyone can engage in Jewish learning – wherever, whenever, and in whatever way is meaningful and conformable for them. The future is here.
From the funder’s perspective, ADRABA may seem like an experiment, “research and development” into a more robust and sustainable Jewish learning ecosystem in Toronto.
However, unlike online learning, blended learning as a teaching practice has been around since the 1960s. With the advent of the 56K modem, blended learning became a practical option for even more learners. Since the 1990s, with the spread of high-speed internet, blended learning is almost universally accessible. ADRABA’s “blended Jewish” may be a new take on an old idea, but it’s anything but experimental. There are few unknowns in blended learning. The ever-increasing volumes of research on the practice demonstrate that. Businesses and universities are increasingly committing to blended learning. High schools and middle schools are next!
As Miller and Linden concluded: The future is here.
The challenge for funders is: Are you ready to embrace it?