Sunday, December 30, 2012

The World's Innaugural Jedcamp

Today was historic as the world's first Jedcamp took place on a beautiful South Florida 'winter' day, graciously hosted by the Scheck Hillel Community School. 

What is a Jedcamp?  As it says on the website  "In the spirit of edcamp, a JEDcamp is an informal opportunity for Jewish Educators to gather and discuss what they do and how to do it better."
Simply put- It's an 'unconference.' 

Let's wind it back. Well over a year ago Seth Dimbert (@MisterD) wanted to bring the Edcamp concept to the Jewish education arena and call it Jedcamp. He and I (@RabbiWex) mulled it over and decided the only way to do it was, well to simply do it. Seth picked a date, created a Jedcamp website, and with the help of colleagues we used Twitter (and specifically the #Jedchat hashtag) to help spread the word. We also started tweeting the hashtag "#Jedcamp."

We sat down to discuss expectations and what would be considered success for our first Jedcamp. We decided if 5 or 6 educators came together for a few conversations on education that would be a success. 

Fast forward a few months later 40 educators representing nearly 20 different Jewish education institutions and schools across South Florida registered and attended the entire 4 hour Jedcamp. Even more impressive- many educators came during their own Winter Breaks! 

Here's how it all unfolded:

Jedcamp kicked off at 10am with registration, donning the traditional 'name badge' and meeting and greeting. Seth then briefly presented a few slides including the Jedcamp schedule. (You can view Seth's presentation here.) 

Opening Brief Keynote Explaining What An 'Unconference' Is.

Two main points: 

1-The success of Jedcamp would be proportional to the extent of the active participation from the participants. 

2- Participants needed to 'vote with their feet.' Meaning if a particular conversation wasn't appealing or stopped being appealing midway to a particular educator, that educator was encouraged to simply get up and transition to a different conversation. (There are no hard feelings at an 'unconference!')

Next participants wrote down topics they were interested in discussing. Topics were organized on a white board with different sessions, time slots and rooms. 

Educators decided what they wanted to discuss.

Then the 'unconference' commenced. Educators got up and went to a conversation they were interested in. The conversations themselves unfolded in many different ways. During one session educators discussed what a 21st Judaic studies curriculum should look like. 

 A Conversation on 21st Century Curriculum During Session #1

The conversation itself took many different twists and turns with input given by many of the educators (kudos Yossi Kahan for helping guide the conversation). Concurrently a different session took place with educators discussing education technology tools. One of the educators (kudos Peter Eckstein) enhanced the discussion by presenting different web 2.0 tools he uses. 

 Concurrent Conversations During Session #1

Also going on was a conversation about how to more actively involve teens in Hebrew School programming with different engaging projects. 

Still other educators realized they were meeting each other for the first time in person after being part of each other's PLN on Twitter for the last 2 years and decided to group together to discuss everything education.  Professional relationships were being created and authentic, deep learning was taking place. Was a sight to see and one could truly tune in and listen to the symphony of everything education in the air. Actually the first sessions' conversations went over by a healthy 10 minutes because the participants didn't want to stop the conversations. (That should tell you something!)

The second round of conversations were equally engaging with educators staying in sessions or migrating to conversations more appealing to them.

After the first 2 sessions (or about 8 different conversations) educators came together for lunch (many thanks yous to Scheck Hillel Community School and Subway for sponsoring the flavorful coffee and delicious lunch!) and schmoozing followed by the last sessions of the unconference. Time flew and by 2pm all participants came together as prizes were raffled off and Jedcamp certificate of attendance were distributed. At that point educators were already following each other on Twitter and discussing the days happenings.

Certificate of Participation Created by Seth Dimbert

It really was an epic event. Keep in mind that Jedcamp is not sponsored. Jedcamp is not something that educators 'have to do.' It is not about technology- though that could be a topic if educators so deemed. 

The Jedcamp model works because educators who attend have no ulterior motives other than the fact that they are passionate about education and want to see our schools and institutions continue to improve so our student can grow up to be quality Jewish people, strong Jewish leaders and active contributors to improve and enhance our society and world at large. Educators came because educators wanted to come.

And so there is no doubt this is the first of many Jedcamps to arise all over North America and hopefully the world. 

As Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Sages) says "One need not complete the work however one is not absolved from abstaining!"

Check out Seth's blog post on this historic event here.


  1. What an amazing idea! Kudos to you all for arranging and executing. When do we get one in the tri-state area?

    1. Thank you Tikvah! It takes a few edu-leaders behind the scenes to think through the date, PR pieces and 'day of' logistics. The rest spreads organically!

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