Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why use technology in education?

Some argue against the entire field of educational technology. They say that good education is good education and technology while it adds some bells and whistles is both very expensive and adds little to student learning. In other words, you get little bang for your buck using technology in education. Larry Cuban is one of the most famous proponents of this argument. In his book, Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom he argues in part:

Computers are merely souped-up typewriters and classrooms continue to run much as they did a generation ago. In his studies of early childhood, high school, and university classrooms in Silicon Valley, Larry Cuban found that students and teachers use the new technologies far less in the classroom than they do at home, and that teachers who use computers for instruction do so infrequently and

However, I believe that the problem with the current state of educational technology is not due to fundamental flaws with technology's application to education but is primarily an issue of change management. The field of educational technology is still relatively new and suffers from both a lack of vision and teacher training. The teachers need educational technologists on staff to create a vision for technology integration in the classroom and to train the teachers in computers by figuratively "holding their hand" so that they can bring this vision to fruition. Remember, teachers have been using technology in class for centuries. The blackboard is one example. Where would education be without it? The challenge is to train teachers in the new technologies, such as computers and SmartBoards so that they become as easy to utilize and ubiquitous in the classroom as the blackboard.

What vision should we have for educational technology in our classrooms? I believe that there are three main areas where computers can revolutionize education. I call these the 3 Cs of Computers in Education.

1) Communication and Collaboration: Computers greatly improve communication between teachers, students, administrators, and parents. An email exchange server in school allows for teachers and administrators to easily email each other and set up appointments. An effective website and course management system can allow for teachers to communicate course content, scheduling of tests and assignments, and grading to anyone, anywhere. The use of new Web 2.0 applications like blogging, wikis, and podcasts can advance communication and collaboration by creating both teacher and student generated interactive online content and high quality audio and videos.

2) Compelling Course Content: Computers facilitate interactive, exciting, and motivating classroom content. Projectors and the SmartBoard are tools to help deliver and manipulate this content in class. This can be in the form of PowerPoint presentations or teacher/ student created movies. They can also include any number of powerful educational applications such as Inspiration which allows for the creation of countless graphic organizers and Mathematica which visually plots countless mathematical equations used in high level math and science courses.

3) Constructivist education and Cooperative Learning: With the help of computers students can directly interact with texts in order to construct their own meaning and create unique educational experiences. Students can then learn cooperatively as the teacher is transformed from the Sage on the Stage who is the the sole repository of all classroom knowledge to the Guide on the Side who is a facilitator of student learning. In Jewish Education, applications that help the students research and interpret texts include the Bar Ilan Responsa Project and Gemara Berura. In General Studies, the programs listed earlier help with this as well as Virtual Science Labs and Webquests. Laptop carts, which can be brought to the class so students can use computers in their familiar classroom setting, and SmartBoards, which can be used not just by the teacher but by students as well, are mediums to help students interact directly with content.

It is my hope that, with this clear vision, an action plan can be created for technology integration in education. This, together with the proper support from the administration and technology specialists, can help computer technology take its rightful place as a central component of modern education and become as utilized in the classroom as the first technology, the blackboard.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Son, the Blogger: An M.D. Trades Medicine for Apple Rumors

Can one make a living blogging? This blogger, the creator of thinks he can do better blogging than practicing what he is trained to do, medicine. Read about him:

Published: July 21, 2008
Dr. Arnold Kim’s Web site,, has become such a popular technology site, he has stopped practicing medicine to blog full time.
Should I give up Chinuch and my job as an educational technologist to blog full time? What do you think?

If You Have a Problem, Ask Everyone

I have always been a fan of open source software but open source science? I found the following fascinating article about how to harness the global community of the Internet to solve sciences most difficult problems.
Published: July 22, 2008
Would-be innovators can sign up online to compete for prizes for solving diverse problems from around the world in a variety of disciplines.

Here is the website: