Experiments with Educational Technology

Published: 
Spring, 2010
 
Eli Kannai, Chief Educational Technology Officer for the AVI CHAI Foundation, tells in this article about educational technology experiments of day school educators who have received grants to plan and implement projects utilizing technology in their curricula. He describes some of the lessons learned by the schools and AVI CHAI during the course of these experiments, also thereby demonstrating some of the most troubling pedagogic challenges in Jewish day school education.
 
More than 30 day school teachers who received grants over the last few years, blog about their experiences in implementing their projects on the AVI CHAI Educational Technology Experiments Blog. The article summarizes some of these reports. As the area of educational technology is constantly evolving and many of the experiments are still being implemented, this article should be viewed as a work in progress rather than a final summative evaluation of the field.
 
The grant program constitutes an effort to stimulate the pedagogic use of technology in Jewish day schools, starting small, with a teacher-driven initiative. These creative projects can be replicated with appropriate modifications in many additional schools, if they have support from the administration. Many initiatives try to address lack of student engagement in addition to solving some other issue.
 
Many of the projects involve the use of interactive white boards such as the SmartBoards. The board should be used as a vehicle to enhance classroom interactivity, not merely as a “cool” projector. An added benefit is the recording functionality which lets teachers post the lessons to a website, share it with students and fellow teachers as well as parents. In a dedicated wiki, the Legacy Heritage Fund, the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education, and The AVI CHAI Foundation are collaborating to advance the best use of interactive whiteboards, and most particularly SmartBoards, in Jewish education. Teachers are welcome to join the wiki and contribute based on their own experiences, as well as access the useful links to lesson plans that can help jumpstart their journey into full use of their boards.
 
Teaching Hebrew as a spoken language presents varied pedagogic challenges including student engagement, the ability to practice individually, and the teacher’s individual feedback. Some teachers chose technology to address these issues, making use of language labs and specific software packages, MP3 recorders and players, and doing video interviews as well as original Hebrew plays.
 
The use of technology should not be limited to literacy-oriented pedagogic challenges. The experiments included a tefillah project in which students created siddur presentations and videos of Israel experiences, including video conferencing.
 
Use of technology by the students enhances their feeling of control and ownership. Schools can showcase the products in school and on their websites, sharing them with parents, families and friends.
 
Combining many of these technologies together creatively may develop powerful pedagogic tools, for example interviewing Israeli war veterans on video in Hebrew while speaking only Hebrew on the set, or using a website to post videos from the school’s Israel trip. Once a teacher starts using technology for one thing, other uses present themselves as well.
 
The article concludes with a useful index of links to Jewish educational technology based projects.
Updated: Aug. 22, 2010
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