Monday, December 28, 2009

Ready to see the fruits of our labor

After mastering Jing, learning to send an email of a captured video, knowing to send an electronic "Invitation for a Meeting," I am ready for an experimental lesson in January. The equipment we had ordered has arrived and we are setting up multiple computers connected to a single SmartBoard. A faster internet connection has just been installed in our school, specifically for this project. My students are also looking forward to start this new endeavor. After several months of preparation I am eager to see all the planning come into fruition.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

iPods for Hebrew

So far we have two teachers using the iPods for language testing in the NETA program. Both teachers are still working out the logistics of accessing the sound files on the iPods. The students' enthusiasm for the iPods has not lessened; now it's a matter of bringing it to more of the teachers in the school. The biggest issue is time management; the teachers have to learn how to use the iPods quickly, and with so many other programs they have to deliver it's hard to "impose" another task on them. However, experience has shown me that these things take time. It can be too much to expect everyone to use a new piece of technology right away; the teachers need consistent reminders that the iPods are in the school and they can enhance language learning at all grade levels.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Letting the VoiceThread Be Heard

Now heading into the core of the school year, we are working to spread the usage of VoiceThreads throughout the Middle School here at the Moriah School. In my personal classes, we have used it in both my 7th and 8th grade Gemara classes - and they have been met with great success and excitement. I have posted images of the daf of Gemara, and directed my students to color-code each individual step of the Gemara by underlining the phrases, and then to read and translate. My students really enjoyed this challenge, and were overjoyed when it all came together in a completed unit.
Currently, I am working with several other Gemara/Dinim rebbeim to create similar projects in their classes, with interest peaking among a few Tanach teachers, as well. Our headsets and webcams are being distributed to our teachers, and many students have their VoiceThread accounts.
For those interested in this wonderful technological concept that has broad capabilities and integration possibilities, feel free to watch my VoiceThread of the Election Day workshop - and comment on it. The following is a link to it:
Enjoy Threading!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Teachers Teaching Teachers

This month, South Area Solomon Schechter hosted a professional development seminar for teachers. The focus of the seminar was 21st Century skills: Technology in Schechter Day School. When the idea was introduced, I immediately asked to be part of the planning community. I also asked if I could share the SmartBoard lessons I have been developing for my grades 3, 4 6, 7 & 8 special needs Hebrew classes.

The interest in the topic was high and I was thrilled to have teachers from around the New England Area as well as from New York and New Jersey come in search of ways to use the SmartBoard more effectively to reach all levels of Hebrew students.

More and more I am realizing that many Hebrew teachers are a little overwhelmed by the issue of using Hebrew in the SmartBoard notebook software. I have spent the year learning new tricks at getting around the problem of Hebrew text exploding into gibberish every time many of the interactive flash lesson are used. What was so exciting about teachers coming together at the Technology Seminar was the wealth of information we all have to share with each other. I learned so much from the participants, and I knew that they were just as pleased to be able to say "show me how you did that."

One of the chief problems of the SmartBoard is actually that many teachers are not willing to try something out of their comfort zone. I wanted to show them that it was a lot simpler than they expected it to be. Creating lessons on the SmartBoard keeps my creative juices flowing. One idea leads to another and the possiblies are endless. The problem is that there is just not enough time in the day for teachers to develop their skills and become more comfortable with the technology

--Sarah Shay-Davidson
--Hebrew Special Education Teacher

Friday, December 11, 2009

MP3 recorders save instruction time

In asking Avi-Chai for MP3 recorders players we hoped to use class time more efficiently: students will spend less time on writing, recording their answers instead, and the time saved will be used for instruction.
As the first four month of the year are ending I checked to see how I’m doing, comparing the material I’ve covered so far this year to last year. The results are encouraging: 3rd and 4th grade are 3 weeks ahead in their respective curriculum compared to last year. 5th grade is only a week ahead, but this is because for the first two months they received intensive instruction in trope and had only half of the regular Hebrew instruction time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jewish History Power Points with Video is Complete

My Jewish History Power Point project is now complete. The site URL address is There are 20 Power Point presentations
- 18 of them have video clips that the user can link to.
Topics are listed below.

Jewish History Curriculum
First Temple Period
Jewish Return to the Land of Israel
Greeks and Hellenisism
Chanukah and the Maccabees
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Herod the Great
The Rise of Christianity
The Great Revolt
Mishna, Talmud & the Oral Law
The Bar Kochba Revolt
The Rise of Islam
The Golden Age of Spain
Christian Spain: Inquisition & Expulsion
The Jews in Medieval Christian Europe
Eastern European Jewry
The Hasidic Movement
The Jews in America
The Rise of Modern Israel
Miracle of the Jewish people

I invite all educators to go to the site and welcome all comments and feedback.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

sampling of smart ideas lessons

I want to share some of my smart ideas lessons. Smart ideas is mapping software for the smart board. I've been using this program to help my students visualize the sefer we are currently learning. I create a template before class and then together with my students we complete the page. In class we are able to move the objects, draw arrows and manipulate the text boxes in many ways.

Some of the ways smart ideas has been useful in my class.
1) Great way to break up a verses. The students can visualize the divisions and can be part of the learning process.
2) I use it for "chazarah" to review ideas. If we learned several commentators I make a page where the students write a line for each approach that we learned.
3) Demonstrating textual difficulties. Students visualize the important questions we will deal with, for example a 'misplaced' verse or bunch of verses.
4) Allowing students to see the bigger picture.

Follow the link to see my pages. Note: these pages can't capture what I do with smart ideas in the classroom because these pages are either my templates or the finished class work. The greatness of smart ideas is that you can do whatever you want in the class and create in front of the students with the students help.

Frisch Integration

My newest integration presentation is available at The presentation is called Judaism and Greek culture and is about a synagogue that used pagan elements in its zodiac mosaic floor design. I first talk about the beauty of Greek architecture, and the Greeks' obsession with harmony, balance and symmetry. The discussion will hopefully be deepened by the fact that our students learn geometry in the ninth grade. The idea is to show how Greek culture contributed so much to the world, not only in the area of aesthetics and math, but also in other fields as well. The discussion of the shul, however, is to show that we have to draw the line (get it? geometry?) between Judaism and the secular world, as our Hellenized forebears sometimes failed to do altogether or failed to do properly. I want the students to see that we are in danger of becoming too "Hellenized."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Jewish History Power Point Project Update

I completed the project, a series of Power points on Jewish History with video clips. The only challenge I had was to make them available to the educators. The main problem was that the clips were very large and would need alot of room on any site where I would store them.

I decided to create another version of all the Power points with links to the clips instead of embedding them in the Power point. That works so I am posting 16 of the Power points: the website is a Google site and the URL is

Please visit the site and take a run through the Powerpoints. I have some minor adjustments to do on the others and I will add them during the week.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Frustrations come and go

Since Thanksgiving I’ve been giving many thanks to the computer specialist at The Shlenker School for helping me straighten most of the problems we had with the function of the MP3 recorders/players. We are using these for two main functions:
1. The students record themselves instead of writing things down: answers to assessment questions, making sentences with new vocabulary words, telling short stories… I then retrieve the recordings by listening to the MP3 on a media playing software on my computer, check answers or type their recorded work for them if appropriate.
2. The teacher record items ahead of time: instructions for assignments, comprehension questions, prayers or the story we work on for auditory learners to use as a study supplement… the students listen with headphones and do the activities.
However, until now only the recording function of the MP3 worked as intended. Replaying recording on the MP3 produced inconsistent results, and was too unreliable for use in class. Ms. Williams investigated and reset the system, and now it is possible to play back a recording and listen to it on an MP3 as well as on a computer. During the time Ms. Williams had the MP3 devices in her posession the students felt keenly the temporary loss and kept asking when they can use them again, which showed me how much the technology became part of the class routine.
But with one technological frustration solved, another surfaces… I’m using my tablet pc to help record authentic assessment of language in the class: I carry it around during class and grade students’ sentences using a simple chart. The tablet is relatively lightweight and portable, but when it is taken off its base to be carried around it is separated from my favorite rodent: the computer mouse. Instead it comes with a stylus, which I find a very poor replacement. Here’s an example how this can hinder the assessment process:
Today 3rd grade were ready to start using the new Chanukah vocabulary words in conversation. Charged with Chanukah spirit they sat in groups around two tables, vocabulary cards on the word-chart on the board to prompt them. My laptop was set ahead of time with the grading chart displayed on the screen, and then disaster struck: by mistake the stylus (of course it wasn’t me!) clicked on the X at the top right of the page and the worksheet closed. Now I had to reopen it quickly. I started clicking the stylus all over the screen, but things didn’t go right. In the background I could hear wonderful Hebrew flowing and Chanukah themed sentences in the air, and I was missing it all! I ended up taking the tablet back to its base and using the mouse to reopen the worksheet. I was back in time for a few more minutes, but it demonstrated to me how an advanced technology can become ineffective because of one small detail. I wonder if anyone else has experience using a tablet pc or similar laptop with a stylus and can give me tips how to improve my control over it.
We are getting ready for some Chanukah "writing" projects in which the MP3 will take a starring role. Perhaps I'll write about it next time.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mild frustrations

On the one hand, there is excellent excitement and buzz among teachers and students about the Hebrew online homework help program. On the other hand, the technology side has had some speed bumps.

