Webinar with Dr. Jared Matas: The Impact of Digital Education on Teaching and Learning

Join local and virtual students, faculty and alumni to learn from one of our newly minted EdDs, Jared Matas, about The Impact of Digital Education on Teaching and Learning on May 7, 2014, 11:30am  EST.   In webinar format, Jared will present on his dissertation research, discussing findings from his teacher action-research conducted in a middle school social science classroom.  Asst. Dean Deborah Skolnick Einhorn will respond to Jared, with additional time for questions and answers.   Please find Jared’s bio below, as well as login details via WebEx.   We look forward to learning with you! 


Dr. Jared Matas (presenting at Hebrew College)          

The Impact of Digital Education on Teaching and Learning

May 7, 2014, 11:30  EST

Hebrew College and virtually via WebEx

RSVP, if possible: deinhorn@hebrewcollege.edu


Dr. Jared Matas has been teaching at JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School for over a decade. He started as a DeLeT intern in 2003, taught kindergarten for several years, and currently teaches middle school social science and provides technology support to teachers. Jared recently successfully defended his dissertation in pursuit of his doctorate of education in the Hebrew College/Northeastern University joint program with a specialization in Jewish Educational Leadership. Jared has been a coach and consultant in support of teacher development through the CJP Congregational Educational Initiative and the CJP Tech Teacher Fellows. 



Topic: Dr. Jared Matas on The Impact of Digital Education on Teaching and Learning 
Date: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 
Time: 11:30 am, Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00) 
Meeting Number: 802 594 024 
Meeting Password: Shoolman 

To join the online meeting (Now from mobile devices!) 
1. Go to https://hebrewcollege.webex.com/hebrewcollege/j.php?MTID=m45a4e71f5753c2f5931cd6c56c6f85bd 
2. If requested, enter your name and email address. 
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: Shoolman 
4. Click “Join”. 

To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link: 

To join the audio conference only 
Call-in toll number (US/Canada): 1-650-479-3208 

Access code:802 594 024

#JEDLAB hosts MIT Media Lab’s Frank Moss

I recently attended a JEDLAB meet-up with former MIT MediaLab director Frank Moss. A major take away for me was the strategic importance of making our institutions the place where the important conversations are taking place.  According to Moss, when the Internet was starting to blow up in the mid-1990s, everyone turned to the MediaLab because they were  already exploring the opportunities and challenges of ubiquitous digital connectivity that the Internet would unleash. When your institution is able to frame the questions and explore interesting answers to the issues that matter to people, everyone wants to be part of your conversation. If we in Jewish education assumed that role today, we could become a ‘beacon of innovation,’ offering ideas about how to live a life in this new world we live in. 

The MediaLab is a remarkable place, and when I’m not envious that I didn’t get a chance to be a student there, I am impressed and appreciative of their contributions. The computer programming language Scratch, a descendant of Logo (remember programming the turtle to move across the screen in the 80s?) , has been a key element of the technology program at my school – as featured in the New York Times! 

Here are some other takeaways from the meeting with Moss:

  • Framing the questions is just as important as getting the right answers.
  • Fail, fail, fail – but then learn from that failure.
  • Teach kids to take risks with learning. 
  • Empathy is the most important thing we can teach kids. 
  • Teachers are key to implementing innovation in a school.
  • How could Jewish world attract enough funding to allow room for creativity AND failure?

This April, a small group of Jewish educators came together to read The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives, and imagine what MediaLab concepts would like like in Jewish education. Since then JEDLAB has expanded into a network of over 1700 educators, lay leaders, communal professionals and others ‘passionate about redesigning the Jewish education ecosystem.’ JEDLAB has been featured in The Forward and e-JewishPhilanthropy.com

The MediaLab/JEDLAB ethos is a powerful source of inspiration for me. I look forward to keep learning and collaborating with this unique network.



Students and technology


Tweet of the week

Like asking fish to describe water, it can be hard for our digital native students to understand what we mean when we encourage them to reflect on how technology can be used for learning. As digital immigrants, we can help our students by providing perspective into how using technology changes learning, both in and out of the classroom. I try to be explicit with my students about the choices I make about using technology in my teaching. For example, as I experiment with going paperless, I ask my students what it’s like for them to read a chapter in print or on the screen. We talk in class about whether or not it’s worth it to save the trees on photocopying by reading a document online, and if it’s easier or harder to remember the information.

Do you ‘think with your students’ about how they use technology? What should we be thinking about with them?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Integrating or innovating technology?

One of the most meaningful sessions I attended at ISTE13 was a presentation by 5th grade teacher Julie Ramsay, about the difference between integrating and innovating using technology in the classroom. Ramsay articulated a clear and powerful vision for teaching and learning, based on 21st century skills and encouraging students to engage in higher-order thinking. Ramsay emphasized the different between integration technology into education, which is when a teacher uses technology but keeps teaching with the same goals and pedagogy. Innovating technology recognizes the potential of current technologies to really transform classroom teaching, resulting in different pedagogies, different goals and different leaning outcomes. Technology can be used to get students to engage in higher-order critical thinking.Technology is a tool that opens up possibilities for a smart teacher to have students involved in higher order thinking, but it is still just the tool. The tool can’t define the learning. The teacher always plays a critical role in shaping student learning. If a project is called the ‘PowerPoint project’ that’s missing the point.

