Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frisch Integration Program: New Presentation

The latest integration presentation is on www.slideshare.net/artikw and is on the isha sotah. It follows closely on the heels of the last presentation, because we wanted to make sure the sotah presentation was close to the time the chumash teachers taught nazir.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Military Encampments presentation

I managed to post my military encampment presentation on www.slideshare.net/artikw. I've also posted an integration lesson I revised from an old one for a mishmar I gave at Frisch last week. Last, I posted a presentation on Greek art that I sometimes use around Chanukah time to show the development of Greek philosophy and how and when it became pernicious to Judaism.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Text and Context: Frisch Integration Program

I've created and begun to present the first Chumash integration unit for the year, which is about military encampments in the ancient world and is entitled Camping Out: Israel in the Midbar. I'm having trouble posting the presentation on slideshare.net but will figure out the problem and will get it up there as soon as possible. The second Chumash presentation will follow closely on the heels of the first, as the second one is on Isha Sotah, and we'll be presenting the lesson in conjunction with Nazir in an attempt to tie together issues of holiness in the two topics. The year in Chumash will focus a lot on maintaining holiness, and my presentations as well will try to reinforce for the students how holiness is preserved in the camp.

I was in Israel over Thanksgiving vacation, and while it's always fantastic to be there, I went this time with a camera ready to take pictures at any spots I thought might pop up at a future integration lesson. I got shots of the mountain where the Azazel goat was thought to have been thrown down from as well as aerial shots of Jericho. Usually I have to scope out many Internet sites before finding the pictures I want and need, so hopefully the ones I took will save me some time in the future.

Frisch is still busy with the ninth-grade wiki as well. We've found some terrific ways of integrating our classes under the theme of identity and thereby deepening and enriching the learning experience. We have had art, history, Gemara, Hebrew Language, English, and Chumash create discussion threads that became very sophisticated, we've had teachers post quizzes and presentations on wiki pages using cool widgets, and we've had teachers create assignments for their classes out of other classes' work. The experience is becoming really rich. The students seem to be enjoying the wiki, and we'll see at the end of the year if the experiment really was a more educational and spiritual endeavor.

This coming week Frisch will be hosting our sister school from Nahariya, and we're going to be looking for ways to have the students from Nahariya work on the wiki as well.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Videotaping Teachers Teaching

In our grant, we said that we would videotape teachers teaching as a way of helping ourselves reflect on our teaching and learn from each other. In the last week, three of our Hebrew staff were videotaped and the entire Hebrew staff met, watched the videos, reflected on the teaching and the teacher reflected on her own teaching.

We realized that we needed to watch the segments more than once to truly learn from the experience. There were things we missed in the first viewing. We also learned that it is important for the person filming to know what the essential questions are so that she could focus on that while filming. It is important to edit in advance so that we are watching that which is most important.

The experience helped us find common pedagogic questions for us to share and work through, to learn from each other, to count on each other, and to recognize the differences in each other’s teaching style. We also discussed the ways that we can support each other in meeting different students’ needs based on our teaching styles. Perhaps we will do a better job of matching teachers with classes in the future based on our learning from all of us being exposed to each others’ teaching through video. That may not be what we decide, but this helped us frame the question.

We had a very lengthy discussion on the presentation of new vocabulary at every level of teaching. How much focus is spent on helping kids understand the words before translating them is dependent on the importance of that vocabulary word as a foundation for other learning.

We were also made more aware of how often teachers used English when they did not have to and reflected on how to ensure that this does not happen unless it is with students who truly need it.

The teachers feel that the experience helped them reflect deeply on their own teaching through watching others. The experience raised their consciousness about many things, including their tone, their methodology, and the materials they used They learned new ideas, discussed and shared and a sense of team was truly present.

--The Hebrew Team at SASSDS

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Experiments in Educational Technology - DEADLINE EXTENDED

We have extended the deadline, applications will now be accepted until December 8, 2008. To apply for the grant please go to http://tinyurl.com/edtech.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Video and the Parent-Teacher Conference

WOW! A couple of days ago we had parent-teacher conferences and several of our Hebrew teachers used the videos that they have been making as one way to share their students' progress with the parents. Here are some of their comments:

As a special needs Hebrew teacher, I found the use of the video
camera an extremely helpful tool to use to "show" the parents their children's progress. Some students with learning disabilities have a difficult time writing. The video clips enable the child to show a strength that the parents often don't have access to. It was especially helpful for one mother whose child has a very hard time in all of her subjects. The video clip provided her the opportunity actually "see" her child's progress.

--Sarah Shay-Davidson

I showed the videos to some parents and it was amazing to watch them looking at their child singing and talking in Hebrew or pointing at the letters. The parents of a child with special needs were very excited. It was such a wonderful way to show them that their child is participating. I looked at the father's eyes and could not make him happier. It will be very important to send the videos to the parents and show them the progress their kids have made. I wish I had more time to present more videos because as the Hebrew saying goes:" טוב מראה עיניים ממשמע אזניים "

--Braha Oren

Another good use of the video camera in our school was during the parent- teacher conferences that were held this Tuesday. A few weeks before the conference, we took pictures of specific children in order to show their parents the progress that they had made.

In second grade, while the students learned the days of the week, we taped those students who usually are very shy and embarrassed singing the days of the week song.

When we showed the parents their children singing in Hebrew in front of everyone, the reaction was the same, “I cannot believe … my son is doing something I never thought he would do …"

In addition, I did a mix movie, which combined a good interaction between students in the class, kids working with their peers, and children making Hebrew sentences with cards.

--Dana Bar-Or

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One more FAQ – about past projects

Some of you have asked to see the list of past recipients from the first grant program running 2006-2008. Go here or click on the “Grant 1 project descriptions” tag on the tag cloud located on the right.

Please note that this is a live blog, posts go down as new ones are added.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Frisch Integration 2008-9 school year

My first Integration Unit is ready, and i've begun presenting it to the Nach classes. The presentation is called Kings' Proclamations: The Cyrus Cylinder and Beyond. You can view the slide show at www.slideshare.net/artikw. All my other presentations are there as well.

The next presentation I'll be preparing will be for Chumash. The students are learning Bamidbar, so I'll be focusing for the first Chumash presentation on military encampments in the ancient Near East.

Monday, November 03, 2008

FAQ 2009: Grants for up to $10,000 are available for creative uses of technology in Jewish education - Questions and Answers

1) I’m in Israel. Can I apply for this funding support?

A: This funding is intended for educators in North American Jewish day schools. On the other hand, Israelis can partner with North American educators to design a solution to a pedagogic problem that will be implemented in a North American day school.

2) Can these monies be used by commercial vendors creating products for American schools?

A: The impetus for the grant must come from a teacher. The teacher can buy software or arrange for software design or development, but we won’t partner with the developer directly.

3) Does the money apply only to hardware purchases? Is it limited to non-hardware purchases?

A: No, and no.

4) Can you help me fund an existing program?

A: Our objective emphasizes innovation. You can apply, but we will favor new programs and it would take unusual circumstances for us to approve a grant for an existing program.

5) Is this only for Limudei Kodesh? Can the problem reach across Judaic and General Studies classes?

A: Your idea can assist students and teachers across the curriculum, as long as Judaic education is advanced.

6) Can this grant be used for school-wide efforts or only for class-room based initiatives?

A: The foundation is primarily interested in teacher-student initiatives, but school-wide efforts will be considered.

7) Can the description be more than the space allotted in the online application?

A: No.

8) Can we write the proposal in Hebrew?

A: Proposals must be submitted in English.

9) Does this money go to schools or teachers? Can more than one teacher in a school apply?

A: The Educational Technology Experimentation grants will be awarded directly to those teachers implementing the technological solution. However, the school’s administration must buy in to the teacher’s idea; at a later stage, we will require the administration’s signature on the proposal. In addition, , if hardware or software is necessary for the program, the school must purchase it directly. It is entirely possible that we may award several grants within the same school.

