I walked into new waters this year. 6 months ago, armed with a guide, a support group, and a private pool I dipped my first toe in. We sat on the side-wall of the pool, dipped our toes, read some theory, practiced making strokes in the air, read a bit more theory and then eased into the pool – where we practiced our kicks holding on to a kickboard.
The guide encouraged each of us to let go of the wall and wade in a little deeper, and one by one we all made our way in. The bravest went first, demonstrating for the rest of us that it wasn’t so scary and, in fact, was a lot of fun.
3 months ago I wrote about it in my blog and I’ve been wading deeper in ever since. The deeper I got, the more confident I got, feeling quite proud of myself. But that pride clouded my focus and almost landed me deep in hot water.
The waters of education and technology integration can be shallow or deep, cold or hot, exciting or dangerous – and during the course of the past 9 months I’ve been experimenting with finding the right temperature and the right depth to make the experience, well… the right experience.
Metaphors and lighthearted humor aside, experimenting with technology and education and how their application can enhance and extend the Jewish education experience is something I take very seriously. These past 9 months I’ve been reading, practicing, observing, learning, teaching and wrestling with these issues because I work in Jewish education and am keenly aware that the world today has embraced technology in nearly every domain. To the extent Jewish education does not embrace technology it does so at its own peril.
We can jump into water and figure out how to flap our arms and stay afloat, don a lifejacket and remain buoyant, or take lessons and learn how to swim. My father never had a single swimming lesson, but he managed to get from one end of the pool to the other – even with a kid or two on his back. More importantly, he made sure that each of his children had swimming lessons.
The Talmud in Kiddushin 29a teaches that a parent must teach his child not only how to study Torah, but also how to swim. The pace of technology in the modern world is advancing so rapidly that if we don’t learn the skills necessary to “swim in those waters” we might drown in them.
70% of the planet is covered with water. It’s impossible to avoid water which might explain why the Talmud saw reason to place Torah study and swimming lessons side-by-side. Another reason might be that learning how to swim is essential for independence. Experimenting with EdTech integration has allowed me to feel more comfortable around technology tools and engaging with those who use them. Practicing, applying and sharing my technology ventures has helped me grow more confident and independent. Just as Talmud identifies Torah and swimming as two fundamentals, in this generation Jewish education and technology are fundamental partners.