Thursday, September 20, 2007

When the Students Took Over ...

... the Smartboard. It was an experiment that proved to be a real success.

I had it all set up in advance. We were exploring a concept, and I had a number of sources--from Gemara, Midrash, and various commentaries--with the text and illustrations in Smartboard notebook.

I printed out the notebook slides, divided the students into groups, and assigned each group a source. Their task: decipher the source, determine how it applied to the concept we were exploring, and figure out the ramifications for that concept. They were also to decide how they would present it to the class, using the Smartboard.

I circulated through the groups, helping with translation and additional source background as needed. But it was their job to determine how to apply the source to the concept, and what it implied about the concept.

They took turns coming up and teaching their source to the class, using the Smartboard tools in any way they thought would enhance what they were discussing.

The results were really impressive--surpassing what I had expected for a first-time experiment. They all presented thoroughly and articulately, and their conclusions were quite sophisticated. One student actually asked permission to go to the library to look up an idea, and presented a "chiddush" of her own when she discussed her source.

They had a great time, learned several important ideas--and I suspect they'll remember today's lesson for quite some time.

It did take some extra effort on my part, but it was well worth it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

First Four Podcasts Posted

Our first four podcasts, the first four chapters from the Book of Jonah, have been posted. They can be heard online or by subscribing through the Apple iTunes store.

Getting the podcasts created was the first step. Now we have to let the 8th graders know how to access the files. We'll do that next week.

Hag sameah to all - best wishes for a happy, healthy, inspirational and productive new year (and on a personal note - my daughter became engaged Saturday night, so we are expecting a particularly happy new year!).

Monday, September 10, 2007

"I've been there stories from the battlefield"

"We are so excited. We can't wait to start the project!" was my students' first comment on the first day of school. They were so enthusiastic that I had to start the first stage of the project earlier then planed. I felt so lucky that I am changing my plans due to students willingness to get to work.
The 22 students were divided into 6 groups: directors, producers, editors, photographers, interviewers, and researchers. Each group received specific instructions as of their responsibilities, and was asked to design a folder where material will be collected and stored throughout the year. The producers started to collect names of potential interviewee (former Israeli fighters).
After the holidays tech training will start and first contact with interviewee will take place.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Power Points with Sound and Video

I was able to create a number of PPT presentations some with sound, some with video and some with links to the web. Here is a brief progress report:
1) The Jews in Medieval Christian Europe - Sound and Video
2) The Jews in America - Sound (so far)
3) Dead Sea Scrolls - Sound, Video, Link to the Web
4) The Golden Age of Spain - Sound (so far)
5) The Bar Kochba Revolt - Sound, Link to Web (so far)
6) Rambam
7) Eastern European Jewry
8) The Rise of Islam - in progress
9) The Miracle of Jewish History
10) The Rise of Modern Israel
The last 5 are strictly PPt's with no sound or video added yet. This whole process is a bit tricky.
I haven't found software yet that can pull off video material. Commercial DVD's usually have some encoded software so you have to contact the company to allow you to use it.
Adding sound and linking to websites is a bit easier, its really a matter of finding the right material, editing it and inserting it into the right spots.
An additional thing to consider: if you add an MP3 file to your presentation, it has to be included in your folder that contains the PPT.
I've been busy as of late because we're back to school so I'll probably get more done over Sukkot.
Shana Tova to all! Ktiva VChatima Tova!

Laptops, Blogs, Websites and Wikis!

I have been so excited by the technology that my school has allowed and encouraged me to implement! I have received laptops in my room - one per desk or child, and they are permanently wired through the ceiling. I have my desks in 4 pods, with colorful poles running up the center with the wiring. The laptops are on their own server in my room, so that at any given time, we can bounce between methods of learning with the technology at the ready! I'll try to post pictures of the set up next time. My blogs have been running beautifully, especially the 8th grade blog - what food for thought! Here are the links to the 5th and 8th grade blogs:
8th Grade: and 5th Grade: The wikis have been pretty neat as well - some of them are more up and running than others. 8th Grade:
6th Grade: and the
5th Grade:
My 5th Grade website is up and running. Don't be surprised if you see a few places where Hebrew or symbols come out funny - I'm still fixing things due to the changes in server: The 6th Grade site for Mishnah is up and running, but continues to be edited, so please have patience: and the 8th Grade History of Israel site is up and running, but is continuously under construction as well: More to come later..... Wishing everyone on this list a Shanah Tovah U'metukah!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

CDRebbi software : Software which can be customized for each teacher


Parshathon School edition-
1.I added another 100 questions to be able to divide it by parsha.There is now over 1000 questions on Sefer Bereishis.Now a teacher can choose which parsha to play with his class.
2.I received new graphics to upgrade one of the question categories and to make the graphics sharper.Included is a sharp interface for the students to set up their game.