I set up gmail accounts as base accounts from which to open Skype and ooVoo accounts, but when we got the machines and I went back to them, gmail had disabled the accounts because they looked like they had been bot-generated, I guess (they had similar names: bialikhebrewone, -two, -three), and the same alternate email. Gmail was cooperative in restoring them, but it took a couple of weeks.

Most recently, we've got some problems with the voice/sound delivery, which should be easy to fix - if I could trouble-shoot the source. I had a session today with a student where the student could project video only in ooVoo, but I couldn't hear her; we ended up going to Skype, she could see me and we could hear each other. This was best for me hearing her describe her work, and while frustrating for me, also demonstrated that voice-alone calls can work fine.

Teacher concerns so far: ooVoo has a large advertising banner in each window, which you cannot control or hide without purchasing a membership. They were concerned about the kids' viewing ads of questionable content etc. On the other hand, ooVoo has a slicker interface with side-by-side video windows.
On the up side - since the accounts automatically log calls and chats, I can track use centrally (I have access to all of the accounts - I opened one for each participating teacher, which was overkill) and they don't have to do additional logging.

In the meantime, there's still novelty on all sides and excitement about it, and we're ironing out kinks as we move forward.

Family Histories at King David Taking Shape

The new cameras and scanner arrived in October and have already been put to use as our grade 11 "electronic family histories" begin to take shape. Students have received expert instruction from our media arts teacher, Wendy Oberlander on lighting and sound techniques in order to produce professional looking results. Students have been gathering family artifacts and photos; using the scanner to create digital records of these valuable family heirlooms. Students have been actively engaged in this project as they have discovered family stories that have never before been recorded in any format but will now be part of a personal and community legacy as these stories are recorded and made available for future generations to see and hear.

Student comments:

"The project has really helped my relationship with my grandparents. I got to find out many new things about my grandfather that I never knew, and would have never known if I did not have this opportunity. This is one of the more fun and more educational experiences that I have had at school, and is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life." -- Max James

"I feel this project is a great oppertunity for me to learn about my familes past and to realize what my ancesters went through so I can be where I am today. It lets me appreciate what I have so much more." -- Raffi Freedman

There remains the difficult task of turning the raw materials into interesting visual and audio stories but with the right tools at their disposal, thanks to the help of Avi Chai, our students are up to the challenge.

DaTefilah want's to share whats new.

Shalom Everyone.
December is a very exciting time in our Solomon Schechter school of Westchester. Our first graders are getting their first Siddur very soon! To prepare my students to be active members of this exciting project, we started to read the tefillot slides I created, decoding the sounds using a color coding system. The students had great success and read the sounds very well!

One thing that I learned when introducing the second page, where students practice reading whole words that are color coded, many students had challenges in blending the sound. This meant that I needed to modify this page to allow for additional decoding and blending practice. So I changed the format to allow students to sound out by syllables and then blend. This change really help many students to achieve our goals! Students were excited to be able to sound out the words of familiar tefillot and inturn really felt like Hebrew readers!.

We are going to record the students singing the Tefillot after our siddur assembly later in December. It is great to share with my students this wonderful experience, and they can't wait to do our recording! 1st grade budding recording artists!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Having "Jing" installed on my laptop, I am able to capture a news broadcast or an article from the web and save it, so I can present it to class.
My technical support and guide Mrs. Deaso, has just installed Adobe Acrobat Connect on my laptop. With this program I am able to send captured video or electronic article by email to my contacts so they can preview it and be ready for our discussions.
I am also able to send " an invitation for a meeting" using Adobe Acrobat Connect to discuss the capturewith the class. In this invitation a date and time are set in which the class will be able to see the contact who lives in Israel and discuss the news or feature capture at hand.My laptop is not connected to the Smart Board yet.We are waiting for some technical parts that are on order.
In the meanwhile, as my first "experiment",I captured a video and presente it to my 12th graders.(Since they are a smaller class , they were able to view it on my laptop.) I am training their ears to follow the quick speed of the Israelies talking.After a couple of times,the students felt much more comfortable and were able to understand and follow the ideas.So students are already making progress as fluent listeners of the Hebrew language.

VoiceThreads Spreads at the Moriah School

As we continue spreading the word - VoiceThreads has been getting some interest and popularity among our staff. After a successful Election Day workshop, we are branching out to the rest of the Middle School as we set them up with the webcams and microphones. Considering the bold and original methodology that VoiceThreads presents, the teachers have remained interested and energetic to learn of both its capabilities and means of possible integration.
In my Gemara classes, we have thus far used VoiceThreads as a review and reading fluency tool, yet I have been discussing with the rest of the staff ideas to spread its usage far beyond. I am currently working on a VoiceThread geared to stimulate thoughts from Limudei Kodesh teachers throughout the country. I will be posting the link as soon as it is finalized so that all of Avi Chai's readers can join and spread the word! In turn, this can create a tremendous buzz in Judaic education and can very well expand our horizons in the near future. I look forward to sharing the VoiceThread with you shortly.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Frisch Integration Programs

My regular integration presentations are having a delayed start this year, because of the many new integration initiatives the school is now involved in. First, I was busy establishing the integrated curriculum themes on the wikis for the ninth and tenth grades. The integrated curriculum is now part of the freshman and sophomore years; freshman year has the same theme as last year's freshman class, Identity, and sophomore year has the theme of Exploration. The Frisch wiki has a Home page that is a portal to both grades' wikis, and then there are Home pages for each respective grade. The pages on each grade's wiki pertains to the grade's theme. The ninth grade pages are basically the same as last year's: My Story, Modern Orthodoxy, Classification, Leadership, Return to Zion, and Civic Responsibility. A new page is Relationship with God.

A new initiative on the ninth grade wiki has been the inclusion of the students of the Amal School in Nahariya, Northern New Jersey UJA's sister city. Educational Technology Director of Frisch, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, traveled to Nahariya at the start of the school year to get the students and faculty onto our wiki, so our Hebrew Language ninth grade students could dialogue with their Israeli counterparts. Several interesting discussions have already taken place.

The tenth grade wiki is new, so the pages are all being introduced and built this year. So far, for the theme of Exploration, we have Traveling Through Time and Space, Visions, Man in Search of God, Cause and Effect, Exploring Diverse Cultures and The Rules of Engagement. One example of a teacher who used the Exploring Diverse Cultures page in an interesting way is by a Chumash teacher who had students weigh in on the Noahide laws on the Discussion section of the page.

At the end of last year, a school in Alon Shvut, Neveh Channah, found Frisch's wiki because of an article in the Lookjed journal that Rabbi Pittinsky and I had written. The teacher from Neveh Channah wanted to collaborate with an English Literature class, and since I teach the subject, I agreed. I'm very excited about the work we've been doing. The teacher looked at my syllabus and found points where our curricula meet. Our school's grade theme is Exploration, and she chose a civic responsibility angle for her syllabus, so we're trading off using not only each other's wikis, but also each other's themes.

So far, her class has read "A Modest Proposal," which was a work generated by my curriculum, and after also reading an article by Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, both of our students discussed the effects of greed.

After a discussion of possible rehabilitation of criminals, an idea that grew out of one of The Canterbury Tales my class was discussing, both schools began researching and thinking about whether criminals can be reintroduced into society. Last Monday, Neveh Channah's Director of Educational Technology set up a FlashMeeting, so Frisch students could join Neveh Channah students in listening to a speaker, a man who runs the Jerusalem-area prisons. Frisch students were, in real time, able to ask questions to the speaker and learn about the Israeli prison system. Tomorrow, Monday, November 30, a friend of mine from Los Angeles, a psychologist who worked in California prisons, will be speaking to my class via telephone and answering our questions on prisons in America. Finally, on Wednesday, December 2, a rabbi at Frisch who has a law degree and practiced as an attorney before joining the school's Judaic Studies staff, will be addressing my class about America's penal code. Key points from both tomorrow's and Wednesday's lectures will be on the Neveh Channah wiki, so our students and the ones in Alon Shvut can continue our discussion of the issue. The topic works well with Neveh Channah's civic responsibility theme.

Coming up with Neveh Channah is a joint Chanukah party, where our students will learn about an interesting battle that took place in Gush Etzion during the time of the Maccabis. If we can find a way to exchange sufganiyot over the Internet, we'll do that, too!

For the ninth grade for Chanukah, I may finally get to do an Integration presentation, about a shul in Israel that archaeologists first believed was a pagan temple, because it had Zodiac mosaics of a sun and an uncircumcised male nude, both subjects that were taboo in Classical Israeli synagogues. Archaeologists later realized the shul belonged to a group of Hellenized Jews. The presentation will be part of a larger discussion throughout the ninth grade about Greek culture. Secular Studies classes will focus on the huge contributions the Greeks made to Western culture, as basically the creators of it, while Judaic Studies teachers will focus on where to draw the line between our religion and the outside world, since as modern Orthodox Jews, we may sometimes feel conflicted and unsure about where we should stand. I hope my presentation will show that Hellenized Jews sometimes went too far in adopting Greek culture, just as today many Jews stray too far into the secular world.

Other upcoming Integration presentations will be in Chumash, on the importance of the Shema, especially as it compares to idealogies of other religions, and in Nakh, on the power of the Assyrian Empire as it is seen in Melakhim Aleph and Bet.

I want to thank AVICHAI, without whom I would have never have heard of a wiki! Now wiki-ing is all I do!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

39 Melachos Video-Robert M Beren Academy Houston, TX

We have been very busy putting together all the parts of our video. It is a colossal effort to get all pieces together:the actors learning the script, the props and all the sights we want to film at. We finally started filming and all I can say is that actors and producers surely earn their pay. It is a grueling experience. Each scene took 5-6 shots to get right. Hopefully with experience, it will go quicker and easier.

Friday, November 13, 2009

iPods for Hebrew - Gray Academy

The students continue to express their support and enjoyment in working with the iPods. They like the ability to review their work and the private “stress free” environment they offer.
From the teachers’ point of view however, some challenges are starting to arise.
The iPods require work with Macs. As someone who is used to and likes working with Windows, the Mac can be very frustrating. Simple tasks like opening and deleting files can be hard to do if no “Mac expert” is available to show you. Becoming familiar with the Mac and its usage is an ongoing learning curve. Luckily we have very good tech support in our school, because we have an ICT Department Head who is also knowledgeable about Apple computers.
The iPod cart also presents challenges. When connected to the computer, sometimes not all iPods show up and then the teacher is missing files. The transfer of files from the Mac to the teachers’ flash drives (so they can take it home/to their class to listen) takes time. In a busy and hectic schedule, this is one more “chore” to do.
As for the iPods themselves, when they are used by multiple classes and teachers, you have to be very cautious when it comes to deleting files. It requires attention and coordination between teachers and classes to make sure each teacher gets his own files and nothing gets lost or mixed up.
Lastly, in this era of hygiene and H1N1 threats, the teachers need to make sure the iPods stay clean and well managed (it is helpful, for example, when students use their own headset/earbuds).
We would like to take this to the next level of creating videos that the students can see on their iPods, but first we have to take baby steps in implementing the program.

Planning is progressing -- Student VideoConference today!

Hi everyone -- Jesse here for Bialik's IT Staff with a short update on our progress.

The rest of our cameras arrived last week along with two tripods/dolleys. our 10 media hard drives arrived yesterday -- and while we are still waiting for a few odds & ends, with this equipment we will be able to begin our project!

Planning for this project was difficult and intense -- finding time to carve out of our already packed dual-streamed, four-language curriculum has proven to be a challenge, but we think we've succeeded by (hopefully) integrating this project in with other lessons and offsetting some more traditional coursework requirements.

To assist us with a successful project, we invited Nikos Theodosakis, a noted Canadian filmmaker and the creator of the "Director in the Classroom" program, to provide us with some PD, oversight and assistance. A first planning meeting with Nikos, Simona and I was followed up on our last Friday PD day with a 2-hour videoconference for Hanna and Yossi (our involved Jewish Studies classroom teachers) on "Filmmaking in the classroom", and further followed up on Monday with a lively discussion about the assignment as well as some "hands-on" time with the equipment. Throughout the past week, we have been refining our assignments (which we'll post shortly) to make sure that they're inclusive of higher-order thinking skills and offer ample outlets for creativity without being too broad.

This afternoon, Nikos, who is in Vancouver, will run a one-hour videoconference with our two pilot classes (a Grade 5 and Grade 7 class) to inspire them and help get them excited about becoming Jewish Studies filmmakers. We're VERY excited to be finally unveiling the project to our students, and we hope to have a follow-up post about this conference shortly!

Monday, November 09, 2009

American Hebrew Academy: AVI CHAI GRANT - Pocket Video Cameras Project

Wednesday, November 4
We have been working on the project for over a month and the two video clips are finished. The process was long and overwhelming at times, but rewarding. We have been excited, frustrated, pleased, helpless, proud, and eventually thrilled that we finished, and the result is not bad at all.
We learned a lot during the project. Hebrew is only one of the lessons learned. Patience is another. Team work is an important factor in the process, especially during the filming. Multi tasking, independent work, responsibility, efficiency and selflessness were the spices of this dish.
Being a beginners’ class (Hebrew 1.2), we used mostly English behind the scenes while shooting the clip. I hope that by next project we’ll be able to use more Hebrew.
Here are the main challenges we have experienced:
· Lack of time- much of the work was done beyond the school hours. In addition, it took more classes than allocated to complete the project.
· We started filming later than expected- correcting the scripts and teaching based on the mistakes made was an important process. However, I felt that for Hebrew 1.2 some of the material learned was above their level (for example, Smichut). Higher levels would greatly benefit from this process.
· Getting all the members on the same schedule after classes.
· Different learning pace- some students could learn/memorize faster than others. That created moments of frustration from both sides.
· Public performance- not all the students felt comfortable enough to act in front of the group. It took time until they became more relaxed and able to do it.
· Working with two teams at a time is pretty challenging for the teacher. A TA is a great asset.
· Technical issues: zoom and volume. To be able to get the whole “scene”, there is a certain distance that we needed to keep from the group because of the zooming capability of the camera. The problem was that the sound could not keep up with the distance- the microphone recorded the background noise (we filmed in a supermarket) louder than the students’ conversation. The students could have spoken louder, of course, but it would make little difference.
Overall, it was a great learning experience. Every minute spent on the project was definitely worth it. But the teacher has to take into consideration delays in schedule, changes in plans, dedication, technical skills required in editing, improvisation and creativity.
The video clips are attached. Enjoy watching them. Input will be much appreciated.
Hebrew IV students have chosen the two books that made the script and finished writing it. At this point they are practicing the dialogues and are getting ready to film Tuesday, November 10. I believe that this group will have a smoother experience as most of them have better skills to face such challenges.

*** I am having problems uploading the videos...
We'll keep you posted,
Ariella Livnat

Digital Testing of Gemara

I had an opportunity last week to utilize the digital mp3 recorders as a section of my 7th grade girls first Gemara test. Throughout the first two months of school, the girls were given the assignment about every 3 weeks to record themselves reading about 15 lines of Gemara. The girls asked me if they could prepare a script for this assignment, and while I did not originally anticipate them doing that, I was fine with them putting in that extra effort. The byproduct, I found, was that, as a class, they were far more comfortable with the terminology of the Gemara and it allowed our class to be conducted primarily in Ivrit. For the test, I told them that they could choose one of the three sections of Gemara that they had previously recorded with a script, and would now be given 5 minutes of the test to record that section again without a script. As for the written section of the test, being that I would now have invaluable information regarding their understanding of the content that they recorded, I allowed the students to skip those questions that corresponded to the section of the Gemara that they had just recorded. Overall, the test environment went well, with 21 students simultaneously speaking into their headsets the Gemara, it made for quite a beautiful sound!
One thing I learned...I cannot have the students dump the recorders and headsets in a box afterwards, I just spent 25 minutes untangling all the wires, live and learn!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Moriah School: We're Threading Now

With most of the preliminary tasks out of the way, The Moriah School, located in Englewood, New Jersey, is well underway in developing and integrating our VoiceThread project. Our IT department, led by the wise and talented Mrs. Lisa Fusco, has worked hand-in-hand with me in preparing for what is bound to be a successful initiative. In fact, we have recently launched this project on two levels - on the teacher and student front.
My 7th grade Gemara students just completed their first VoiceThread assignment: to circle the first Mishna in the 10th Perek of Pesachim and then to read and translate it. With great anticipation, the students were quite enthusiastic to begin ... and did they Thread! I am looking forward to expanding the VoiceThread tool to my 8th grade Gemara students, as well. After demonstrating its features at the beginning of the year, all of my students realized the vast potential in it.
Not only are my students invigorated to continue with VoiceThreads, we began to spread this wonderful online program among the teachers. This past Tuesday, on Election Day, while the students enjoyed the day off, the entire staff was engaged in meaningful workshops throughout the building and beyond. Among the Teacher In-Service workshops presented, was a seminar on VoiceThread. The entire Middle School staff, both Judaic and Secular studies teachers, were present to experience this amazing tool hands-on. A PowerPoint presentation was created, as well as an actual VoiceThread of the presentation - one that was opened to the staff to comment in return. In fact, the link is available for anyone to view and comment, although I will moderate the incoming comments. The link is:
From Gemara and Tanach rebbeim and morot to English, Mathematics, History, and Science teachers - everyone enjoyed this eye-opener of a tool. Many lively discussions emerged.
I am eager to build upon this strong foundation of interest and growth in educational technology, as well as to bring Judaic studies to a higher level of excellence and depth. Although the content may be centuries old, it is alive and thriving in the 21st century!