10) Is this funding for only certain kinds of day schools? Is it limited by age of student or affiliation?

A: The school must be an North American Jewish day school. Other than that, we will consider funding regardless of age of student or affiliation.

11) Can supplementary schools apply for this grant?

A: The funding is targeting day school educators, not supplementary educators. An industrious supplementary school teacher may want to team up with a day school teacher on a project, though.

12) Why is the application so short? There are only a few questions.

A: We will be inviting a small selection of teachers to submit full proposal. At this initial stage, we prefer this brief application, being mindful of people’s time and energy.

13) My school has a cash flow problem and does not have the money to purchase hardware in advance - is there a way for the grant to provide the money up front to the school?

A: Our typical operating procedure is to provide some of the grant money up front and some upon completion of the project. These terms will be individualized with each final grantee.

14) Can previous recipients apply with a new idea?

A: Yes.

Announcement: Grants for up to $10,000 are available for creative uses of technology in Jewish education 2008-9

Do you have an idea for a technological solution to a pedagogic challenge?

The AVI CHAI Foundation has dedicated itself to enhancing the quality of Jewish studies in day school education throughout North America. We are looking for creative ways to apply technology toward this goal.

Is funding the only thing standing in your way?

In an effort to learn from the field, AVI CHAI’s Board of Trustees has recently allocated funding to support creative uses of technology for Jewish education. Grants of $2,000 to $10,000 are available for those educators who can identify and develop innovative approaches to using technology in their teaching.

We are interested in hearing about how you might best address a pedagogic problem by using technology.

Please complete a brief application at: http://tinyurl.com/edtech. Applications will be accepted until December 1, 2008. Throughout December, we will review the submissions and will follow-up with selected educators with requests for fuller proposals. We anticipate that final grants will be announced in January 2009.

This marks the second round of educational technology experiments that we plan to fund. To learn more about this program, feel free to peruse the blog from our first round participants at: http://edtechexp.blogspot.com/. We hope you’ll share our enthusiasm about this initiative.

For more information refer to the following FAQ

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Teaching the Hebrew Calendar

Dana Bar Or, one of our middle grades Hebrew teachers, was teaching the Hebrew Calendar to her 4th grade students at South Area Solomon Schechter Day School. Here is what she had to say:

I gave the students a blank calendar with only the secular dates and Rosh HaShana filled in. The students used their knowledge of Hebrew and their knowledge of the Jewish holidays to fill in the rest of the Tishrei holidays. (e.g., If there are 10 days of teshuvah, how many days do we need to count between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur?) They filled in all of the Hebrew dates and all of the holidays, and then they decorated their calendars with symbols for each holiday. It took three lessons to finish the work, but it was worth it because the students learned so much from the process!

After the calendars were finished, I went around to each student and interviewed him/her in Hebrew about what he/she had done. I videotaped each one as they talked to me (in Hebrew) about their calendar and about the holidays of Tishrei. This videotape will be part of the file for each child that I am keeping to demonstrate his/her progress in Hebrew this year.

Shana Tova greetings across the ocean!

Moadim l'Simhah to everyone. Here's a quick update on how our Hebrew teachers at South Area Solomon Schechter are continuing to think of creative ways to use their new video cameras. (This post comes from Braha Oren, one of our lower school Hebrew teachers):

A year ago at our Zimriyah, we invited an Israeli poet and songwriter Dudu Barak to be our guest at the Zimriyah. The students learned many of his songs and got to know him as he visited all of the classrooms in the school and met with the students. He even came to our Zimriyah and sang one of his songs.

In honor of Rosh HaShona this year, we decided to send him a musical New Year’s greeting. The third graders gathered in their classroom at Hebrew time and everyone shouted in unison, “Shana Tova, Dudu Barak!” Then they sang a new song of his that they had learned recently.

It was so clear that the children felt that they had made a real connection with Israel. They were so delighted to make the video, because it reminded them of their treasured guest and new friend from last year. We're waiting eagerly now for a return message from Dudu.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

identity wiki and tanakh presentations at Frisch

Just an update on what's been going on at Frisch this past month:

We launched the identity theme with a terrific video that a teacher at Frisch made, and I spoke about the identity issues in the ninth grade summer reading book, The Color of Water. Tzvi Pittinsky, the director of Educational Technology, also showed the ninth grade class the wiki and the pages we have up so far. Dr. Kalman Stein, the school's principal, emailed the parents about the launch, and the teachers spoke about the theme to the parents on Back to School night.

Now the hard work begins: getting the teachers to use the wiki on a regular basis so the integration truly happens. The first wiki assignment will be about the elections. The ninth grade history teachers will ask students to contemplate on a discussion board on a wiki page about leadership the qualities the students think are important to have in a president. The assignment is part of a larger assignment on the elections that is posted on the wiki. Tzvi has a rubric for grading discussion board assignments, and he is showing it to the teachers.

I plan to have an assignment on the personal narrative that will be posted on the wiki page entitled, "My Story." The page is for any project that has to do with a life story that shapes a person's identity. As of now, Hebrew language is also slated to have a similar assignment on that page.

Another page that the teachers are working on now is called Classification. I'm waiting for a biology teacher to send me a handout on the six kingdoms of life and characteristics of life. We plan to combine that with Gemara which will take a look at why we classify in halakha as opposed to why we classify in science.

I'm still doing my other integration projects for Tanakh, which I'll be beginning after the Chagim. The first Chumash presentation will be on military encampments in the ancient Near East and Egypt and a look at the military encampment at the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar. Students are learning Ezra and Nechemia this year in Nach, so my first Nach presentation will be on kings' proclamations in the ancient world, particularly in the Persian Empire. Students in the Nach classes are going to learn about the Cyrus Cylinder in class already.

This year Frisch is also integrating from Judaic Studies into English literature classes. I'm involved since I'm head of the English department. I'm working with a Nach teacher who has a master's in English Literature. She's planning on coming into each grade at some point in the year. She's beginning with the eleventh grade and discussing the Torah's view of witches when the juniors learn The Crucible. In the twelfth grade, the teacher, Rochel Besser, is going to discuss nihilism and stream of consciousness in Qoheleth when the 12th grade learns modernist literature. For the tenth grade, Mrs. Besser plans on discussing the Expulsion from Eden motif, as students in the sophomore year learn many works where getting back to Eden is an ideal. Finally, in the ninth grade, Mrs. Besser will weigh in on Judaism's view of man's inherent nature -- good or bad -- as part of the grade's discussion of original sin in Lord of the Flies. We'll definitely incorporate her work into the wiki and identity theme! Mrs. Besser is planning on using technology in her presentations, but we don't know how yet. We'll keep you posted!

Shana tova and a successful and meaningful school year to everyone!
Tikvah Wiener

Monday, September 22, 2008

An Un-Technology Post (Courtesy of Hurricane Ike)

I am sitting in a well lit air conditioned room in front of a functioning computer connected to the internet.

I could not have made any of those statements a week ago.

On late Friday September 12, Hurricane Ike hit Houston Texas. Over 90% of the fourth largest city in the United States was left without potable water, electricity, or phone service. As we emerged from in our safe rooms Shabbat morning after a terrifying night, we gave thanks to the Almighty for sparing our lives while we surveyed the carnage to our homes and neighborhoods. As the last storm bands moved off to the north, the level of destruction to the city’s infrastructure began to sink in. Over 2 million homes and businesses were without power. Due to a power outage at the principle municipal pumping station the city’s water supply was not considered safe to drink for several days. Thousands of power lines, phone lines and cell phone towers were downed by the storm. Several major TV and radio broadcast facilities were taken out as well. This had the collective effect of severely limiting almost all forms of communications (ironically the most reliable form of communication following the storm was text messaging). We were in the dark both literally and figuratively. Gas was in short supply since most gas stations didn’t have the power needed to pump the fuel out of their underground tanks and the stations that did, quickly ran dry. Most stores were closed not having lights or refrigeration. Virtually all traffic lights and signals are still out, making every intersection a 4-way-stop assuming you can navigate around the massive piles of storm debris and fallen trees.

