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…