EdTechTeacher iPad Summit, Education, Technology, Technology Integration

EdTech Is Maturing

Educational Technology is maturing, and it is without question that the instructors at EdTechTeacher, and the presenters they feature are leading the way. In 2012, I felt a whirlwind as apps arrive on the scene. Full of new features, new upgrades, they came in droves. There was so much new to be seen. As the years have passed, “1,000 Free Apps” sessions have made way for more thoughtful and intentional discussions about technology.

That is because EdTech is becoming less about what you can do with an app, and more about what the app can do for you.

As Beth Holland asked this week in Boston, “Who is in the driver seat?” If it’s the iPad then we are doing it wrong. We have to be in control and use technology with purpose and not simply to “use technology”. This approach has a short rush with an uncontrollable descent into nightmares of classroom management and mediocre learning outcomes.

Now with this maturity, comes an awareness, and that is that technology isn’t going anywhere. On twitter this week I read a tweet that if the technology isn’t used “right” (whatever that means) then it shouldn’t be used at all. “Losing Tech” is no longer just a punishment, it is a prevention of learning. Imagine if we took students pencils for “inappropriate use” and refused to give them back at the end of class. Such a scenario would never happen because everyone agrees that students cannot learn without pencils. If our attitude is that technology used wrong can simply be removed, then what is our objective? Are we integrating technology to support unimaginable, unbelievable, and unstoppable learning, or is it to meet a quota or claim 21st-Century status?

As I shared in my session at EdTechTeachers iPad Summit this week, it’s bad enough to pull the cart before the horse, now we have strapped rockets and roller-skates on the horse pulling the same old cart. The sessions at the iPad Summit questioned all of the above and more, as inspiring and creative educators sharing their stories. Their sessions spoke about students doing, making, and taking control of learning in the classroom. Today I saw first hand how traditional math solutions and 5 paragraph essays can evolve into interactive and real-world expressions of understanding. It is not the intent to replace them, but instead to add to the avenues in which our students can share their story and promote their understanding. This is lightyears ahead of conversations I have had in the past that seemed to focus on simply digitizing our 20th-Century lecture halls, I like to call “Consumption Classrooms”. During a keynote session, Justin Reich, Director of the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT shared a powerful quote from a scholarly paper on active learning, and STEM, and that is that

given our [research] results, it is reasonable to raise concerns about the continued use of traditional lecturing as a control in future experiments.

This quote is beyond powerful as it speaks to the disconnect between authentic 20th-Century and 21st-Century learning environments and experiences. To play on words, it requires us as educators to give up “control” over knowledge, and where it can take us. This can be hard for educators because to truly integrate technology into classroom learning, you have to start over.

We can no longer expect that the mere digitization of traditional learning will lead to sustainable and meaningful learning for students. Especially when we as adults show them how meaningless the memorization of information and even tasks can be. An anecdote for this is during the repair process of a complex networking component, I went to google to find some forum or youtube video to help solve the problem. I could barely even describe the problem due to its complexity. I found a video, worked through the issue and solved the problem. As I finished up, I turned around to see a student standing there, watch me. She said, “Rabbi Cohen, you use Google? I thought you knew everything.” I told her while I don’t know everything, I do know where to look when trying to solve problems. Why then are the classrooms full of googleable (did I make this word up?) information when instead we could be focusing on learning that pushes higher-order thinking, creative problem solving and knowing where to find resources to help us? While we might not be able to rewrite our entire educational outlook just yet, it is incumbent on use as educators to begin the process of not just redefining our use of technology, but redefining what learning can occur because of it.


The Myth of The Magical Device SXSWEdu Panel

Dear Friends –

Social Media is all about giving – Your opinion, thoughts, and even more a helping hand. As Educators helping is part of our genetic makeup. It is in that spirit that I have teamed up with two stellar educators, Sabba Quidwai and Carl Hooker to share our unique approaches to breaking down the barriers of technology use so that it can truly empower our students, and us as educators.

Please take the time to vote for our panel. I am asking a lot, since you need to create an account to vote, but your vote will give us a voice and in the end students around the world a greater chance for their voices to be heard.

SXSWedu PanelPicker Vote 2

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Social Media, Education

How to Turn Social Media Into Social Impact

Humankind thrives off sharing. It’s part of our genetic makeup and one of the driving forces behind all technological innovation, period. Even the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions could be said to have been built on the premise that a more streamlined process of production would allow more free time to, well, share. Stories, ideas, messages, the platforms have changed, but the message is the same.

