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Educated By Design Blog

Filtering by Category: Torah

Is Education Technology Worth The Hype?



Is Education Technology worth the hype? Are we talking about iPads and Macbooks, or changing the tools we use to facilitate, integrate, and accumulate learning experiences.

iPads are hype, but using them to creative dynamic and creative personalized learning experiences is priceless.

New inventions tend to generate hype. Its a natural cycle which at some point will inevitably lead to jaded and sometimes scornful attitudes toward the tool.

The iPad wont make us better thinkers, but if we actually think independently and creatively, it just might help us make something amazing.

The technology breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution and even more so in the past decade, have completely transformed how we go about our work, our learning, and even how we relax. The question is why do we hype the technology itself instead of what it gives us the ability to achieve? Is there hype surrounding technology and its long term relevance in education? Many question its ability to authentically and effectively integrate into learning. Others are concerned about high costs and planned obsolescence. If technology is about the devices themselves then we fail to appreciate the experience and results that we gain from our use of technology. Take a simple hand tool for example. Very few people get excited about a hammer anymore. Even less consciously appreciate its multi use function, adaptability, durability, and efficiency. Thats because their challenge and needs were the main focus, not the experience of using the tool to help them accomplish their desired task.

Successful use of technology is only as strong as the vision and goals we believe we can achieve.

The education world is aware of these challenges, and visionaries such as Dr. Pentedura have created the SAMR Model, and others have incorporated Gartner's Hype Cycle into tangable realistic measures of successful use of technology in education. I constantly use these models to support faculty in their curriculum building as well as enhancing current projects. However sometimes these models in their simplicity put unrealistic pressure on educators, and in many times make teachers feel inadequate if they do not reach the "highest level". I had a teacher question my Modification label of their project, which they felt was more in line with Redefinition. If the project can be Redefined by specific students, or by others at different points during the process, I still believe that quality learning is achievable by simple substitutions and augmentation. This point is expanded on by Beth Holland who wrote about how many teachers feel Redefinition is what defines their success in technology integration. Darren Draper wrote an article that offers constructive criticism of the SAMR Model. He offers great insight into how a model that helps put perspective on the challenge of integration, can unintentionally hamper its potential success.

I think that as educators and learners, we need to consider for a second that successful technology integration into learning is not about technology at all, its about experiencing the information, relating to it, and discovering how we are able to share it with others. The tool itself isn't more than a substitute for a previous tool. Its not until our creativity, innovation, and passion for discovery is filtered through the tool that it becomes anything more than a tool with possibilities.

When analyzing the essence of the SAMR Model, I find that it is not limited to computing technology. It is applicable in any change in process to achieve a better, faster, and stronger result. Take mail delivery for example;

MailTransportBetween the horse and the iPad, the desire has not changed. People want to communicate as often and fast as possible. The only thing that has changed is the process. We have found faster, more efficient, and more cost effective methods to communicate. When you received a letter by horse, it was expensive, and timely. This meant you received only a dozen or so letters in your lifetime and cherished almost all of them. As the process advances, the quality of communication has deteriorated, while other factors such as speed and cost decrease. This final result is that we spend the first 20 minutes of our day deleting emails from list serves and have an inbox count of over 2,000. Still, our desire to communicate, connect, and share makes even a little bit of hype worth it.

Living with the Times



Guest Post: The Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch movemment said,

"We must live with the times."

Living with the times means to live with the Torah portion of the week, and that the daily Torah portion should be learned in a way that we can live with its message.

In my current position as the Director of Technology at a Jewish Day School, I play a sort of double identity. While I have a full beard and fit the Rabbi look to a tee, I am not a Mishnah Rebbe. Rather, I am considered apart of the "secular" education department.

"This has to change."

In this week's Torah portion, Devarim 1:13 (Deuteronomy), Moshe tells the Jewish people that he looked for

" אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וּנְבֹנִים וִידֻעִים לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם וַאֲשִׂימֵם בְּרָאשֵׁיכֶם"

"Men of wisdom and understanding, who are known, to be heads of the tribes"

Rashi says that he looked for righteous men of wisdom who are well known, but "understanding" men he could not find.

