Technology today pervades every facet of life, from the refrigerator to the cell phone. In order, then, to prepare our students for well-integrated lives in the modern world, we must provide them with the psychosocial and emotional vocabulary and awareness to value, build and sustain healthy relationships; the technological skills to choose and use tools responsibly and effectively; and the Torah and Mussar (Jewish tools for self-development) skills to guide and shape their lives in accordance with their Jewish principles. We have developed an expanded, multi-year, cross-departmental curriculum based upon the most up-to-date research and most classical of Torah ethics, that reaches into every part of our educational process, teaching students directly and also via continuing education for staff and parents.
Objectives: To equip students with a safe and supportive environment in which to develop the internal resources, relationship skills and technological know-how to be healthy, responsible and productive participants in modern society.
- What we’ve done
- What we’ve learned
- How we’ve adapted our teaching in light of what we’ve learned
In 2016, staff representing administration, parent liaison, General Studies and Torah Studies met to evaluate the efficacy of our digital citizenship education. At that time, the curriculum consisted of weekly classes for parents, yearly in-service for staff, classroom discussions on a series of digital citizenship topics, and the beginnings of a tech-use program including iPads and audio-visual editing skills.
It was concluded that in the constantly-evolving technology landscape, a broader and more direct curriculum was required, beginning with relationship vocabulary-building starting as early as preschool. Critically, until now we have relied upon the home environment to provide the social and relationship skills required, assuming that parents would teach their children healthy and responsible online and computer habits. Our experience tells us that we cannot make these assumptions; in fact, we have come to realize that many young parents do not themselves have the knowledge, experience or skills to support their children’s healthy exploration and responsible use of new technologies. Many parents are reactive, not proactive, in the face of social media evolution. Furthermore, in the context of the Jewish Day School, where children spend most of their waking hours, it is common for parents to take for granted that the school will provide all the “educating” required.
Given the complete pervasiveness of connected technology in all parts of modern life, we therefore set out to dramatically upscale our digital citizenship curriculum, extending it to all grades and all departments of the school, and including parent and staff education (please see accompanying Curriculum Outline for details). Our goal is to provide students with a safe, secure environment in which to develop the technological experience, critical thinking skills, sense of social responsibility, tools for self-discipline and self-development, grounding in Jewish ethics and values, self-esteem based upon a deep sense of personal worth and the optimism of aspiration. In this way, they will be empowered for a lifetime of values-based living, and well-balanced decision-making.
Because the curriculum crosses all boundaries of the school, there are several teams working collaboratively and in parallel on the major branches of the educational plan (major branches are “Inner Resource Development”, “Relationship-
Building Skills”, “Principles of Digital Citizenship”, and “Tech Education” — see accompanying Curriculum Outline table), all under the supervision of Rabbi Shlomo Goldberg, the Menahel of the school. In addition, team meetings are facilitated by Mrs. Sarah Lipman, who joined our staff in 2016 from the mobile hi-tech industry (see Mrs. Lipman’s bio, https://plus.google.com/+SarahLipman).
This curriculum is non-judgmental, skills- and knowledge- centered, and admittedly ambitious. We believe it serves the needs of today’s students and their families well, and we would like to make it accessible as a strong and evolving resource to schools across the spectrum of Jewish and values-based society.