Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Neuroscience research shows that Big Bird was right: Praise effort, not ability

I am just lifting this wholesale from a review of the book "How we Decide" by Jonah Lehrer, appearing on Boing-Boing:

"...mistakes are critical to good decision-making, as they are our best tutors. Lehrer describes a famous study from Stanford psych research Carol Dweck, who administered easy tests to 10-year-olds, who did well on it. The control group was praised for 'being smart.' The experimental group was praised for 'trying hard.'

With only this difference, the two groups were then administered progressively harder tests. Dweck discovered that the 'smart' kids did worse: they believed their initial good result was due to some innate virtue beyond their ken or control, and feared that a failure would show that they lacked this intangible. But the 'hard-trying' group had been rewarded for taking intellectual risks, and so they continued.

Afterwards, the 'smart' kids rated the hardest tests as their least favorite; the 'tryers' rated it as their most favorite."

Read the full review, by Cory Doctorow, for more about dopamine, meta-cognition, introspection, and how having too many choices leads us to make poorer decisions.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dawn of the Chimpanzee! (Relax, folks, they're just a metaphor)

Hurray for Eli Valley, and for Makom and Ha'aretz being brave enough to post this comic onto their website, writing:

"More than its blunt critique of Israel, Israeli policy, and Israelis, the cartoon points an accusing finger at all aspects of the Jewish establishment of the United States. Eli Valley is clearly no outsider to the Jewish community. The cartoon jabs at Jewish schools, camps, Israel advocacy programs, and even pokes fun at a sociologist whose work is well-known in the Jewish world. Valley himself is a regular cartoon contributor to The Forward newspaper.

We may disagree with the cartoon's sentiment, but we cannot accuse it of ignorance."

Here's the link to the comic, Dawn of the Chimpanzee!, in its original home on Gawker, where the comments forum is surprisingly thoughtful.

Thanks to Alex Sinclair for the tip-off on this. Voonga...Voonga!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Staff Appreciation: The Value of Informal Recognition

This is from Mifgashim Volume 8 Issue 69:

As staff appreciation events are taking place or being planned, schools might find worthwhile the results from a study of office staff recognition.

The top five most appreciated forms of recognition are:
  • verbal recognition (42%)
  • cash bonuses (19%)
  • additional time off (9%)
  • training or seminars (7%)
  • cards/notes (6%)
To view a slideshow presentation of the methodology and results, see http://www.slideshare.net/stuartwingate/officearrow-recognition-research-420099.

According to the findings, informal (generally verbal) recognition is most meaningful when it is timely, spontaneous, personal, and genuine. Other kinds of informal recognition that are widely appreciated include having a boss who is open to suggestions, having flexibility in managing one's schedule, being recognized in meetings with the management, and being asked to stretch by taking on new responsibilities and special projects. These kinds of recognition let staff members know that their input is valued and their skills and abilities are trusted and respected.

The Mifgashim List is a project of The Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, The School of Education, Bar Ilan University.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Best Practices: Holocaust Memorials

In honor of Yom Ha-Shoah, this is a guest post from Leah Zimmerman, the Director of Education at Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, California and Temple Beth Israel in Pomona:

Two of the most active and distracted boys in my Kitah Zayin (7th grade) class stood together in front of a room full of their peers and their parents and presented their Holocaust Memorial. A single tree in the center of a field with a single headstone alongside it. Around the perimeter of the field was a barbwire fence. They explained the simplicity of their design and the way that it remembered all the people who had died. The moment of their presentation was quite noteworthy. But it was the fact that they had met on their own time outside of class to create this entirely of wood that totally floored me. Why hadn’t they just goofed off and blown off the assignment or the idea? Why did they take it to heart and create something genuine?

In another project, three statues surround reflective pool: a Jew, a homosexual, and a gypsy. “We made these statues colorful for a special reason. The Nazis wanted everyone to look the same (blonde hair, blue eyes, Christian, etc.) so by making them colorful we are showing that even though everyone looks different we are all equal.”

I asked the students, “What motivated you to do these projects? Why do you think you did such a great job?” The students told me that they loved the opportunity to be creative and work with art materials. When we reflected on this experience and why it had been valuable, the students told me that it gave them a chance to make the material meaningful. I too noticed that their projects demonstrated what they had each personally connected to most. For one group of students it was the stories of surviving and how hard the surivors had worked to find a way to live. For another group of students it was stories about the partisans who had fought against the Nazis despite the odds. Some students thought more about how to create symbols of memory and others about how to create something that would engage the audience and require the audience to experience and learn.