Jing was installed on my laptop. This program allows me to capture an article or a video broadcast of news from one fo the Hebrew sites and store it . Then bring it to class the next day.It took alot of practice to be able to capture, but once I did it,it is really fun and will be exciting for the studentsto see it.My next step is to hook up my laptop to the smartboard so I will be able to use them simultaneously.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Better Assessment with Technology - The Shlenker School

One day last week I couldn’t teach my 5th grade class and my supervisor, Nancy Pryzant Picus, covered for me. The next day I received the following from her with the suggestion that I post it on the Avi Chai blog, as it describes her impressions of the way the students use the new technology and the changes it is making in their learning:

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed teaching your class the other day. What struck me, in particular, was how accustomed the students were to hearing and speaking Hebrew throughout the class—even talking amongst themselves. They addressed me in Hebrew (albeit, with occasional prodding) whenever they needed help, and made an effort, both orally and in writing, to communicate well in Hebrew.
I also noticed that the students were eager to use the MP3 players to record the answers to the comprehension questions you left for the story they had read. They clearly knew how to use them (evidence of your careful instruction), and were comfortable speaking. I know that you had also intended to use the MP3 players to differentiate instruction for your third and fourth grade classes, where the students are more heterogeneously mixed. As I recall, you were going to record different sets of questions for different students. I know that you were having some trouble getting the players to work properly—is that one goal that’s had to wait due to “technical difficulties?”
I know that one of the goals of your grant was to increase the children’s ability to express themselves orally in Hebrew. Although my experience is based on my memory of past years (rather than hard data), I believe you are well on your way to meeting that goal! Kol hakavod!

Nancy Pryzant Picus
Director of Jewish Learning

As for the difficulties we are having with the MP3 players – the function of listening to anything recorded is totally unreliable, so while I have plans to record assessment questions as described these plans are on hold for now. But the glass IS half full, and problems are there to be solved…

Saturday, October 31, 2009

DaTefilah. Ilanit Curi-Hoory Solomon -Schechter school of Westchester

Shalom. I had some technical challenges so you didn't have a chance to view my project's progress so far. I would like to share with you some highlights of my exciting project that thanks to Avi Chai it can come to "life".I am working on slides to upload on Voice Threads. Voice Threads will be my tool to share our Teffilah experience with our class community. I am writing a reading practice slide for 4 prayers. first and second pages will include decoding practice sounds and words using color codes lead by me ( teacher). third page ( with no color as it is appears in the Siddur) my classes will be singing with Morah Tova my Friend teacher and her guitar.
each child will add a picture to the Tefillah he/she are working on. I am planing to introduce the slides to my students in December after they get their Siddur

Friday, October 30, 2009


Shalom everyone. I have completed all the slides. We are working very hard with our first graders on decoding words.We are using Tal Am as our reading program, and we follow the same Tal Am color code for reading words in the will see the example in the Teffilah TORAH TORAH.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TTSP (Talmud Torah of St. Paul) Technology Update #2

We LOVE our LCD projector. We use it mainly in the upper school Hebrew classes as a link to websites and presentations that we can project on the wall. Last month we used it to teach students how to record themselves speaking Hebrew via avatars on the website. This month students had the pleasure of seeing and hearing each other's Vokis thanks to the projector.

We also use the projector for whole school assemblies. At Kabbalat Shabbat last week, in connection with parashat hashavua, we created a PowerPoint display of Noach songs that we projected onto the gym wall so that everyone could see the words of the songs . We can engage students with different learning styles by showing the lyrics along with illustrations while the students are both singing and hearing the music.

Posting lyrics has been controversial. Some faculty think that children should learn the words by listening, while others like the visual reinforcement. Also, we have many teachers and guests who might not know the songs that have been taught in a particular class, and are therefore unfamiliar with lyrics, so we want to accommodate them. We draw the line at transliteration, though, since our central goal is for our children to have Hebrew reinforced in many venues.

One great benefit of the LCD projector is that the clarity of the words is highly superior to using the old projectors. The former transparency projectors had to sit among the students near the front of the auditorium, the cords got in the way of the students, and the clarity was sub-par. This time, we worked on the files up in our classrooms, plugged in the computer in the auditorium, and pulled up our files. They were beautiful, clear, and we could project from the back of the room. Immediately after Kabbalat Shabbat, a few teachers made suggestions for improvements. We made them right there at the computer, and the file was immediately saved on the school server, accessible from anywhere in the school.

Elef todot to Avi Chai!

Wendy, Riva and Avivit

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shlenker School Project Assessment: Good Progress

I’ve finished the second month of using technology to assist me in assessing students’ language proficiency overall in a happy mood. I’ve expanded the use of the technology to 3rd grade, and now all three grades (3rd-5th) who are supposed to work with the technology are doing so. The students are getting more comfortable with the technical part of operating the devices, and it improves enormously the efficiency and speed of our work. They record their answers to assessments questions without delays, no longer experimenting with the MP3 recorders controls or making mistakes in the recording process. After class it takes me little time now to retrieve their recorded answers in order to grade them. The reading comprehension assessment process which used to take up to two class periods because it took the students so much time to laboriously write down their answers now take only one. I do give the students a choice, and some choose to write down their answers, but the writers are the students who are comfortable writing, usually because they are distinctly visual learners or because they can do it fast or both. The majority of the students choose to use the MP3 recorders.
My trusted lightweight laptop tablet computer is carried around the room during class time as I listen to my students apply new vocabulary in conversational setting and grade their efforts. As I was hoping it would be - it is very easy to do. Students’ use of language in class is being more objectively graded in real time than it would be if graded several hours later. To my surprise it seems to me that this method of grading in class also works as an incentive of sort for increased participation: students who previously participated sporadically now contribute more often, though no explicit or implicit connection was made by me between improved participation and better grades. I speculate that perhaps the knowledge that their linguistic effort is being recorded and assessed, i.e. – “appreciated,” is a motivator for some. On the flip side: it is even harder to coax a certain student to participate now. It seems he is reacting the opposite way and is intimidated by the knowledge that his performance is being assessed.
Unfortunately, we found that the MP3 recorders/players are not without some technical problems. We are working with the vendor to try and work things out, but at this point the students are unable to listen to recordings through headphones. I’m looking forward to resolving the problems so I can go ahead with more creative uses in the assessment process of the MP3 devices as players, not just recorders.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I have been practicing using the smart board.It is really "cool" how you can use your finger as a tool for writing and erasing. I learned to make charts to categorize the verbs, split screen, zoom in,and isolate a word or a phrase.
I can put an ink layer over a website, highlight and zoom on a word.I can save the new pages to my documents.I feel I have learned how to blog.

Bialik's Video Project - Technical Overview

Hello Everyone -- Jesse Gold Here -- IT Director for Bialik Hebrew Day School. We're beginning a film project in our Jewish Studies Curriculum and we'll be piloting it with Grade 5 & 7 classes.

Our Project focuses on relating Jewish History (both Biblical and more recent) to a modern context -- students will use video to explore these themes.

We are using a framework for Video projects called "The Director in the Classroom" by filmmaker Nikos Theodakis. This framework helps keep student projects on track by following the same process a filmmaker would need to get his or her film produced in the real world. Additionally, the framework gives all students a task so no-one feels left out, problem solving skills are embedded throughout.

We will be creating 10 "multimedia bundles" to break our projects into small groups of 5 students each x 2 classes. Each bundle will consist of a camera, portable rugged hard drive and accessories and will be entrusted into the care of a group. Half the bundles will include a basic Flip Video HD "pocket" video camera for basic shots, the other half will include a more traditional video camera with optical zoom, etc. Classes will switch equipment partway through the project so all students have access to both types of equipment. Both classes will also receive one set of extra equipment such as one tripod, dolly, to share between all groups.

The pocket cameras have arrived and we are anxiously awaiting the rest of the equipment. We envision this being a fairly lengthy project, taking a good portion of the school year. Mini projects (such as a unscripted documentary-style footage) will likely be inserted along the way as part of our "feedback loop".

Two more planning and PD meetings will happen in the next couple weeks with our Principal of Jewish Studies, Simona Dayan, and the teachers involved, to ensure that the project is properly embedded and aligned with our curriculum for these grades. Students will be introduced to and begin working on their projects in early November.

More information on the project specifics, curricula-wise, will be posted by other involved staff in the next couple of weeks.

We look forward to feedback from the community and would be happy to answer any questions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

iPods for Hebrew - Gray Academy

Before the iPods, we would test the students during class. That meant “one shot” for the student, and “one shot” for the teahcer to assess.
Having the tests saved as opposed to heard live benefits both the teacher and the students. The students get a chance to hear themselves and re-record if necessary before returning the iPod. From the teacher’s perspective, it allows us to listen to the recordings as many times as we need, which allows attention to details.
In addition, having the files saved gives the teacher an opportunity to sit with the students and give them feedback. The teacher can listen to the file with the student and point out areas that require attention and improvement. It serves as a great tool for enhancing progress rather than just giving a mark for the test.
The iPods are quickly becoming a popular item in our school. Teachers in our Hebrew department have already scheduled a few reading tests. Students seem to respond positively to this new experience. As a matter of fact, students who have not used them yet keep asking when is their turn.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

King David High School in Vancouver Brings the Past into the Present

The senior Jewish History students at King David are embarking on a project to personalize their realtionship with Jewish history. Currently the students are researching their family histories in an effort to document the stories of their ancestors. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins are all being invited to tell their stories of immigration to North America and Vancouver, British Columbia in particular.
The project we are undertaking will involve video recording these stories in order to create a permanent archive of the Jewish experience in Vancouver. Working with the Jewish historical society located at the JCC across the street from our school we are seeking to leave a record that future generations can use to understand the journey that led their families to this beautiful city and its vibrant Jewish community. The use of video technology and the ability to digitally archive the wealth and breadth of information the students are gathering will allow us to give the community an invaluable resource.
It is bound to be a project full of interesting revelations for all of us as the stories are collected and recorded for the entire community to enjoy.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

American Hebrew Academy: AVI CHAI GRANT - Pocket Video Cameras Project

The cameras are here! They are very user friendly and everybody is excited to start filming. But there is work to do before we get to the real fun. (Students will soon discover that one can have lots of fun in a very serious learning environment.) This is what the cameras look like:

Hebrew 1.2 students are in the process of finishing the scripts they are writing. Putting together the grocery list was relatively easy for them; now we are working on the grammatical part of the dialog: verb conjugations in present tense in the first and second person, and using the possessive pronoun “shel”. We will probably start filming no later than Friday Oct 9.