This is not to forum to describe living a week without electricity (A/C) for a week in Houston, Texas, nor is it the place to recount the details of the incredibly inspirational ways neighbors and communities forged together to offer support and aid to all who needed.

This is a forum to discuss education and technology.

Monday after the storm, we, (our school, the Robert M. Beren Academy) started giving informal Limmudai Kodesh (Judaic Studies) classes for students at one of the local synagogues that had regained power early.

Learning goes on.

These classes continued and as the week wore on, we began to add AP classes for the high school students so they wouldn’t fall behind in those content intensive courses.

Learning goes on.

At the time I am writing this, our school is still without power and our lower, middle and high schools are spread over three temporary satellite campuses that have electricity, but with virtually none of the tools one would expect in even the most rudimentary classroom.

Learning goes on.

Around one third of our students’ homes are still without power. They are staying with friends who have regained power or who have purchased generators. Some are wearing borrowed clothes since they have not been able to get to their homes or don’t have the power to do laundry.

Learning goes on.

Are we inconvenienced? Yes
Are we letting it stop us? No
(Most) Students (begrudgingly) realize they WANT to learn.
We teachers realize that we NEED to teach.

Learning goes on.

This “return to basics” has reminded me of something so fundamental that it often goes without saying.

And since it often goes without saying, it probably needs to be said a lot more often.

Ultimately, education is about an educator communicating with, and teaching a student. It has been done for millennia before there were Smartboards, wikis, and computers. And it can and does go on without them.

It is a human process, not a technical one.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Lesson on When the Shark Met the Fish

As part of our efforts to raise awareness among the 7th grade students about the plight of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who is being held captive by the Hamas, we decided to introduce a book that he wrote when he was 11 years old and that his parents had published in Israel. Without telling the students why, we had them write dialogues in Hebrew between and a shark and a fish. The students worked in pairs to create their skits. They performed the dialogues and we videotaped them. Since the students knew ahead of time that they would be videotaped, they were highly motivated to do the best job possible.

The next step is for the class to watch the videotapes and the students will self-evaluate their own Hebrew writing and speaking skills through the content and performance of the dialogues that they wrote. We prepared a rubric to facilitate the students' evaluation. After the self-evaluation, we will use the same rubric to give our own feedback to the students.

We used the SmartBoard in class to show the class how non-Jewish students in the Bronx in New York were reading Gilad Shalit's book When the Shark Met the Fish. We also connected to other sources that gave information about Gilad and the negotiations for his release from captivity by the Hamas. The students logged into a website where they could voice their own opinions and feelings about what they had learned that day. They wrote on the website in both Hebrew and English.

Our use of the video cameras to tape the class, along with the SmartBoard internet connections to both the class in the Bronx and the website on Gilad's captivity, added so much to the lesson. The kids went home over the weekend and could talk about little else at the Shabbat table.

--The 7th Grade Hebrew Teachers

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

DVD Launch planed for mid – November

DVD Launch planed for mid – November

The Frankel Jewish Academy students are working full speed in order to complete the first DVD in the series "I've been there – stories from the battlefield". As of now the editing team works on "weaving" films, photos and music into the interviews assisted by another team working on English subtitles.

The plan is to launch the first DVD in mid – November. This DVD is the first in a series of at least 4 DVDs recounting the stories of the Israeli wars from the point of view of Israeli war veterans, now living in The States.

The first stage will be to send the DVD to Jewish Day High Schools around the country and to the Israeli Ministry of Education. We hope that this DVD pilot will receive good reviews so we could expand our distribution to all Jewish Day schools.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rosetta Stone-(cont.)

In terms of the technical aspects, RS was fairly simple to set up, all we needed was a windows machine to run as the "server". However, unlike Version 2, which gave you the option to install the language files to each local client machine, version 3 requires the language files to stay on the server which produces a small lag when several people are trying to start the program up. Otherwise, version 3 is much better than 2.

The students have really been enjoying using the program and they seem to be learning from it. i even found one student using it during a study hall. The program works on reading and speaking skills, requiring the student to read sentences and words and pronounce them correctly. It seems to be a great way to supplement the Hebrew curriculum.

Rosetta Stone

We are using the new version of Rosetta Stone Hebrew language software that was released this summer. We were concerned about adopting and adapting a business product to an educational setting. It has proven to be intuitive enough for students to use on their own as well as within a class setting without needing too much assistance from a teacher or tech person. The initial learning curve took some time and some teachers are less enthusiastic than others as their seems to always be this underlying fear of being replaced by machines in some way. The opposite is actually true. Students can do better independent work in school and at home at their computer and the teacher can avoid marking tremendous amounts of homework assignments thus freeing up more time for preparation and focused feedback to students.

We are a high school but I know some middle schools have used this tool as well even using the program as the basis of a class curriculum. I wonder what results people have had with it so far either in middle or high school with the new version. I know my students are enthusiastic about using the software and the immediate grading of progress feedback is much quicker than any teacher could give. Right now it is a supplemental tool to enhance our Hebrew program which has been our weakest link educationally. An additional systemic change has proved helpful but pricey. We now run all Hebrew language classes to ensure proper level placement. The software takes it one step further by helping instructors differentiate levels although it has been used mainly helpful for introductory and intermediate level conversational skills. Advanced Hebrew speakers seem hard pressed to utilize the program that much.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Integrated Ninth Grade Curriculum

Tomorrow is the first identity/wiki meeting with the ninth grade faculty. Actually, we've decided to have three meetings during three time slots, so teachers can come during free periods. Since we do want to meet as a whole group, we'll try to do so on an in-service faculty day. Meeting in smaller groups, however, will enable teachers unfamiliar with a wiki to learn how to use it better. We also want teachers to connect with ones from other disciplines so that there is cross-curriculum sharing.

We hope that what teachers gain from the meeting tomorrow is a clear idea of what topic they want to post and discuss on the wiki and a better understanding of how to use the wiki. Hopefully, we'll be able to create a calendar that will show when the different classes will be utilizing the wiki and to what end.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Getting Started

We got a late start on our project, but now we are going to try to make up for lost time. At the end of the summer we equipped each of our Hebrew teachers with a small Flip video camera and, during our staff days before school started, we trained each one how to use them. We chose these tiny cameras because of their ease of use.

Our Hebrew department is populated by wonderful, hard-working, enthusiastic, but not technically sophisticated teachers. We really wanted to set up everyone for success in the videotaping part of our project, and we wanted the technology to enhance our vision and not get in the way. These cameras are very small and incredibly easy to use. They are able to plug directly into your computer after you make the tape.

As it turned out, one of our most senior members of the staff was the first to take the plunge. She is also our Israeli music specialist, and she starts every year sitting with her students in the youngest grades, singing with them and watching their faces light up as they remember the songs they learned in previous years (some of which they sang at last year's Zimriyah). This year she had her video camera with her, and she taped the children on the 1st and 2nd days of school.

Unexpected Results

What was interesting to us was that she expected, as we all did, that the children would be self conscious because of the video camera and would not want to sing out they way they had in the past. In fact, almost the opposite occurred. The camera is so small that she was able to hold it away from her face and just enjoy the students singing while she was doing the taping. To our teacher, it seemed that the students were even more responsive than usual, knowing they were being taped. She also shared with them that she was making the film as a record of what they sounded like on the first day of school, and that they will be able to compare that to what they sound like as they grow and learn much more Hebrew. The children were as excited about the project as the teacher.

Now that one of us has broken the ice, it will be easier for other members of the team to start using their cameras. We'll write again soon to keep people posted as we branch out with some of the other aspects of our project.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Expanding the concept of integration

At the end of the school year, my principal at The Frisch School, Dr. Stein, gave me the go-ahead to integrate the ninth-grade curriculum. Rather than integrate randomly, I thought it would be a good idea to choose a theme that would apply to as many classes as possible and would arise organically from the various courses' curricula. The theme of identity seemed logical and appropriate for students transitioning into high school and encountering many new experiences they've never had. I began working with a Judaic Studies Nach teacher and we started talking to teachers about the idea. I also approached the Educational Technology Director, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, wanting to know more about wikis, and he showed me how a wiki would be a great place to gather and broadcast ideas about the theme. He taught me how to use a wiki, and we assembled wiki pages to show to teachers. The pages incorporated ideas that 1) teachers already taught in their courses and 2) pertained to the theme of identity. Further, the pages were cross-curricular so 3-6 courses shared a wiki page on a topic pertaining to the theme.

We presented the idea and wiki to the ninth grade teachers at an end-of-year meeting in June and there was a lot of excitement, tempered with some reservations about how to use the technology and how we were actually going to implement the theme. By the end of the meeting, it seemed like we'd have to come up with an end-of-semester project for students to do that they could post on the wiki and that would cover an idea they had covered in multiple classes.

Over the summer, teachers have been taking advantage of Tzvi's Summer Technology Boot Camp and learning how to use the wiki. Tzvi and I have continued to grow the wiki and so far we have pages on the following:

What's in a Name?: We begin life in a basic way -- by getting a name -- and that name tells us a lot about who we are. Naming something is the first step in knowing something. We've set up a page about the importance of names in identifying someone. So far, these are the entries:

The speech in Romeo and Juliet by Juliet about "What's in a name?" Ninth-grade students learn this Shakespearean play.

An excerpt from Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street about the protagonist's struggle with her name and identity as a Hispanic woman. Students also learn this book in ninth-grade English.

An essay by a Hispanic woman about the difficulty of labeling someone "Hispanic." This essay is from Foreign Language. Spanish is one of the choices in the ninth grade.

Students will be learning BaMidbar next year: The pasuk in Sefer BaMidbar that discusses Yehoshua's name change and Rashi's and Rashbam's comments on the pasuk. This can lead into a discussion of the significance name changes have in Tanakh.

Zionism: The theme for Nach in the 2008-9 school year is Shivat Zion. Students will be learning Ezra, Nechemia, Hagai, Zecharia and Malachi. We got Nach, History and Hebrew Language together for a page on Zionism. The page begins with the Cyrus Proclamation and then references the pesukim in Ezra that discuss Cyrus' decree to allow the Jews to return to Israel. The Cyrus Proclamation will figure prominently next year in both Nach and History. Nach will have the students compare the style of the Cyrus Seal with the way Sefer Ezra speaks. History discusses the problems Jews encountered when they returned to the land and then asks them to compare that with the wave of aliyot in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is where Hebrew Language enters. Hebrew Language asks the students to research the first and second wave of aliyot to understand why they happened and what was motivating Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to immigrate to Palestine. They also read from Rav Kook's writings about the role of secular Jews in the formation of the State of Israel. The unit comes together then under the theme of identity by showing students the long history of settlement of the Land of Israel and the problems of settling the land. Students can make connections between both "then's" -- Ezra's time and the time of the last century -- and now -- and discover who they are as Zionists. They can see the problems of Shivat Zion and grapple with the kind of Zionists they want to be.

Classification: This page includes many subjects, because the idea of classification is a popular one in many areas. It furthers the theme of identity because a step in discovering who we are in the world and as people is learning to classify all objects and people to see where they belong and why.

Math: Geometry: Characteristics of different shapes. Why is it important to understand the limits of each shape?
Science: Biology: Characteristics of life and classification of different life forms.

The goals of math and science is to discover how -- how is the world made?

English: Genres. How is the understanding of different genres helpful in analyzing literature? Special attention is paid to the genre of tragedy, one of the most important genres in literature. Students in the ninth grade learn Antigone as an example of Greek tragedy.

The goal of classification in literature is to better analyze a work and what it can teach us about humanity.

Chumash: The whole school will be learning BaMidbar next year: Classification of Israel into tribes. Classification of Israel into priest, Levite and Israelite. Differentiation between pure and impure, holy and profane and the constant reinforcement of those differentiations throughout the sefer.

Gemara: The entire school will be learning Bava Kama next year. Classification of different laws of the Gemara.

The purpose of Tanakh and our halakhic system is to create a separation between holy and profane, pure and impure.

Leadership: Cultivating leadership qualities -- the right ones -- is an important part of developing an identity. This page explores the right and wrong types of leadership qualities people and characters have had.

History: Students study throughout the year the famous leaders from different ancient and medieval civilizations and analyze their different positive and negative leadership traits.

Nach: Ezra was a leader in Eretz Yisrael. Nechemia often led from the Persian court. The year will contain a discussion and comparison of these two types of leadership and the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Chumash: Moshe's passing on the leadership role to Yehoshua is an important part of Sefer BaMidbar. Additionally, different types of leaders emerge in the sefer: priests and Levites, heads of tribes, and elder wise men. Individuals also come forward as leaders, both good and dangerous and destructive: Korach, Pinchas, Balaam, Balak, B'not Tzelafchad. The year will include discussions of all these types of leaders.

English: Antigone's and Creon's leadership in Antigone; the kind of leaders running Verona into the ground in Romeo and Juliet; and finally, in Lord of the Flies, the leadership that allows a group of boys on an island to become like Nazis.

Another exciting addition will be underway once the school year begins. The head of the Hebrew department, Barbara Gononsky, is going to invite Frisch's sister school in Nahariyah to be part of the wiki. We're going to get their students' thoughts on our wiki page as well!

The teachers haven't decided yet what the end-of-semester projects are going to be, and we're not requiring each teacher to use the wiki in the same way. Some teachers may feel more comfortable lurking more this year and then contributing when they become more familiar with the technology. Some teachers may want to create pages for their own classes and have students use the wiki discussion board to monitor discussion and feedback on an assignment or concept. Some teachers may do that and also use the cross-curricular pages, as well. We want teachers to feel comfortable using the wiki in whatever capacity they want.

The theme for the year is going to be launched at a gradewide assembly a few weeks into school. The video producer in the school, Rabbi David Goldfischer, is working on a video about "Who am I?" that integrates all the classes and ideas of the program. All the students had a mandatory summer reading: The Color of Water. I'll be wrapping up the book and connecting it to the theme of identity. The book is about a black man who looks into his mother's roots. His mother is a Jewish (formerly Orthodox) white woman. I want to speak to the kids about the kind of religion we want them to be exposed to -- a positive, encouraging one (the mother's father was highly abusive) -- and the kind of nurturing environment we aim to create at Frisch so kids feel free to discover who they are -- spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. I want to also explain that who we are comes from understanding our roots and world (the author of The Color of Water could only accept himself as an adult once he understood his mother's past). The students' goal this year as they learn is to better understand who they are through exploration of the roots of civilization in history, of life and its forms in biology, of the Western tradition in literature, of the principles of the physical universe in geometry, of Hebrew and the history of Israel in Hebrew Language, of the cultures and languages of other lands in Foreign Lanaguge, and, of course, of our great religious and halakhic heritage in Tanakh and Gemara.

Tzvi and I are aware that the beginning of the year may begin with excitement about the wiki -- it's a new toy -- that will not be sustained. He and I are gearing up to be year-long cheerleaders for the project so that it doesn't peter out. We'll keep you updated.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Update from Montreal

Update from Montreal:

At the beginning of July, I gave a paper at the international NAPH conference on Hebrew Language, Literature and Culture, hosted by the Jewish Studies Department of McGill University. Of the three-day conference, the Program Committee dedicated a full session to Technology and Education. Naturally, this was the perfect forum and a good opportunity to present the principles of the Student Response System [See my last 2 blog entries about TurningPoint (http://edtechexp.blogspot.com/2008/06/testingpoint-helps-limudei-kodesh.html ) and TestingPoint (http://edtechexp.blogspot.com/2008/06/testingpoint-helps-limudei-kodesh.html#links )]. The demonstration and practice with the Clickers went well and were enthusiastically received by the participants. It was encouraging to see so many professors paying attention to this new technology and expressing interest to apply it in their classrooms.

