From the Board Chair: God, Jewish Day Schools and AI

The famous computer scientist Alan Perlis once said, “A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.” 

Technology has become one our greatest blessings, but it can also be a curse. It allows us to connect and work in new ways; Zoom facilitates teaching and learning even when students physically can’t be in school. Social media enables family and friends to stay in touch despite distance. 

Yet technology can also have a dark side. It can give a platform to hatred, and can allow horrible realities to reach us wherever we may be, without warning, as we witnessed all too terribly in the days after October 7th.

As parents and educators, it is our responsibility to make sure our children learn the power of these tools, and to use them wisely. They need to learn not only how to use applications like ChatGPT, but when and why. The task of teaching this is even more difficult as it is almost impossible to keep up with the pace of technological change. 

Adults may try in earnest to monitor the online presence of their tweens and teens, but this can be difficult as the kids tend to be at least five steps ahead of us in adapting the latest technology. Social pressures may lead them to participate in unsafe behavior while creating accounts that elude parental supervision. 

Jewish day schools are in the unique position to have a beautiful framework through which to teach about technology. Like any other subject, we have the foundation of strong Jewish values to direct this pedagogy. As articles in this issue reveal, our educators draw upon the incredibly rich wisdom and sensitivities of our tradition as they approach AI and other technology with creativity, intelligence and exuberance.

I recently had the opportunity to watch as over 350 Jewish day school educators from the Boston area participated in a shared professional development day focused on the use of AI in K-8 education. It was a joy to see educators from many different schools come together to learn and share how best to employ AI both in and out of the classroom setting, as a tool for both teachers and students. The overarching theme of most discussions was counterintuitive—that the most important input for the effective use of technology is our basic humanity.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our educators and lay leaders as they help our students navigate new issues and new technology through the ancient lens of Jewish wisdom. May you go from strength to strength. Anyone who has spent time in our schools knows that Alan Perlis’ quote should be paraphrased: “An hour spent in a Jewish day school is enough to make one believe in God."

Return to the issue home page:
AI and Tech
Fall 2023
ad banner
ad banner