Sunday, April 10, 2011

What makes 21st Century Jewish Education Unique?

What might be the unique nature of 21st Century Jewish Education which sets it apart from the education we have encountered until now?

The changing nature for how people learn, gather information, collaborate and communicate in the 21st century greatly impacts both the nature of Judaism and education. If we are to understand education as the process of teaching and learning new skills and understandings through the development of cognitive, affective and sensory-motor processes.  In the spirit of a Deweyian progressive educational model, Jewish education has the potential to engage learners where they are at in order to empower them to further their own learning initiatives. However, we must go beyond educational purposes, such as socialization and acculturation, and focus on empowerment, leadership and lifelong learning theories.

Much of previous educational models heavily focused on the acquisition of skills and content knowledge that would offer the literacy needed to access Jewish learning, spiritual, ritual and social engagement.  As the nature of how Jewish communities are forming, the growing influence of innovative start-ups, the influence of online information sources, search devices, aggregating sites and social networks present new challenges and opportunities for growth. As new paths for personal Jewish journeys and communal engagement develop, Jewish education must rethink both the process of learning, and content and skills needed.

21st Century Jewish Education must rest on three pillars: 1) Student centered learning (PBL, Inquiry learning, Constructivist learning, etc.) 2) Experiential learning 3) Collaborative learning. While none of these pillars represent a unique approach to education for the 21st century, or are particular Jewish approach, they each provide a unique framework to address the specific needs of preparing today’s learners to adapt quickly and engage in lifelong learning. 21st Century Jewish education utilize technology to allow learners to deepen and broaden the reach of their learning and empower learning to obtain more control over the choices and learning path. As such, 21st Century educated Jews should be more able to determine their own learning journey, able to identify sources of legitimate information, create learning communities globally and gather experts and guides to support them, all for the purpose of become holy personally and being a light unto the nations.  This truly exemplifies the model established in Avot (1:6) "Make for yourself a teacher and acquire for yourself a friend, and judge each person favorably."

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