Rabbi David Etengoff is the Director of Educational Technology at the Magen David Yeshivah Elementary School in Brooklyn, NY.
I first encountered Rabbi Etengoff when he tweeted in response to one of my blog posts.
Having never met an edtechie Rabbi, or a director of Educational Technology at a Yeshivah, I asked Rabbi Etengoff if he would be willing to share his perspectives on Educational Technology and his career path in this space.
Rabbi Etengoff graciously agreed, and what follows is an e-mail interview that we conducted.
Question 1: How does a Rabbi end up also as a Director of Educational Technology?
I am one of the pioneers in my field, having begun in this role in 2000. For the record, however, there are probably close to 100 individuals throughout the United States that are directors of Educational Technology in Yeshivot and Jewish Day Schools. How this came to be is best answered in the next question.
Question 2: What has been your career path?
I have served the Jewish community in a variety of positions. I have been a synagogue rabbi in three congregations, an afternoon Hebrew School and yeshiva principal, and a Judaic Studies, Social Studies, and Computer Science Educator. My emphasis, it must be noted, has always been on education and in helping the next generation think, grow, and succeed both cognitively and affectively.
Question 3: Does your rabbinical training inform how you approach challenges in learning and technology?
I was fortunate to study with some wonderful pedagogues during my rabbinical studies.
Foremost among them was one of the 20th Century’s most widely respected rabbinic luminaries, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Rabbi Soloveitchik taught his over 2,000 students far more than a body of information. Instead, he taught us how to approach all intellectually demanding subject matter in a manner that would enable us to conceptualize the salient issues at hand, and to solve the myriad questions that might be generated as a result of this analysis. This training has been invaluable in understanding all challenges in learning, teaching, and technology.
Question 4: When I think of a Yeshivah the first things that come to mind are not educational technologies. Is this perception wrong and outdated?
Many Yeshivot throughout the world have embraced educational technologies. Like many educators, we realize that our students are digital natives and need to be addressed via their natural medium in order to communicate with them with meaning and authenticity. Institutions and websites that are particularly illustrative of this approach include Yeshiva University’s and Yeshivat Har Etzion’s. These sites offer online courses, as well as text, audio, and video lectures.
Question 5: How are learning technologies utilized in your school?
Learning technologies are extensively used in my school. We have two complete computer labs, SmartBoards in every classroom, and an emphasis on using technology as a powerful learning tool. Students regularly create PowerPoint and SmartNotebook presentations to augment their standard written reports. In addition, most General Studies research is conducted via various computer technologies.
Question 6: I am interested (and pleased) that a colleague from an elementary school is a reader of Inside Higher Ed. What websites, blogs and publications do you follow?
I follow a great deal of what I have determined to be the “best” websites, blogs, and publications including, but not limited to, TechLearning.com, Cnet.com, PCmagazine.com, Macworld.com, Inside Higher Education (blog), jewishinteractive.com, informationweek.com, and a myriad of other sources that I read based on the PLN I have created on Twitter. I regularly curate many of these materials on my Scoopit.com page.
Question 7: Do you see an opportunity where higher ed and secondary schools can learn from each other where learning and technology intersect?
Absolutely – all educational institutions have a great deal to learn from one another. In my opinion, opportunities for communication and networking between all types of schools should be encouraged in the strongest possible manner. After all, we share one grand goal: Enabling students to become passionately engaged!
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