Talking Tech With Jewish Teens

By now, I think most educators have figured out that technology is not something that can be isolated from educational endeavors, but should be integral to them.

"Technology has exceeded our humanity"

You’d think.  But the reality is that we’re not all there yet, and some educational settings are debating whether or not to offer  WiFi.

The tech toys and glorious gadgets are here to stay whether we figure out ways to incorporate them or not.  So, it’s not so much that we can incorporate technology into our work as Jewish educators and parents, but that we can help teens mediate the content they choose, use, and how it reflects their values, when they’re in our settings or not. 

We also need to connect Judaism to their tech experiences.

This doesn’t even strike me as a new concept, but I haven’t found an overwhelming amount of resources that will help us do this.

Teens have easily claimed ownership of technology ever since they programmed their first iphone, downloaded thousands of songs, figured out what apps are best, and searched for their favorite videos on YouTube.

They are prosumers, creating content and leaving little social media footprints everywhere they go.  The individual choices for developing and viewing content is staggering.

We’re relieved when bullying and facebook nightmares are not part of their lives, but they are experiencing the world in entirely different ways mostly on their own, in a one-on-one with a tech gadget.

Could we engage them in a discussion of how they assess content? What values do they bring to bear on their choices? What role does Judaism have in this? Do they know? Care? We know that Jewish law says something about almost everything.

I might be missing something, but when I poked around some movement websites to search “social media responsa” what came up were articles about how to use social media (to fundraise, generate interest, create storylines) not to help others mediate it. If there are such resources, please point me in the right direction.

If Judaism is not relevant to this part of their lives, where they “live” for so many hours in a day, we’ve already lost. Do our students know there are apps for the Siddur? Bible? Talmud? Might they be more likely to experience text in this way? What worlds can we open for them that they wouldn’t search for on their own?

For hundreds of years, practicing Judaism meant mediating ‘content’ within a larger society. Encouraging our teens to do that helps them understand what it means to be Jewish in our world today.

We can then ask ourselves whether or not we agree with the Einstein quote pictured above–but with a twist: Will technology compromise our connection to Judaism?

                                                                                                                                                                     (Photo credit: Toban Black)

About these ads

About Ruth Schapira

I am a Jewish Educator of teens, interested in changing paradigms of Jewish high school education, incorporating strategic and creative initiatives and collaboration with like-minded organizations. Interested in creating new educational opportunities for Jewish teens using best practices and networking tools. View all posts by Ruth Schapira

2 responses to “Talking Tech With Jewish Teens

  • Ruth Schapira

    Lisa, I appreciate your perspective on this issue. We are just not keeping up with the many challenges our teens, their parents and teachers are facing. I agree, the opportunity is here for us, and we can all contribute to this effort…it will take “a village” of commitment (and resources) but this should be a priority.

  • Lisa Colton

    Ruth, thank you for writing this! I think it is a huge opportunity to connect Jewish values and reflection with something that is so core to the lives of teens (and younger) today. I also think that today’s parents are experiencing something very new — they have no model of how to parent their online kids. When should kids get a cell phone? What should we monitor, and how? I also find that while educators may have this same idea, they do not feel confident enough in their own knowledge of the tools to lead the students. I am eager to see something developed in this space, and perhaps a toolkit for educators who aren’t terribly technically confident to STILL be able to guide teens through this reflection and connection. There’s so much opportunity here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: