Building Jewish Identity Through Engaging Video: A Developer's Perspective

July 25, 2017
BimBam (formerly G-dcast) is a Jewish media studio. Our creative team has worked on over 300 short videos and apps, and we have big league experience from Apple, Pixar, the New York Times, etc. Usually, people find us through our work—they don’t ask us too many creative questions beyond, “Can I do a part in a video?” That’s because they or their kids already love the programs, and it’s easy to see our track record. Our Judaism 101 and early childhood education videos have clear and easily shared metrics—high viewership numbers, great audience retention curves and accurate aim at the demographics we’re targeting. What we do get asked routinely is, “Since this is media, how can you know that you’re really having an impact? What proof do you have that video can build Jewish identity or literacy?”
Great questions. What I want to offer is a perspective that we’ve found to be true: well-designed Jewish media programs that are informed by best practices from secular educational media are as effective as their peers. PBS Kids shows (e.g., Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Peg + Cat, Sid the Science Guy), Sesame Workshop programs, and Reading Rainbow have been studied for decades by leading researchers using sample sets comprised of thousands of children and their parents. Interactive educational programs  in the app marketplaces are, to some extent, being put under the lens while in development or afterwards…
Given substantial communal buy-in, I recommend going bigger: establishing a center for Jewish media research staffed with Ph.D. media and learning science researchers who are trained to do this sort of work and dedicated to it, full time. This would show serious intent to invest in effective, high quality media work by the funder community, and would up the game of all of us media producers substantially by having partners for evaluation. 

Such an investment might be a pipe dream. No matter: I believe that we have the research that we need from existing educational media companies. The community of funders should hold Jewish media producers accountable to these studies—and show their fluency in them—rather than asking for original research. Playtesting, and viewer testing, are serious endeavors and cannot be thrown together in the “free time” of scrappy small studios or independent artists. 

When you work with a well-versed studio or artist, you will find that they are familiar with this research and can tell you, without hesitation, that it builds Jewish identity and interest in practices—from baking challah to singing brachot to trying out bikur cholim. At BimBam we have evidence that our programs and apps have produced these effects—but we also went into the work confident, because we followed research best practices.

Read the entire post at Jewish Funders Network
Updated: Jul. 27, 2017