Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Getting Started

We are very excited about the work we hope to accomplish over the next few months. Our aim is to develop scripts with a grade 5 class, then create videos in Hebrew language that can be shared in a variety of ways. Our first steps are to find a small space for our studio. (We plan to call this the world headquarters of Studio 613 but really it is going to be a small part of a portable attached to the school). We are lucky to have a rabbi on staff who was trained as a script writer so straight after the summer break, we hope to have the "Studio" functioning, a portable placed on site, and a class working with Rabbi Estrin on the development of scripts.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Curricular Website / Webquest Development / Smartboards / Dreamweaver

For the past couple of years at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy in Atlanta, I have been designing websites for the Judaic Curriculum. I have a website which up until now has been hosted on a server in Chicago. This is a 5th Grade Judaic website that has also been added to Bar-Ilan University's online teacher resource library.

The Avichai grant has enabled me to accomplish several things: 1. The further development of my pre-existing websites which will soon be moved to a local server which we have purchased for my websites. 2. We have purchased a smartboard for my classroom with full overhead projection. 3. Up until this time, I have created my websites and webquests using Frontpage. I have since been trained in Dreamweaver and have developed the next website for 6th Grade Mishnah. I will post the link to this site within the next couple of weeks as we get our new server up and running. I will eventually receive training in writing html as well.
The current link to my 5th Grade website is: http://jwit.cuip.net/~cmoaty/5th%20Grade/

Please feel free to browse the site. There are still areas of the site that are under construction, such as the Dinim section. You will see the worksheets and the games and web quests that my students have access to at all times. They can print off a worksheet as many times as needed to study, or an advanced student may complete work ahead, use games to review, or work on a web quest to further challenge him or herself. A slower student can access the information at home for review, or for extra time. No student ever comes in saying that they cannot find their homework. :) Parsha sheets are available in advance for students to complete as they wish- either during that week, or a little ahead if they have time. Parents love the website! There will be additional features added to the website over the coming weeks. I will post as I make these changes.

I will also post as I continue to develop the other websites for the rest of the Judaic Studies subjects in Middle School. This week I will be attending the NECC 2007 Ed Tech Conference to be held here in Atlanta. Among other things, I will be attending workshops that demonstrate creative uses of the Smartboard. I'll post some of what I observe at a later time.

Carrie Moaty
Greenfield Hebrew Academy
Atlanta, Georgia

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Chumash Presentations Using PowerPoint

YA's tech grant was to purchase digital cameras, laptops and computer projectors to enhance the Judaic learning experience and especially motivate students who learn differently. Student were given the assignment in mid-April but with classes ending May 30, the school didn't receive the funds to be able to take advantage of the equipment this year. Ms. Allen's assignment is included at the end of this posting.

My recommendation is that instead of assigning a multimedia/PowerPoint project to all the students at one time, the presentations should be spaced out, perhaps on a weekly basis, so each week a student or class group is making a presentation. The PowerPoint presentations are a good classroom motivator.
As for workload, the teacher might consider eliminating a homework assignment or test during the week that the student/group makes the presentation. Having a mounted computer projector, screen and laptop in the classroom makes it easy to schedule the presentations, because the equipment is in place and ready for showtime.

Chumash H - Second Semester Presentation

Throughout the year we have covered an array of topics within Sefer Bamidbar , but we will not be able to touch on topics and details within the last several Parshiot in the Sefer. This will be your opportunity to learn more about any historical event, halachah, or verse that you'd like within your assigned section and to share what you have learned with the rest of the class. I hope you will choose a topic that is interesting to you and that you will enjoy this assignment!

Presentation - 75 points
  • 15-20 minute presentation
  • Prepared, organized and serious
  • Technology/Creativity - music, video, PowerPoint, etc.
  • At least 3 sources must be used (excluding a Chumash) - More are welcome!
  • At least 2 ideas must be taught along with their Hebrew text (or at least part of it)
  • Handout - Note sheet or a Question sheet will be given to the class
  • Copies of all sources used will be turned in on the day of your presentation.
  • Clear and Understandable
Remember that your classmates will be responsible for this information!

