These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Torah Study on an iPad? Yes? No? Absolutely!

Posted on April 1, 2014 by Cara Abrams-Simonton

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From my blog:

carsimAs a Master of Jewish Education student I have been introduced to many educational theories, developmental psychology and pedagogical practices. In addition to all these areas we also focus on the place of 21st century learning in today’s educational world, which of course includes the discussion of technology’s role in education. Currently I am enrolled in a class called Technology and the Jewish Day School. Our learning is largely oriented around the 6 Cs identified as 21st century learning outcomes: Connectivity – Communication – Collaboration – Creative Expression – Critical Thinking – Customization. Although there are also other aspects of 21st century learning, including skills that ensure students are prepared to work in the global job market, for me these six areas reflect the main rethinking necessary for truly integrating technology into education. A perfect example of this rethinking is how we use technology in a way that is not just a bells and whistles addition but rather a comprehensive ecological change in the school culture- how do we integrate the use of an iPad or SMART Board to provide our students with opportunities to engage with and develop these different learning outcomes? These may seem like simple examples, but they are not. This kind of conversation is really about how do we challenge the assumed and accepted ways we “do school” and open up to innovating education, to breaking down the brick walls of the school and to connecting with the global, connected and largely online world.

This revolutionary change must happen in Jewish education as well. Therefore when my professor asked me to reflect on the question, “Should our students be allowed to study Torah on an iPad?” I felt comfortable and confident to say, “Absolutely, yes, 100% yes!” Because I believe that we must allow for widespread systematic change with regards to technology, I feel that this must include the study of Torah. If we are really discussing revolutionary change then I believe there is no danger of disrespecting or dishonoring our sacred texts. I also believe that relevance and authenticity are essential when it comes to teaching young Jewish American students to love and engage with Torah study. How can we allow for relevance and authenticity if we restrict our students from engaging with the 6 Cs listed above when it comes to Torah learning? Some may argue that to study Torah on an iPad is unacceptable, that bringing our holy texts to the mundane technological world which includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sends the wrong message. I cannot tell these people that their beliefs are not valid nor can I make them rethink the way they engage with Torah study, but these people are not my future students. My future students have grown up in this 21st century culture and will continue to engage with technology regardless of what happens in their classroom. Although I feel a part of the whole, the multi-generational Jewish people, I feel more committed to the next generation, to my future students. I am passionate about engaging my students in an honest, integrated and exciting Jewish life, which like it or not, includes Torah study on an iPad. I welcome comments.