Hebrew IV students have brought their favorite books to class. They are about to finish their presentations and they will start writing the scripts next week. After the presentations the students will choose two books to write about. I plan to start filming within two weeks, no later than Tuesday Oct 13.

Hag Sukkot Sameach,
Ariella Livnat

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Smart Ideas- a smart first lesson

I made a SMART Ideas template of the various topics found in Devarim Chapter One. With the input of my students from each of my classes we created a 'map' of the chapter. This unit was a great way for the students to chart out the chapter. They were able to figure out which topics were the main ideas and which topics seemed (at least initially) to be tangents. They were able to appreciate the organization within Moshe's speech where they first thought it was unorganized. My students were unable on their own to figure out the theme of the chapter because of its hodgepodge of topics. However once we mapped it out together using SMART Ideas the theme of the chapter was clear and demonstrable to each student.

My classes were wowed by the program- they liked that we could change the colors, move the shapes, and easily draw connectors. Since this program is relatively easy to use in the classroom- the 'wow factor' didn't take away from the learning and didn't eat away at much time.

I was able to quickly and effectively teach a lesson that would have taken much longer then one or two class periods and would be much more confusing to teach without the use of the SMART Board. Unfortunately I was able to see this first hand- during one of my classes when I planned to use this SMART Ideas lesson- our school network was unavailable because of maintenance/repairs. I saw then how much more difficult it was to teach this unit without the visual aid of the SMART Board.

My students loved the fact that they didn't have to worry about copying one of my charts or diagrams from the board. I told them to concentrate on the pesukim, take their regular set of notes, and not to worry about copying the chart. I posted each classes' completed SMART Ideas page as a pdf on their online homework page.
I have collected a list of websites which I will use to capture the latest news in Israel and I have secured six collaborators so far; most of them are alumni of the Hebrew Academy, who are studying in Israel this year.
We purchased a laptop specifically for this project and it has finally arrived! It has a webcam, a high quality microphone and built in speakers, which are needed for this project.
We have also located some of the software which we will be using.

Bialik Montreal and online real-time homework help

Our project is an experiment in extending Hebrew homework help by allowing teachers to support homework in real-time using lower-tech videoconferencing and laptop tablet technology. The program is both hard/software and people-ware based:

We have two laptops with webcams and microphones that we have got in and are being set up by our school IT wizard. This entails ensuring that a few softwares are loaded - including dedicated accounts on popular VideoOIP programs: Googlechat, Skype, and Oovoo - so that students can dial in during scheduled hours and teachers communicate with them by voice and video, where students have the capability at home. The goal with the tablet technology is to enable teachers to write directly on PDFs (more on this in a second) for students to see on shared screens.

The hardware part has been pretty straightforward. We have a strong history of unionized teachers, and mandate and buy-in are firm institutions. In the people-ware part, the following pieces are finally coming together:
1) Not every teacher is comfortable with the technology, which includes the willingness to identify or commit specific homework assignments to be put up into the school intranet area as PDFs to ensure teachers' ability to access them from home (or wherever they will post themselves for this tutoring time).
1a) Participating teachers are in rotation with equal access, and will be "on call" during identified homework help hours. They will be expected to help with homework of any student who calls in, and not only their own students.
2) Not every teacher is participating. It's unclear at this point whether students in other sections will still call in for help. The homework-helping teachers have committed to making their assignments available.
3) We had some discussion about compensation in comparison to their normal teacher salary rates. What we are doing is not tutoring (this was a concern strongly voiced by the teachers, and one with which I agreed). How is this being on-call different from teaching, per se?
3a) Some of the teachers were concerned that they're going to be asked to help "do" a student's homework. I think that our students who would go that direction will simply copy their homework from a friend in the hallway before class. We are keeping it to ensuring that, at the beginning of an assignment, students have the basic methods they need to meet the exercise goals of the assignment.
4) The teachers wanted to keep some hours clustered nearer to the exams, rather than an even distribution; this will require tweaking of our scheduling of these hours this week.

Hopefully more on this during or just after Sukkot.... but the teachers are excited about using the technology and this is good for homework assignment in general and bringing our Hebrew department further forward into technology use (which has become a piece of our school's mission platform).

Digital Recording of Student's Reading Gemara

Firstly, I'd like to thank Avi Chai for this wonderful opportunity to follow my long lasting interest in recording students reading from the Gemara. After experimenting with using tape recorders (different cassette sizes and speeds made that difficult), voicemail boxes (the program would hang up on them after a pause of several seconds), and computer microphones (some home computers could not save a file in an Mp3 format), I am excited to begin this year with having my 7th grade Gemara class record themselves on handheld digital voice recorders as an assessment of their understanding after completing a section of Gemara.

This week I gave it my first try...

We finished reading the first Mishna and 10 lines of Gemara from Perek Arvei Pesashim. I had the students divide into two groups, one group of about 12 were meant to record themselves, while the other group of 12 worked on an assignment, they would then swap in what I assumed would take about 6 minutes. I assumed wrong...

While the digital voice recorders I purchased are about as user friendly a device as things get, the first time around definitely required some additional guidance to remind them how to use them. The other surprise was that the students were very often not satisfied with how they recorded themselves on the first try, and wanted to do a 2nd take. This quickly became a 3rd, 4th and even 5th take. With regard to this issue, I'm torn. On the one hand, I want my students to feel more confident in their first take, on the other hand, every time they do another take, they are learning the Gemara better and better. Additionally, as an assessment tool that is meant to capture their best effort at that time, I do want them to have the opportunty to submit thier best work. I'll think more about it, and let you know how it goes next time.

Rabbi Tavi Koslowe
Yeshivat Noam

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Talmud Torah of St. Paul begins using technology

The Hebrew faculty at Talmud Torah of St. Paul Day School has begun using the technology bought with the generous grant money from Avi Chai. Our intentions include documenting student progress through projects.

In Tishrei, already many of our lower school children have been recorded on video reading Hebrew. The first graders read their first syllables, the second graders read a short story about Rosh Hashannah, adding their own personal details to the story.

Fifth through eighth graders began the year writing about their summer experiences. The digital cameras were used to photograph students holding the objects they brought that were related to their summer. The photographs were integrated into the final presentation of the essays, which are now hanging on bulletin boards. The photographs helped students understand each other's essays by providing a visual prompt. A side benefit: students from other classes were drawn to the photographs, and spent time reading the essays.

Kindergarten students were photographed with "Bentzi", the class mascot, and the pictures will be used throughout the year to give visual clues to the students. Thanks to the photographs, the teacher is able to explain the procedure for Bentzi's rotation through their homes during the year ENTIRELY IN HEBREW. The photographs are also used to build sentences such as, "Yoni wants a banana."

The LCD projector has already been used to show short movies from Israeli news sites. For example, when Assaf Ramon died, students viewed the news coverage in Hebrew, from an Israeli site.

Next up: Seventh and Eighth grade students will begin to create "Vokis", which are voice recordings. This assignment: Pick the face of a famous person, and record your voice inviting someone to your sukkah. Students need to explain why you are inviting that person, and explaining the holiday to that person. The projector enables teachers to demonstrate the procedures to the entire group of students before they use the technology themselves.

Thank you to Avi Chai for the resources to explore these projects and more!

Wendy, Avivit and Riva

Friday, September 25, 2009

iPods for Hebrew - Gray Academy of Jewish Education

We are using 6 iPods (5 classic, 1 nano) hooked up to a Bretford Power Sync Cart, which enables us to charge all of the iPods at once, as well as access the sound files using one computer. So far a grade eight class has used the iPods for a reading test that was developed by their teacher. The reading test is connected to the NETA program that we use in our school, Gray Academy of Jewish Education. The iPods are a great tool to enhance two of the four major skills in Hebrew acquisiton: reading and speaking. The students were very keen and excited to use the iPods, which is one of the reasons why we wanted to purchase these devices. As well, the sound quality and range from the iPod is excellent, as long as the students speak clearly.

The teacher who is using the iPods is also learning the Mac OS, which has broadened her ICT skills. One thing she has learned is that the students have to identify themselves before recording their voices. She found it difficult to know for sure who was speaking, which was a real surprise. That may be a function of speaking in a different language, and the nature of testing vs. speaking "naturally".

The sound files were transferrred from the Mac computer to the teacher's flash drive. We realized a larger flash drive was necessary because the sound files are not compressed. All of these issues are easily resolved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Next Step in Student Videography in the Judaic Classroom

The New Year 5770 brings us to the next step in our Videography in the Judaic classroom.

