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Columbia University – New Media In Jewish Studies Collaborative

September 5th, 2012

“People of the Graphic Novel,” courtesy of Citizen Film.
The Collaborative discussed how Youtube can help present archival sources within a historical context, while inspiring students to learn and share.

Today’s university students are “digital natives” – individuals that are naturally drawn to online, visual, and multimedia material, with an understanding of the value of producing content that can be shared. Yet, Jewish Studies programs are behind the trend in adopting New Media education methodologies.

Columbia University’s New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative (NMJSC) will cultivate a network of educators to bring tools of new media and digital storytelling into their teaching, student assignments and scholarship. Launched in August 2012 with a $250,000 Foundation grant, the first cohort of ten Jewish Studies professors from U.S. universities already has begun learning about the most compelling New Media Jewish learning experiences. The Collaborative will provide stipends for them to participate in intensive one-on-one training; build a professional learning network (PLN) through in-person and virtual convenings; and disseminate materials and share best practices.

The Jim Joseph Foundation recognizes the need to invest in opportunities that train and support Jewish educators to use new media tools. Columbia University is a natural partner, as its Center for New Media in Teaching and Learning (CNMTL) – which explores how new media “shapes, transforms, and reconfigures” communication, teaching, and learning – will be a key asset for the Collaborative.

Led by Professor Jeremy Dauber, director of Columbia’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, and Sam Ball, an acclaimed documentarian and head of Citizen Film, NMJSC will provide the cohort with new media strategies and effective tools of engagement. Dauber and Bell will coordinate specialized training by Citizen Film and CNMTL staff and help each professor develop a workplan to integrate at least three new media assignments into Jewish Studies courses.

“Academic and scholarly institutions have, over the last few years, amassed enormous – and growing – digital archives,” says Dauber. “But how do we use them? And how do we teach students to work with them, present them, analyze them? Learning, and teaching, those techniques of study, pedagogy, presentation – it’s a big task, but a vital one to prepare for the study and research of the next generation.”

A study of Jewish college students found that half of them have taken at least one Jewish Studies course. With 250,000 Jewish students enrolled in universities, NMJSC projects that 2,000 students will directly benefit from the incorporation of New Media into Jewish Studies courses, along with thousands more through viral projects. The Collaborative will prepare professors to engage these young Jewish adults in new and innovative methods, and will further advance the field of Jewish education.

The New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative was developed by Dauber and Ball in collaboration with the Jim Joseph Foundation, building on an ignition grant awarded by the Covenant Foundation to Citizen Film.

Read more about Program Officer Renee Rubin Ross’ experiences at the New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative.