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Educated By Design Blog

Filtering by Category: Social Media

Technology, Marketing, and Influence: Why Education Needs to Keep Up With The Rest of The World.

Michael Cohen

Saturday evening after the Jewish Sabbath, I turned on my smartphone to a flurry of notifications. While the volume was a bit more than usual, it was the nature of the conversation that really caught me off guard. You see, for the past 5 years I have been heavily engaged in an online education community that might not always agree, but tends to trend on being positive, supportive, and constructive when engaging with other educators in the space. This weekend, however, was a sobering moment where I said to myself, “well, the honeymoon is over”, as I read educators publicly trashing other educators in the name of [insert noble cause here]. So what is the big deal with brand influence’s infiltration into the education world? Are brands and influencers of limits in education? Read More on

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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

First Instagram

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.


Social Media & The Quest For Connection



Humankind loves information. Its the strongest stimulant in the world, 100% legal, and has no known cure for addiction. Since the dawn of civilization we have been on a quest fill the capacity of our mind, yet science finds that even the things we "forget" don't actually leave our brain. (Article)

Fast forward a few millennia and in comes the industrial revolution, where humanity is rocketed forward in  productivity and efficiency. These innovative breakthroughs left the world with a lot of time to think. This thinking developed into structured pursuits of learning, notability the Industrialization of Education. (You can watch an amazing video about this from Ken Robinson who is not only more qualified to talk about the subject, but more witty as well.)

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we see that technology has once again revolutionized our lives. Twenty years ago you graduated high school and did one of three things: go to college, learn a trade, or join the army. You then spent the next two decade or so in the same job, hoping that with time you would rise up the chain of command at the same company. Now we go to college and graduate in a discipline we will never utilize, and will have at least eight jobs before we turn forty. At least thats what the internet says.

So were does that leave us? While we still need to educate ourself and find meaning in work, technology is giving us not only a massive reservoir of information, but

a voice, and the quest for connection.

The desire to connect is engrained in our DNA. Its part of the essence of our soul and is rooted in the source of creation,  G-d himself. Forgot I was a Rabbi for a second right? Our revolutionary success in making machines that work for us, and making production speeds almost instant, has left us with

a tremendous amount of time for creativity, connection, and collaboration which sometimes leads to creatively connected collaboration.

Five years ago an educator could connect online via a handful of education websites, blogs, and the occasional forum. Our connection was limited to website updates and their frequency, or isolated user generated forum postings. Even with the wealth of information on the internet, we were still  limited.

The launch of Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, completely redefine connection. Our ability to connect to like minded and inspired educators throughout the world yearning to share, to learn, and to connect. I once had an educator tell me they

learn more from their PLN on Twitter than their entire Masters degree program.

The connection is an open ended one. It's what you do with it. Sharing your projects, reaching out for help, or just absorbing the inspiration of #edchat can give anyone looking for a connection something meaningful.

New Blog



Hello World. My name is Michael Cohen. I am the Director of Technology for Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills, Ca. This blog are my own thoughts, and HHHA does not endorse them in any way. Who am I?

I am a Tech Rabbi- say what? I believe that technology is a tool to share knowledge with the world, including Torah, hence the Rabbi part. Besides that, I am a husband, a father, a son, an artist, a lover of skateboarding, hiking, and even know a little bit about fine wine and a good scotch.

What am I doing here?

I envision this blog being a place to share my experiences as an educator, a student, and an individual who sees the tremendous value not in technology itself, but what it empowers individuals to be able to do. Technology has brought a wellspring of knowledge into the hands of anyone looking to learn. This means that instead of spending time memorize information, we can spend time internalizing information through innovation and creativity. I hope to share my thoughts on this via twitter in hopes to spark a conversation about how we learn together.