Scavenger Hunt-
1.I received an upgraded graphic interface improved from 2 weeks ago.I have a new graphic screen for students to choose which game they want to play. Many teachers can set up their own games. This is where the student will choose his teacher’s game.
2.My new music is ready to be put in for sound effects and background music.

Torah Baseball-
1.I have received new baseball graphics such as a field,fielders, fans cheering, and a score board.
2.The new sound effects and music have arrived.I have Jewish background music and baseball sound effects. I have a new graphic screen for students to choose which game they want to play. Many teachers can set up their own games. This is where the student will choose his teacher’s game.
3.I upgraded the game to next summers Macabee challenge in order not to have to do the graphics twice.This means I had to put a lot of extra programming work into it. I changed the name to Torah Baseball so you should not think that it is only a game for Chanuka.
4.I created 100 Torah Teaser questions on Torah trivia which you can answer for a fly ball and get the hitter out.
5. I have made 30 questions on Chanuka as a sample game for teachers to see how to make their own game. In addition they can use it for Chanuka if they do not have time to make their own questions.

Parshathon Shemos-
1.We have created the first 200 questions on Sefer Shemos.
2.I have new music for Background music and sound effects.

Torah Race-
I received the first version of the main screen graphics.
I have new music for Background music and sound effects.

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Text and Context

The Frisch School is still adjusting to the move to its beautiful new building and unfortunately the technology is not in place and will not be so until after the chagim. However, the head of the Tanakh program and I have worked out the schedule for the first two Torah integration presentations and the first Nach presentation. Furthermore, we've come up with the basic outline for the Nach presentations. They are:

Presentation 1: Qoheleth: The Solomonic era and the genre of Wisdom Literature
Presentation 2 and 3: How understanding the Achaemenid Dynasty and the way the Persian Empire worked enhances Esther
Presentation 4: Ruth:Topic to be decided.
Presentation 5: Eichah: Conceptions of the land of Israel in the Torah and Eichah and ancient practices of besieging and conquering a land

I look forward to having all of this available soon.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

SmartBoard - The First Two Days

Two days into the beginning of school and I'm just starting to appreciate the versatility of the SmartBoard.

First, of course, there's the "cool factor." That'll wear off, but for now I've got everyone's attention. They're vying for turns to get up there and write. A great opportunity to get the less involved students more involved.

Next, an unexpected benefit. I'm working with a class that has a wide range of skill levels, and I don't want to compromise my curriculum--but I also don't want anyone left behind. I think the visual cues offered by the SmartBoard should help close that gap. I'm going to keep an eye on this and see where it develops.

My students expressed an interest in recording the classes (audio) and I'm going to try recording the SmartBoard sessions. Then I'll try to combine the video and audio, and come up with a video that they can watch for review. All this takes time, so I don't think I'll do all the classes, but I'd like to try a few just to see how they come out.

Has anyone tried editing the AVI files produced by the SmartBoard recording capability? Can I combine them with Windows Movie Maker? Any suggestions?

My SmartBoard modules are on Chumash Beraishis and Megillas Kohelles. If anyone is interested in seeing them, let me know and I'll email the notebook files to you.

For those of you using Windows Vista, if you've got an Airliner Slate with your SmartBoard, be careful of automatic updates. Microsoft's latest Vista update knocked out the Bluetooth adapter and I ended up having to roll back 3 weeks via System Restore, then install the latest Vista drivers which are not on the CD that comes with the product--they have to be downloaded. This didn't work without the System Restore because apparently MS has their own Bluetooth driver, with a more recent date on it, and my system insisted on using it instead of the downloaded driver. Unfortunately it turns out to be buggy and did not work with the slate. So, don't allow Windows to select the driver itself--cancel out of that and do the install from the download. The Smart website has detailed instructions if you need it.