The Purpose of Ed Tech
“It’s not an ed tech conference, it’s a conference on learning and teaching,” Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches) astutely pointed out in the opening keynote of EdJEWcon. In that moment, as in so many magical learning moments in groups, I felt as though Silvia was speaking not merely to the group, but directly to me; gently, caringly, correcting me in order to support my own learning and growth. I had called EdJEWcon an ed tech conference not only once, but just about every time I shared with others where I would be April 29th-May 1st. In that moment, as Silvia defined the purpose of edJEWcon, I understood; I learned; I grew. I was in the presence of teachers skilled in educational technology; but far more significantly, I was in the presence of learners wanting, as Andrea Hernandez (@edtechworkshop) shared in her introduction to the conference, to engage in collaborative co-created learning. With Silvia’s and Andreas’s words, a tone was set for our group of twenty plus individual school teams to become a learning community.
Our responsibilities are significant. The world of education, reflecting the world in which our students are growing up, is changing rapidly. Silvia Tolisano shared that Generation Alpha, those born around 2010, will arrive at school already having a digital footprint. It will be our responsibility as educators to help them make that digital footprint a positive one. I reflected on what a daunting task we share; focused for me not primarily on technology, although the technology matters, but on character. How can we help our students define their own identities in positive, meaningful ways in a world in which so much that was once private is now transparent, shared, and open? How can we support our students to contribute to community in a world in which the very definition of community is in constant flux?
In the past several years, I have grown more comfortable with questions that have no immediate answer; relishing in the creative chaos of finding our way together. I also appreciate the calming voices among us who remind us of the substantial gifts we have to guide us. Jon Mitzmacher (@jon_mitzmacher) did not disappoint, joining his voice to the keynote, pointing to the necessary contemporary skills that have ancient grounding and have always been part of the fabric of Jewish schools: critical thinking, global connection, second language acquisition, and social learning. The tension in my body eased a bit and I recognized that while expectations are high, we share many supports to reach those expectations. As much as our world is changing, much remains the same: the importance of character, compassion, and care. Ultimately, our world remains dependent upon the strength of communities of value.
And so, I add to Silvia Tolisano’s message. EdJEWcon is not an ed tech conference and not even a conference on learning and teaching. EdJEWcon, at least for me, is a conference on creating communities of learning and character in a rapidly changing world.