I just reread the classic essay by Jonathan Rosen, The Talmud and the Internet. This book has always fascinated me as an educational technologist and a rebbe who has taught Talmud many times in Yeshiva high schools and who has trained teachers in Gemara Berura, a technology-based methodology for learning Talmud.
The basic thesis of the book is that, the Talmud, the ancient Jewish classic, and the Internet, the modern information superhighway, are actually quite similar. They both have no clear beginning or end. Each are compared to an ocean, one "swims" in the Sea of the Talmud of Halacha", and one "surfs the web". Like one big ocean with many beaches, everything ultimately is connected to each other through cross-references or hyperlinks; it is just a matter of where you jump in that determines where the conversation begins.
You can see 2 illustrations of this below:
Tonight, I was learning Gemara with my son Maseches Horayos for a siyum we will be making, and he intuited this nature of the Gemara. I gave as an example to him of student who was not learned as one who knows only one page of Talmud. My son commented that a person could never only know one page of Talmud since even a single Talmud page references so many other pages as well. Thus one who thinks that he knows only one page actually knows many more. To elaborate on my son's point, each page of Talmud then functions as its own homepage from which one can connect to subjects on this page and many others throughout Shas and Poskim. So too with the Internet.
This was the subject of a fascinating Lookjed discussion 2 years ago on Google, the Internet, and Education. You can read my post on this matter where I elaborate on the points above and make many additional connections here or here.
I believe that this analogy can connect our current Gemara students to the logical structure and flow of Gemara in a way that would have difficult for my students to understand when I began teaching 15 years ago and near impossible to explain to me when I started as a student in high school 25 years ago. Our students are intimately familiar with asynchronous online discussion forums. This is what they are used to in their Facebook discussions and it is a format that has been adapted in many schools through the introduction of blogs and wikis. In a discussion forum, individuals first comment on a posted article, picture, or quote. Then as the discussion continues they start to comment on each other until after many layers of argument, proof, agreement, and disagreement someone returns once again on the original posting.
This is the format of the Talmud. It is an asynchronous discussion forum in written form recording the oral discussions in the Batei Medrash in the academies at Sura, Neharda, and Pumpedisa spanning centuries. When I have given this analogy to my students, it has helped them to understand the fundamental difference between learning Gemara and all of their textbook based general studies subjects and caused them to see the relevance and overal organization of our rabbinic texts.
One application for students of the analogy between the Talmud and the Internet is to have them design their own "Page of Talmud" modeled after an actual Gemara page which explains the role of the various commentaries and "hyperlinks" on the page. I have done this project as a WebQuest a number of times using Eliezer Segal's Page of Talmud as the basic student resource. Here is a question sheet that I created for Eliezer Segal's page with answers written by students and a sample student project.
Since the Talmud is an ocean, I leave you with the advice given to me by my rebbe in Israel. Jump in and enjoy the swim!