The Rationale for Educational Technology for General and Jewish Studies

Published: 
Spring, 2010

Source: HaYidion – iSchool, pages 24-25 

 

Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky of the Frisch School writes about how utilizing technology can help cure boredom in the classroom. With on-site school educational technology coordinators providing "just on time" professional development for staff in integrating technology into their curriculum, effective pedagogy can help create a stimulating and engaging learning environment for students.

 

He talks about the 3 Cs of successful technology integration: Communication and Collaboration, Constructivist and Cooperative Learning, and Compelling Course Content.

 

The first and most important use of technology in the classroom is to encourage Communication and Collaboration. We need to give our students opportunities to communicate with the teacher and their classmates and collaborate with each other. We aim to encourage a dialogue between teacher and student, between students, and with all of the previous generations of our Sages throughout the generations. Technology is the ideal method to enhance this by hosting asynchronous discussion forums in which every student has the chance to reflect and then compose responses on blogs or wikis and through the use of micro-blogging tools like Twitter to encourage 100% student participation in real-time during class.

 

The second approach to effectively using technology is using it to promote Constructivist and Cooperative learning. This is the natural outgrowth of the first approach. Students need to be given activities in class in which they work with each other to construct their own meaning of the text. This is most effective through chavruta learning with the teacher scaffolding the material so it is on a level to challenge the students without being overly daunting. Technology greatly enhances this. Some tools that can be used are project-based activities like Webquests, where students use online resources to create a finished product, and open-ended software programs like Gemara Berura that assist students in learning through a sugya with a chavruta. In Gemara Berura, students learn how to read a text of Talmud on their own through a color and shape coded system and through the use of databases of keywords, definitions, and biographies of all of the rabbinic sages. Students involved in these types of programs and web-based projects actively engage with the text, allowing the teacher to transition from being the “Sage on the Stage” who is the source for all information to being the “Guide on the Side” who helps students interpret and evaluate the information that they find on their own.

 

Finally, technology can be utilized to create Compelling Course Content to directly address student boredom. These are the bells and whistles that make learning “fun.” While this cannot be a primary focus of technology integration, it can be used to great effect as a part of a well-constructed lesson. Technology supports this through showing audio and video clips (never more than a few minutes in length), through art, and through interactive resources that are especially effective when used with a Smart Board. Studies indicate that the use of the Smart Board increases student motivation through the seamless integration of technology into the lesson. Students also enjoy touching the board to manipulate text and images and the board easily facilitates student-led presentations.

 

In summary, technology is a powerful tool for Jewish education but one that must be used carefully in order to utilize its benefits…. Great care must be used, as technology when used ineffectively can be detrimental to the learning process. Technology coordinators or directors of educational technology who are teachers knowledgeable in good pedagogy in both general and Judaic Studies as well as expert in technology can greatly assist their fellow educators in unlocking the great potential that technology offers for our students.

Updated: Mar. 29, 2011
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