The future of Jewish learning
A picture from Smart Money, a study intended to help the Jewish community navigate the high-tech world. (photo by Lewis Kassel courtesy of Moishe House)
By day, Liora Brosbe is the family engagement officer for the Jewish Federation of the East Bay in Berkeley, Calif., where she reaches out to the community with a menu of opportunities for “connecting to Jewish life and each other.” But when she’s not at work, Brosbe’s main job is raising three kids, ages 2, 6 and 8. Their home? A laboratory for Jewish learning strategies.
“Yes, they’re little Petri dishes,” their mom, who is also a psychotherapist, said with a laugh. “Like most families, screen time is a huge issue at our house, both for time and content, but I tell families it’s also an amazing opportunity for low-barrier Jewish engagement.”
With the avalanche of new technologies – many of them being tapped for Jewish learning – educators, funders and parents are often befuddled about where to invest their money and their kids’ or students’ time. A recent report on the implications of the wave of educational technology and digital engagement is designed to guide the Jewish community through this complex space.
Sponsored by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the William Davidson Foundation, Smart Money: Recommendations for an Educational Technology and Digital Engagement Investment Strategy examines many of these innovations and provides suggestions for navigating the high-tech world. The study’s recommendations include using virtual and augmented reality (a user could, for example, experience the splitting of the Red Sea); creating games based on alternative scenarios for “Jewish futures,” such as rebuilding Jewish life after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple; offering opportunities for students to learn coding and other technological skills, which can foster connectedness among Jewish youths and introduce them to Israeli high-tech companies; and increasingly using video, music, podcasting and other platforms.
The report is garnering far more attention than expected, according to the sponsors.
“We did not originally intend for this to be a public report,” said Barry Finestone, president and chief executive officer of the Jim Joseph Foundation, “but the substance of the findings and recommendations really challenge us, as funders, to think strategically, creatively and collaboratively about how we can utilize educational technology and digital engagement to advance our Jewish educational missions.”
For the report, Lewis J. Bernstein and Associates interviewed 50 experts, investors and educators from both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds to create the recommendations.
“It’s a huge media marketplace out there and most Jews are exposed to the same information as the rest of the world,” said Lewis J. Bernstein, a former producer of Sesame Street and the report’s lead researcher. “Parents and educators have difficult choices to make, and Jewish learning and wisdom compete with the secular world.”
Read more at jns.org.