When All You Have is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail

Posted: March 25th, 2014

GB_newBy Dr. Gloria Becker, Director, Educational Technology

Technology. Screen Time. Smart Phones. Interactive Boards. 1 to 1 programs. WiFi. Cybercrime. Digital Footprint. Digital Citizenship. All these techno-terms have become a regular part of our vocabulary. Just as importantly, these terms have become de rigor in every classroom across the globe. Even the poorest of nations have “technology in schools” programs. Soon our own students will be preparing to take all those standardized tests online – no more “bubble” sheets to fill out with number two pencils. For most of our current students, handwriting has been replaced by keyboarding in the curriculum. Students who need to hand-write an essay, like on an AP test, are challenged to make their work legible. Technology is pervasive, including in the Jewish school. To learn more about the history of technology in education, click here.

There are several generations of technology users. I base these generations on how a user began interfacing with computer technology. Even first and second generation users now go nowhere without a device, but are likely to still pick up a pencil and paper.

  • First Generation Users
    • Began using technology at work
    • Technology used only in the workplace
    • Desktop computers running DOS-based applications
  • Second Generation Users
    • Began using technology as an adult
    • Technology used primarily in the workplace, but also at home
    • Desktop computers running DOS-based applications or early Apple products (some pre-mouse/Windows software)
  • Third Generation Users
    • Began learning about technology in middle and high school
    • Had the option to use technology for schoolwork
    • Pre-WiFi
    • Desktop and portable computers (PC or Mac) running MS Windows
  • Fourth Generation Users
    • Technology skills woven into the curriculum of their elementary school programs
    • Had required technology components of middle and high school work
    • Prevalence of notebook computers, beginning to use tablet computers
    • Had regular access to a computer at home and at school
      • The 1 to 1 programs in school are part of this fourth generation
      • WiFi prevalent at school and work
    • Multiple devices running various operating systems and application
  • Fifth Generation Users
    • Comprised of technology users who have never known another way to learn or work
    • Go nowhere without a device of some kind and often don’t know how to use older technologies, like a keyboard or a pencil
    • Check out this short, yet demonstrative video: A Magazine is an iPad that Doesn’t Work.

I am 51 years old. I fall into the second generation of technology users. My college papers were prepared on a Smith-Corona. My first “portable computer” ran on TRS-DOS, had no hard drive, and weighed 23 pounds. It wasn’t a laptop so much as a “lap full.” As an accountant then and a teacher now, computer technology has been part of my adult business and personal life. I didn’t start out with the knowledge and skills I currently have and neither did many of my colleagues in our religious schools. They and I have had to learn on the job.

The problem with technology today is two-fold. One, it seemingly changes with the speed of light. Two, there is so much of it. It is hard to keep up with each new device, operating system, app, program, and update, even for someone like myself who now does this for a living. Teachers have always had curriculum toolkits, instruction toolkits, and classroom management toolkits. Now they need technology toolkits. The skill of teaching is in knowing how to use each tool in the kit. The art of teaching is in knowing which tool to use and when. If all you have is a hammer (a single or outdated device), everything looks like a nail. To teach the current generations of students, our teachers need access to devices, and training on how to use them and teach with them.

At Jewish Learning Venture, we created a special program called, “Jewish Education Technology Fellowship.” We have seen one cohort of 19 teachers/directors from 8 schools complete the program and a second cohort of 22 teachers/directors from 9 schools started this in January 2014. The teachers and directors come together each month to learn how to change the tire on the car moving 60 mph, or at least some of the most current abilities to skillfully and artfully integrate the use of technology into their schools and classrooms. The monthly session are taught by Jewish Learning Venture staff and experts in the field of educational technology. All the learning is specifically pointed toward using educational technology in appropriate ways in our Jewish classrooms. The creation of this program and others like it contributed to our being selected as “one of the 50 most innovative organizations in North America” by Slingshot ’13-’14. The siyyum or celebration of completion of the fellowship for the second cohort will be Thursday, October 23, 2014. Our Fellows will present their projects and talk about their experiences in the program. We welcome you to attend.

To learn more about Jewish Learning Venture’s Jewish Education Technology Fellowship, contact Gloria Becker, EdD at  / 215.320.0368 or see educators.jewishlearningventure.org.

Jewish Education Technology Fellowship has been made possible by generous individuals committed to innovation in part-time Jewish education. To join them, please contact Rabbi Phil Warmflash.

To stay informed with the latest Jewish education technology news, click here.

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