In June, during our Administrators Retreat, we spent a lot of time talking about 21st Century Learning. The bottom line is that today students are exposed to a lot more information and technological advances and the skills that are currently needed are not the same as in the past. If you don’t believe me I suggest reading “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. Today our students need to be creative (not necessarily artistic), need to collaborate, and need to be able to problem solve. Learning needs to be more inquiry based and more student driven than teacher driven.
The question is how does this fit into a Judaic Studies classroom where the focus has always been on very basic skills of reading and translating. How can students get more involved if they are missing basic skills? Therefore, we need to strike a balance and to be honest, I am not 100% sure what that balance entails. We have begun the process of integrating technology and updated learning strategies into our classrooms and we plan to progress further each year as newer possibilities are open to us. As we continue to incorporate these components into our Judaic studies program, we must avoid the natural reaction to rebuff change because the end result will be detrimental to our students.
How do we deal with this issue of the future vs. our sacred traditions of the past? While in New York I bought a book by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth. The title of the book is “Jonathan Sacks from Optimism to Hope; A collection of BBC Thoughts of the Day.” In one of the essays he writes the following: “Ours is a very future-oriented religion. We’re not afraid of new technologies precisely because they allow us to fulfill, in ways undreamt by our ancestors…and to become, in that lovely Jewish phrase, ‘G-D’s partners in the work of creation’. …The biggest mistake we could possibly make in the 21st Century is to believe that by embracing the future means jettisoning the past. .. Those most at home in the wisdom of the past can best face the future without fear.”
It is clear that we can’t nor should we do away with the past nor does it mean that we can ignore the future and new technologies. My hope is that this year we find that balance and we can instill not only the wisdom of the past into our students but embrace the future as well.
Enjoy the rest of the summer
Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt