Director's View | Article
Reflections and Questions
The Days of Awe have been a time to reflect. As The Covenant Foundation reaches its 20th year of supporting excellence and innovation in Jewish education, here are some reflections on its work, mission and impact, and the world in which it exists.
Reflection # 1
“Digital media can be a positive disruptive force within educational programs and institutions, moving us from an (outdated) notion of education in which educators only attempt to teach youth facts, to an emerging definition of learning in which facilitators support youth to find the facts on their own, properly evaluate their credibility, and move beyond mere facts to understand systemsand procedures.
“So, if digital media is being used within a classroom, what do we want to use it to disrupt? For example, might we expand the amount of time learning activities that can be engaged, support interest-driven learning, challenge age-segregated education, etc.? The question becomes what level of disruption can a classroom support?” ... Barry Joseph, director of the Online Leadership Program, Global Kids.
From its very first grants, The Covenant Foundation has believed in and supported the digital arena as a portal, tool and connective force in the world of education.
Reflection # 2
- “...the creature that sips among many flowers may come up with something....One holds to the sense that just sipping broadly enough, from enough flowers, strange and fruitful pollination will arise.” -MacArthur Fellow Brad Leithauser, In Conversation,
March 4, 1988, Amherst College
The Foundation is investing in the first-ever Jewish Futures Conference, to be held at the 2010 General Assembly in New Orleans on Nov. 8th. The conference is based on the same model of the Foundation’s annual conclave for grantee project directors, where participants meet, network, share ideas, and learn from one another. It is this connect-and-develop strategy that the Foundation believes will foster a network of practitioner activists improving Jewish education.
The goal is to inspire, challenge and energize professionals, educators, and forward-looking thinkers making an impact on the Jewish future to be agents of change within Jewish educationand our greater community. For more information: www.jewishfutures.net.
Reflection # 3
According to Christopher Lawrence, curator of the TED conferences, we are living at a time ofcrowd accelerated innovation, and he thinks it's about to ignite the biggest learning cycle in human history.
A contributing factor is online video that it is allowing the world's talents to be shared digitally. The reason it's happening is a twofold hit: revelation + motivation.
Revelation: for the first time, people can see what the very best people across the globe are capable of, and a world of possibilities opens up.
Motivation: if you can do something innovative and special, thousands of people view your workand give voice to your idea. And it's driving thousands of hours of effort from potential innovators across the globe.
To sample the power of this medium, view some of the Foundation’s archived videos atwww.covenantfn.org.
Reflection # 4
Role models and excellence exist across denominations and settings, from classrooms in day schools and afternoon schools, summer camps and adult education venues, to performing art centers, museums and the outdoors.
Believing that Jewish education is a positive force in changing times, the Foundation’s Covenant Award recipients have had a can-do attitude and a tenacious determination to bring new ideas, new solutions, and new energy to Jewish learning and living. They are situated on the cutting edge of Jewish communal life, and are passionate practitioner activists who do not accept the status quo.
Their actions have shown that they are ready to take risks to push back boundaries, and boldly seek out and experiment with new possibilities.
Reflection # 5
“Today’s world is amoebic, biological, organic. It’s less about the perfect solution than about constant discovery,” says Tamara Ingram, group executive vice president at Grey Group.
So what role can a foundation play and how can it nurture the field of Jewish education?
The Covenant Foundation’s open grants application process supports this theory of constant discovery. It allows for innovative programs in Jewish education in North America, in its broadest definition: from supplementary schools, day schools, summer camps, and Hillels, to itinerant educators traveling to underserved populations, camps for families with autistic children, andarts productions that touch the souls and minds of students of all ages.
It also stands by the idea that there is value in small and locally focused innovation alongside large and sweeping initiatives. Everyone has a chance to dream.
Harlene Winnick Appelman