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