Evolution or Revolution?

Last Updated on Thursday, 6 May 2010 02:29 Written by bryfy Thursday, 6 May 2010 09:29

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be part of a dynamic, if not “messy” discussion about Jewish education and Technology hosted by the Lippman Kanfer Institute at JESNA and The Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts from yesterday’s event….

“I am very excited to be here today. I want to introduce you today to something that is going to change the way that we learn. It is so exciting that not only will it change the way we run our schools, but also has the capacity to change the way we live our lives. Now anyone can create information for others to see. We are no longer restricted to learning by ourselves at our desks with a book in hand. With this new technology teachers will be able to reach many more students than ever before. When new information is learned you won’t have to wait for a new book to be printed, you will be able to share it you’re your students immediately. If something changes or you make a mistake, you can just erase it and put up the new information for all to see. You can’t believe how much easier your life as a teacher will become – not just easier, but more effective and more influential. If knowledge is power, now you can share it with so many more people than ever before – we are truly living in a powerful time with endless possibilities.”

This is how I imagined a presentation would have taken place in a Board of Education circa 1800. It would have been followed by the following comments:

“A chalkboard is a reusable writing surface on which text or drawings are made with sticks of calcium sulphate, known, when used for this purpose, as chalk.”

The chalkboard was introduced into the US education system in 1801.

I want to strongly recommend for anyone interested in education and technology that they look at Larry Cuban: Undersold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom. In it he suggests that over the years there have been many different types of technologies introduced in educational settings, but in fact none of them have really changed the way teachers teach and students learn.

On one hand, you could agree with Cuban and believe that what is happening now with Web 2.0, 3.0 and beyond is part of an evolutionary cycle in education – just another set of technologies (a la the chalkboard, radio, television, VCR, CD Rom) being introduced into our classrooms.

I strongly disagree.

What is taking place now is not an evolution, but a revolution. Not just in education but in the way we live our entire lives. And if we as educators want to remain relevant then we must adapt, and adapt quickly.

I want to personally extend thanks to all of yesterday’s speakers who really offered some incredible insights, and challenged us all to think about many of the complex issues that we face in the world of Jewish education and technology – Meredith Lewis (
MyJewishLearning.com), Daniel Sieradski (Repair the World), Lisa Colton (Darim Online), Russel Neiss (Media Midrash), Lilit Marcus (formerly of Jewcy.com), keynote speaker Professor Jeffrey Shandler (Rutgers University), and hosts and moderators Jonathan Woocher, Director of the Lippman Kanfer Institute and Steven M. Cohen, Director of The Berman Jewish Policy Archives.

And for all of you twitter devotees you can follow the disucssion that took place at #je3conf

(In further blog entries I will articulate some of the challenges that lie before us as Jewish educators struggling with how to utilize technology in Jewish education today and tomorrow)


  1. Peter Eckstein   |  Thursday, 06 May 2010 at 11:13 am

    David, I’m looking forward to seeing the video of the conference. The tweets I followed yesterday wet my appetite. I agree with you that we are in the midst of a revolutionary period, but i think the rapid change that we are a part of is driven not just by technological advances but also economic crisis. Jewish institutional life as we know it is, to a significant extent, collapsing. What will replace is anyone’s guess, but technology most likely is the tool that will enable the next step to be taken, where ever it leads us. As I tweeted yesterday, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift, and as educators we need to be prepared to ride it, and if possible, guide it.

    Kol HaKavod David, by the way, on your insights. As always, you have much to teach us.

  2. dlevy   |  Thursday, 06 May 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Can you elaborate about why the current technological moment is different than those you cite from the past? I don’t disagree with you, but it’s a bold claim to make without presenting any reasoning…

  3. Lisa Colton   |  Thursday, 06 May 2010 at 5:44 pm

    David – Thank you for redefining the ACTUAL revolution taking place. It’s not actually about the technology, though new tools may be influencing, energizing, and speeding the change we are seeing. As someone very interested in education, but without much formal training in this area, I would be interested to hear from you some of the elements of teaching, teachers, and educational settings (schools, classrooms, grades, etc.) that you think are going through revolutionary change, and what that change might look like – either what is already underway or what experts predict it may look like 5, 10, 20 years from now. Looking forward to continuing this conversation with you and others.

  4. ilanit bero   |  Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I agree with the notion that “What is taking place now is not an evolution, but a revolution…”
    A revolution is when the mind-set of a culture is transformed- and transformed it has! (Plus, If it were an evolution, we wouldnt have noticed …)

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