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 ( 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: