Thursday, February 25, 2010

iPods for Hebrew

Usually when a teacher assigns a test, the common reactions we get from students are sighs, questions and even complaints.
This week when I assigned a reading test to one of my classes, none of that occurred. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. One of the students turned to a new student who has recently joined our class and said: now you also get to use the iPods!
There was a clear sense of pride and excitement in that student’s speech.
I realized that the iPods have reframed the way these students view their reading tests. It is no longer a stressful event but rather a unique opportunity to “show off” their reading skill in a fun and exciting way.

Completed Virtual Voice Thread Siddur

I want to thank Avi Chai Foundation for this exciting opportunity and support to create this project. Also, I want to thank my colleagues at The Solomon Schechter School of Westchester and my first grade students. By creating and producing this project we have experienced a learning community where students and staff work collaboratively.

My goal in creating the following Voice Thread was to give students the opportunity to read, practice, and sing the prayers correctly with meaning. By using Voice Threads we addressed different learning styles as well as creating an exciting and motivating experience.

Enjoy experiencing the following Siddur. I welcome you feedback

Ilanit Curi

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bialik Film projects progressing well...

Our film projects are progressing far, all students in our grade 5 & 7 classes have had an introduction to student filmmaking, an introduction to the "language" of film, have sorted themselves into small groups, recieved their assignments, brainstormed stories, come up with backgrounds for their characters, developed pitches and presented their pitches to the "Executive Producers" (our teachers and IT Director) in order to secure "budget" for their movies.

Each group's "producer" pitched, and the pitches were required to be polished and between 30 seconds & 2 minutes, timed with a stopwatch. None of the pitches ran under or over time! About half the pitches were accepted as-is. Unlike many real-world pitches, student pitches that were not acceptable the first time around were given constructive feedback and an opportunity to re-pitch their adjusted story. As of this writing, 9 out of 10 groups have had their stories "green-lit". Students are now moving into the scripting phase of the project. This is where they will take their characters, concepts, beginning/middle/end, and character backgrounds/traits and weave them into a 5-minute script by putting words in their character's mouths. The first draft of the script will be written in English for fluidity, and then students, with the help of their teachers, will translate the script into Hebrew. Revisions, rehearsal, etc. will be conducted in either english or Hebrew as dictated by the needs of the project.

As the scripts are being written, students will be learning more formally about camera angles, and other filmmaking "language" so they can be prepared for the next phases of the project: pre-production & production. In the coming weeks students will be introduced to and get hands-on time with the cameras and other equipment and will be given mini-assignment, requiring them to mimic certain camera shots and cinematography styles, in order to familiarize themselves with its workings. The "Executive Producers" will be creating and distributing a hebrew filmmaking grammar sheet, so that technical matters and discussions may be carried out in Hebrew as well, which should go a long way towards integrating and improving conversational Hebrew, one of the stated goals of our project.

Now that the project is moving from student planning to a more active stage, we hope to be posting more often. We plan to post student's pitches, and will soon be distributing/posting our rubric for the final product evaluation.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tablet PC - Kvetching and Praising

Like most of us I’ve recently witnessed the unveiling of the new Apple iPad. I have no plans or resources to purchase one for myself, but I couldn't help but feel a little envious listening to Mr. Jobs describing holding a little note-pad and scribbling freely on it. This is the kind of feature I'd like to have to record students’ use of language in my class.
I’m really grateful and appreciative of the tablet PC which I received as part of the Avi-Chai grant. It helps me keep track of my students conversation. However, some of the features of the tablet are frustrating: while it has many advantages over a regular PC (it’s portable) or even a laptop (when taken out of it’s receptacle it is relatively light weight and stable enough to carry around) working on it without a mouse can be pretty exasperating. I found that I must open whichever worksheet I might need before taking it out of the receptacle and thus losing the mouse connection, because if I try to do it later with the aid of the stylus the processes is difficult and success is not always guaranteed. I calibrated the screen sensitivity to my “touch” but still it doesn’t always respond to the stylus. If other educators are considering using a tablet for taking notes during class my advise it that they should take this into account and perhaps look seriously at other options.
The feature the works well for me is the ease of carrying the tablet around. It allows me to keep notes on charts (albeit only simple notes, more like checkmark type because of the lack of a mouse) to mark my students use of language during class time.
I stimulate the use of new vocabulary in lots of different ways, but usually they involve the posting of the words in class. Students use them in a variety of collaborative or individual language games. They also use the words as anchors in conversations, either in stand-alone sentences or connected to each other. The less advanced students may use only one vocabulary word in a 3-4 words sentence. Others may create longer sentences, sometimes using 2-3 words in the same sentence, and the most advanced students may create a short story made of a few short sentences put together. In 5th grade some students enjoy the challenge of using all the vocabulary words of one unit in one sentence! How could I record all this treasure trove of varied and differentiated use of language if I had to wait for the end of class to do so? This is where the tablet PC is really helpful: I can pinpoint the amount, level and ease of each student use of the words in a certain unit on a certain day according to the notes I've been taking in real time in class. This is authentic assessment and it is made possible because I can go on teaching and take notes at the same time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

