Friday, April 16, 2010

Learning To Read All Over Again

It’s that time of year again. I’m not talking about Yom HaAtzmaut, or Shavuot. I’m not even referring to end of the year progress reports, Hebrew evaluations and confirmation services. This is the time that my thoughts focus on the next few years. What will my school look like in a year or two? How can I, in partnership with my school parents, initiate and implement constructive and transformational change?

There are a lot of interesting ideas floating around the cloud these days. One I just discovered can be found at Yerusha (here: and here: This new model of Jewish education aspires to returning parents to the role of primary educator through learning experiences that integrate technology and homeschooling. I would love to know how and if it works. I do know that there is much to learn from this program. This is just one proposal – one way that we can reach our students, whoever they are.

I recently attended the 2010 Technology Conference hosted by the Palm Beach County School District. There, I explored how the iGeneration (or whatever you want to call folks born in the last decade or so) speak a different language. We educators need to adapt to shifting notions of literacy, adopting the concept of “Transliteracy”: the ability to read, write and interact across an array of platforms and tools. This doesn’t just mean that we need to integrate the iTouch and Google Earth into our lessons. What it demands from us is that we must re-learn how to read. It is incumbent upon us to develop the ability to understand the new alphabet that our students are embracing. At the same time, we need to learn to listen to the language our school parents are speaking, as they strive to find ways of connecting their kids to a Jewish future.

Jason Ohler defines literacy as “being able to consume and produce the media forms of the day. The default media form has shifted from the essay to the multimedia collage.” ( What this means in the world of Jewish educational engagement is that we need to reset our defaults. These new modules may vary from cell phone texting as a classroom tool to a community oriented spiritual experience by a lake. It doesn’t matter if the learning is electric or organic. Labels are irrelevant. What matters is not that we can decode a language – reciting a string of symbols without comprehension - but that we can really read - ascribing meaning to the words written in those symbols. It means immersing ourselves in a new literacy that will shape how the future will be perceived. It means that maybe, if we become fluent enough in these new languages, we too can become writers, reaching the readers, opening doors to Jewish tomorrows.

But first we need to learn to read all over again.