Pew possibilities: Getting competitors to cooperate


In a recent issue, WJW challenged the community to brainstorm on solutions to the stats in the Pew Report. Here’s a suggestion:
According to the Pew report, there are roughly 1.3 million children being raised in Jewish homes. According to an Avi Chai report, only 230,000 are in Hebrew schools and only 220,000 are in day schools.
What if we succeeded in enrolling the remaining 850,000 into Hebrew school or Jewish day school? Wouldn’t that be a fabulous impact on Jewish continuity?
Today I am the CEO of ShalomLearning. But from 1993 until February 2013, I was a senior administrator at Johns Hopkins University. I worked at both the strategic and tactical levels to implement technology, enhancing learning outcomes and addressing issues of flexibility, accessibility and cost.
My experience in secular education taught me the value of a very important word: coopetition.
Coopetition — competitors can cooperate.
It’s already a proven model in secular education.
For one simple example, check out Western Governors University. Why can’t we have similar collaborations of Jewish day schools and Hebrew schools across denominations — where teachers and courses are shared and credits from different institutions are accepted by each of the coalition members? I know there are already some local examples of this, but why haven’t we broken through and scaled this to a national — if not global — level?
These types of collaborations are made easier when we effectively use technology to do a much better job of engaging and retaining students, while cutting costs and improving access.
And the best part is that we don’t need to re-invent the wheel for Jewish education. The heavy lifting has already been done. It’s up to us to benefit from the best practices in secular education and education technology.
For another example, check out a new company called LearnZillion and see what it is doing to share lesson plans and build communities of K-12 teachers.
To address issues of affordability, let’s take another step. Let’s customize massive open online course (MOOC)-style offerings together with Jewish content and share the courses across the nation in Jewish day schools (regardless of the denomination). By flipping the classroom teaching and spreading the benefit of good teachers across bigger audiences, we can work together to vastly improve access to great content, reduce costs and increase affordability.
These are not new ideas. The only thing I have done is suggest that we motivate ourselves to engage 850,000 children who aren’t in Hebrew schools or day schools. All we need to do is selectively choose from the best practices that are already well underway in secular education — and do it even better.
Sarah B. Steinberg,  Ed.D, is CEO of Bethesda-based ShalomLearning.

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