 Ramsay shared a number of captivating examples to illustrate her point.

  • Student presentations can be ‘innovated’ using technology, making it easier to assign students engaging and meaningful presentations in a format that appeals to today’s learner. Ramsay demonstrated how a linear PowerPoint slide presentation assignment can be transformed so that students create interactive Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories.
  • Student work can and should be shared online, so that it can have a global audience, rather than the audience of one (the teacher). Wikispaces and LiveBinders are two websites that make it easy.
  • Students can engage in ‘books chats’ on student-blogs on websites such as Kidblog.
  • Another good idea I liked is to have the students do a tech tools scavenger hunt, looking at previous students’ work. This way students get familiar with the wide range of tech tools that are available, and will be able to make choices about the most appropriate tool to use to create each assignment.
  • Kids need time to explore their passion. One way to do this is modeled after the 20% time that Google employees receive to work on projects they are interested in that are not directly related to their specific job responsibilities. Giving students an ‘Innovation Day’ or ‘Genius Hour’ allows them to learn and share about areas they are passionate about that might not be on the school curricula. Most of these projects are not digital, but by documenting the students’ experiences with video, the event becomes ‘amplified’ and receives a larger audience. 

Ramsay’s presentation was a breath a fresh air amid the numerous sales pitches disguised as presentations by corporate sponsors and their fans. While it seemed that many people at ISTE were distracted by the new and shiny, Ramsay articulated a clear, focused and powerful rationale for using technology to innovate teaching and learning. I hope more educators continue to be influenced by her ideas, choosing to prioritize pedagogy over products, and encouraging learners to use technology to become producers not just consumers. 

 < This was also cross-posted on the Avi Chai Educational Technology Blog. >

ISTE2013 – Let the ‘games’ begin …

I am currently attending the ISTE conference in San Antonio, Texas, as part of a cohort of 10 Jewish Day School educators sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation. ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education, and their annual conference is unlike anything I have ever participated in — something like 17,000 participants and significant corporate sponsorship.

Microsoft is providing a ‘free’ Surface to every participant in exchange for their contact info. I suppose when you are Microsoft you can afford to build your data base in such a manner. I spoke with another teacher who said that on the flight here from Seattle, the Microsoft representatives bought drinks for all ISTE participants on the plane. Considering the amount of money schools are spending on technology, that seems like a worthwhile investment for Microsoft.

One of my concerns as I read the program in anticipation of this conference was the push for products over pedagogy. I am here because I want to learn about effective ways to integrate technology to support teaching and learning, not to find the latest and greatest shiny objects. (Actually, who am I kidding, of course I’m curious about all the new toys, but that’s not what I want to bring back to my school. That’s just for fun.)

After wading through all the promotional material, I made my way to the first session, and was very pleased to hear from an educator who ‘gets it.’ Jane McGonigal‘s presentation was titled “Learning is an Epic Win.” McGonigal is an advocate of ‘gamification,’ and using video games for educational purposes. She started off with a quote from MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito: “I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore. Rather, it is the process of establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.” There’s an interesting reflection to be had about that line and my school’s motto “A child is not an empty vessel to be filled but rather a spark to be light,” but I won’t go into that now.

Then she laid out some convincing arguments about the positive impact of video games, centered around the idea that ‘gamers’ experience a positive emotional experience. She describes the 10 positive emotions as:

- joy
– relief
– love
– surprise
– pride
– curiosity
– excitement
– awe & wonder
– contentment
– creativity.

This is what we strive for in all of our best classroom lessons.
So, should we be turning our classrooms into arcades?

No. But perhaps we can be turning arcades into classrooms.

After sharing staggering statstics about the number of people who play significant hours on a regular basis playing video games, McGonigal showed two examples of amazing educational experiences facilitated by video games. Evoke
is an online game created for the World Bank, to motivate and train youth in Africa to start businesses and/or change the world. For the New York Public Library, McGonigal created Find the Future, a game for mobile devices that involved welcoming 500 teenagers into the library for an overnight gaming experience involving the artifacts in the library. By the morning, the participants wrote and published a book that is now housed in the Rare Books room, between a copy of the Declaration of Independence and a Guttenberg Bible.

Pretty amazing stories, and I’d love to get my students playing these games. But I’m not ready to gamify my entire curriculum. McGonigal showed the tremendous potential that video games have to create powerful, meaningful and engaging learning experiences for students. But educators still need to make planning decisions about the educational goals, and how to best achieve these goals. There might be many items being taught today in traditional techniques that could be re-imagined using games. Of more interest, however, are entirely new goals that can be targeted using games, McGonigal’s games foster collaboration and imagination, and provide students a sense of agency. That’s something to reach for.