Years ago, when farms dominated our landscape, children were responsible for performing meaningful jobs that were vital to each family’s success. Depending on their age, children would care for animals, repair farm equipment, prepare food to sell at local markets, and more. Children were essential to the very survival of the family. At the same time, these jobs taught children the value of hard work, leading them to become more productive citizens within their communities as adults.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Schools need strategic leadership to select from the onslaught of new technological offerings and to keep the rudder always pointed toward effective education. This issue provides both perspectives that can inform leadership strategy and information about some of the directions and initiatives employing current technology to strengthen education.
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Many young people who are entering the work force today have perfected their skills for gathering and manipulating vast amounts of information and images on the Internet, but all that solitary computer time leaves their brains less exposed to the vital stimulation of face-to-face social interaction. These young tech-savvy Digital Natives often need to fine-tune their people skills. Many could use a refresher course in direct communication, including basic lessons in eye contact, empathic listening, and interpreting and responding to non-verbal cues during conversation.
Academic research from neuroscience and cognitive science increasingly supports the notion that everyone learns differently. But there is considerable uncertainty about what those differences are, although researchers are making advances in this understanding all the time.
Technology is important because it has the potential to substantially impact and positively transform education. Technology can make the work of teachers, parents and administrators faster, easier, and more effective. In addition, employers and society-at-large expect students to have the skills and knowledge that are directly or peripherally related to the use of technology. While the implementation and application of technology to the classroom is time-consuming and resource-intensive there are best practices that schools can employ to maximize their assets.
It’s too late to make the case for classroom use of the tools of the 21st century. That’s been done over and over in many other places. We’re already 10% of the way through this century and we need to acknowledge that there are powerful modern tools that are here to stay and available to the vast majority of our students. Many of the most powerful tools are available at no cost, and the developer communities are creating ever more powerful and more robust tools for learning.
Social media and Web 2.0 resources can facilitate the ways in which we create and share educational resources. There is a developing trend towards a new openness in learning regarding access to people, content, and other resources. The power of new social media lies in its ability to help forge connections between people and other people, ideas, resources, and content. Characteristics of this new learning culture include transforming information and resources, creating one’s own resources and building on others, developing and participating in personal/professional learning networks, and personalized learning.
Youth are no longer learning in schools the skills they require to compete and succeed in the classrooms, workplaces, and town halls of the 21st century. Expectations are being shattered about what learning is supposed to look like, when it should happen and where. As learning becomes 24/7, ubiquitous, and lifelong, it is turning the traditional academic environment into simply one node within a broader learning network traversed by its students.
One problem that has plagued students for generations is boredom in the classroom. This is illustrated in a famous clip from the classic film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The teacher, played to perfection by Ben Stein, is trying to teach his high school history class about the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 and its connection to the “voodoo economics” of the early 1980s. The students are each portrayed by director John Hughes in different and unique stages of boredom. Although the teacher continuously attempts to engage in a conversation with his students by asking repeatedly “anyone, anyone?” there is little connection between teacher and student. Boredom not only leads to a lack of student engagement, but studies indicate that student boredom often leads to greater problems such as truancy and poor academic achievement. These problems are not unique to public school education but have pervaded our day schools, as indicated by a recent lengthy online discussion on this topic on Lookjed, a forum for Jewish educators.
Jewish educators seem to be hard-wired to worry about change and fret about the Jewish future. Now, with Web 2.0 firmly rooted in the collective consciousness and server clouds everywhere, these twin fronts of agitation have merged into a perfect storm of palpable anxiety. The urge to ask “Is Web 2.0 good for the Jews?” is ever-pressing, but, in 2010, it is also as useful as asking “Is furniture good for the Jews?” For children under the age of 18, Web 2.0 is as remarkable as a folding chair. It is an utterly mundane part of their landscape. Furthermore, these young Jews will endeavor to construct a meaningful Jewish identity in this brave not-so-new world, one where a substantial part of their identities will play out through social networking sites (SNS) and computer-mediated communication (CMC).
Abba Saul was the tallest man in his generation, and R. Tarfon came up to his shoulder. R. Tarfon was the tallest man in his generation and R. Meir came up to his shoulder. R. Meir was the tallest man in his generation and Rabbi [Yehuda HaNasi] came up to his shoulder. Rabbi was the tallest man in his generation and R. Hiyya came up to his shoulder, and R. Hiyya was the tallest in his generation and Rav came up to his shoulder. Rav was the tallest man in his generation and Rav Yehudah came up to his shoulder, and Rav Yehudah was the tallest man in his generation and his waiter, Adda, came up to his shoulder. Parshtabina of Pumbeditha came up to half the height of Adda the waiter, while everybody else only reached the loins of Parshtabina of Pumbeditha. –Babylonian Talmud, Niddah 24b
During a recent break from my travels I had put some time aside to learn how to use one of the new electronic toys I’d bought on a recent trip. I thought that being a reasonably educated person, having taught at almost all levels of education and being somewhat technologically adept would more than prepare me to learn to use a simple gadget.
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