By Rabbi Chaim Weiss, Talmud & Chumash Teacher, Northwest Yeshiva High School
How do we facilitate a safe digital life for our students?
This was a question I grappled with as we traveled Los Angeles and visited Jewish day schools throughout the area. As I’m an educator at Northwest Yeshiva High School in Seattle, I paid close attention to the way the high schools in particular addressed this issue. I discovered that even private Jewish high schools can have vastly different approaches from each other.
At Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles (YULA), we took a cursory look at their sophisticated system for monitoring student use of school-owned laptops. Before giving each student their laptop for the next four years, the school teaches about appropriate digital citizenship and online behavior, both in school and at home. Administrators have the ability to remotely observe any student’s online activity, and if they violate the school use policy by playing a game on the computer during class time, administrators have the ability to remotely wipe the computer. Obviously this is a last resort, but students are keenly aware of the potential consequences.
New Community Jewish High School takes a very different approach. They believe strongly in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model and have no interest in issuing school-sanctioned laptops. Students are trusted to self-regulate their digital life. Some web filtering is in place on the school wide Wi-Fi network, but that is the extent of their control. Students may learn how to navigate the challenges of the web in school, but ultimately it is up to them to make good decisions.
Both schools address the challenges of bringing technology into the classroom in different ways, and I found both had valuable lessons to bring back to my own school. I am so appreciative that these schools opened their doors to us to get a small glimpse into their digital journey, and to The Samis Foundation and the DigitalJLearning Network for making it happen.
Rabbi Chaim Weiss is a Judaic Studies teacher and Director of Learning Resources at Northwest Yeshiva High School, which was his alma mater. He received S’micha from Yeshiva B’nai Torah, Long Island, and his MS degree in Special Education from Adelphi University.