I want to share my story, and I want to hear yours too, even if it’s what you had for breakfast.

First Social Media Timeline

                                  Facebook Timeline

First Instagram

                                         Instagram Post

Until the 21st century, one could opt out of technology if viewed simply as a computer-based device, but no one skips out on sharing. Letters, Articles, trips to develop film from a birthday party, all of these traditional and accepted practices of sharing employ the use of technology. That is because technology is any tool that solve a problem.

Technology allows us to share, and we want to share with as many people as we can.

Sharing is important. We see how powerful the impact can be when we share something we are passionate about, something that inspires us, and the reaction albeit positive or negative when we share this out with the world. So what makes Social Media so powerful? It doesn’t seem to be the media itself, as media is nothing new. It has existed in one form of another for thousands of years. Today, it is shoved in our faces by multimillion dollar mass media corporations that define what we should look, think, eat, listen to, say, and more. This it’s why it’s all about the social aspect.

It’s about the empowerment of individuals connecting to something bigger than themselves, and as big as the distance between them.

George Couros summed it up beautifully when he challenged the limitation of citizenship in the digital age, flipping it on its head through the lens of leadership. Such an approach empowers anyone with a smartphone, and a positive message that can change the world. I left his talk at iPadpalooza a little dizzy because really, what he was focusing on was so simple. I think that’s what made it so inspiring, that like many times with amazing ideas, it was “so obvious“.

When I reflect and my social experience on Twitter it’s rather mind blowing. I’m Hasidic Orthodox Rabbi, who is stereotypically labeled as insular, closed off from the world, and one who typically fears or shuns the Internet and technology. Yet, here I am on social media interacting with individuals who I might never have a chance to connect with if not for social media. These people support, embrace and empower me and the culture I represent while giving me an opportunity to do the same for them.

Social Media has a tremendous ability to build bridges, bulldoze predugice, and exposing ignorance for nothing more than a missunderstanding. Social Media is powerful.

Now, like anything in this world nothing is perfect. There is much that exists on the thresholds of pricelessness, for the powerful and positive impact it makes, while simultaneously standing on the threshold of hate, prejudice, and disgust. This is my working definition for the Internet.

There is plenty to criticize and much to be shielded from, and that’s what being a citizen is all about.

Citizens are protected, sustained and kept safe. They are not trusted, and require some entity to provide these services for them.

This is why we must focus on creating digital leaders, who are aware of imperfections, yet looked beyond them to see how the tool, the platform, and the conversation can better themselves, better those around them, and better the world.

Social Media is built on sharing and we must share in a moral, thoughtful, and productive way. There is lots of buzz around how, what, why, and when we share, and it is up to us as educators to help shape our students thinking, as they will grow up to become the next generation of technology innovators.

Someone was the 3rd-grade teacher for a Facebook engineer, and another a 7th-grade teacher for a Twitter Executive. Social Media is giving us a momentous opportunity.

Do not underestimate the power you have to believe in, and push your students to not just think out of the box, but to redefine the box. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe famously said that the most minute amount of light can dispel a seemingly infinite amount of darkness. We must be that light, and show our students they can be lamplighters.


Technology Integration, Education, Technology, Apple™, iPad

Think Different, More Than Just a Choice of Device

It was 1997 and Apple challenged the world to “Think Different”This cliché is more than meets the eye, speaking more about the decision not go with the status quo device than a challenge for us as innovators and users of technology to use their devices to, think different. This is because 1997 was the same year that Apple almost went bankrupt. Twenty years later, we see Apple is a leading technology company, one who continues to push the limits of how technology can shape our future. When analyzing technology’s impact on experiences in and out of education, we need to appreciate that technology affords us the ability to think different. It allows us to enhance experiences, alter others, and cause daily experiences to become obsolete. It is in this spirit that models such as SAMR as so dangerous, yet simultaneously so magical in how they enable us to measure our thoughtful use of technology.

When we look at technology only as a computer then we in fact significantly limit our potential outcomes.

file000381054567 One of the greatest technological breakthroughs of the industrial age was the invention of the typewriter. It was a device of empowerment, individuality, and of freedom. We were now able to rapidly produce our thoughts onto paper breaking the shackles of the limitations of pen and ink, and the printing press.

