Press Releases

March 15th, 2017

New Report Highlights Ways Educational Technology Can Advance Jewish Education through Digital Engagement

Jim Joseph and William Davidson Foundations Commissioned Study To Understand the Landscape and How Best To Approach Possible Investment

San Francisco, CA -- A new report from the Jim Joseph Foundation and William Davidson Foundation highlights the vast opportunities for more effective, innovative, and accessible Jewish learning experiences facilitated by educational technology and digital engagement. Smart Money: Recommendations for an Educational Technology and Digital Engagement Investment Strategy, commissioned by the foundations and produced by Lewis J. Bernstein and Associates, offers both a clear set of investment strategies for the foundations to consider and a rich and provocative analysis of technology efforts in the general and Jewish education arenas. The report will be featured in a session at the upcoming Jewish Funders Network conference in Atlanta.

“We started this process a year ago with our partners at the William Davidson Foundation and we had an open mind and a recognition that there is much in this space we do not know,” says Barry Finestone, President and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation. “In fact, we did not originally intend for this to be a public report. But the substance of the findings and recommendations are inspiring and really challenge us, as funders, to think strategically, creatively, and collaboratively about how we can utilize educational technology and digital engagement to advance our Jewish educational missions. We have a responsibility to share this with all who care about Jewish life and learning.”

Lewis J. Bernstein and Associates, whose consultants have decades of experience at the highest levels in educational media and technology and philanthropic practice, interviewed more than 50 experts, investors, and educators from the Jewish and secular worlds to help compile their recommendations for the foundations and the landscape analysis of relevant technology tools and trends.

Smart Money urges the Foundations not only to support and convene Jewish innovators who are already actively developing technology tools to foster Jewish learning, but also to take a proactive role in catalyzing new activity through partnering with secular nonprofits and businesses, commissioning new products, and investing in talent and ideas through accelerators, fellowships and professional development offerings. The recommendations also emphasize the importance of first identifying specific educational needs and problems that could be uniquely solved by technological solutions. This strategy will ensure that investments stay focused on the most pressing communal needs.

Among numerous examples of opportunities, the report cites:

  • The potential of virtual and augmented reality—a user could “do the impossible,” for example experiencing the splitting of the Red Sea, the days of creation or receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai;
  • The gamification of Jewish futures, such as gamification of a Jewish historical event like re-settlement and rebuilding Jewish life after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple;
  • Creating opportunities for students to learn and practice coding and other new tech skills, which can be the focal points of technology hackathons, can help build Jewish community among youth, can be avenues for relationships with Israeli tech companies and mentors, and can empower teens to engage in Jewish life just as they do in other areas of life; and
  • Increased and more sophisticated use of video, music, podcasts and other platforms to tell great narratives and make Jewishlearning more relevant and more interactive for today’s youth.

“Digital technologies, in all its forms, are tools with powerful potential to  engage Jews in learning our rich narratives and legacy, in building community, and in going beyond our own communities to implement our tradition in activism and practice to improve the world we all share,”says Lewis J. Bernstein, who led the research efforts. “The Foundations' challenge is to play matchmaker, matching tools, young people and professionals, with projects to experiment with. This report provides guidelines and a menu to begin to do that."

Along with highlighting considerations to pursue, Smart Money also notes the numerous Jewish organizations that either specialize in or utilize educational technology and digital engagement effectively, including Sefaria, Reboot, BimBam, Kveller, The Shoah Foundation, Let it Ripple, and many others.

“Clearly there is already much for others to build on,” says Darin McKeever, Chief Program and Strategy Officer at the William Davidson Foundation. “It’s imperative that we understand the breadth and depth of the field today in order to chart a course for the future of Jewish education that engages future generations.”

In addition to the session at JFN 2017, the foundations also are coordinating with Jewish Funders Network on the release of a series of white papers responding to key topics addressed in the report. This is part of a broader set of resources that JFN will house and continually update online to keep pace with the quickly developing field.

“Educational technology is evolving incredibly rapidly,” says Andrés Spokoiny, President & CEO of JFN. “With that kind of change and complexity, funders need to work together to understand the possibilities of the field. We’re grateful to the Jim Joseph Foundation and William Davidson Foundation for their partnership in advancing the Jewish philanthropic world’s ability to make an impact with EdTech tools and approaches.”

 

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The Jim Joseph Foundation invests in promising Jewish education grant initiatives. We partner with effective organizations that seek to inspire young people to discover the joy of living vibrant Jewish lives.