Ma samuch parsha zu l’parsha zo…how is this connected?

The Internet doesn’t steal our humanity, it reflects it. The Internet doesn’t get inside us, it shows what’s inside us. And social media isn’t cold, it’s just complex and hard to define.

Technology is all about engagement – being connected.  The Hebrew word samuch “close by” is the verb Rashi uses when he asks this question.  The traditional practice of giving semicha involved a practice of placing hands on – and leaning into – the new initiate.   The tradition connected the generations of wise leadership past and future.  Semicha requires hands-on action.

A while ago a colleague-friend posted this link

to her Facebook and added a shout-out to me, ostensibly for pointing her EdTech-compass in this direction.  Mind you, I hadn’t seen this particular YouTube until she posted it to FB, and chances are she would have never noticed this kind of thing a year ago.  But times are a changing – even for veteran educators like my colleague-friend.  She’s a long time educator, more years than me (if nothing else, because she’s older than I am <wink>).  And although a lot of our professional demeanor overlaps, I’ve been much more comfortable experimenting with new gadgets and apps, and figuring out ways to bring them into learning environments.

We’ve been working closely together for the past 6 months and I have been sending her articles to read, links to follow and videos to watch.  A month or so ago I sent her a couple of You Tube links with a “you definitely need to watch this!”  I had already introduced her to Ted Talks “Ideas Worth Spreading” through Sugata Mitra, whose message is children will learn to do what they want to learn to do. Mitra presents a fascinating story beginning with children from the slums in India learning to use a computer in 4 hours, all on their own, and continues to travel throughout the world to make his point.   If children have interest, he says, education happens.  Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiment totally wowed my colleague-friend, prompting her to forward the link with an email to the synagogue educator she was working with suggesting she forward it on.  The particular suggestion was aimed at bringing it to the attention of a congregant-lay leader whose day job finds him as manager of education technology resources at a high school and, on the side, avidly supporting Jewish supplementary education and the synagogue’s religious youth education.  Bring this to the teachers, was the suggestion, let’s help them get the idea of what a revolution is going on.  Help us figure out how we can do this with our students – do we need one laptop and a projector, or what?  I can’t imagine anyone coming away from Mitra’s presentation uninspired, but change is slow – especially institutional and cultural changes.  So maybe step one is just bringing people into the conversation.  Ideas worth spreading.

A while later I sent her Sir Ken Robinson talking about “Do schools kill creativity?”  Education is supposed to take us… into the future that we can’t grasp.  And yet, we are meant to be educating for it.  Creativity is now, as important as literacy, he says, and we should treat it with the same status.  Kids will take a chance – they aren’t frightened of being wrong.  And although being wrong isn’t the same as being creative, if you’re not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original.  All to often by the time kids have become adults, they are afraid of being wrong… in our education systems, mistakes are the worst things you can make.  This is educating people out of their creative capacities.

Dr. Michael Wesch ,another Ted Talk star, says a good question is something that leads people on a quest but if you pay attention to the questions students are asking we’re still hearing too much of …  Is it on the test?  How much is it worth?  Do we need to remember this?

There’s something in the air, Wesch continues … that most of us can access with at least one device in our pocket.  We’re headed towards ubiquitous computing, ubiquitous communication, ubiquitous information, at unlimited speed, about everything, everywhere, from anywhere, on all kinds of devices.  Which, makes it ridiculously easy to connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate and publish.  So why does education still look like yesterday?

So where do we start?  How do we change the culture of education so that technology is part and parcel of everything?  Let’s learn from Rashi and start by asking, “What does technology have to do with education” and we will quickly realize it has everything to do with it.  Technology is part of our reality, and although we aren’t teaching technology per se, we are teaching with it.  We are using technology to facilitate communication, encourage engagement, share interactions and develop new understandings.  Interaction is key – hands on, participatory learning experiences in the classroom and online is the picture of education we’re aiming for.  Pass it on.  Connect.  Engage.

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