We began our Videography journey by studying in class a paragraph on "Truth and Lies", from NETA 10. After a careful review of the paragraph the students and the teacher decided to embark on creating a movie based on this paragraph.

The students together with the assistance of the teacher composed the script. Once the script was completed, they had to audition for the parts that they felt they could portray.

The process consisted of memorizing a whole part and then acting it out. This immersed the students into studying the story as well as learning their respective parts. This first video will be in Hebrew; and as a result of the students learning their parts, they are also enhancing their knowledge of Ivrit.

The next step will be to rehearse the parts in which the students will continue to study the story and then filming it (the next Spielberg..).

Our next Blog posting will consist of the editing process.

This is only the first of four (4) videos that we will produce.

We look forward to your feedback.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I teach Hebrew language in a Jewish Day school. We look forward to enhancing our program by engaging students in authentic learning opportunities with the generous support of Avi Chai.Our
future posts will describe the project and progress.
Our project enhance language skills through technology driven global connections. We will bring current events in Israel and around the world in Hebrew to our students by way of streaming media in real time.Our students will follow up this activity through discussion about the daily living,culture and politics with our Alumni living in Israel through web/video conferencing.I will use the technology of SmartBoard and related computer generated programs to project the media and enhance the activities.

39 Melachos Video-Robert M Beren Academy Houston, TX

Before I begin, I would like to give a few words of preface about my grant.
For many years now, I have been teaching the Melachos of Shabbos to my fourth grade classes. For many this is an eye opening experience on many levels. First and foremost, it is their first real exposure to the logic as to why certain actions are permitted or prohibited. On a different level, this is the first exposure to a time that has passed. The laws pertaining to Shabbos, as we learn them in the Mishnah and Shulchan Aruch, were written to be applied to everyday life in a time period that has passed. A time before the advent of electricity and modern appliances, a time when everything a person used, he grew or made.
In order to bring this to life for my students, we then head to a local historical farm to see how life was lived in the 1830’s and learn how the melachos were performed. The students get to do and see many different activities. In the end, they actually experience or hear about all 39 melachos. They have a great time and learn a tremendous amount.
After taking the local kollel, who were learning Masechta Shabbos, to view the ranch on a mature scholarly level, I saw that as adults many of us need to experience the past in order to learn hilchos Shabbos correctly. The idea for a video depicting all 39 melachos was born. It would be geared for children, but provide a learning experience to talmidei chachamim looking to find out how a particular melacha was preformed.
The months of May and June were spent on hours and hours of research as to what should be shown in the video. In the beginning of July, the first version of the script was written. I say first version, because it had to be totally overhauled. In the meantime the actors were identified: I and a seventh grader in our school. By the time the second version was ready and edited (after many hours of hard work,) it was the middle of August and school had started. We are now limited to Sundays to rehearse and film. Which brings us to our next technical problem; all the Sundays in the near future are Yomim Tovim. In the meantime, we are memorizing our lines. I feel that this might be the hardest part of the whole project. Anyone with any tips, please let me know.

Getting Started with Rosetta Stone- Yavne Highschool Cleveland, OH

Yavne Highschool is in the process of setting up our weekly computer session for each grade (7th-12th). We have purchased the Rosetta Stone Homeschool Hebrew Software as the backbone of this endeavor. We are determining which levels will be covered by which grades. The curriculum is set, as of now, to have each grade do 2 units of a given level per semester.

The breakdown will look as follows:

7th grade: Level 1 , Unit 1 & 2
8th grade: Level 1, Unit 3 & 4
9th grade: Level 2, Unit 1 & 2
10th grade: Level 2, Unit 3 & 4
11th grade: Level 3, Unit 1 & 2
12th grade: Level 3, Unit 3 & 4

Each grade is divided into 2 classes for Ivrit, based on the students individual level. We are hoping to have one class per grade utilizing Rosetta Stone per semester.

Yavne has 4 periods per week designated for Ivrit. One out of those 4 will be labeled "Ivrit in the Computer Lab". During the semester in which the class is not using Rosetta Stone, we are still going to keep that weekly period assigned to the lab, with other projects to be completed.

Since no student, as of yet, has used the software, we will chose 3 pilot classes (7th, 10th and 11th grades) to determine if the projected curriculum is efficient and effective. All classes will start with Level 1 at this time, with the older grades simply going at a faster pace until they reach their specified level. With 7th grade beginning right at the beginning, as set by the curriculum guidelines as well, they will be the first grade to progress with the program at the desired speed.

My hope is to begin this program after the students return from Sukkot break. This will always be my desired time to begin this program since the students have all adjusted back to the routine, there are no more frequent breaks for holidays and material from the previous school year has been adequately reviewed.

The entire staff (both Ivrit teachers and others) are extremely excited about this project and can't wait to implelement it!

Hoping for much success and enthusiasm from the students!

American Hebrew Academy: AVI CHAI GRANT - Pocket Video Cameras Project

The Pocket Video Cameras project’s goals:
· To increased frequency and duration in speaking Hebrew
· To integrate the Hebrew language in everyday conversations and common settings in a creative way
· To increase enjoyment of speaking Hebrew through the video recorded role playing examples.
Attaining the goals will involve successfully taking of current curriculum for Hebrew classes at several levels (Levels 1.2, 2, and 4) and writing video-interactive enhancements to it. The enhancements will be introduced to faculty, and will be used in at least three different sections during the first two terms of the academic year.
Questionnaires filled out by both students and teachers who have used the enhanced curriculum will measure their level of satisfaction and the utility of the curriculum for improving the enjoyment and degree of involvement in Hebrew conversation.
We are almost there. Once we receive the pocket video cameras and the students finish their presentations/scripts, we can begin.

Hebrew 1.2 - Teacher: Ariella Livnat
Project #1: At the Supermarket "בסופרמרקט"
Hebrew 1.2 is working with Hebrew Shalav Alef "עברית שלב א' " chapter 4. The main story is Albert. The story takes place at a supermarket where the father is shopping for groceries. From here, we’ll take the event to our grocery store and we’ll “shop” for the coming birthday of our student, Marc (10/18). We will put the shopping list together and write the script. I expect to start shooting by Monday, October 5 (within the next five classes).

Project #2: chapter 5 - The Menu "תפריט", tentative date, mid November

Hebrew 2 – Teachers: Ronit Mesika & Samra Nissan
Hebrew 2 is working on the unit “The House” "הבית". Once we conclude this unit, the students will be assigned to make a video clip of their house/rooms and will present the material learned in the unit via the presentation. The video clip will emphasize the practice of the possessive pronoun “shel” "של" and its declension, as well as the furniture and items usually found in a room. The tentative filming day is Wednesday, October 13.

Hebrew 4 – Teacher Ariella Livnat
Project #1: The Book "הספר"
Hebrew 4 is working with Ivrit Min Ha’athala 1 "עברית מן ההתחלה א' “, chapter 10. One of the sub-units is "החיים בלי ספרים" (Life without Books). We are wrapping up this topic with student presentations on their favorite book, after which they are going to choose the most meaningful part of the book and play it out for the class. Two to three students will perform the script that will be adapted to their Hebrew language abilities in advance. This will be the first video clip in their Spoken Hebrew portfolio. The tentative date to start filming is Wednesday, October 7 (within the next six classes).

Stay tuned for more updates!
שנה טובה וגמר חתימה טובה
Ariella Livnat

Monday, September 21, 2009

developing chumash SMART-Ideas and Notebook lessons

It has been one week into the school year at Frisch. We are finishing up the introduction units and beginning to tackle the actual Sefer. This year I'm teaching Sefer Devarim and using SMART Board technology in most of my lessons.
I worked on several SMART Notebook and SMART Ideas lessons over the summer. This initial planning stage was quite challenging when it came to using and manipulating Hebrew text. These programs as great as they are - ended up being much more limiting then I first realized. Smart Notebook could barely accept Hebrew text and SMART Ideas which could accept some Hebrew text cannot be formatted into charts.
This posed a serious dilemma because what I set out to accomplish was to create lessons using the SMART Board to move, chart-out and organize biblical text and its commentaries. I wanted my SMART Board to be a hands-on-tool for advanced tanakh and parshanut (exegesis) study.

After much trial and error- and online research- I was able to get these programs to meet most of my needs and objectives.