So what did the computer accomplish? Looks like a typewriter to me. For one, it turned production into mass production giving us the ability to store hundreds and even thousands of those typed letters on this “little” innovation. Floppy_disk_2009_G1Computing technology has come a long way, becoming smaller and simpler, with expanded abilities , and more intricate and complex results. As the decades passed this trend continued until

April 3, 2010. That was the day that Apple again, Thought Different.

That day, we went mobile, and dozens of limitations and challenges evaporated into thin air. A truly different device was created. It is not a device that can replace a computer and, therefore, isn’t comparable to one. It is like trying to compare a car and a helicopter simply based on their similar ability in respect to travel. The iPad also created a challenge that other tech companies eagerly accepted. How can we take the best features of all creative devices and combine them into one. The mobile tablet was born. IMG_0140   Still, the world looked at the iPad as a consumption device, and Education looked at it was skepticism. Fast forward five years and it is abundantly clear that the iPad is much more, a creative, personalized, empowering, truly mobile device. Still as recently as yesterday I am reading criticisms leveled at the iPad that I thought we had overcome. CK5Pe4hVEAE4_z5 No one will question the importance of easy and advanced levels of writing, but once your Bluetooth keyboard pairs with the iPad, it will give you ample time to question the level of emphasis on essay writing as a means of assessment, which alienates at least four ways students can demonstrate their understanding.

Still, the iPad isn’t perfect, for example, it’s an IT nightmare. The iPad is extremely difficult for IT Departments to manage and support. This is, unfortunately true, and very frustrating. Apple has made little to no effort to answer the call by educational technology personnel to change how the iPad is set up and managed. Fall 2015 is a little to late and many have given up on the device as an educational tool because of this. For those that have stuck it out I ask the following question.

What drives the choice of technology at your school? The meaningful learning outcomes that students can produce or the ability for the adults to manage it?

I want what’s best for my students. I want to afford them the most flexible and versatile learning tools just like I expect those same descriptors to reflect their learning spaces, and the learning itself.

I don’t want my students to have an iPad, I want them to have a mobile studio that can plan, design, produce, edit, and publish most excellent learning experiences.

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Education, iPad, Technology

Interview with Steve Bambury at iPadEducators.com

We all love to share stories. I recently had the opportunity to share mine with Steve Bambury. Steve is an educator from Dubai who in addition to becoming an Apple Distinguished Educator this year, runs a very active website sharing all things education and all things iPad. To read more of the interview check out Steve Bambury at iPadEducators.com

Apple™, Education, iPad, Technology, Technology Integration

Rewriting History with Book Creator

One of the challenges of teaching history is that it doesn’t change much. While there may be a discovery here and there, it is rare that any sort of drastic discovery might alter the learning experience of a student in history class. Thanks to various technology innovations like the internet and computing technology, this challenge can also be turned into history. That is if as an educator we are willing to be open to the possibility that we are not the all knowing fountain of knowledge, and that our 20-year old textbook might need an upgrade? But who can afford textbooks?!!?

Worry not! We have a classroom of historical researchers and thinkers and the tools to empower them to create their own history book.

In an 8th-grade history class, we did just that. In collaboration with Ilana Zadok, 8th-grade history teacher, we set out to challenge our students to build their own Revolutionary War publication. We wanted it to be something that is 100% student-produced with the goal that others could learn and in the end benefit from the students work. Our students set out to research various events of the Revolutionary War, focusing on primary sources and first-hand encounters. With this research in hand students because to create a window into the past. Through creative writing, photos, and student-produced films these events began to take life through the lens of the students. With all of this amazing content gathered and produced we were at a loss of where to compile it and share it out.

Book Creator to the Rescue!


After the content was created students imported it into Book Creator and used its features to layout an interactive book full of written, visual, and audial expressions. Each group of students then created an assessment quiz at the end to demonstrate their understanding of the content and to challenge their peers to delve deep into their work. In the end students learned from their peers gaining a deep understanding of a specific Revolutionary event and a general overview of the entire war. With the success of this unit, there was so much more accomplished besides the memorization of battles and soldiers. Students developed important skills in communication, both visually, and verbally. Collaboration, Cooperation, Organization, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving all played a role in this production.

The end result was an 110-page publication that pushed the limits of student learning and technology itself. The Book Creator file was 1GB and due to its size would not export from the iPad. With a little bit of praying and 4 hours of work on my part, I was able to get the file down to 610MB without sacrificing one iota of student work and airdrop it to the students iPads to experience their hard work first hand.

Here are a few screenshots and videos from the publication.

Enjoy.Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.50.15 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.50.40 AM