By Jon Mitzmacher
So…it’s been a while.
A certain pause seemed perfectly appropriate. When last we spoke, I was tying up (or at least naming) the loose ends of an independent Schechter Day School Network winding down in preparation for the launch of Prizmah. (At that time, you may remember her best as our old friend “NewOrg”.) The time between then and now has flown by in a blur of activity. The list of tasks and projects necessary to bring Prizmah from launch to stratosphere continues to ebb, flow, morph and grow. To even be where we currently stand strikes me as a bit miraculous, even if I have firsthand experience of the heroic work it took.
The larger story of Prizmah is not mine to tell (alone). Neither is the smaller story of Schechter schools, although I maintain a passionate interest. Our CEO, Paul Bernstein, speaks for Prizmah using his unique voice. Our School Advocate for Schechter Schools, Chaya Friedmann, speaks with Schechter schools (and all our schools) with her unique voice. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a story to tell…
I hoped to have a meaningful role to play in realizing the promise of Prizmah when joining my former colleagues in a leap of faith from our prior organizations. Having been part of the collective who drafted Prizmah’s first business plan, I had a general sense of what might be and how I might be of service. And I was wrong.
Innovation is bringing an idea, practice, or object perceived as new to an individual, a team, an organization, or community in order to meet important learning needs (Rogers, 2003).
Paul’s vision for Prizmah is not only to meet the needs of the here and now, but to prepare for the what may be. It should be noted that meeting the needs of the here and now for a diverse field of Jewish day schools is in and of itself requires extraordinary talent, resources, programs, conferences, networked learning, etc., etc. It rightfully occupies the bulk of what Prizmah does day to day. But the ability to learn and to inspire others to learn is part of how innovative organizations thrive. That’s why Prizmah was created with a Department of Innovation. My story continues as its first leader.
Prizmah believes in the power of innovation to transform teaching and learning in Jewish day schools. We know that many of you are currently investing in innovative practices and many more are considering how innovation can impact your students, families, schools and communities. Prizmah is committed to the work of fueling the research and design work that will secure the future as well as sharing and amplifying the extraordinary work Jewish schools are doing at present. Prizmah’s Innovation Department was created to be a hothouse, a clearinghouse, a laboratory and an R(research)&D(design) engine.
We shave three overarching goals for Prizmah’s Innovation Department:
- To identify, showcase, share, leverage innovation that already exists within Jewish day schools.
- To identify, showcase, share, leverage innovation that exists in the larger world of education and in the innovation sector and bring it to the field of Jewish day school education.
- To help Prizmah function as – and model – an innovative organization.
We have developed a philosophical model for understanding our work based on the classic innovation process. Highlights include:
- Prizmah’s Innovation Department building its capacity to be an engine for R&D for Prizmah.
- Prizmah’s Innovation Department developing a method to help Jewish day schools build their capacity to be an engine for R&D for their schools.
- Prizmah’s Innovation Department performing R&D for Jewish day schools.
- Prizmah developing unique products to pilot, implement, scale, etc., in Jewish day schools. [edJEWcon (blogfolios) is one such product.]
- Prizmah playing a catalyzing role to pilot, implement, scale, etc., products developed outside Prizmah that are of interest to Jewish day schools. Examples could include Makers Space, Robotics, multiage classrooms, etc.
What are we starting with?
Well sure we have some ideas of our own, which include…
- Thought Leadership (my column in HaYidion, edJEWcon’s social media, etc.)
- edJEWcon (check out our work with the amazing Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School)
- Networked Learning (think about joining Prizmah’s Reshet Innovation)
- Conference (visit the Prizmah 17 Playground)
… but we exist to serve schools, not to create programs.
So how are we really going to do it?
We’re going to ask you.
Yesterday we sent a survey to all Prizmah heads of school to begin the conversation … let this blog post officially declare that the office is open.
This article was originally posted on the Prizmah Blog; reposted with the author’s permission.