(For pictures, videos, the program and more about the NAPH conference 2008, please click on: http://www.utt-pedagogical-center.com/NAPH_08_@_McGill_Webpage/Photos_Videos_NAPH_2008_McGill.htm )

Several links have been added to the Avi-Chai sponsored UTT Pedagogical Center: The weekly Parashat Hashavuah modules, a list of online libraries with Jewish Studies resources and the Online E-books.

(To visit the links, click: http://www.utt-pedagogical-center.com/Links.htm )


A first instalment of students’ projects was posted with a dual format of SmartBoard Notebook and PowerPoint, for the convenience of future users.

(Please surf the Jewish History and Tanakh sections of our Pedagogical Center for the following projects: Afula, Binyamina, Hanita, Herzliah, Netanyah, Raanana, Ramat Gan & Ramat Hasharon. Tehilim (Psalms) projects: Chap. 5-6, Chap. 11-12, Chap. 29-30, Chap. 33-34, Chap. 35-36, Chap. 37-38, Chap. 39-40 and Chap. 45-46.)

Limudei Kodesh teachers will be pleased to find some of our teachers’ contributions. A SmartBoard handbook for the book of Jonas was added to the Tanakh section. Shavuot, Mikrah Kodesh and ecology and the preservation of nature worksheets (Word format) were added to the Moreshet (Heritage) section.


Finally, here is a summary of the Avi-Chai technology project of United Talmud Torahs and Herzliah Montreal, as detailed at the New York conference.

This year, we moved to a new web system. Our school’s four branches’ website and an administrative website have all been redone. This is how the main page and each of our four branches’ page look today:

The new system has a dual functionality; it also works as Intranet. Thus, each student can log in to access protected areas, where s/he will find programs, notices and so on, and where s/he can even build, in the space allocated to him/her, his/her own Webpage.

This massive additional work could not be completed during the regular academic year, without the help of the technology trustees; a group of 15 people I have set up, comprised of students, graduates, teachers and rabbis, to deal with all aspects of this project and serve as a forum for brainstorming, helping to overcome any difficulty encountered. Throughout the year, we met after school hours and on weekends, to plan and work on this project. Once the move started, we found ourselves also involved in the process of teaching teachers and students how to use the new web system and how to input their information.

On the other hand, our main project was to build two comprehensive Limudei Kodesh SmartBoard modules and develop a tool to make them accessible to any Jewish Studies teacher. My motto is, since we can’t avoid technology, we need to bring it into the classroom in an interactive way—namely via the SMART Board, which seems ideal to promote this strategy.

Therefore, our two sample modules’ subjects were Tanakh-related (Deborah’s War and Jotham’s Parable) and done in Ivrit b’Ivrit to demonstrate that SmartBoard is a great tool for Hebrew users as well; even if we don’t yet enjoy, as English or French users do, the hundreds of activities found on the Internet that can be adapted to most curricula.
Needless to say, those pedagogical principles of building lessons were incorporated. We have ensured that the modules were integrated into the curricula and contained the appropriate information and skills. The modules take into account what the student knows, what s/he is interested in knowing and what new things s/he will learn. We also considered differences within the classroom, such as stronger and weaker students in Hebrew or in Judaic matters, and the various learning profiles of the students (visuals, listeners and kinesthetics). Teachers can choose whether to use the entire Tanakh chapter related to these modules or just a fragment, while keeping the story coherent. Audio, animation and various activities ensure that students master the lesson and digest it

(To evaluate our Tanakh modules, please click: http://www.utt-pedagogical-center.com/Tanakh_Projects_4Avi_Chai/Deborah_War_Shiur.zip and http://www.utt-pedagogical-center.com/Tanakh_Projects_4Avi_Chai/Jotham_Parable_Shiur.zip )

To further demonstrate the compatibility of SmartBoard and Hebrew topics, my grade 10 and 11 students were assigned SmartBoard projects in Ivrit b’Ivrit in Jewish History and Tanakh.

Throughout their assignments, students became more familiar with the use of SmartBoard, as can be seen in the sample of students’ project posted (see above). Other projects will follow throughout this coming academic year.

As we needed a tool to deliver these educational materials, we took the opportunity to build an online pedagogical center, completely dedicated to Jewish Studies.

To access it, click : http://www.utt-pedagogical-center.com/ .

On this website, you will find a lot of information categorized in modules. Material can also be submitted; by sharing with others, everyone is enriched. Many resources are posted. As the Pedagogical Center grows, it will become an effective tool to help you with the SMART Board, including suppliers in Israel, for Hebrew support. Please look over the links to the many useful sites on Judaism and the 24 books of the full Bible in Hebrew Rich Text Format, that you can transfer and use for your own SmartBoard lesson plans.


I would like to thank Dr. Nina Butler, Mr. Eli Kannai and the Avi-Chai Technology Experiment grant for their infallible support and framework, without which this project would not be possible.

Best wishes to all of us for a wonderful new academic year, full of SmartBoard and technology in the classroom.

Monday, August 18, 2008



1. Programs now have state of the art InstallShield for a smooth installation on all computers.
2. Programs include audio introduction for teachers and principals to sample.
3. Programs are now available in trial versions for schools to try out.
4. All last bugs have been removed from the program.

In order to make the presentation which I gave at Avi Chai available to others I have come up with three solutions. I have improved my powerpoint presentation for you all to see.Secondly I have made the games into a free trial version so that everybody can try it out.This way everybody can get a free copy to show to their coteachers or principals.Lastly I have added audio introductions to each trial game which will explain how to play the game. The audio will also explain how teachers can set up the games.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Digital pens : Tablet functionality for $70!!!???

I recently saw an advertisement for a digital pen system which claimed to give tablet PC functionality to any computer, while skeptical, I figured it was worth checking out.

Several companies make digital pen systems The most popular is one being marketed to kids but requires expensive specialized paper.
The IOGear Digital Scribe system seems to have the features I was looking for without ongoing additional costs.

The IOGear digital pen system comes in two parts, the pen and the receiver unit. The pen is normal sized (not bulky) with no wires attached, and a button on the side of the barrel. The pen does have 2 small user-replaceable button batteries in the end of the barrel. The receiver unit is around 2.5 inches by 1 inch with an attached retractable USB cable (under 2 feet in length) The receiver unit is meant to be clipped on the top center or one of the upper corners of a piece of paper or notebook. Once the receiver is plugged into the computer and the drivers and software are installed, the unit is good to go. The pen can function in two modes, as a mouse or as a pen. Pressing the single button on the receiver unit allows you to switch between these two modes.

Using the notebook software that comes with the digital pen, the pen works quite well translating your “on paper” pen strokes to the screen almost seamlessly in real time. You don’t have to focus on the screen since what appears on paper is seen on the screen. (I am using this with standard laptop running XP and an LCD projector.) Using the pen in mouse mode is more difficult and requires more coordination since the virtual paper is sized as standard 8.5 x 11 inches in portrait mode whereas your screen is in landscape more. I find myself using the touchpad when I need most mouse movements. The software allows you to export and save your work as well as change your pen features (line width, color etc). The software also has a handwriting recognition function similar to Tablet PCs and Smartboards, but it does not recognize Hebrew nor will it work with my admittedly atrocious handwriting. The MyScript software provides a nice set of added features and functionality.

Advantages over a Wacom tablet

One of my pet peeves with using a Wacom tablet as a presentation tool in a classroom is the matter of eye-hand coordination. You cannot see what you are writing on the tablet, and have to coordinate your cursor position by looking at the screen (and thus away from you class). The digital pen writes normally on the paper, so there is a tangible image for reference.


One on the biggest annoyances I have had with the Digital pen is the extremely short 2 foot tether. I plan to use a USB extension cord, but I think having such a short cord is a design oversight.
There is a wireless model which records your writing to an onboard memory module to be saved to your PC later. However that model does not allow for real time on screen display so I did not look into it further.
The company maintains that it works with OneNote 2007; I have tried it but have found it to be somewhat buggy. I will be contacting their support department to see if this can be sorted out.