At first using SMART Notebook camera tool I took pictures of each passuk. This was tedious but it worked OK with small amount of text. I did this for Devarim chapter 1 verses 1 to 5 and was able together with my class to label the chiastic structure in the text.
For SMART Notebook- RTF formatted Hebrew text is compatible. I cut and paste from a RTF formatted Tanakh and the Hebrew comes out legible. The only problem is that the verse numbers are at the end of the sentence and not at the beginning. (This is more of an aesthetic problem than anything else)
For SMART Ideas- which is mapping software. I am still disappointed that I can't make charts and that I'm limited to family trees and diagrams. Nonetheless SMART Ideas is better equipped to handle Hebrew than SMART Notebook. It can handle any Hebrew text without nikkud, making this program much more suitable for manipulating biblical commentaries (since most are only available with out nikkud anyway).
Because of some of these drawbacks in the SMART Board software I began using Microsoft Word 2007 to accompany my chumash lessons. Word 2007 offers many visual learning aids and organizers called 'smart art'. I've been using these visual charts and projecting them on my SMART Board. Togehter with my class- we listed all the major events in the first four books of the Chumash on the SMART Board. We used this information to challenge the assumption that the Book of Devarim is 'cliff notes' for the rest of the chumash. My studnets really enjoyed this lesson and using the smart board they were involved in the process and came to the conclusions on their own.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

First assessment from The Shlenker School

I received a tablet laptop to help me evaluate Hebrew conversation in the classroom in real time. During the summer I developed a simple chart to help me assess the quality of sentences, taking into account length and grammatical errors. I've started using it in class and found that it allows me to go about the business of teaching as usual while making it possible to quickly assess the level of each sentence a student produces.

As the second part of the grant we received MP3 player/recorders to help speed up assessment of reading comprehension. Both the students and I love theses little devices. The student love them because the enjoy the novelty and using technology rather then pencil and paper, and I love them because they promise to provide us with many different creative learning opportunities, beyond the original purpose of the grant.

The Shlenker School emphasize Hebrew conversation, reading, and less so - writing. Because of that we looked for ways to cut on the time students labored writing their answers to the reading comprehension questions, and the MP3 devices provide the solution: the students record their answers and I retrieve and grade them later. They also present another neat technological twist: I have a "mother" MP3 recoreder and a dock through which I can record my directions, questions, etc. into all the other devices at once - and erase all at the end of the cycle.

So far I've found a couple of small setbacks. One is that it took me much longer to retrieve the recordings and grade them later than glance through a written test. I hope to improve my speed with practice, but the process does take more time. Also, wrong answers need written feedback. So there are wrinkles to be ironed and challenges to be worked out, but this is what I enjoy. The main challenge I'm looking forward to this year is finding forms of assessments that will make good use of the technology and reflect the oral goals of our program.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Frisch integration

Two of the three Nakh PowerPoints for the coming school year are now available at and are entitled "Women in Power" and "The Times of Melakhim Bet." "Women in Power" shows how women like Hatshepsut, Theodora and Elizabeth came to and held onto power and how they compare with Athalia in Melakhim Bet. "The Times of Melakhim Bet" explores the Assyrian kings who were powerful during the reigns of the kings of Israel. Second semester, I'l take a look at the Assyrian kings who were in charge during the times of Malkhut Yehuda.

The Nakh presentations will be given, as they have been in past years, to the upperclassmen -- eleventh and twelfth graders -- at Frisch. However, now that the school has integrated the curriculum for the ninth and tenth graders using a wiki, I've posted my presentations on both wikis as well. The theme for the ninth graders is Identity, and for the tenth, Exploration. The presentations work well for the ninth grade on the "Leadership" page, a page that has the freshmen examining qualities that a leader has and are therefore good (or bad) to develop in themselves. The presentations went on the tenth grade wiki on a page called "Visions," which explores, partly, different governmental visions.

Educational Technology Director Tzvi Pittinsky and I showed the faculty the new tenth grade wiki as well as reviewed the ninth grade wiki so we'd all remember what was on it. The school is getting ready to launch the ninth grade wiki for the freshmen with an assembly that spans two days. On the first day, we'll discuss how the two summer reading books, The Chosen and The Color of Water, are different ways of exploring roots, particularly Jewish ones, and show how we don't want to create negative Jewish role models like the one depicted in The Color of Water. We'll use The Chosen as a jumping off point to discuss modern Orthodox theology, particularly the ideas of Torah u'Maadah and religious Zionism. The rest of the assembly on the first day will present students with a dilemma about where to send their children to high school. We'll ask them to post their responses on the wiki and vet through them overnight. On the following day, we'll discuss the results and show what's good about being open to the secular world and what the dangers of too much openness are. We're hoping to use the launch as a springboard for other discussions about religious purposefulness.

Different discussions of modern Orthodox theology will ensue. Already planned are reconciling evolution and Torah and eugenics and the Orthodox position on it.

To advance our religious Zionist ideals, we're continuing a ninth grade project that has students interact with their counterparts in our sister school in Nahariya. Tzvi Pittinsky will be traveling to Israel soon to set the school up on our wiki, so we can have discussions with them. We're also having our tenth grade work with a school in Israel. My tenth grade English class will be working on a Jewish immigrant project with a tenth grade high school in Gush Etzion. The goal of the project will be for students to explore here in American what Jewish immigrants from all over the world have contributed to American life, and in Israel the students will explore the role immigrants have played in shaping Israeli life. The Gush Etzion school has its own wiki, so all final projects will be posted on our wikis. Again the goal is for students to interact with their Israeli counterparts.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Zionism With a Technological Twist

Well... its been quite a fun summer working on this new curriculum- we finally got our new Promethean board installed in August and I was trained briefly in the new software ActivInspire (which is basically a newer version of ActivStudio). There is so much exciting stuff that can be done with the board. The lessons that I have created thus far use images, video, maps, and sound to help the students better understand the First Aliyah through WWII. I have also been able to create some really cool Jeopardy review games that are so technologically advanced- and fun!

After attending a wonderful conference recently called Israel at the Center I learned about some really great curriculum that exists already in the Jewish "technological" world. Itai Tennenbaum's "Israel Interactive" is one program that I plan on using with the board. Check out his website to get a better idea of what it is:

I learned 2 fun facts also that are helpful to my curriculum building:
1) The Hebrew University website has access to many WONDERFUL films from Israeli history that are excellent resources
2) Promethean has a way of importing SMART BOARD lessons into Promethean format. I bet there is a way to do it in reverse as well.

Just an fyi- I don't start teaching the Zionism course until November so it is still a work in progress, but I am sure that as I start teaching on Tuesday- Hebrew and Jewish Studies classes- I will learn more about the board and it will inspire many more creative ideas.

Next time I blog I will try to update about the ActiVotes which I have not yet figured out how to use.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

First Steps in Student Videography in the Judaic Classroom

Oh, the excitement of watching students as they see their books come to life.

Donna Klein Jewish Academy (DKJA) is the recipient of a Technology Education Grant from the Avi Chai Foundation for Videography. Students and faculty will soon benefit from a new program that incorporates state-of-the-art video production in Hebrew (Ivrit) and Judaic Studies.

Our goal is for students to be actively involved in a creative learning process with their teachers.

Mr. Arnon Ben Shlomo is a teacher at DKJA for the last 13 years and has produced 9 documentary movies for 8th grade moving up ceremonies and 2 movies for 12th grade graduation. Last year as an experiment he produced 2 movies in his Hebrew classes (in Ivrit) based on the NETA curriculum that the school is using. Arnon had the opportunity to show one of the movies at the NETA Seminar and was highly acclaimed.

For the 2009/10 school year Arnon will facilitate the production of:

• 4 short movie productions by 4 different teachers.
• 2 of the productions will be from the Hebrew class in Ivrit.
• 2 of the productions will be from the Judaic classes in English.
• Creating a Videography club for students.
• Training teachers in making movies with their students.
• Working with students and teachers in:
Script writing

Our first review of last year’s production from a teacher in Sydney Australia:
“I just finished the first part of the Master Teachers’ course in Boston where I mentioned that I was teaching Choveret 17. I was then given a copy of the movie you made and I just wanted to say that it was amazing.”

We look forward to hearing from our constituents and maybe one day DKJA will go to the Oscars

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jewish History Power Point Project Completed

I am happy to say that I have completed my education technology project: a series of Jewish History Powerpoints with video clips. I have found that the use of video clips in class has greatly enhanced student interest in what might otherwise a boring and dry subject. Today's students are connected in a very big way to technology, whether it be the laptop, cell phone or Ipod. The use of technology has created an atmosphere of excitement in the classroom and has been an extremely effective learning tool.
My Powerpoint library consists of 21 Powerpoint presentations, 556 slides filled with colorful images and 114 video clips. I need to find a way to burn them to DVDs (my laptop does not have DVD burner) and make them available to fellow educators. I will be at school next week for some meetings and will speak to the tech people to either provide me with a DVD Burner or whatever it takes to put all the material on DVDs.
My list of Power points consists of the following topics:
1) Miracle of Jewish History
2) Jewish History Curriculum
3) First Temple Period
4) Jewish Return to Eretz Yisrael
5) The Greeks & Hellenism
6) Chanukah & the Maccabees
7) The Dead Sea Scrolls
8) Herod the Great
9) The Rise of Early Christianity
10) The Great Revolt
11) The Mishna, Talmud & the Oral Law
12) The Bar Kochba Revolt
13) The Rise of Islam
14) The Golden Age of Spain
15) The Rambam
16) The Jews of Medieval Christian Europe
17) Christian Spain, Inquisition & Expulsion
18) The Rise of Hasidism
19) Eastern European Jewry
20) The Jews in America
21) Birth of the State of Israel

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom, YULA HS, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Etshalom will establish a Tanakh learning center which employs the best in technological advances to enhance integration of various disciplines into study of the Book of Books. This includes web-driven concordance work, mapping, comparison of texts and much more.

