In this day and age, even the poorest and smallest of public and private schools seems to have, at a minimum, one computer in a classroom. Many schools are well beyond that minimal level. While some of the technology is paid for out of regular budgetary funds, very often I notice that parent organizations, community funds, or charitable foundations have enabled the acquisition of classroom computers.
So I have little understanding of why the typical synagogue religious school doesn’t have all its classrooms at least at a basic level of one computer per classroom. Where are the parents and community foundations to support such an effort?
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there is merit to the argument that places where we teach Judaism need not be, and, in point of fact ought to be, by deliberate choice, different environments from those in which students learn their secular subjects. It’s good to be a little counter-cultural.
However, ultimately, this is an unrealistic fantasy. The very nature of technology is changing the way people learn in fundamental ways. Parts of the technology are becoming integral to the process. So as we try to rationalize or argue ourselves out of the need for technology in the supplemental Jewish religious school, we move further away from the changing learning modalities of our students. Our tried and true methods have evolved over the centuries. They must keep evolving-we must not let nostalgia cloud our judgment.
It’s not a black and white issue. There’s no "slippery slope" of which we must be wary. The technology has the potential for being good and beneficial, and also for being dangerous and detrimental. which way it goes is in our hands. Technology is a tool, and we must be in the driver’s seat, if we are to use it effectively. It is not too difficult to understand. It is not up in heaven that we should send someone there to get it for us and impart it to us. Nor is it across the sea that we should send someone to get it for us and impart it to us. What it isn’t, quite yet, is in our hearts and souls-and, to some degree, I hope it never fully is. Yet we must take it to heart and find ways to embrace it, co-opt it, use it in service to Judaism.
I’ve been doing that in my schools and classrooms as much as I can for well over a decade. Even today, it still often requires me to bring my own equipment to make it happen. I know that I’ve been spent a lot of time at the very front of the wave of technology, so I realize my perspective can be skewed. Yet as I look around in my life, I see most aspects of life and society are rapidly catching up with the early adopters and techno-nerds. I see it almost everywhere. My greatest disappointment is where I don’t see it catching up-in supplemental Jewish education. If not now, when?