Tech-i-ya 3.1

Adrian Durlester

Adrian DurlesterA new school year has started, and technology continues to play an increasing role in education.

The world has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. Each day I watch the endless parade of “Like if you remember this…” posts on Facebook. Dial telephones. Drive-in movies. TV dinners. Green Stamps. Slide Rules. Floppy disks. LPs. 8-Track tapes. Cassettes. Why soon, even CDs will be obsolete as everything moves into the “cloud.”

As to “the cloud,” it has a certain ethereal, magical ring to it, doesn’t it. Makes it sort of sound like a modern version of Gan Eden and Olam Haba, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong–I love the cloud, but I know enough to not view it as some magical panacea. Just as we learn in parashat Nitzavim that “the Torah is not in heaven” we must also come to learn that “the cloud” is not too difficult for us to understand–it is, like Torah, what we make of it. Technology brings the universe closer to us, and it is up to us to know how to utilize, filter, organize, edit, correct, all that data. We can’t always rely on others to do that for us, and there is great power in the ability to do it for ourselves–and surely we should endeavor to impart those skills to our students. At the same time, there is power is being a community, a community of learners if you will, working together to make the seemingly impossible task a little easier. There’s so much out there, and we all need to tools to filter and discern. Not only must we learn how to best utilize the vast amounts of information now at our disposal, we must also learn to finds ways to keep up with the ever-changing technologies in this ever-changing world. My goal with this ongoing column is to serve as a sort of executive summary of what’s going on in the world of technology in education, and help you discover useful tools (for your classroom and yourself,) thoughtful articles, and more ways to expand and grow your personal learning network as a part of a community of learners. Join me on this journey into the present, with occasional side trips into the past and future.

So I offer to you my first collection for the school year of (somewhat random but hopefully useful) links, with my wishes for a Shanah Tovah.

Even if you embrace technology in education, this article, “An Open Letter to Tech-Fearing Teachers Everywhere” from The Inspired Teacher site is a must-read.  Also in the must-read ctaegory is this article by Barry Joseph in the Forward reminding parents and educators that we must remain actively involved in guiding students–and beware the myth of the self-directed learner.

One of the complaints I often hear from teachers about using internet content live in the classroom, especially YouTube, is all the extraneous material–advertisements, related videos, etc.–which is often not only irrelevant but sometimes inappropriate for classroom use. There are some tools that can help with this. A Cleaner Internet is a broswer add-on for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox that eliminates all the extraneous material. It also allows you to search YouTube without the extra content.

Using Facebook in the classroom? The very idea is anathema to some, but this Edudemic article on 100 Ways To Use Facebook In Your Classroom  can be a real eye-opener.

Twitter can also be a useful classroom tool. This set of 28 Simple Ways To Use Twitter in the Classroom  is current, and has usable examples from early childhood and up.

Google+ Hangouts isn’t just another video chat platform. Edudemic has this great article on “50 Ways Schools Can Use Google+ Hangouts“.

Think you (and your students) know how to use Google search to its full capabilities, and perform searches that are efficient and quickly help you find meaningful content? Don;t be so sure. Give “The Entire Guide to Google Search Features” a try.

Not sure you know how to utilize Pinterest in your teaching? Well, what better place than a Pinterest page? “Teachers & Pinterest.”

There are lots of student response systems out there. Socative  is free and easy to use. With it you can quickly create quizzes, exit tickets, and other engaging assessment tools for students using smartphones, tablets or laptops.

Lest you think I’m one of those “gung-ho technology will solve all our educational problems” types, here a thoughtful blog post an cautionary tale that asks the question “Are Kids Really Motivated By Technology?” 

Edudemic also has this challenging article on “10 Big But Never Discussed Problems With Mobile Learning.” Finally, I believe that personal reflection is a key component of being a good educator. With that I mind I offer a link to this thought-provoking article entitled “13 Subversive Questions For The Classroom.”

What are the technology tools you are using in your classroom? (For that matter, I’m mindful that one can’t always assume Jewish education is taking place in a classroom, so apologies if your setting is different.) As you use technology tools in your work, I’d love to hear about your experiences! 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. On Google+ I’m +AdrianDurlester