From the CEO: Using Tech with Kavvanah

As an organization that includes the word “network” in our tagline, Prizmah has an identity that is inextricable from technology. Technology makes so much of what we do possible, and we also know, perhaps now more than ever before, that technology always starts with a choice. “Turning on” a power button or checking a screen is the essentially human act that makes technology possible. Without the human touch, technology is bytes and pixels.

During the first days of the horrors of the Hamas attack on Israel in October, we felt both the power of technology and the driving need for human agency in determining how to access all our screens and when to restrain ourselves. Images were too much, our minds were overloaded, and we knew we needed to make deliberate choices about and anticipate what to see, what to share and what not to. As educators and parents, many of us also had to make those choices for children or to facilitate conversations with teens so that they could in fact make their own choices. 

Educators have always known that any educational tool—and technology such as artificial intelligence is just one example--starts with a choice. Even the most instinctive teachers make conscious decisions to employ a particular approach with a class or with an individual student. The first step is always to ask about the goal, the intention, and then to choose the appropriate tool.

In Hebrew the word for intention, kavvanah, shares a root with kivvun, direction. When we talk about bringing kavvanah into our prayers, we mean that we want to be conscious in how we focus on our words. As we position our bodies towards Jerusalem at davening times, we also direct our minds to a specific, intentional orientation. “Having kavvanah” can mean having a proper mindset for prayer, and it can also mean having faith that the choices one makes are heading in the right direction.

Prizmah is blessed to engage technology to meet many of our goals. We collect and share data, we create connections throughout a diverse field, we open pathways and networks for learning across distances, we communicate about opportunities and resources, we promote the value of Jewish day school, all using social media and cutting-edge strategies to achieve our decidedly non-techie goal of strengthening Jewish day schools for a strong Jewish future. Our kavvanah is for sustainable schools that enrich their communities and prepare their students for vibrant Jewish life. 

Living in the Age of Innovation, these goals can appear to compete with so many other priorities. Our attention is drawn and divided in so many directions. Technological advances keep accelerating and push us to reexamine our priorities and the ways we connect to each other. 

At Prizmah, we see this push as a reminder to check in on the kavvanah, on the intention and on our core goal. Whenever technology can help us towards that goal, we engage deeply and invest heavily. Knowing that the first step is always the human touch to “turn on,” we remain committed to empowering those who lead and teach in our schools to access technology with a full intention.

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AI and Tech
Fall 2023
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