Due dates will be from May 8th-30th - No late presentations!

(Your exact due date will depend on the section that you have been assigned/chosen to research, as well as how many students opt to do full-period presentations for extra credit.)

EXTRA CREDIT Requirements - OPTION 1
Full Period Presentation - 100 points (25 extra points possible)
  • 40-45 minute presentation
  • Prepared, organized and serious
  • Technology/Creativity - music, video, powerpoint, etc.
  • At least 5 sources must be used (excluding a Chumash ) - More are welcome!
  • At least 3 ideas must be taught along with their Hebrew text (or at least part of it)
  • Handout - Note sheet or a Question sheet will be given to the class
  • Copies of all sources used will be turned in on the day of your presentation.
  • Clear and Understandable
Remember that your classmates will be responsible for this information!

If you want to commit to doing the extra credit presentation, you must speak with me by the end of this week so that I can make sure to leave enough time in the schedule for these extra credit presentations!

If you want to earn extra credit without doing a longer presentation, see the back of this sheet for another extra credit option!

EXTRA CREDIT Requirements - OPTION 2
Paper - 100 points (25 extra points possible)
  • grammatically correct and organized
  • 3-4 pages of correct content
(12pt, Times New Roman, Double Spaced, No spaces between paragraphs,
Heading only on the cover page)
  • 5 sources (excluding a Chumash) cited throughout the paper
  • Bibliography and copies of your sources

(Warning: Be Careful Not to Plagiarize! Summarize information or quote it if necessary!)

Doing this option does not exempt you from the in class presentation.

You will still be required to do a 15-20 minute presentation about the material that you wrote about in the paper described above.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CDRebbi software : Software which can be customized for each teacher

Imagine....computer games that your students will love and any Rebbi can set up and use to review what he taught in his own class.
Imagine....a fun way to help your students reveiw their Chumash and Parsha.
Imagine....software that you chose from over 900 questions to help you design your own Chumash and Parsha worksheets and tests.
Imagine.... a game that students will search for clues around the school to answer questions on the computer to review for a test.
Stop Imagining....these programs will iy"h become available after the summer with the help of AVI CHAI Foundation. These are programs that I have used successfully with my H.A.N.C. high school students. I will make the games teacher friendly . The games will have templates that any teacher can use to insert information that he/she taught to have a fun review with his/her class.

Avraham Ismach
Hebrew Academy Of Nassau County

Text and Context: Integrating Tanakh and History

The purpose of my project is to set Tanakh against the backdrop of Mesopotamian, Egyptian and other ancient cultures in order to see what makes our tradition so unique. I began this past year by putting some of the experiences of Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov and Yosef in an ancient Near Eastern or Egyptian context. My goal over the summer and the 2007-8 school year is to create similar presentations on Shmot and the Five Megillot. All presentations are on PowerPoint and use artworks to concretize cultural concepts.

Tikvah Wiener
English, Art History and Tanakh Departments
The Frisch School
Paramus, New Jersey

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hebrew language articles in our electronic newspaper

Yeshiva Atlanta has been publishing an online newspaper since the beginning of the 2006-07 school year, using ConstantContact.com as Yeshiva's email program. One of the tech grant goals is to increase the use of Hebrew by adding Hebrew language articles as well as online video skits and/or other multimedia presentations. I've requested the tech department to archive old newsletters for viewing from YA's website. If you would like to see YA's future editions, you can sign up at the website at http://www.yeshivaatlanta.org

Scroll to the bottom of the home page and enter your email in the designated box. If you are interested in using or testing out this program for your institution, email books2gogh@gmail.com. I will send you an invitation, so that you will receive a $30 credit if you decide to subscribe. There is a special rate for nonprofits. Until the archives are posted, you can also email me to forward an old issue.

Some of YA's recent editions also included Hebrew language PowerPoints. Since the entire newsletter is online and the program allows online links, YA has taken advantage of the medium and added videos which YA hosted at http://video.google.com, photo slide shows that YA hosted at http://flickr.com and PowerPoint programs, which YA has hosted on its own webserver. This program also allows the students to include podcasts and other MP3 files and one of the goals is to include a Hebrew language dvar Torah, either written and/or spoken.

How written articles are posted: The Hebrew Word document is saved as a pdf file and FTPd up to the school's website. The pdf file is also converted into a jpeg file and the article is posted as an image with a link to the pdf file, which is more legible.

Videotaping the Amidah

While many faculty members around the country are finishing up the school year, Yeshiva Atlanta classes ended May 17 for seniors, May 31 for the rest of the school, which included a week off for Shavuot and Memorial Day and the the last day for faculty meetings was June 13. As a result, there was not much time to get our Tech grant proposals up and running. The most experimental and controversial portion of our grant was the videotaping of Student B saying the Shemoneh Esreh. The plan was for Student A to set up the camera in a private and quiet room and as soon as the camera was properly focused on the student being taped, Student A would leave the room. After the prayers were taped, working in chavruta, the two students would review the tape with a checklist to check if students knew the mechanics and they also would check for proper pronunciation. Then Student B would tape Student A. A faculty member would review the results with both students. The purpose was to assure the Judaic faculty and the students that our students knew this prayer. We planned to tape seniors and freshman this year; the rest of the student body next year and the freshman in subsequent years and retakes as needed for students that needed remedial work in prayer.

Because of the calendar, the seniors graduated by the time this project could be put in place. Having worked with video for many years and considering that prayer is very personal, I knew that this would be a sensitive area. When it was presented to the students, however, and participation was totally optional, there was major resistance. I had done a very good job educating my students (I taught an Introduction to Computers class) never to put anything on video or in writing, especially on the Internet, that they might not want someone to see at a later date and the students reminded me of those warnings. As a result of that discussion, I came up with a new format. I bought a few inexpensive 128MB SD cards (we used a Samsung camera and MPEG-4 format to tape), so that the student would have the video in their possession and the student would be the only one to view the tape. Still no 9th grade volunteers but we did get a female member of the junior class to participate.

I decided to tape myself and go through the experience and made an amazing discovery—the Shemoneh Esreh is silent! Yes, we all know that but except for the few students (any male student who wants to volunteer) in our school that get to be the baal koreh, very few students as well as adults have the opportunity to say the entire Shemoneh Esreh out loud. (For the past three years, our students have participated in a co-ed Orthodox service. Prior to that the girls had separate tefillah but the chazanit would not repeat any of the prayers.) While I felt all these years that I was “reading” the Amidah prayer fluently, I found myself stumbling over the words. I'm thinking that videotaping the Amidah prayer may not be the best choice in evaluating if our students know how to pray. And with the student resistance to the Shemoneh Esreh, we might get better results in taping the singing of Hallel as a group project (groups of 2, 3 or perhaps the whole grade by gender, which in our school is no more than 12 students).

Our Amidah checklist was prepared by our esteemed rebbe, Rabbi Daniel Estreicher. We have a significant number of students in our school that are of Sephardic background and I've asked the former rav of the Iranian minyan to review the checklist and note if there are any Sephardic minhagim in regards to the mechanics of the Amidah. The student who participated is Sephardic and as soon as I get the second checklist, I will be able to survey this student about her participation and will post results to the blog.

We decided the checklist was a useful tool and will post a copy in the Beit Midrash and/or give a copy to each student as well. Plans are made to try this project again in the fall with incoming freshmen.

Here is the checklist:

Checklist for the Weekday Amidah

1. Took three steps back (starting with the left foot). Yes / No

2. Took three steps forward (starting with the right foot). Yes / No

3. Said תהלתך יגיד ופי שפתי תפתח ‘ה in a soft voice. Yes / No

4. At the beginning of the first paragraph, bent knees at the word ברוך. Yes / No

5. Bowed at the word אתה. Yes / No

6. Straightened up and then said ה׳. Yes / No

7. At the end of the first paragraph, bent knees at the word ברוך. Yes / No

8. Bowed at the word אתה. Yes / No

9. Straightened up and then said ה׳. Yes / No

10. In the second paragraph, left out the phrase הגשם ומוריד הרוח משיב in the summer months. Yes / No (Some add the words הטל מוריד in the summer months.)