The digital scribe system seems to be a nice bridge between a standard PC and a TabletPC without the added cost factor of the specialized TabletPC. It is by no means perfect, and neither its functionality nor its versatility are in the same league as a dedicated Tablet PC. It is a relatively inexpensive way to get similar functionality. If I can get the OneNote bugs worked out, I would probably give it a resounding thumbs up since it would mean MS Office integration. For now it seems the easiest and cheapest way to have real time, on screen, handwriting display in your classroom.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Jewish History Power Point Update June 2008

Joseph Sonnenblick June, 2008
North Shore Academy High School
Great Neck, N.Y.

Avi Chai Education Technology Experiment Project
Jewish History Power Point Presentations

My educational technology project was to create Power Points in selected topics of Jewish History using Images & Video.

The main goals for the project were to create increase excitement & interest in the classroom, deepen the scope of the learning experience, and improve student’s retention of material. Over the course of the year I created approximately 20 presentations (listed below) and showed my classes about a 1/3 of those presentations due to time constraints. Of the 3 goals the first was most discernable. Students expressed a sense of enthusiasm and increased attention during the presentations. Especially effective in this regard were the video clips. Measuring a deeper understanding and better retention of the material was more difficult to assess but a number of students did report that it helped them study for exams. On a number of occasions they asked that I post the Power points on ANGEl, the school’s computer system so they could view them before the test.

Here is a list of the Power points.

  1. Jewish History Curriculum
  2. The Fall of the Northern Kingdom
  3. Jewish Return to Eretz Israel : Ezra and Nechemia
  4. Jews in the Hellenistic Age
  5. Chanukah and the Maccabees
  6. The Dead Sea Scrolls
  7. King Herod
  8. The Great Revolt
  9. The Rise of Christianity
  10. The Bar Kochba Revolt
  11. The Rise of Islam
  12. The Golden Age of Spain
  13. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon; the Rambam
  14. The Jews in Medieval Christian Europe
  15. The Spanish Inquisition
  16. East European Jewry
  17. The Jews in America
  18. The Rise of Modern Israel
  19. The Miracle of Jewish History

My plans for the current year are to:

a) Develop more presentations (my ultimate goal is to do about 30)
b) Enhance the present list with more video clips
c) Collect and organize a data base of images and video clips that can be used with the Power points or independent of them.
d) Create lesson plans using the Power points in conjunction with Smart Boards

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vancouver Hebrew Academy-Studio 613

Well, all-in-all, it has certainly been a very positive experience introducing the Studio 613-Torah Media Center into our school this year. Challenging at times, very time consuming, but fun, interesting, exciting and new!
Our Grade 5 students certainly enjoyed being part of this experiment and took pleasure in their acting, directing and editing roles.
This year we were able to produce two short films on Torah themes and accumulate a library of media clips for use in other projects.
Most importantly…we learned a bit more about what does, and does not work for our program.
In May, we were very fortunate to receive a visit from Dr. Nina Butler and Mrs. Ester Feldman who both took a look at what we were doing and, with the eye that comes with years of experience in this arena, were able to focus our efforts in new, more productive ways.
It is our intent to continue Studio 613 into next year, with a view towards having students create short clips (with only minimal direction from staff). The focus of these movies will be to create teaching tools to be used in other areas of the curriculum.
Our school is currently developing a “Critical Thinking” curriculum piece, aimed at fostering higher-level cognitive skills in all subject areas. These films could be used as teaching resources for our programs, and for other schools looking for the same tools.
We are very excited about the possibilities for next year and beyond and we are truly grateful to AVICHAI for helping us to bring this program to fruition!
Thank you and have a great summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thanks again!

I have to thank all of you again for your terrific ideas and imitate the last post about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. I'm on the board of education at my children's school, Yavneh Academy in Paramus, NJ, and I've just been put on a technology sub-committee to discuss ways to integrate technology into the classroom. I'm working with a very talented member of Yavneh's Judaic Studies department, and I plan to share with him many of your ideas about wikis, podcasts, Notebook presentations and tefilah projects. He and I have spoken briefly, and we're both excited to get started, especially since the school has just received a few more SmartBoards (one from the Legacy Heritage Foundation). So thanks again, everyone!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….
Another Tech tangent……
As I listened to Ms. Garfinkel’s presentation of her school’s Tiyul Video Blog at the conference I realized that one week later I would be in Washington DC with our 8th graders and that I would like to create a similar venue for our students to communicate with their parents and the larger school body about what they were experiencing on their 8th grade trip to Washington DC. I spoke briefly to Ms. Garfinkel about how the files were stored and accessed. She they had them set up on her school’s server. We did not have the bandwidth or the capability to set up streaming video on such sort notice so I explored several other options.
The criteria I used were as follows.
We did not have a budget to purchase any hardware for this experiment (so it had to be really cheap … or free)
For safety reasons, the video should not be available to the general public It should be accessible only through a shared password. (this ruled out a public youtube offering)
For safety reasons we did not want our student’s last names mentioned on the video.
I wanted the videos to be viewable while we were in DC to communicate both the events and the excitement while we were there.
We wanted all students to participate.

Although there were a variety of available options, this is what we ended up doing.
1. I brought my Canon Powershot digital camera which takes decent quality video w/ sound.
2. I brought a laptop to connect to the hotel’s (painfully slow) public wireless
3. I created a youtube account for myself to upload the videos
4. I created a second youtube account on behalf of the school/parents to access the videos (actually it was one account made on behalf of one of the teachers but the user name and password were shared with the 8th grade parents and faculty)
5. We designated 5-6 students per day (for the 5 days of the trip) to be that day’s bloggers, they would be extra mindful of the day’s events and be prepared speak on camera.
6. Each day after Maariv, the bloggers would sit at a table and report on the days happenings. They were instructed not to use any last names on camera. The total daily blog time was not to exceed four minutes.
7. I then downloaded the video files onto the laptop,
8. Using Windows movie maker, I converted the video files into a file format compatible with youtube, added some rudimentary titles, and uploaded them to youtube
9. Before uploading any video files for the first time I had to create a friends and family list (consisting of the school/parent account)
10. When uploading to youtube it was essential to check that this was a private file and would only be accessible by people on my private group list.
11) I disabled embedding so the video could not be freely distributed, since our goal was to assure a measure of privacy to our students.

The results were very gratifying. Each day we received numerous emails from parents, teachers and other students commenting on the trip, the video bloggers, and the students in general. It built up a good deal of enthusiasm and excitement about the trip which the kids were thrilled about when they called their parents or friends in the school.

We hope to send copies of the videoblog entries interspersed with photos from the trip to the students over the summer break.

Considering how easy and inexpensive it was, I am elated with the results and am planning on working in some improvements for next year’s DC trip!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Integrating the Curriculum

I met today with all the ninth grade teachers at Frisch to discuss the idea of integrating the grade's curriculum under the topic of identity. The theme works well in many of the classes because it's broad enough to include many ideas, and many of the teachers are already dealing with identity in their courses. The idea is to integrate across the curriculum in both Judaic and secular studies. For example:

English -- all novels we do are coming-of-age stories
Science -- Biology -- who we are as human beings
History -- world history from ancient times to the Middle Ages -- who we are historically. History already integrates Jewish history with history
Foreign Language -- for example, Spanish does units on identifying different groups of Spanish-speaking peoples and what their impact is on society today
Hebrew Language -- poems and literature on identity; our identity as religious Zionist Jews
Nach -- next year, we'll be doing Ezra, Nechemia, Hagai, Zecharia and Malachi -- developing leadership qualities in exile and in Israel, particularly when Jews are returning to the land to settle it. Dealing with assimilation.
Torah -- next year, we'll be doing Bamidbar -- developing positive and negative leadership qualities as seen through Pinchas and Korach
Talmud -- next year, we'll be doing Bava Kama -- the ethics of responsibility -- developing an identity that requires one to be civil and caring when dealing with fellow human beings
Art -- collage on identity based on familiarity with the work of postmodern feminist Barbara Kruger
Health -- how to have healthy self-esteem

Some of these are tentative ideas, but the goal is to create a more solid and relevant curriculum for the students and to have teachers dialogue with each other. Another goal of the program is to utilize more technology, so we've set up a wiki to hold all the information on identity together and to enable teachers and students to see what's going on with the theme throughout the year in all the classes. Thanks to this site for the wiki idea!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TestingPoint Helps Limudei Kodesh Teachers Prepare Electronic Tests

I have recently experimented with TestingPoint 2008 as a complementary program to the Classroom Management and Student Response System (“clickers”) that I wrote about in my last blog. Undoubtedly, the TestingPoint program helps teachers with the task of writing tests, by making the process simpler and faster. The program takes care of repetitive actions related to the composition of test forms and to the preparation of electronic testing for TurningPoint. It is no wonder that TestingPoint and TurningPoint work well together, as both programs were created by the same company (Turningtechnologies.com)and are guided by the same principles.

