Jul 172012
 
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LEFT: Jewish Educators gather in a Birds of the Feather meeting at ISTE

The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference, one of the world’s premier educational technology events, attracts between 15,000- 20,000 attendees each year. For the past two years, AVI CHAI has sponsored the attendance of 10 Jewish day school leaders in North America per year (including heads of school, principals, deans, rosh yeshivas, directors of educational technology, etc.). These AVI CHAI fellows join colleagues in Jewish education, including 20 PELIE-sponsored part-time Jewish educators as well as Jewish day school leaders returning after attending ISTE in previous years, many of them bringing fellow school educators as well. Jewish day schools and education at large thus benefits through these participants’ immersion in tech tools, mindsets, and interactions with peers also on the journey of ed tech exploration – both within the Jewish context and without.

Following ISTE 2012, which took place from June 24-27 in San Diego, there has been a flurry of activity on the AVI CHAI Educational Technology Blog as participants share some of their “aha” moments, musings and other insights gleamed from the conference. These blog posts also reflect some of the discussions held between fellows at the evening meetings, for example as recorded in this post by Tzvi Pittinsky.  While the experience was frequently described as “overwhelming,” key important takeaways seemed to have transcended the deluge of information to be had and people – celebrity tweeps (people on twitter) foremost among them, of course – to meet:

  • Mastering not just tools or information, but digital-age skills. Adam Simon references Marc Prensky’s keynote on “digital wisdom,” which posed the key question, “What do our brains do better and what do machines do better?”. Even tools are to be seen in the light of what higher-level functions they can be deployed for, as Tzvi Pittinsky writes about Evernote as a way to curate and organize information.
  • Focusing on students, activating and motivating them in particular. Sir Ken Robinson spoke at the keynote about breaking out of the Industrial Revolution model of linear, assembly-line learning and toward nurturing student’s growth in organic ways. As Aaron Ross points out, “Technology in Education is Not about Technology” – what it is about is being a tool that enables students “to think and take control of their education.” Aaron cites Alan November’s presentation focusing on using technology to motivate students to have a more active role in their learning. Shira Leibowitz also opines on the paradigm shift involved in this in “From Facilitator to Activator.”
  • “The war between the digital natives and the digital immigrants is over, and the natives won.” This thought-provoking statement made by Marc Prensky in the keynote stirred conversation, including among Barbara Gereboff and Daniel Shor. Another valiant effort to struggle with this tension (some might even say “war”) is documented by Gary Pretsfelder.

Now that ISTE is over, what’s next? Luckily posts have addressed not only the bigger-picture issues, but also concretely where we go from here – including through suggestions from Avital Aharon and Tami Stalbow. Best of luck to all in your ed tech explorations!