11. In the 6th blessing that begins with the words לנו סלח, hit your heart area with your right fist at the word חטאנו. Yes / No

12. Hit your heart area with your right fist at the word פשענו. Yes / No

13. In the 8th blessing that begins with the word רפאנו, if you added the רצון יהי for a sick person it was added after the words מכותינו לכל. Yes / No / Did Not Add At All

14. In the 9th blessing that begins with the words עלינו ברך, you inserted the words ברכה ותן in the summer months. Yes / No (or the correct paragraph for the summer if Sefardi)

15. In the 18th blessing that begins with the words לך אנחנו מודים, bowed at the word מודים. Yes / No

16. Straightened up and then said ה׳. Yes / No

17. At the end of the 18th blessing, bent knees at the word ברוך. Yes / No

18. Bowed at the word אתה. Yes / No

19. Straightened up and then said ה׳. Yes / No

20. Inserted the phrase of …פי אמרי לרצון יהיו before the paragraph of נצור אלקי. Yes/ No

(Some people do not have the custom to add this sentence.)

21. Inserted the verse that corresponds to the first and last letters of your name in the paragraph of נצור אלקי after you said the words וענני ימינך הושיעה. Yes / No

(Some people do not have the custom to add this verse.)

22. After the words וגאלי צורי ה׳, you bowed and took three steps back starting with your left foot. Yes / No

23. Bowed to the left while you said the words במרומיו שלום עשה. Yes / No

24. Bowed to the right while you said the words עלינו שלום יעשה הוא. Yes / No

25. Bowed forward while you said the words אמן ואמרו ישראל כל ועל. Yes / No

26. Concluded with the paragraph of . . .רצון יהי. Yes / No

27. Remained standing until the Chazzan gets to קדושה. Yes / No

(Only applies when davening with a minyan.)

28. Took three steps forward starting with the right foot. Yes / No

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lafayette, website, Elementary, CCJDS, June, 2007

We met with our outside tech consultant after Shavuot and she was great! I'm not being paid to advertise, but Lori Buschbaum (lori.buschbaum@gmail.com) in the SF Bay area is proving to be an incredible resource! She clearly was familar with PC and Mac technology and was well aware when she was "speaking Geek" (or technology laden jargon) and was also very interested in helping us get our project going! She also had advice about everything that we wanted to do and seemed to be familiar with it and have experience doing it! Best of all, she said that her passion is helping other people become technologically proficient because she has plenty of work to keep her going! That is just what we wanted to hear!

After ruminating for a few weeks, she encouraged us to consider powerful suite of applications called "Power School" that includes everything that we want to do--grades, calendaring, student records, websites, etc. It is also easy to administer with very little technical know-how. But the catch is that it is around $5,000 or $6,000 and that would use every cent of our grant! So we asked Lori to create a different "road map" for us based on a more low-budget, piece-meal approach to creating our technology infrastructure. For example, an a low cost remote server hosting site that works with non-profits, like small Jewish day schools, an easy-to-use but low cost email service, web hosting site, etc. We want to stick with our plan of implementing one new thing at a time to get it right, and get the hang of it, then move on to the next thing. From long experience, all of us in our little technology work group at the school know that everything new piece of the puzzle you add creates more potential headaches and snafu's, so our motto is the Hebrew expression, "sh'lav sh'lav"--a step at a time!

So now we are just waiting for Lori to get back to us with the suggestions and hopefully, we'll have most of the summer to explore the most pressing things first--like creating a web-based report card system for the teachers, a new remote server hosting service, and then set up the structure for creating class web sites. As for myself, I'm totally psyched to be taking an Apple technology certification class on server administration and support! I might be the school's Rabbi-in-Residence, but I LOVE this technology stuff!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Power Pointing in the Right Direction

In the past four weeks, about half a dozen sixth-eighth graders have been developing their first pages of a Power Point siddur that I am going to put on-line as part of this AVICHAI technology grant project. Students are finding images and literary texts that articulate a mood and that provide a tone for the accompanying text of the amidah. Because the end of the year is upon us, the students have to stop where they are, but they have given me some great raw material to work with this summer.

