Tech-i-ya 1.1 Draft 2.0

Adrian A. Durlester

This is a new column aimed at assisting Jewish educators in incorporating technology into their teaching. In his blog post Do I Need to Put a Mezuzah in My Flying Car? my esteemed colleague Joel Grishaver, who has given me the opportunity to share this column with all of you, exhorts us to look to the future, but remember the lesson from the official 1939 World’s Fair pamphlet that “Familiarity with today is the best preparation for the future.” I agree with Joel that we need to work hard to make what we have the best it can be and not just be caught up in the “cult of the future.” Joel and others can share with you ways to make Jewish education better with a whiteboard-level of technology. I’m here to show you that there are plenty of technology-based tools here today that can also be used to make Jewish education better.


Today’s technology tips:

  1. My first tip is a subversive, paradigm-changing idea: Read Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education” by Liz Kolb. (ISBN-13: 978-1564842473) What?! Let students use cell phones in school? Anytime this is suggested you can hear the indrawn breaths around the room. Liz makes some powerful arguments for co-opting the use of cellphones for education, and gives sound advice on how to implement this. The accompanying website,, provides additional support, ideas, and resources. (Yes, the book is available in a Kindle addition.) Not ready to allow cellphones in class? Consider other uses like Jewish cell-phone-aided scavenger hunts and Jewish geo-caching activities.
  2.,—Poll Everywhere is a free audience/classroom/student response system. Unlike expensive proprietary hardware systems, Poll Everywhere allows people to respond to polls, surveys, or simple questions using the web, e-mail, SMS text messaging on their phones, or Twitter. It’s free to use for groups of 30 or less. The free version doesn’t allow you to identify the responders, but they offer some very reasonably-priced options for non-profits and K-12 education. You and your class can see real-time graphs of the responses via the web, or you can use Powerpoint (with real-time updates.) only allows text message responses, but is very user-friendly for both student and teacher. These are great tools, but you need to do your homework, prepare in advance, and test to insure the technology available to you in your teaching setting is up to the demands of using these tools. Using the free version, which doesn’t identify the responders, is great for simple polling and questions. To use them for assessment, you’ll need to subscribe so you can identify how each student responds.
  3. Get a Twitter account, and follow the hashtag “#jed21.” Though micro-blogging services like Twitter work best when everyone contributes, it’s okay to just be a “listener.” You don’t have to Tweet yourself. However, I’ll bet you will start Tweeting yourself after a while. sharing your own ideas and insights with others. That’s the power of an online community.

Many more tips to come. Need more information, some hand-holding, some translation of techo-jargon? Have a resource you’d like to share? You can reach me at my contact points for my Technology in Jewish Education consulting work: e-mail Twitter: @yoeitzdrian