Cybrary Man's Jerry Blumengarten on the Unrealized Potential of "Learning Machines"

Nearly 50 years ago, Jerry Blumengarten predicted that "learning machines" would eventually transform classroom instruction. Today he laments that while everybody is connected, "they are not always connected for educational purposes."

Thankfully Blumengarten, who for 32 years taught social studies and other subjects in the New York Public School system, remains passionate about making sure the right digital learning materials are accessible to teachers, students and the public at large. He is the publisher of Cybrary Man, a site launched in 1999 that showcases more than 20,000 online educational resources he has personally curated over the last several years.

Blumengarten's selections are informed by his own personal experience, as well as via recommendations he gets from other trusted educators that he meets through his many walks of life.

"A lot of apps come out, you want somebody who personally is using it before you try it out," he said. "It helps to find the right people so you can build a personal learning network."

A Personal Learning Network for apps, videos and websites

Readers of appoLearning are learning that our mission is to help K-12 teachers, students, and others identify the best educational apps, videos and websites by topic, grade level, and Common Core Standard. So, if you are searching for resources to teach first grade subtraction, Android apps that cover astronomy, or resources that teach Common Core Standards that assess how high school students draw evidence from informational text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.9), you can type in a keyword to find expert-reviewed options. From there, you can filter by device type, platform, and whether the resource is free or paid.

Blumengarten is always expanding his personal learning network. Since retiring from classroom teaching in 2002, he has served as an educational consultant, author, national speaker, and Twitter icon. You can find him at @cybraryman1, and he is also one of the moderators of #edchat and other online discussions around education.

Website selections on Cybrary Man are organized by age group, subject area, and various teachers tools. And while Blumengarten does a fantastic job reaching educators and others who are active on Twitter, he understands that teachers who share and evangelize online are the exception, not the rule.

"Most teachers don't realize what they should be doing and are not using technology properly," he said. "Everything right now is too geared toward testing. The shame is that kids get so excited when they just start school. But now they're even testing in kindergarten. They took the play away, so learning is no longer fun."

Blumengarten's overarching educational philosophy is to test kids once but thoroughly at the beginning of the year, identify skills that need to be sharpened and enhanced, and allow kids to build on those skills throughout the year.

"Every classroom has different levels of learners," he said. "The teaching machines should help teachers identify where their kids are, and make sure they are working at the proper level. Otherwise, too many kids fall through the cracks."