24 August 2007

'Wiring' Jewish teachers for technology

Carolyn Slutsky of New York's Jewish Week wrote an interesting story on Rewiring the Jewish Teacher, describing sessions at the annual conference of Jewish educators sponsored by the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE).

Although not about genealogy, the story points up online information and how Jewish teachers are struggling to relate to their very Web-savvy students.

One teacher, "a self-described 'tech evangelist'" said "Technology is a tool, not an end product. It's just a way for you to do things."

Now in its 32nd year and under new leadership, CAJE decided to address the issue of technology and education with this year’s theme, “Engaging 21st Century Jewish Learners.” Amid the myriad workshops available every hour, teachers could choose to follow a technology track throughout the conference or simply drop in on more than a dozen sessions devoted to exploring the intersection of technology and Jewish life, covering everything from what a blog or a wiki is (online sites for posting and sharing information, photographs and videos) and how to use them in the classroom, to what are the ramifications the Jewish community faces in an increasingly digital world.

Lasday said there's still technology hesitancy in older age groups. Although some attendees carried their laptops and experimented with new technology, others were wary of communication and learning possibilities, "ambivalent to approach the border to the new land of technology, and uncertain what to do once they cross it."

According to the story, people learning technology later in life have been called "digital immigrants" in comparison with early-20-something "digital natives" who have always had email, 24/7 Internet access and instant communication.

One presenter stressed that “Digital immigrants [must] try to learn the new culture. Those who don’t try are going to be pushed out.”

An Israeli attendee said there's resistance because Jews are people of the book who have always wrestled with text, while "Technology still scares a lot of people," said fellow JTA blogger/writer Esther Kustanowitz.

Personally, I "immigrated digitally" in 1995 to a computer and the Internet, and as genealogical research became more technology-oriented (software, websites, search engines and more), I followed along. In 2006, I immigrated yet again to blog world, with a different learning curve and more skills to learn.
I still speak technology with an accent, but I'm learning!


  1. Learning is really important, Schelly, and you're doing a great job of acclimating to this strange new world of technology.

  2. I keep trying ...
    The blog has certainly helped me this year, as I've been forced to learn all sorts of new technical terminology.