Schechter Develops New Curriculum Blending Technology and Hebrew

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Like many schools, Gross Schechter has an expressed goal of ensuring that our students learn effective, proficient and fluent use of technology. We all know that developing and honing this skill is a necessary part of a 21st-century, outstanding education, and, yet, there is sometimes a barrier of fear.

It is not uncommon for parents to fear a loss of innocence through technology; the world wide web is, in fact, a big unknown world. It isn’t unreasonable for us to worry what our children might find if allowed to search the internet unsupervised. So too, teachers are afraid that technology will take over the class and will not be used to enhance instruction, but in place of instruction. And we find that children, our students, are always eager to jump in but are not fully cognizant of the consequences of their actions. They can confront online bullying, the ease of plagiarizing and the consequences of a permanent digital footprint.

Just as we teach our students how to use other assistive devices, we must also teach them how to use the internet properly. We cannot simply plop them in front of the device and hope that our values have translated. We must teach them דרך ארץ קדמה לטכנולוגיה - Derech Eretz Kadma L’Technologia, to think about manners and respect before using this technological tool. We must also remind them of their אחריות - Achriut, responsibility when using the resources at hand. The internet is a powerful tool that we should use for good.

This past summer, Schechter teachers, Hadassah Hoff and Cheryl Stone, spent two weeks at Hebrew University in Jerusalem envisioning and creating a unique program for our students and parents based on these principles. Through a series of mini-lessons, our students will come to understand that Jewish values speak to responsible media usage. By learning Biblical and midrashic texts and ספורי חז’ל - Seporai Chazal Stories from our Sages, connected with Derech Eretz, דרך ארץ Achriut, אחריות and Shelimut, שלמות, our students will become more skilled media users and consumers. The lessons are based on the Common Sense Media curriculum, but are deepened by building upon Jewish values and texts.

Over the course of this year, middle school students have been learning technology literacy skills in the following five areas: Digital Life 101, Engaging in Healthy Dialogue, Scams and Schemes, Cyberbullying, and Plagiarism all through the lens of Jewish texts and values. Case studies and scenarios facilitate learning, which is measured by assessments in each area. By the end of the year, students will be able to see technology through the eyes of דרך ארץ קדמה לטכנולגיה. They will understand best practices for conducting themselves in the digital arena and will have a fuller toolbox to engage in the technological world.

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