There is a lot of renewed talk about technology in the classroom, especially since the SmartMoney Jewish educational technology report came out. As teachers we should be asking two related questions: a) What is the role of technology in the classroom? and b) How does it enhance/transform student learning?
One piece of EdTech theory, called the SAMR model, devised by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, gives a good framework to answer this question. It posits that there are four levels of how tech can be used in education.
LEVEL 1 – SUBSTITUTION: Technology acts as a substitute with no functional change.
E.g., rather than getting students to fill out a Talmud worksheet with pen and paper, they fill out a PDF of that worksheet on their device.
LEVEL 2 – AUGMENTATION: Technology acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement.
E.g., with that same PDF worksheet, using Notability on iPad (or other tools on other devices), students can easily highlight, erase, move text boxes around, and send havruta work to the teacher.
LEVEL 3 – MODIFICATION: Technology allows for significant task redesign.
E.g., students will annotate a daf (e.g., using Sling Note) of Gemara with researched pictorial references/descriptions to items and places mentioned in the sugya (tanur – mishnaic oven, dinar – type of currency, rechayim – millstone).
LEVEL 4 – REDEFINITION: Technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.
E.g., compare the current sugya with an ancient manuscript to see what textual changes were made and how that could affect the reading of the sugya. Use Skype in the Classroom to discuss your findings with a professor at Hebrew University.
Class (A) will pair with another class (B) in another school. Students (A) will teach the sugya to other students in this other class (B), asynchronously using Nearpod to present information, create assessments, receive questions, and post comments. The other class (B) will reciprocate and teach a different sugya to this class (A).
Technology has the potential to either enhance (levels 1 and 2) or transform (levels 3 and 4) learning. Using the above framework you can assess where you are holding, and if you choose, imagine how to climb higher up the levels.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you think of more ideas. Some general EdTech sites I like to use to get ideas are those of Kathy Shrocks and Monica Burns, while Jerusalem Ed Tech Solutions offers training webinars for a variety of JS-friendly educational technologies. Most of you know Sefaria as a text resource/worksheet builder. Jewish Interactive has creative resources for lower/middle school, and Mercava is an online text platform that has some cool features like marking up Gemara/Mishnah, and punctuating Bible.
If you have a favorite tech app or resource that you’d like to share with the community let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.