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.
HAS IT? How would our teens answer?
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)