Tech-i-ya 1.5

Adrian Durlester

The hot topic in educational technology these days is Google+ (otherwise known as Google Plus.) At first glance, it looks as if Google has created a social-media environment that, unlike Facebook, can be safe to use even in educational settings. It offers more sharing controls and options than Facebook, and some are saying it will provide the ideal environment to use in education. Check out the Circles and Hangouts features for their potential (and ability to create privtae, secured sharing spaces for classes, et al.) It’s too soon to really know if Google+ will be the service that finally cracks open the door for regular social-media use in schools, but if you have a Google account, sign up for Google+ and start exploring.

Here are some interesting articles about Google+:

Google Plus: Is This the Social Tool Schools Have Been Waiting For? by Audrey Watters on (I can’t resist pointing out how the article title ends with a preposition. Tsk, tsk, tsk.)

Click here for The official Google Plus demo.

[A caveat: I haven’t yet been able to try out Google+ for myself. That’s because I’m a user of Google Apps for Your Domain, a fee-based Google service that connects Google and my personal domain name, and provides me with a business/enterprise level of service. Google plans to roll out Google+ to its business and enterprise customers but first has to work around the higher levels of security that are part of the service. Google Apps for Education is part of the same enterprise-level service. Here’s hoping Google+ is available to those schools using Google Apps for Education soon.]

It’s interesting to note that the State Legislature of Rhode Island recently enacted a bill that bans all forms of social media from public schools. The bill was intended as an “anti-bullying” statute, but it is so broad and undefined that it effectively would ban any form of social media (which it doesn’t really define) from schools. The Chicago Public Schools ban access to social media sites and flash-based videos (as well as cellphones.) I won’t argue that technology is a double-edged sword, and social media certainly have become tools of those who bully others, however I’m not sure that excluding forms of technology that could be a huge boon to education and the way students learn is the best answer. The HuffPost article Rhode Island’s Ban on Facebook in Schools Too Dumb to be a Joke is clearly biased against the new law, but worth a read:

As you could tell from my very first Tech-i-ya, when I recommended the book “Toys to Tools” encouraging cell-phone use in the classroom and in education, and subsequent columns, I’m certainly a strong proponent of the use of technology in service to Jewish Education. It is not a panacea, and we should all look carefully before we leap, but if we do not ride the wave we will be swept under. I’d be happy to engage in a discussion about this with your, dear readers, so post your comments!

Enough from the soapbox. Here are some useful links from my ever-growing collection:

This article, Three Indispensable Tools for the New School Year on Amy Mayer’s Fried Technology Blog is a year old already, but mentions two Web 2.0 apps we’ve already mentioned in this column, Prezi and Google Docs, as well as Voicethread, and including ideas on how to use them. Still worth a read this summer.

This editable Google Docs spreadsheet is a compendium of useful Web 2.0 resources for Jewish Educators. You can also add your own contributions.

From Mary Beth Hertz’s blog on Edutopia, Summer PD: A Primer on Compiling Education Resources. Though written in 2008, this article from the former editor of Wired magazine is a truly thought-provoking piece about a way to instill value in our culture of endlessly duplicative data resources. In it is a lesson for not just data, but making your educational program stand-out from the others as well.

In the next column, more about Google+, and lots of tech tips for the start of the new school year. See you on the web.

Adrian A. Durlester (aka MigdalorGuy or Yoeitzdrian)

Do you have a favorite online resource that might be unknown to others, or simply one that’s so useful you want to share it anyway to be sure as many people as possible know about it? I’d love to help you share the love. Need more information, some hand-holding, some translation of techo-jargon? You can reach me at my contact points for my Technology in Jewish Education consulting work: e-mail Twitter: @yoeitzdrian I also blog and tweet as @migdalorguy and @havanashira.