How does TestingPoint work?
TestingPoint acts as an add-on to Microsoft Word, with which teachers are already familiar. The working menu appears as in the picture below:

Once installed and opened, teachers can choose from a variety of question templates and forms offered by the program. Limudei Kodesh teachers should not worry about special formatting, as TestingPoint produces a uniformly formatted test throughout.

Once the test is complete, teachers have the option of either running it as a form independently of TestingPoint, or of exporting the electronic test to TurningPoint, thus taking advantage of all features of the Clickers, described in my previous blog entry. Export and import of documents work well both ways between the two above-mentioned complementary programs.

Hebrew Language and vowels:
The support for Hebrew language and vowels is very good, as it is identical to that of Microsoft Word. However, since the TestingPoint forms are preformatted to work best in Latin letters, the numbering of questions remains at the left, while the Hebrew questions start at the right. Besides this slight inconvenience, only advantages were observed during my experimentation with TestingPoint 2008.

The cost:
Teachers will be pleased to know that the TestingPoint software is available free of charge, and does not add any expenses to the initial cost of acquiring the Clickers.

TestingPoint 2008 will significantly decrease the time it takes to prepare tests, quizzes and exams, while TurningPoint will decrease marking time. The combination of these two programs seems to be ideal.

To download TestingPoint 2008 and TurningPoint 2008, click on the link below:http://www.turningtechnologies.com/

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lafayette, website, Elementary, CCJDS, May 29, 2008

Contra Costa Jewish Day School Presentation at the AVI CHAI Educational Technology Conference on March 24, 2008 in New York City

The Contra Costa Jewish Day School is a young school, about seven years old. In terms of the technology of the students, in sixth grade the parents of all of the middle school students (currently around 20 students) buy a Mac laptop but the school maintains them. Over the years, there have been many uncoordinated efforts to use different applications or the Internet according to what the teachers have been familiar with and their level of technical savvy. Our grant request from the AVI CHAI Foundation was all about coordinating these efforts.

Who are we? The Contra Costa Jewish Day School is located in Lafayette, California which is in the Berkley/Oakland/San Francisco area. We rent our facilities from Temple Isaiah, one of the largest Reform Temples in the area. The school has been raising money ever since it was founded as the initiative of a PEJE (Partners for Excellence in Jewish Education) project. We have raised $7 million and broke ground this Spring for a new campus that will open for students in 2009.

Who am I? My title is the Rabbi-in-Residence and I am a Judaic studies teacher, the parent education teacher, the coordinator of all the student-led Tefillah (prayer) services and the school’s new server administrator, thanks to AVI CHAI.

We did have a number of technological initiatives before we got the AVI CHAI grant. For example, all the students in Middle School have Mac laptops; we use e-mail extensively between faculty and students; we have a wiki-based website which is a public website the teachers use to post homework; we already have a wireless network set up in the school with wirelessly accessible networked printers; teachers use PowerPoint presentations; we have digital projectors; and we use the PBS Heritage “Civilization and the Jews,” the DVD-ROM presentation. We have also always had the school’s official Website, www.CCJDS.org.
These are the official goals of what we were trying to do: establish a school server-based network; get cameras and microphones to increase multimedia presentations for students; successfully set up a group calendar for the faculty to use instead of taking faculty meeting time; set up a school-wide e-mail system because unfortunately we were using private e-mail for communication; and create an online report card database.

Here’s how we went about achieving our goals: First we upgraded our wireless network. We had some very slow, older Apple Extreme Wireless Access Points that were constantly crashing because they weren’t meant for more than 10 connections at a time. We got the latest iteration of that and that has greatly stabilized our wifi environment. Since I wrote the grant I became the designated server designer, creator and administrator.

The core of this project was creating a school network. I created and designed an entire network from the ground up for the students and faculty, learned how to use all these different Apple Server tools and learned to use the Apple Remote Desktop, a screen-sharing and control application. Middle School students now have a network home folder they use for storing their notes and putting visual media online. I also created and set up the online group calendar and the e-mail system with our school’s Website with GoDaddy.com. We also purchased a number of digital cameras and microphones. We’re already creating podcasts and video now.

The biggest thing, which we have not completed, is creating our own database for the report cards, which has been quite challenging. We worked with a private contractor to write the database and have finally finished that and have a working Beta version of it online but we completed it too late in the school year to actually start using it. That will have to wait for next year.

In the future we’re interested in looking at the SMART Board for the new school. Since we’ll have a new facility we have a lot of exciting opportunities. We want to fine tune what we have here. We’re trying to take advantage of all the systems, hardware and applications that have so recently integrated into our school environment. Thank you, AVI CHAI Foundation!

(As a footnote: I had created and showed a PowerPoint presentation for the conference. Unfortunately, due to a major technical malfunction, this data was lost and unrecoverable—such is the delicate nature of the technology we work with and advocate! I’m sorry I could not share the graphics that I prepared.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Conference: The Frisch School presentation

I teach English and art history at Frisch, and my goal has been to create PowerPoint presentations that integrate art and history with Tanakh, thus giving eleventh and twelfth graders a greater awareness of the historical context of Torah, Ne'viim and Ketuvim as well as instilling a greater appreciation of the works in the students. Frisch launched the program last year with the whole school, but we felt that the upperclassmen are really the ones to benefit the most from a program like this, as they have the most well developed worldview, so we narrowed the program down to them. [I have modified my presentations for elementary school children, and on an individual basis teachers at Frisch have used my presentations for classes on all grade levels.]

This program seeks to solve the pedagogical problem of students in a yeshiva feeling fragmented and unaware of how to bring all their learning together. I try to do that by showing them the works in Tanakh are from a certain historical context and that understanding that context makes us better appreciate not only the world, but also our religion and what is unique about it.

At the conference, I gave a sample of what I did; the sample was for the school's Open House presentation and began with discussion of vase painting from a famous Archaic Greek vase, the Francois vase. The work is important art historically as it shows influence from the ancient Near East in its band-like registers. The work is also impressive as it has over 200 figures, some of whom are Peleus and his famous son Achilles. Achilles is of course renowned as a warrior and for his vulnerable heel. Another famous Greek hero with foot problems is Oedipus, whose name means "swollen foot." After showing another work from the Classical period of Oedipus on his way to Thebes and to his downfall as his mother's husband, I then sum up the secular portion of the program by emphasizing that Achilles and Oedipus do not recover from their weaknesses and are irrevocably "tripped up" by them. This is in contrast to Ya'akov and his story, which I cite from Be'reishit. Ya'akov wrestles with the "ish" and then receives a leg injury, but after the fight, he becomes "Yisrael," the root of which can be translated as "upright." Thus students see that our tradition shows our hero struggling with his sneakiness, his being the one who "supplanted" Eisav (Eisav says "ya'akveni") in a deceitful way, but ultimately overcoming his craftiness and walking upright with God.

Q1: Do you actually use these presentations in your teaching, and what else do you use as support?

