Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, FourSquare and YouTube. Students to CEOs use these systems and we’ve accepted that they all have practical uses. Personally, I use these sites to communicate with friends, share news or interesting articles and yes, just to be silly. However, with that being said, there is another side to Social Media sites. What happens when you mix Facebook, Twitter and G-d. You get Al Shloshah 2.0!
In the past (and still today) or community has song the words “Al Shloshah D’varim, al haTorah, al haAvodah v’al g’milut chasadim” On three things, Torah, Study and acts of kindness. These three pillars of Jewish life are still standing firm in the ground. However, with the onset of Social Media in the 2000’s, there is a second iteration of the famous phrase. Al Shloshah 2.0 is a crucial tool in the 21st century Jewish community. Specifically in youth and education programs that focus on post b’nei mitzvah. Now, this is not saying that we should be using Social Media as a tool for advertising and promotion (which we should and is another blog post). This is saying let us embrace the fact that our students use these tools. Use them to teach modesty, bullying, good choices and life skills. I can hear all of my past Judaic teachers saying “But what’s Jewish about that?” The answer is simple. Everything about it is Jewish. The source of this comes straight out of D’varim.
Impress them upon your children.
This text doesn’t necessarily refer to teaching Social Media. We can say that one interpretation would say that it is the parent’s job, in this case I include teachers and other educators, to teach the skills and lessons that they have learned to their children or students.
The question of why dot his is fairly clear. Jewish education should always be in a state of flux. Meaning, as educators we constantly need to evaluate both our methods of teaching and the topics we cover. If that means we teach Tanakh through YouTube videos, than fire up the projector and show a G-dCast, a great resource for showing the parsha in a short animated video. Another way to teach gossip or modesty is through words. The students and/or the teacher can collect Facebook and twitter posts that show some sort of gossip or lack of modesty. Bring them in and lead a class based on how to protect yourself and your friends online. This lesson actually works great for 11th graders who are applying for jobs or college.
This curriculum is actually currently being taught by myself for Prozdor at Hebrew College in Boston, MA. The students come in each week with postings from websites that are interesting. I run a contest for a blog submission about their time in the program. Additionally, the students will be live tweeting the class starting next semester. This experimental class was the first of its kind taught at Prozdor and has been a fantastic success. The students are constantly engaged and are asking for a more advanced version of the class to take in the Spring.
So how does this have a long term impact on Jewish Education? To answer that briefly, students are engaged, remembering the material and how it relates to them Jewishly as well as personally, and the are asking for more classes that have Judaism at it’s core. I think it’s safe to say that classes that use 21st century components can have a positive impact on both the student as well as the teacher.