The students have told me many times that they learn more when they get to work together in groups. As they planned, designed and created their projects I could see them huddled together leaning forward towards each other listening, watching and sharing their ideas. In their small groups they talked about what was important to them, shared ideas back and forth and came to consensus about what to do. Each group did something unique and different. While some students took a stronger leadership role in the design or assembling materials, each student contributed ideas and helped to create the final product. As I watched the groups working I could see how one student sharing an idea or an insight sparked another student to share another idea. Groups of students emerged as teams as their common goal and common purpose brought them in synch with each other.

The students impressed themselves and each other with their creations. By seeing what they could create and what their friends created, they realized how much they had learned and its relevance for our community. The same is true for the parents. Majority of the students felt that sharing the projects with their parents helped them to show the parents what they learn in Hebrew school. “Because when they ask you what did you learn today, I just say “nothing.”

Having a communal moment where the students, parents and I all revel in what has been learned brings us together as a community and builds our commitment to working with each other. In creating memorials for our community, our students had created for themselves an memorable event of learning and reflecting.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Telling Jokes in Auschwitz

This comes from my friend Hal Cohen, on behalf of his friend Mikal Reich:

I am writing to all my friends for a bit of help...

Please vote for this short film about my dad, called "Telling Jokes In Auschwitz."

Please vote today. If it gets enough votes it will air on PBS this Saturday. (I think it would make my dad really happy and I don't do that a lot.)

It's behind by 200 votes right, so we need all the clicks we can get [editor's note: It is behind by more than 400 votes at the time of posting].

Here's the link...

(It's the film in the middle.)

And if you can, please post/send this link to your friends. If you have already, thank you. If you don't, don't feel guilty, but 6 million...

Thanks so much,

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's spring, and funding is in the air

Legacy Heritage Programming LLC announces two new exciting non-denominational funding opportunities for synagogues in North America seeking to (1) strengthen congregants' engagement with the State of Israel or (2) integrate music throughout congregational life:

Legacy Heritage Innovation Project: Israel Engagement supports synagogues using an integrated approach to deepening adults' and/or children's connection to the State of Israel. While Israel advocacy may be an aspect of the approach, the primary purpose to support connection with the people, culture, and history of Israel.

Legacy Heritage Innovation Project: Music supports synagogues strengthening Jewish identity through the creative use of music in multiple aspects of congregational life and in programming for different age groups.

Grants: For the next funding cycle (8/09-7/10), the Legacy Heritage Synagogue Innovation Project will award grants of up to $25,000 to selected synagogues. Grantees may be eligible to apply for additional funding of up to $25,000 per year for up to two additional years. In any given year, congregations may apply for funding only from one Legacy Heritage Innovation Project track (Congregational Education, Israel Engagement, or Music).

Proposals will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria, among others:

  • Extent to which the proposal integrates Israel or music into programming for different age groups and across multiple aspects of congregational life, e.g. Torah, avodah, gemilut hasadim. For example, preference will be given to proposals which incorporate Israel awareness or music frequently and regularly into congregational prayer, study and action. Grants are not intended to support one-time or "stand-alone" programs.
  • Degree to which the proposal is sustainable (maximally uses funds to develop capacity within congregation, training existing staff and lay leaders, targeting reusable resources, integrating approach within existing structure of congregation, etc.).
  • Extent to which "best practices" are exemplified in the proposed initiative (the possibility of the proposed program being adapted by other congregations, organizations, etc.).

Online grant applications and more detailed information may be obtained at www.legacyheritage.org, or by contacting Rabbi Marc Margolius, Project Director, at 212-578-8190 (ext. 106) or marcm@lhfl.net. The deadline for completing the online application is Monday, May 11, 2009.

The project is sponsored by Legacy Heritage Programming LLC, an affiliate of the Legacy Heritage Fund Limited.

How Spiritual are America's Jews?

The first-ever comparative national study of spirituality among American Jews and Christians demonstrates that young Jews are more spiritually inclined on every available measure than their elders. The historic large gap in spiritual orientation between Jews and others is narrowing, especially among younger adults, those 35 and under. The S3K Synagogue Studies Institute report, written by Professors Steven M. Cohen and Lawrence A. Hoffman, both of Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, draws upon a web-based national survey of 1596 Jews and 1520 respondents drawn from the general population.

This growth of spiritual receptivity among young adult Jews can be attributed to 3 factors:

  1. The growth in the number of Orthodox Jews, especially among people under 35.
  2. The parallel, and even more substantial, growth of intermarried families and Jews by choice, both signifying the growth of Jews with Christian parents, husbands and wives. These family members appear to render their Jewish relatives more open to, and comfortable with, the ideas, expressions and language of spirituality.
  3. Even non-Orthodox Jews with two Jewish parents (a shrinking population sector, albeit still a majority) are more receptive to spiritual language than older counterparts.

