Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Seeing Corporate Fingerprints in Wikipedia Edits

I found the following fascinating article on Wikipedia's editting process:
Seeing Corporate Fingerprints in Wikipedia Edits
By KATIE HAFNER
Published: August 19, 2007
A new Web site reveals that many of the most obviously self-interested changes come from corporate networks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Laptops in the Classroom: Friend or Foe

David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University writes in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that he has banned laptops in his classroom. See the excerpt below:

Laptops vs. Learning
By David Cole
Saturday, April 7, 2007; Page A13
"Could you repeat the question?"
In recent years, that has become the most common response to questions I pose to my law students at Georgetown University. It is usually asked while the student glances up from the laptop screen that otherwise occupies his or her field of vision. After I repeat the question, the student's gaze as often as not returns to the computer screen, as if the answer might magically appear there. Who knows, with instant messaging, maybe it will.



Mr. Cole's 2 objections to the laptop are that the Internet, E-mail, and Instant Messaging are a major distraction for student learning and that typewritten notes as opposed to the old fashioned pen and paper variety encourage stenography instead of thoughtful contemplation. This is because people can type faster than they can write so when they write notes they have to decide what is important and should therefore be included in their notes.

I agree with Mr. Cole's first point but not with his second. The Internet and all that goes with it can be a major distraction for student learning. It can also be a tremendous tool but only with the guidance of the teacher. Therefore, I do not think Internet access should be always on for students in every class but I do think Internet access should be always available for teachers who choose to design a web-based lesson to do with their students in the classroom. This is actually the discussion of a recent thread on Lookjed, the bulletin board for Jewish educators. You can view the thread (including my contribution to the discussion) at: http://www.lookstein.org/lookjed/read.php?f=1&i=16111&t=16111.

About his second point, that laptop notetaking encourages mindless stenography, I strongly disagree. This is because I used to be an excellent notetaker with pen and paper and in the last 5 years have gone completely digital. I understand the notes I take (and the classes I attend) just as well when taking notes on computer as with pen and paper if not better. This is because I can format my notes on the computer by adding bold, underline, italics, bullets, and numbers and by editing my notes with cutting and pasting of sections if I miss something and have to go back to it later.

Most importantly, my notes on computer are so much more useful. Saved on my home computer I have notes from every class I ever took with a laptop. These notes are easily searchable using Google Desktop and are backed up so they are at my fingertips forever. My college and masters notes on the other hand are sitting in a box in the crawl space of my basement, never to be seen again until someone digitizes them. How I wish I had a laptop when I was in semicha. I would have a whole seforim's worth of notes from great gedolim like Rav Parnes and Rav Schachter.

2 other interesting articles on the pros and cons of technology in the classroom and laptops in particular were pointed out to me by Soccer Dad. These articles got me thinking about this topic to begin with. The articles are: http://tech.msn.com/guides/backtoschool/article.aspx?cp-documentid=5179414&page=1 and http://tech.msn.com/news/article.aspx?cp-documentid=5280563&page=1 which discusses the pros and cons of educational technology in general and might be the subject of a future posting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Torah Website by Rabbi Yaakov Haber

I just came across a new Torah website by Rabbi Yaakov Haber the creator of the Orthodox Union's renowned Pardes Project. The website is called http://www.torahlab.org/ and it plans to cover topics like the Foundations of Judaism, Lifestyle, Calendar, Lifecycle, Family, and Community.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tech Tips for Teachers: Using Hebrew in Microsoft Word

Most people know that you can add Hebrew to Windows 2000, XP, and Vista and enable it for Microsoft Office applications like Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Here are step by step instructions.

Most people don't know that you can actually even work with nikud (Hebrew vowels) when using Hebrew in Word. I found instructions from a great website that describes using Hebrew in everything from Word, to Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Mozilla, Jonathan (Jony) Rosenne's Hebrew Page. The direct link to these instructions is: http://www.qsm.co.il/Hebrew/wniqud.htm