I recently attended a JEDLAB meet-up with former MIT MediaLab director Frank Moss. A major take away for me was the strategic importance of making our institutions the place where the important conversations are taking place. According to Moss, when the Internet was starting to blow up in the mid-1990s, everyone turned to the MediaLab because they were already exploring the opportunities and challenges of ubiquitous digital connectivity that the Internet would unleash. When your institution is able to frame the questions and explore interesting answers to the issues that matter to people, everyone wants to be part of your conversation. If we in Jewish education assumed that role today, we could become a ‘beacon of innovation,’ offering ideas about how to live a life in this new world we live in.
The MediaLab is a remarkable place, and when I’m not envious that I didn’t get a chance to be a student there, I am impressed and appreciative of their contributions. The computer programming language Scratch, a descendant of Logo (remember programming the turtle to move across the screen in the 80s?) , has been a key element of the technology program at my school – as featured in the New York Times!
Here are some other takeaways from the meeting with Moss:
- Framing the questions is just as important as getting the right answers.
- Fail, fail, fail – but then learn from that failure.
- Teach kids to take risks with learning.
- Empathy is the most important thing we can teach kids.
- Teachers are key to implementing innovation in a school.
- How could Jewish world attract enough funding to allow room for creativity AND failure?
This April, a small group of Jewish educators came together to read The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives, and imagine what MediaLab concepts would like like in Jewish education. Since then JEDLAB has expanded into a network of over 1700 educators, lay leaders, communal professionals and others ‘passionate about redesigning the Jewish education ecosystem.’ JEDLAB has been featured in The Forward and e-JewishPhilanthropy.com.
The MediaLab/JEDLAB ethos is a powerful source of inspiration for me. I look forward to keep learning and collaborating with this unique network.