Shalom Berger is the Director of E-Communities at The Lookstein Center for Jewish Education at Bar-Ilan University. He founded and currently coordinates the Lookjed listserv, creating conversation amongst thousands of educators around the world about current issues in Jewish education.
What prompted you to start in the world of networks, and what did you do?
Since 1999, the Lookjed list has been serving the needs of educators around the world. It currently has 3500 subscribers, 20% of which are active participants (posting at minimum one time per year). In addition to sharing brief ideas on the listserv, there is also the ability to upload materials on an associated website.
A network could be a lot of things, but in this particular setting, it allows people around the world to converse. It connects educators so that we’re no longer limited to asking the teacher down the hall, “Do you have ideas as to how to teach this?” What is especially fascinating is the way it allows Jews throughout the Diaspora to interact with each other. Someone in Australia can send a question, and they will get responses from throughout the world.
What are the benefits of being part of the Lookjed network?
What is your role in Lookjed as its network-weaver?
On a technical level, everything comes through my computer screen before goes out to subscribers. But I don’t only record the responses and put it into a format that makes it easy to read; I also play a behind-the-scenes role in making sure the questions are the kind that will be answered. For instance, I might tell someone that their question is too general, and that they need to dig down more specifically to get answers. I might also say: that’s a good question, and I know people who work in that area, so I will forward it to them directly.
In terms of the infrastructure, what functionality would you like to add in the future?
The power of social media tools is that if an individual finds something interesting, they have the opportunity to spread it to a large group of people. I would be interested in something that allows people to share interesting ideas with specific other individuals. I also would like faculty to work together and create material together. Technology makes this possible – the limit is only people’s time.
In running a listserv, how do you deal with today’s issue of information overload?
Did you have formal training as a network-weaver?
The Lookjed listserv archives appear here. To learn more or to subscribe, please contact Shalom at shalom -@- lookstein.org.