Rabbi Tavi Koslowe, Yeshivat Noam, Paramus, NJ

Through the use of mp3 recorders, students will create digital audio portfolios of their reading ability in texts such as Gemara and Chumash.

Ms. Naomi Shenker, The Shlenker School, Houston, TX

The Shlenker School will develop and implement assessment tools to quickly and easily capture authentic speech patterns of students, thereby more effectively meeting the individual instructional need of each student.

Ms. Miriam Gold, The Hebrew Academy, Huntington Beach, CA

As enrichment to Hebrew Academy’s Hebrew language program, this project will bring current events in Israel and around the world to students in Hebrew by way of streaming media in real time. Hebrew Academy students will follow up this activity through discussion about daily living, culture and politics with their alumni living in Israel through web/video conferencing. Ms. Gold will use the technology of smartboard and related computer generated programs to project the media and enhance activities.

Ms. Yael Goldfischer, The Frisch School, Paramus, NJ

Ms. Goldfischer will create and utilize “Smart Ideas” software to map Tanach instruction and create charts and diagrams to establish a sophisticated and interactive learning environment.

Ms. Sheryl Schochet, Talmud Torah of St. Paul Day School, St. Paul, MN

Ms. Schochet will utilize digital video and audio recordings in three ways to enhance Hebrew learning. Her team will construct video portfolios of student progress. They will also digitally link to their Israeli partner school. Finally, digital recordings will be posted on the Talmud Torah website and be accessible for home practice.

Ms. Ilanit Curi-Hoory, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, White Plains, NY

Da-Tefilla will be an online program using Tefilla text to teach and review decoding and basic Hebrew word comprehension. Students will use visual and audio cues, along with the color code from our Tal Am Hebrew curriculum to decode words. By using Voice Threads , these early elmentary students will be able to access this web site from school or home, so parents can reinforce lessons and learn with their children.

Rabbi Eliezer Kessler, Robert M Beren Academy, Houston, TX

Rabbi Kessler will be creating a series of videos illustrating each of the thirty-nine melachot of Shabbat. Students will see and understand the melachot that are not part of our daily life in the twenty-first century.

Rabbi Avi Bernstein, Moriah School, Englewood, NJ

With a vast variey of academic benefits, voice threads will enable Judaic and Hebrew classroom teachers to advance an array of skills even while the students are not in school, thus enabling them to utilize class time more efficiently.

Ms. Judy Doctoroff, Gray Academy of Jewish Education, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Ms. Judy Doctoroff will be using ipods for students' recordings to enhance their speaking skills (Oral Literacy).

Ms. Janice Odesnik, Donna Klein Jewish Academy, Boca Raton, FL

The Donna Klein team plans to integrate the use of student generated videos and audio recordings into a dynamic, engaging curriculum that best capitalizes on students’ interests and strengths (and learning styles), while allowing for better, differentiated assessment of students’ abilities and comprehension of our Jewish Studies programs.

Rabbi Daniel Rosenberg, Bialik High School, Cote St-Luc, Quebec

Rabbi Rosenberg will arrange an online homework help-line for Hebrew language instruction.

Mr. Jesse Gold, Bialik Hebrew Day School, Toronto, ON

Grade 7 & 8 Jewish Studies students from Bialik HDS in Toronto, Canada will use digital video to explore Jewish history and show how modern day issues have roots in Biblical times.

Ms. Leehe Matalon, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Chicago, IL

Anshe Emet’s Zionism course explores the people and events that realized the dream of creating a Jewish homeland and then tracks the sixty years that followed. The addition of a Promethean board will enable students to understand that history taught with the introduction of the board’s applications that facilitate interactive work with documents, images, maps, videos, sound clips, etc.

Ms. Rochel Berkowitz, Beatrice J. Stone Yavne H.S. for Girls - Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, Beachwood, OH

As a way to revamp the Hebrew cirriculum and offer a unique approach to learning Hebrew in the classroom Ms. Berkowitz will implement weekly classes utilizing the Rosetta Stone method.

Mrs. Ruth Gavish, American Hebrew Academy, Greensboro, NC

Using inexpensive video cameras students will substantially increase their opportunities to practice speaking Hebrew and improve their self assurance by making conversing more involving and fun.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Frisch Integration

The end of the school year has been very busy, as Frisch's Educational Technology Director Tzvi Pittinsky and I met with most of the departments in the school to prepare for next year's wikis. This past year's wiki, which was for the ninth grade and integrated under the theme of identity, is going to be repeated for the incoming ninth grade. We're going to create a new wiki with basically the same pages, fine tuning what we didn't like and building on what we did. In addition, because Judaic Studies rotates its curriculum yearly, we have to plug the theme into the new sefarim being taught. Tzvi and I met with the head of Tanakh at Frisch as well as with head of Talmud and a Chumash teacher to discuss where the theme could be applicable in the curricula for Tanakh and Talmud.

We also created the new tenth grade wiki and are integrating the tenth grade year under the theme of exploration. Since the ninth graders looked inside themselves, in the tenth grade we're going to look at the outside world. That's not to say that we aren't also focusing on self-development. The quest, for example, a genre of exploration, turns out really to be about what one learns about himself.

In any case, as we did last year, we've made pages with ideas pertaining to the theme, rather than pages that are subject-specific. In this way, students see and learn the integration model and begin to copy it themselves. So far, our pages include Visions, Rules of Engagement, Traveling Through Time and Space, the Enlightenment, Getting to God, Exploring Diverse Cultures, and Cause and Effect.

The subjects students are learning that pertain to these ideas are American History I, European and non-Western Literature, Chemistry, Foreign Language and Culture, Masekhta Berakhot, Melakhim Bet with parts of Yeshayahu, Amos and Hoshea, and Devarim.

To illustrate how we've integrated so far: The Rules of Engagement was born from the Devarim curriculum, which is going to include an analysis of wars of choice vs. wars of obligation. We then posted an article by William Safire about the idea as it pertained to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Safire references Devarim as well as Rambam's views of war in the article. We also posted the Geneva Conventions. Chumash will probably tackle this entire unit. However, American History also posted the Declaration of Independence, the colonists' reasons for engaging in war. We posted both the final and rough drafts on the page for history students to contemplate. I teach English and realized the page can be used for any type of etiquette needed to "engage" with something. For example, grammar is the rules we use to engage with language. I'll be posting grammar on that page. I already posted information about a work I teach, The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy of manners which is all about how we get engaged, the "rules of engagement."

Another page is Visions. We have a lot of visions for this page. In Nach, Melakhim Bet teachers will begin with the vision of an ideal monarchy that is set up in Devarim coincidentally, so Chumash and Nach will link there. Then the students will see how that vision failed as absolute power corrupts absolutely. American history will explore the same idea as students consider how America was set up to counter the corrupt systems of government in Europe. Yeshayahu will explore the eschatological utopian visions of the prophet, while American history will again show how America was set up as a new Eden, Jerusalem, a "shining city on a hill." Students will explore the utopia theme in literature as well, with works such as Candide, Out of the Silent Planet and even The Merchant of Venice, which contrasts the dirty, money-tainted city of Venice with ideal Belmont.

Traveling Through Time and Space was suggested by the head of Talmud as a way of looking at Berakhot, since many of the laws apply in certain zemanim. However, Chemistry jumped right on the page with atomic models, and we have posted different timelines for the year, one for American history and one by fellow AVICHAI grant recipient, Joseph Sonnenblick, on Jewish history. We also have a great YouTube moving map of Israel. English is on the page as well, as the quest is obviously a great genre to explore for the theme of exploration. We've put up our first quest book, The Canterbury Tales, and will contrast its satirical style with Shrek's.

The above are some of the ideas we've started with. There are already many more, and we're looking forward to adding even more. We're much further ahead this year than we were last year at this point, because we've already done a wiki, and the administration is completely supportive, giving me and Tzvi the time to meet with the various faculty members, who are also on board and getting on board.

Another new idea Frisch is implementing to deepen the wiki/integrated theme experience is seminars. The ninth and tenth grades will meet as a grade at different points in the year to have supplemental seminars on topics connected to the grade's themes. For example, in the ninth grade, one category of identity we're going to draw out is what it means to be a modern Orthodox Jew. The summer reading for the ninth graders is The Chosen and The Color of Water. The grade will meet to launch the theme and we'll discuss the books. Then we'll give the students a letter by Rabbi Broyde with his definition of modern Orthodoxy. The students will respond to the letter on a wiki discussion post and then be gathered again for a grade-wide discussion about it. One of the characteristics of modern Orthodoxy that Rabbi Broyde mentions is adherence to Torah u'Maadah, so the students will comment on that and then through the year be given the Torah u'Maadah model. After they learn evolutionary theory, they will get a seminar in Jewish thought and Darwinism. After they learn genetics, they'll learn about eugenics, watch Gattaca as a grade-wide activity, and then be given a presentation on the halakhic positions on IVF/PGD.

For the tenth grade theme of exploration, we're going to give grade-wide seminars on Comparative Religion. Students will explore the basic tenets of Christianity and Islam -- and even Judaism. We'll deal with how moderate Islam should look at jihad and at the end of the year, integrate with Yeshayahu, and explain how Christians use the book in their theology.

If anyone wants to see the wikis, feel free to contact me at The wikis are password-protected for students' safety.