I’m sure many of you have been hearing the buzz around the Mercava Project which promotes an innovative app that will take the future of Jewish Education by storm. Of course, we can all claim that all education is changing and evolving along with 21st century living and innovation. Jewish education as we know it today is changing partly because of technology and the other part due to affordability. More and more schools are moving toward mobile learning in the classroom as a way to take advantage of a new wave of electronic devices that offer portability and ease of use on a budget. Mercava is just one of thousands (closer to hundreds of thousands) of examples of using technology to enhance traditional learning methods and assisting students with critical thinking opportunities that they are already engaged in. Many apps and online programs attempt to improve the student learning experience in the classroom in various different subject and core curriculum areas. It’s really great to see that more Judaic tools are being created to add to the educators toolbox but it might be far from any tool to claim to be the key to education. But that’s OK. Once again, anyone can claim to be the best!
Over the past few weeks, administrators, parents and board members in our school community have been sharing the links to the Mercava project video through email and social networking sites (free PR!). I get tons of emails asking me to “Check this out!” or “We need to contact them immediately!” Board members and parents have shared with me how they know some of the educators and Rabbaim in the video from their days living in the the NY area. They see this shiny new tool and think about how innovative our school could be (just like a NY school!) if we used that tool in our classrooms! Don’t get me wrong, I love to see our school community excited about something relating to technology (job security!) So I feel bad breaking their spirits down and crushing their excitement. I gently tell them that I appreciate their excitement in technology and innovation and that I will take their inquiry into consideration but ultimately, it’s not the tools that will create innovation in the classroom, but the teachers and students “on the frontline” - in the classroom. Any innovative program needs support from all parties involved from the administration of the school right down to the students in the classroom. The creativity, communication, connections and information sharing that happens in the classroom are the most innovative “tools” that can elevate our students learning experience.
Ultimately, successful school-wide change will not occur without strong resources and support from a variety of sources. While few technology innovations could be implemented without considerable financial resources; money alone will not ensure successful implementation. Changing an entire school requires hard work by all involved. Changing a school also requires that teachers and administrators support each other and share a vision for the future of the school. Mercava, Sefaria, Artscroll and other Judaic apps as well as the actual technology, mobile devices, online blended learning models, are amazing facets of innovative Jewish education. However, they are not the ultimate answers. It is the school culture, trained teachers, administrative support, parental support and motivated students as well as the clear mission of all school members that is the future of Jewish education.