Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Technology transforms Jewish education

As rapidly advancing technology transforms virtually every sector of society, a diverse group of Jewish educational institutions — not generally thought of as early adapters — are increasingly turning their attention to digital tools and resources.

Whether distance learning or online gaming, Skype or Twitter, Google Earth (and a plethora of other free educational apps available at the click of a mouse) or iPads, SMART boards or Smartphones, QR codes or robotics, Jewish day schools and supplementary schools — and their funders — are struggling to sort the useful, cost-effective and engaging from the gimmicky, expensive and simply overwhelming.

Technology has headlined almost every major Jewish education gathering this year, from the North American Jewish Day School Conference (“The High Performance, High-Tech Jewish Day School of the Very Near Future”) to the Conservative movement’s Jewish Educators Assembly (“From Sinai to Cyberspace”) and Reform movement’s North American Association of Temple Educators (“Imagineering Jewish Education for the 21st Century”).

In June, both the Avi Chai Foundation, a major supporter of day schools, and PELIE, a group seeking to improve “complementary” Jewish education (better known as Hebrew school), for the first time sent delegations of teachers to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference. Avi Chai also sent 10 educators to Games For Change, a conference promoting the use of computer games in education.

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