They don't have audio to go with the amidah yet, but in the fall, when I begin working on this again, I am sure that the students will bring in music and create their own. I intend to add music to a siddur that I design, myself, since my project involves creating a siddur that can be projected for the students and manipulated by me or the students either on a SMARTBoard or on a large silver movie screen for the students during tefillot.

Also during the summer, I intend to learn about using Keynote, Apple's Power-Point-like presentation software. I would welcome any advice about using Keynote, especially when inputting Hebrew and I look forward to hearing more about the other great projects going on.
- Judd Levingston

Smartboard vs. Tablet PCs Pros and Cons Continued

A few comments on Elky Langer’s proposed scenarios.

1. Using the Airliner of similar digitizer tablets (e.g. Wacom digitizers) either wired or wireless, is not as simple as it may seem. It requires a significant amount of eye-hand coordination since you are moving your hand based on what you are seeing on a screen across the room. I experimented with such a setup (a USB wired Wacom digitizer pen tablet ~$35)and found that I did not have the coordination or dexterity for it to be a worthwhile endeavor, although my results did improve when I was seated and was using the digitizer tablet as one would use a mouse. Since I too tend to move around my classroom, the fixed desk approach is not a viable option for me.

2. Although I have been using the tablet PC for a short time now I find that I am most comfortable using it based from a moveable lectern. I have the Tablet PC connected to an LCD projector wirelessly (it uses the WiFi 802.11g protocol not Bluetooth) and have the projector on a desk mid-classroom pointing at my white dry-erase board. The projector does occasionally get bumped or jarred but since it does not have to be re-oriented, it is not particularly disruptive to an ongoing lesson.

3. While new Tablet PCs are pricier than standard laptops (they start at around $800-900) used and refurbished models are available for substantially less (e.g. $400-$500 for a Gateway M275 still under the original Gateway warranty). Since what you are probably doing in the classroom will not be stretching the capabilities of an older machine (assuming you are not trying to run MS Windows Vista), you should enjoy the benefits of a Tablet PC without breaking the bank.

4. An unanticipated advantage to the Tablet PC setup versus the whiteboard setup relates to classroom management. When I use the Smartboard I have to turn my back on the class, just as when I write on the whiteboard. When using a Tablet PC I do not have to turn my back on the class. (While I am sure that absolutely none of us have students who might act up while a teacher’s back is turned ;) this may be a factor for those “other” teachers who may have such issues.)

5. I liked the Smartboards with the built in projector, but felt guilty investing in a non-sharable resource. While I like the idea of always having access to the resource, I realize that I will not be using it every period every day. This leads me to my next point…

6. My students were enthralled the first time I used the Smartboard, in every class since they have been asking for me to use it But like any other tool it is not a panacea and it certainly can be misused or overused. I am finding that one of the challenges in developing technologically dependent lessons is maintaining a balance. I want to be sure that I will be using the technology when it will improve and enhance the learning experience rather than using technology for its own sake.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

SmartBoard Options

Friday, June 01, 2007

Jewish History using Powerpoint - 1st Post

My project is to create a series of Powerpoint presentations on topics of Jewish history that will include source docs, maps, sounds, video clips, Q's and discussion points. I've already begun to create the presentations and have begun my research on adding sounds and video clips. The two areas I will need to focus on are a) mastering the technology b) finding the right audio and video material. Finding the right material will be fairly time consuming; first in establishing what is out there and then selecting what is appropriate for the students. Additionally, I may not be able to use all the material if its copyrighted.
I haven't been able to do that much yet as I have a stack of research papers and exams to grade.
If anyone come across some really great audio or video material or websites that would be relevant to Jewish history please let me know.