muse: n. a source of inspiration

Paying attention

David Behrman of Behrman House Publishing recently blogged about technology and the new presenter-audience or teacher-student dynamic. This is something I’ve noticed too, but since I generally present about, well, technology, I guess I didn’t find it that surprising.

We’re talking about the reality that your audience, and perhaps your students, aren’t just sitting and listening to you any more. And, if they’re taking notes on their laptops, they may be checking email, surfing the web (we hope they’re looking at the sites about which you’re teaching, but who knows?) or multitasking at the same time. David reflects a bit on how disconcerting this can be for a presenter.

As a teacher, I don’t allow cell phones in class. Nor do my religious school students have laptops, so this is a model with which I don’t relate. In my computer lab, when I’m doing a demo, I expressly tell my students (and if you had me as a teacher, you’ve heard this thousands of times)… “hands off the keyboard, hands off the mouse, eyes on me, it’s all about me.”

You need to say that in a sing-song voice, with appropriate hand gestures.

So, David’s post gave me pause. Here I am, a tech teacher, and I should WANT my kids with their hands on technology. But I’m also a teacher, and giving up that control is a hard thing to do. As any good teacher knows, it’s when things get loosy-goosy that it gets scary.

So where’s the happy medium? And which medium is that? Twitter? Facebook? Student-created wikis? Blogging?

And how do we train teachers to go with the flow while still delivering content?

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November 24, 2009 Posted by | Technology | , , | Leave a comment

Twitter and Sunday school

I’m playing with using Twitter as a Sunday school tool. My students are finishing a book (hopefully they’re finishing it…) for our immigration unit: The Jew Store. How can I use Twitter to have them summarize parts of the book? I know it’s a gimmick, but I do love the concept of having to condense one’s thoughts into 140 characters. More to come…

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April 15, 2009 Posted by | Technology | , , | Leave a comment

Torah at the Center

I’m proud that my article on Tech-kun Olam was included in this issue of Torah at the Center, a URJ publication. Check it out – there are some amazing articles by amazing people!

April 6, 2009 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , | Leave a comment


From Wikipedia:

Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of Linguistics to describe listeners’ behaviours during verbal communication, Victor Yngve 1970.

The term “backchannel” generally refers to online conversation about the topic or the speaker. Occasionally backchannel provides audience members a chance to fact-check the presentation.

First growing in popularity at technology conferences, backchannel is increasingly a factor in education where WiFi connections and laptop computers allow students to use ordinary chat like IRC or AIM to actively communicate during class.

What does this mean to us as educators?

Backchanneling allows students to chat, using technology, during a presentation. In a situation where every student has a laptop, students could use a chat room or IRC software to discuss what the presenter is saying. Okay – I could see using that, as long as every student has access to a laptop and as long as there’s sufficient supervision to make sure that the students are actually on task.

But what about backchanneling across the United States?


Let’s say you have a bunch of people who teach on Sunday mornings (y’know anybody like that?). Let’s say that they teach the same age group and they want to show a movie.

What if you could coordinate this among classes in different cities? Show the movie with backchanneling available? So that kids could comment and discuss with students in other places?

Or a book club – across state borders?

If you’re interested in pursuing this for the upper grades – I teach 8th and 9th grade… let me know.


March 25, 2009 Posted by | collaboration, Technology | , , | Leave a comment


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