As ethnic ties among American Jews diminish -- with more non-Jewish parents, spouses, children, friends and neighbors -- American Judaism is becoming, in broad terms, less ethnic and more religiously and spiritually oriented.

These findings have serious implications for Jewish communal policy makers, rabbis, educators, and planners. More American Jews are expressing interest in the study and experience of spirituality. The two population segments showing especially elevated spiritual concerns are precisely the two major demographic growth sectors of the Jewish population: the Orthodox, and Jews with at least one non-Jewish nuclear family member.

As spiritually oriented American Jews grow in number, seminaries will have to educate students to show comfort with spiritual language, and help congregants with their spiritual search. Congregational rabbis, especially those serving large numbers of intermarried families or the Jewish children of the intermarried, will find greater demand and greater receptivity to spiritual language and concerns in the years to come.

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Discuss the S3K Report

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hurray for Jim Joseph!

The Lookstein Center is inviting nominations for the first cohort of Fellows for the Jim Joseph Foundation Fellowships-Leading Educators Online program.

This two year professional development experience will provide 14 select participants with leadership development, enriched Jewish learning, and in-depth training in how to build online communities of practice..

The anticipated outcomes of the program include (1) enhanced skills and capabilities of accomplished leaders in the field of Jewish education and (2) unprecedented new opportunities for communication and collaboration for hundreds of Jewish educators who will be invited to participate in new online communities of practice.

Participating Fellows will receive an annual stipend of $10,000 for each of the two years of the program, in addition to travel, room and board at the seminars and retreats. They will be currently employed in the U.S. in the field of informal and/or formal Jewish Education; have professional supervisory responsibilities; have demonstrated leadership in Jewish education and the vision the to stimulate, inspire and impact on others; have strong interpersonal skills that will enable him/her to collaborate (online) with others; be part of an organization that understands that importance in online networking and collaborative work; be comfortable working in a web 2.0 environment

Direct applications are not accepted; Fellows must be nominated. For more information and to nominate a candidate go to http://www.lookstein.org/jjff.htm (or write the program directors, Esther Feldman or Shalom Berger at jjff@lookstein.org.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

There is still some funding left for innovation in Jewish Education...

Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas is accepting applications for 2009. Bikkurim seeks innovative, NYC-based, Jewish, non-profit projects that are in early stages of formation and organizational growth. We provide free office space, free and subsidized capacity-building consulting, small stipends, and a peer community with other Jewish start-up initiatives. Bikkurim is a joint project of UJC and the Kaminer Family.

Pre-applications can be downloaded from www.bikkurim.org and are due February 11, 2009. Full applications, by invitation only, will be due April 21, 2009. Finalists will be interviewed and selected in mid-June. Residency begins in July, 2009. For more information, contact Nina Bruder at nina@bikkurim.org or 212-284-6892.

Please help spread the word!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Are we teaching "Hebrew" or "Israeli?"

Haim Watzman, on the excellent lefty blog "South Jerusalem" writes about two book reviews in Ha'aretz:,

"According to Ordan, Zuckerman is correct to claim that the language we speak today in Israel is a language distinct from than that of the Hebrew-speakers of the biblical and classical periods. The Zionist revivers of the language, beginning at the end of the 19th century, sought to reinstate a pure Hebrew based on the language of the Bible (not the rabbis!). But, since they were native speakers of Yiddish and Slavic languages, what they actually ended up doing was grafting a Hebrew vocabulary onto the grammar and syntax of their mother tongues. Therefore, Ordan views with favor Zuckerman’s claim that the language spoken in Israel today should not be called 'Hebrew' but rather 'Israeli.'

"Of course the Hebrew we speak today is not the Hebrew of the prophets. Even the Bible’s Hebrew, written over many centuries, differs from one book, even one chapter, to another. The language of the rabbis of the Second Temple and Talmudic period was quite different in its vocabulary and structure, and had absorbed much vocabulary from Aramaic, Persian and Greek. And that should be no surprise: a living language constantly metamorphoses. It accepts vocabulary, syntax, structures, and connotations from other languages while it coins new words and usages of its own. Linguistic policing that denies or seeks to prevent such change robs the language of its flexibility and relevance.

"But that does not mean that there are and should not be any rules at all. I correct my children when they say hamesh shekel (feminine plural number with singular noun) instead of hamisha shkalim (masculine number, plural noun) because they should know the rules so that they can speak standard Hebrew when that is called for. But I don’t expect them to speak that way to their friends—they’d sound like nerds if they did."