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.

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