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February 07, 2013 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-02-07

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"Some restrictions apply.

Havdalah at Camp Ramah
Dorom in Georgia


Going iPhone-less

Camps trying to ban gadgets while
embracing technology

I Chavie Lieber

New York (JTA)


t a Jewish summer camp in
upstate New York, they're
giving kids digital filmmak-
ing classes and telling them to leave
their Nintendo Game Boys at home.
In Georgia, a camp is encouraging
face time with video pen pals rather
than time on iPods. In Wisconsin,
a camp has traded snail mail for
scanned mail.
As technology oozes into every
facet of children's lives, Jewish sum-
mer camps are struggling with how
to wean kids off their gadgets — at
least for the summer — while using
technology to improve the camp
"Once upon a time, kids were play-
ing cards at night, but camp is a very
different place than it was 40 years
ago:' said Rabbi Paul Resnick, direc-
tor of the Conservative-affiliated
Camp Ramah in the Berkshires in
Wingdale, N.Y. "Camps need to keep
up and evolve since technology keeps
changing on us:'
Many Jewish camps now have rules
banning gadgets such as cellphones,
tablets, laptop computers, iPods and
gaming devices. B'nai B'rith's Beber
Camp in Mukwonago, Wis., has a
no-screen policy. Camp Morasha in
Lakewood, Pa., bans any device that
can connect to the Internet.
But at the same time, camps are
using technologies to their advan-
tage: live streaming events so par-
ents back home can watch, using
digital programs to teach Hebrew,
uploading photos to the Internet and
replacing snail mail with scanning to
instantly send the children's letters to
their parents.
Camps are evolving as they try to
figure out how to toe the line between
enhancing their programs with
technology while giving kids a rustic
camp experience, Resnick said.
"Policies we implement one sum-

mer could be totally different from
the next because we are still trying to
see what works:' Resnick told JTA. "If
you would have asked me three years
ago if I'd ever let staff use cellphones
in camp, I'd say absolutely not. But
last year we started telling staff to text
as a way of communication in camp,
and it's actually really efficient?'
At Beber Camp, parents can con-
nect through an app created last
summer by staffer Brad Robison that
gives parents access to camp videos,
social media, schedules and activities.
Beber also uses a Web management
company, CampMinder, to enable
kids to write letters home that are
then digitally scanned and uploaded
to a portal parents access through the
camp website. A unique barcode on
the back of each letter ensures that it
goes to the right account.
Camp Osrui, a Reform camp in
Oconomowoc, Wis., where teaching
Hebrew is a top priority, began using
the language program Rosetta Stone
last summer. Campers responded
so well to the program, enjoying the
activity as a game while learning
Hebrew at a swift pace, that Osrui is
expanding its media center for this
summer, according to camp director
Jerry Kaye.
Osrui also plans to incorporate
a new digital pen pal program in
which campers will Skype with Israeli
children to practice their Hebrew
and make Israeli friends. The camp's
website currently offers an extensive
digital gallery that uploads some 500
photos of campers each day.
Ultimately, says Alan Silverman,
director of Bnei Akiva's Camp
Moshava in Ontario, Canada, sum-
mer camp is about giving the kids an
experience beyond the ordinary.
"We don't allow any sort of cell-
phones or gadgets in our camp, and
it's not because we're against them:'
Silverman said. "The goal is to show
them how much camp has to offer,
with all the nature and sports, that
it's better for them to leave the gad-
gets behind for the summer?' ❑

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