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The Torah speaks of four children

Posted by: elik

April 22, 2011

A few nights ago we read:

“The Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one does not know how to ask.

The wise one, what does he say? “What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the L-rd, our G-d, has commanded you?” You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Passover, [up to] ‘one is not to eat any dessert after the Passover-lamb.’

The wicked one, what does he say? “What is this service to you?!” He says `to you,’ but not to him! By thus excluding himself from the community he has denied that which is fundamental. You, therefore, blunt his teeth and say to him: “It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt”; ‘for me’ – but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!”

The simpleton, what does he say? “What is this?” Thus you shall say to him: “With a strong hand the L-rd took us out of Egypt, from the house of slaves.”

As for the one who does not know how to ask, you must initiate him, as it is said: “You shall tell your child on that day, `It is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt.'”

One central point in the Haggada is the educational role that parents are to play in teaching their children about our exodus from Egypt. We, the older generation, are not left alone with the task of educating our children. The Haggada gives us the lesson plan, complete with the story text and educational supplements such as special food. The Afikoman is used to cause the children to stay awake and alert, hoping for a present at the end. The Haggada also gives us pedagogic guidance, teaching us that not every child should be taught in the same way. The four children represent four different personalities and learning styles, and the Haggada searched for verses in the Torah to be used as mottos when discussing the Exodus from Egypt with respect to each child. Each of the four children is characterized by both a learning style and a psychological predisposition towards the subject, and both need to be dealt with.
When we design websites (for on line learning experiences or for any other purpose) we need to think of the four children:
The wise one seems to be the easiest, but teachers will say some of the gifted kids can pose a serious challenge. A website should provide the depth and rich content enough for the wise to research; navigation of this website is not too much of a problem. As the wise child starts  with an accepting position towards the commandments, all that is needed is to provide the content and the student will run in the fast pace that the wise child can study.
The wicked one may also be wise, but he comes from a non-accepting position: He is not even coming to your website! This child needs a “call-out”, a disturbing banner ad calling him inside. Perhaps visual navigation can help pull the “wicked” into the learning.
The simpleton asks simple questions, and is easily distracted. If the site is too crowded with links and call outs all over the place, he asks “what’s this” and “What’s that” – first he needs a simple verbal answer, from there he can continue. The hierarchical navigation would work best, with navigation bars scaffolding the site navigation experience and learning schema.
Until recently, the one that does not know how to ask was in trouble: this child can’t use Google! Without search, how can one navigate and learn? We are told to initiate, let the information find the child. This child needs to be spoon fed, at his own pace. In today’s world, associative navigation using tags and social network links help information find those who cannot search on their own.
Online learning lends itself well to different learning styles. Each website should support all of the children, and have disruptive call-outs to call for those outside. Like many of us, I feel that my learning style is a blend of all four children, and that I seek my own education in multiple ways.
Eli Kannai
Chief Educational Technology Officer

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