TW: I use these presentations and present with a laptop and projector or, ideally, a SmartBoard. The one drawback is that I go into the Torah and Nach classrooms and get one class period. Sometimes the lecture takes two if there are a lot of questions, and obviously a lot of questions are good; we want to generate discussion. However, there isn't a lot of time for students to interact. Because of the medium and time limitations, there's sometimes not a lot of interaction. Also, the kids aren't making these presentations. I make them and bring them in. This is only the second year we're running the program. Maybe as we go along, some of the kids could make their own presentations.

Eli Kannai: I get these on email and I enjoy them. If others wanted to see them, are they online somewhere?

TW: Anyone can email me and I can send them the presentations. The Frisch website is secure and can only be accessed by people within the Frisch community, so my colleagues and the students and parent body can access the presentations [and I have sent the presentations to fellow teachers as well as students], but I cannot invite anyone I want to my webpage. [I've now posted all my slideshows on slideshare. They can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/artikw]

Postscript: I've just finished my last presentation for the year, on the book of Ruth. As I wrote after the conference, I was very inspired by the conference to make the lectures more interactive and to develop ideas that would include students more in the making of multimedia presentations. So -- 1) Over the course of the year, I've gotten more adept at making PowerPoint presentations and having students interact more with the slides. For the Ruth presentation, I had the students read the slides themselves and began discussion of ideas once they did so. But of course, this does not solve the problem of bringing in these presentations myself, pre-packaged. Therefore -- 2) I wrote on a previous post that I assigned my art history students the task of preparing artworks inspired from the natural world and tied them into pesukim from Shir haShirim for a presentation on art from the natural world. My art history students then presented the slide show. I'd like to do more of that next year. 3) I'm now the Chairman of the English Department and I want to use the English Department as a jumping off point for more cross-curricular integration. Next year, the school is integrating the ninth grade curriculum under the theme of Identity and Development of the Self. We may use a tefillah project as a wrap-up for the year, so thank you for that inspiration. The Educational Technology Director at Frisch suggested making a wiki for the tefillah project, and I jumped at the chance, only because I was familiar with the term from the AVICHAI conference.

In sum, thank you, AVICHAI, for letting me participate in this inspiring project. I've learned so much from everyone and have become energized by all your ideas.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Conference proceedings: North Shore Hebrew Academy of Great Neck, Jewish history PowerPoint presentations

I teach at North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck. My project is creating PowerPoint presentations on various topics in Jewish history. My ultimate goal was to have 40 or 50 projects on each topic. I love Jewish history and Judaic subjects; but our students have so many distractions—cell phones, Ipods, laptops—that Jewish history is not always so critically important or fascinating to them I found that the students needed more than the typical lecture with handouts and writing on the board. They are so technologically savvy that even printed images is not enough. I wanted to use technology, PowerPoint presentations —and add video clips and links to the Web to make Jewish history really come alive. After my presentation I’ll pass around a list with the slide shows I’ve created to date.

Again, words can only do so much. I recently did a PowerPoint project on the Great Revolt. I’ll pass through the regular slides quickly to get the video portion of it. Here is a clip on the war between the Jews and the Romans:

It goes through the whole revolt with the fighting, catapults and everything else. Here are more with images, dates, etc. The next slide goes to the question, “Did any Jews survive the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple? And if they did how were they able to?” Here I took a clip about a recent discovery by archaeologists of an underground tunnel in Jerusalem that was used by those escaping the siege:

The next clip is from the movie Masada where the Roman and Jewish leaders meet. Here’s the clip.

I also have video clips of Dead Sea Scroll scholars and other scholars of Jewish history subjects. These sort of things, especially the video clips bring the history alive for the students and sparks their interest. Seeing Peter O’Toole as a Roman general can interest them. He’s a much better actor than I am. I think it helps students with the retention and interest all around. My next project is to combine the slide shows with the SMART Board so I won’t just have a slide up here; I’ll be able to switch back and forth between the white board, the videos and blank slides that I can write on as well.

Q1: Those clips you showed were part of movies?
SONNENBLICK: Yes. Part of the problem is how to technologically grab these clips, but another problem is copyrights. Most of the stuff I got off YouTube and other ways. I have private clips of people talking on these subjects as well.
Q2: Of the video clips you grab, are they locally in the computer so they are connected locally?
SONNENBLICK: I can put the clips locally on my computer or I can go to the Web. There are advantages to both ways. I might be somewhere where I can’t get to the Web; on the other hand, if I have them on my computer and want to distribute them , I have to package the presentations with the video clips as well.
Q3: Sometimes the video has to be packaged separately.
SONNENBLICK: Right. If you don’t go to the Web, you have to package the video separately. You can go either way, depending on the situation.
Q4: So a student can input the YouTube link.
SONNENBLICK: I can put the YouTube link in or I can give you the video clip. A lot of this is just exploring and finding all the material that is out there.
Q5: Is there any student input in this?
SONNENBLICK: I have student input I can show you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Conference proceedings: "I've been there stories from the battlefield" - trailer

Frankel Jewish Academy of Detroit Presentation

Everything started from a basic pedagogical philosophy we have in the Hebrew department and in the school in general. We believe students should be part of the learning process. As vital partners in the educational journey, students need to be engaged in the issues discussed, and find and express their individual voices.

One of our exciting initiatives was to create “I’ve Been There: Stories from the Battlefield.” Inspired by Stephen Spielberg’s "Shoah", the students are creating a testimonial archive of Israel’s fighters who fought in the Israeli wars from 1948 to 2006. The students interview, in Hebrew, Israeli fighters who are members of their community. They record, film and edit the testimonies, adding footage and authentic music from the relevant era.

The project involves 20 students within the Israeli Politics and Social Issues course at the Frankel Jewish Academy. This is a course in Hebrew. The benefits of a project like this are enormous. First of all, it was never done before, even in Israel—nobody has collected testimonies from Israeli fighters. We would like to create this archive and share it with other Jewish day schools in the States and in Europe. The Israeli Ministry of Education is interested in this project as well. As active participants in this project the kids stretch their linguistic skills and gain firsthand knowledge of the history of Israel. I want to emphasize that the entire production is in Hebrew. Even as they are yelling directions at each other during the filming, everything is in Hebrew.

One of our school’s goals is to be a vibrant and contributing member of the Jewish educational arena. This will serve as a teaching project in other Jewish schools around the country. We believe that recording authentic testimonies from the battlefield will be a memorable contribution to the whole Jewish community around the country and will benefit generations to come.

I will open this to questions. If there are any technical questions or issues, Matt Wright can address those.

Q1: I have two quick questions: What software editing tools did you use, and what did you use to get the subtitles in?

MR. MATT WRIGHT, Frankel Jewish Academy of Detroit: On the first question, the answer is we’re using Final Cut Pro, version 5. We’re running it on a Power Mac G5. The subtitles were done in DVD Studio Pro. We have the whole Final Cut studio package and we’re using DVD Studio Pro and Final Cut editing software for this project.

Q2: Did the students do the editing, or did they just shoot the footage? Who put the final package together?

SACERDOTI: The students did everything. Before we started the project the students had about a month and a half of quick training in several areas. The cameramen, producers and editors worked with Mr. Wright on the technology that will be used during production. The interviewers worked with our social worker and me to prepare them for the interviews.

Q3: How old are they?

SACERDOTI: These are juniors and seniors.

Q4: Will this be an ongoing project that will continue?

SACERDOTI: Yes. I want to emphasize that what you’ve seen today is just a trailer. We’ve finished the first set of interviews of about eight veterans. In about a week we’ll start the second set of interviews—we’ll have about 10 more veterans to interview. We plan to continue this project for the next couple of years.

Q5: How did you identify the people you interviewed?

SACERDOTI: We got some information from the community through parents, families and grandparents. We put an ad in the Jewish News and people have contacted us. This year we are doing it in the Detroit area, but later we plan to travel to Chicago and New York.

We would like to express our thanks and appreciation to the Avichai Foundation for their support. Without it we would not have been able to do this project.