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Educated By Design Blog

Filtering by Tag: Tool

The Secret To Learning With Technology Is Not What You Think. It's Why You Think.

Michael Cohen

When I was eight years old living in Southern California, my parents bought a video conferencing system to talk with my grandparents in Philadelphia. To this day I could never figure out how my grandfather, set it up on his end. The mammoth devices used a combination of wires to connect to our house phone and television delivering a blurry 200x100 image of my grandparents whose movement was delayed by 45 seconds as they their voices echoed through the telephone. It was at that moment through a mixture of “Hi Michael” , long pause, and a 45 second delayed handwave,

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What is Reality? When Technology Exiles Our Ability To Live



I love technology, and I can say without hesitation that I cannot live without it. Outside of my weekly 24 hour technology purge called Shabbat, I have technology constantly on and running. No generation is able to live without their technology, as it changes the way we live, and how we experience life. Technology therefore is meant to simplify life, make it more efficient, and give us the ability to focus on other more important things. Our tablet and apps sometimes cause us to forget that technology is not a touch device, it is a tool that gives us the ability to do something consistently faster and better. A power drill, refrigerator, automobile, and even an all in one coffeemaker are all awesome examples of really great technology that makes our lives better.

The problem is when technology prevents us from experiencing life.

I had a mother tell me that her son is having withdrawals from technology after losing his iPad privledges for a month. Nightmares, vomiting, and depression as he suffered without his precious. On the bright side, she said that after months he now talks to people instead of sitting on the couch glued to his screen.

Now we can criticize the child rearing of this parent, but this will not reach the root of the problem. A grown adult is plenty capable of the above behavior. Technology is not only a tool, it is also a weapon, that if abused can seal oneself from reality. What is reality anyway?

When I saw the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset raise $1 million dollars in 36 hours on Kickstarter, I knew that this was the start of the next wave of technology experiences. A Valve developer was quoted saying that,

This will lead us to true augmentation, every time, every place. 

This isn't about augmented reality. AR is a powerful tool that gives someone the ability to break down many limitations of time and space.

This is about our consumption of experience and the technology that powers it.

The question is how, when, and how often? Avegant Glyph's Virtual Reality Headset also made an appearance on Kickstarter showcasing a man on a train looking out the window enjoying the scenery flipping down his headset to leave the world for a new one.

What will be more memorable? What will make a deeper impression? The beauty of nature or the pixel fueled race course? Does the imagination fueled reality expose our real life experience as a stale and monotonous exercise? Maybe it numbs us to the abilty to truly live as the challenges we want to escape are the ones that in fact the very thing that makes us stronger, and more real.

Since the Great Depression the human race seems to be on a quest to use technology to leave the challenges and problems facing us on personal and communal levels. Hollywood capitalized on the vulnerability of a shattered nation, filling a "valuable psychological and ideological role, [by] providing reassurance and hope to a demoralized nation." ( Since then we have continue to create content and technology to support it in hopes that for even a few moments a day we can leave reality for something better.

The truth is that it is better, but it isnt real.

We cannot abandon technology, but we must not make its true purpose a secondary experience.

We must not let technology prevent us from living life.

App Fluency Vs. App Addiction


As a Director of Educational Technology, my biggest challenge is giving students and teachers the guidance to help foster authentic and imaginative learning solutions with the help of technology. Its sounds glorious when I type it, yet in practice it sometimes seems near impossible.

When we launched our iPad 1:1 Pilot program as well as three classroom iPad carts, our philosophy has been centered around the SAMR Model coupled with content creation and curation based apps. This meant staying away from "Appcentric" Apps that either perform a singular function, or do not have the ability to export its content.

Today in the Advanced iPad Workshop with @GregKulowiec in addition to filling my brain with so much information it was ready to explode, we put a name to this philosophy.

It's called App Fluency

and its my favorite new word. In the video above I used multiple apps to create a hopefully humorous video short about the difference between App Fluency and App Addiction. (Camera, Tellagami, Morfo, iMovie, Google Drive & Youtube) The process of App Fluency is that our experience with the iPad is not based on the iPad itself, but its ability to achieve a specific and hopefully lofty learning outcome. This means that our ability to glide seamlessly through multiple apps should be not only effortless, but effective, and with practice, invisible. Since our main focus is on achieving our goal, each App and the iPad itself is simply part of the tool kit to build the project.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 7.31.04 PM

While hammers and screw drivers have lost their technologically advanced luster, they are a reminder of how effective tools are when they become invisible.

We all know what it feels like to put together furniture from IKEA, and no one seems to get caught up with the screws, compressed particle board, or even the  "super useful" allen key.

 We see the pieces on the floor of our living space, and  close our eyes  envisioning a sturdy, complete, beautiful bookshelf that doesn't take us an entire Sunday to put together. This is how a person needs to approach using an iPad as a learning tool. True, your IKEA bookshelf doesn't have Angry Birds loaded on it, or the ability to stream movies from your Netflix account, but it has everything to do with how we view iPads as a tool for teaching and learning. 

@GregKulowiec wrote that if we "believe that [...] pioneering the use of iPads and tablets in schools [...] is about the iPad, then [...] we have failed."

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.