Technology and Jewish Education: A Revolution in the Making

Published: 
Fall, 2010

Source: Jewish Educational Leadership. Fall 2010 (9:1) pages 4-9

 

In this article, the authors explore the broad implications of the impact of the technology revolution on Jewish education. It is adapted from the “core narrative” that is part of JESNA’s special website devoted to technology and Jewish education.

 

In the paper, the authors explore the potential of technology for Jewish education, but also address concerns raised by the adapting of technology:

They write:

"Technology opens up new possibilities and directions for Jewish learning and teaching. It empowers contemporary learners in unprecedented ways. It greatly increases the potential for connection and communication. It expands the settings and media in and through which learning can take place. These represent a boon for Jewish education, promoting wider access, more engaging learning, and broader networks of conversation.

 

But technology is not an unmitigated blessing. The changes that technology brings to the practice of Jewish education have profound implications for its structure and culture as well. Some have argued that these changes threaten important values that have been integral to Jewish learning and teaching, in some cases for millennia. Further, by making new demands on the talents and skills of students, educators, and program organizers, technology may actually reduce the quantity and quality of learning taking place. Poorly used technology may be worse than no technology at all.

 

These concerns should not be dismissed lightly. They are worth careful consideration, not because they are likely to lead us to retreat from the expanded use of technology (if such were even possible), but because they may help us shape that use in ways that can diminish what some see as the unintended negative consequences of the embrace of technology. At least five such concerns have been articulated, each of which merits a response both in principle and in practice."

 

They conclude:

"Experts estimate that the next 50 or so years will be marked by constant and rapid change as technologies evolve and social, cultural, economic and political systems respond to these changes and to each other. We cannot, from where we stand now, predict what the world will look like in 50 years, let alone the field of Jewish education. But we can know that it will very likely look radically different than it does today.

 

For those of us interested in Jewish education, these 50 years represent two generations to work with here, just in these decades of “change”. The students of today are the parents of tomorrow, and it is only their grandchildren (if the experts are correct) who will experience a new, perhaps calmer, status quo. In the meantime, we are naïve if we think there is a clear answer just around the corner, waiting to be discovered. And we’re foolish if we think today’s status quo will continue to be successful and help us meet our communal goals. We have in the end no choice but to embrace a culture of change and the technologies that are part of it. If we do so, we can take advantage of this opportunity of rapid evolution to create a richer and more successful ecosystem of Jewish education."

Updated: Jan. 31, 2011
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