Understanding (hebrew: Binah) is the ability to take an abstract concept and apply it to many different areas. This is crucial in education regardless of subject or grade level. This level of understanding can be achieved by students by not just integrating technology into their learning, but integrating the learning itself.

In the "real world" we do not break down our experiences by subject or curriculum. At any given time, the skills gained in math, English, science, and Torah and so to speak coalesce. No one is saying,

"Ok, now I am using the skills I learned in English."

You simply speak or write in a way that reflects your skills and abilities. It is an almost thoughtless exercise, yet in school we break everything down into subject, class, grade. You name it and it is categorized. Now I am not in any way demanding that we abandon the system entirely. There is something to be said about hiring an educator who is highly skilled in their area to teach kids a topic at a level that they can comprehend. I am questioning the reason behind

"enclosing each subject in a 30 foot brick wall topped with barbed wire while rabid dogs circle the perimeter."

The STEM (Science, Technology, English, and Math) method of learning successfully breaks down these walls and there is nothing stopping Judaic studies from doing the same with JTM (Judaic Studies, Technology and Math), except a catchy acronym.

A good math teacher can teach math regardless of the content. This means that if you show a math teacher that an "Amah" (Biblical measurement) comes out to around 20 inches. Then a Judaic Studies teacher and a Math teacher can create a project where the students learn Geometry, ie: the concept of area while finding the measurements for the Mishkan or the Beis Hamikdash. Technology can be integrated into the project via Gamification by using the game Minecraft™ to create a to scale 3D model of the Beis Hamikdash, or use Google Sketch Up™ instead.

The students have now learned more than just concepts from Torah and Math and the slew of positive results from Project Based Learning. They have learned that Math and Torah are both relevant. They have discovered that their learning experience is not limited to a subject or class, but that all subjects connect to one another.

Projects like these unite teachers and students and learning in a revolutionary way. Students crave knowledge as much as Angry Birds™ as long as they feel it's relevant. By showing students that they can learn Math with Mishnah, Chumash with Creative Writing, and Halacha with Hydrochloric Acid, then students will feel that all the learning is united, and most of all relevant.

Torah & Technology



Feature Image courtesy of Yitzchok Moully I am a Technology embracing/utilizing/consuming/applying Rabbi, and a Chassidic one at that. A Chassidic Jew is someone who lives life above and beyond the normal limitations of Torah. This means that I strive to be more stringent in all areas of life including how I dress, what I eat, and what I do socially. I am a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who is the leader of the Chabad Chassidic movement. Chassidic Judaism from its inception was a very progressive movement that was met with a great deal of opposition. It sought to uproot the Aristocratic societal structure that was dominant across Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. The movement began to spread a message of equality that all should have the opportunity to learn and that everyone is important and uniquely special regardless of their social standing or what school they learned in. Now of course this was Jewish specific, but the message is not limited as such. Today unfortunately most of the Chassidic groups have abandoned this outlook and have created very insular communities.

Being insular is OK!

There I said it. These insular communities are generally warm and friendly places that have amazing societal structures and the majority of the members of these groups live happy fruitful lives. Not everyone is meant to connect with the entire world through social media! ::GASP::

Now while I understand their views and respect them even to the point that I think they are healthy, they are not my views. Around a year ago most of these groups got together and decided to do something drastic...they decided to...

Ban the internet!

Courtesy of the Verge

While these groups sold out Met Stadium at around 80,000 seats, there was one group not invited....

Chabad has been up and running since 1993.

Technology is a tool just like anything else, and the internet specifically has an amazing ability to be such a tool, as well as a weapon, and a dark, dangerous, and very harmful at that. The negative properties of any tool must be weighed, and every individual needs proper training to use the tool properly.

If we were to ban the Printing Press

because of what could be printed then where would we be today as a society? We are not limited by the potential destruction of something, or by any probability that it can occur,

because we are in charge of our own destiny.

There is no contradiction between Torah and Technology as both enhance and compliment the other.

Finally, the best part?


25 golden hours without my face slumped over an ipad, iphone, macbook, desktop, app, or any electrically charged object for that matter.