smart ideas updates

I've been using smart ideas in two different ways:
1. preparation and division of chapters. Smart ideas is excellent for mapping out a chapter. Recently we learned chapter 12 in the Book of Devarim. I prepared a Smart Ideas presentation dividing the chapter into five topics. Together in class we noted that the chapter could be divided into three larger units- we found the repetitive phrases and noted their similarities and contrasts. It was most effective because the students were able to follow along and see the pesukim as larger units within the chapter. Before I used Smart Ideas I found that I was dividing the chapters for the students and not with them, because they were so busy taking notes or flipping pages of the chumash without being able to draw conclusions on their own

2. A reviewing tool. I find that Smart Ideas is extremely effective as a wrap up and review to the unit. We just finished learning Navi Sheker in Chapter 13 of the Book of Devarim. We learned various commentators and their views concerning the identity of the false prophet. After we learned the texts inside- I used Smart Ideas to map out all the various opinions. I created the template and then called on one or two students to come up and create a map of the opinions we learned. This was an opportunity for the students to not only review but categorize the opinions. They had to figure out if the Abarbanel opinion was more similar to the Rambam's of Rabbi Akiva's. Since I've now had many months to work with this software I find that I'm able to use it effectively in class without wasting lots of time. It's almost easier using smart ideas that drawing my own charts on the board. The students really love that they don't have to copy the charts and maps in their notes since they know that I post it for them as a pdf on their homework pages. I especially love that each class creates their own pages and that each classes' pages are really different from one another.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TTSP (Talmud Torah of St. Paul) Technology Update #3

We continue to use our fabulous technology in a variety of ways. Recently, a local rabbi visited our school and wanted to show footage of the report on the Israeli medical team's involvement in Haiti after the earthquake. Thanks to our new LCD projector, we were able to show this footage to the whole school at Kabbalat Shabbat. This is so much more vivid than simply describing the impact of the Israeli medical team there, and watching this together as a whole school community also raises the intensity of the experience over watching the report on individual computers. Our local shlicha also uses the projector to present topics about Israel in all of our classes. Sometimes her talk enables us to visit each other's classrooms and observe each other, which is a side benefit of having reliable technology (and reliable faculty!).

We've also posted our first YouTube video, thanks to our great new video cameras. Check us out at You won't see our students since we cannot post their pictures on youtube, but we managed to create a little puppet show instead of showing the students, who are singing "Ha'Shkediyah Porachat."

Learning how to use the technology has been a slow process for us. Even just organizing all of the equipment and establishing a system of checking it out for teachers and students has proved to be a daunting task. If anyone has good suggestions of how to manage the equipment, we'd love some ideas. It has taken us until now to get all of it organized, and we are just now ready to do some teacher/student training on the equipment. The Hebrew team has used the technology all along, but our goal was to make this accessible to students as well, and we as a Hebrew team are still learning to do more than point and shoot. We're sure we can do much more with this technology and so our next step is to learn some more advanced methods.

Meanwhile, our upper school showed off their music videos at our Open House in December, and our lower school students continue to record their progress in reading and speaking. Recently, Kitah Bet students drew and labeled items in either their backpack, house, or car, and then had to describe what was in the backpack, focusing on the words "yesh" and "ein". although they had written down the sentences to say, their more advanced goal was to talk spontaneously about their drawings. Next step, for them to watch their videos and reflect on their speaking skills.

We're still loving this technology and looking forward to the next levels of development. Thanks, Avi Chai!

Monday, February 08, 2010

עוד רעיון לשימוש במצלמה

כמדי שנה בבית ספרנו, אחראים תלמידי כיתות ד על פרוייקט חגיגת המצוות. השנה, החלטנו להעזר בפלאי הטכנולוגיה על מנת שגם הורי התלמידים יוכלו לעמוד על רצינות וכמות העבודה שהשקיעו בכך ילדיהם.
התלמידים ומוריהם הצטידו במצלמת וידאו ובמצלמה רגילה ויצאו לתעד את פרוייקט ההתנדבות. חלקם של התלמידים שהה בבית אבות חצי סיעודי וחלקם עבדו בסידור מזון למשפחות נזקקות. רק השימוש במצלמה יכול היה להמחיש את החדווה שחשו התלמידים מחד והקשישים מאידך, ורק השימוש בווידאו יכול היה להמחיש לתלמידים המתנדבים בחלוקת המזון את גודל העשיה.
לאחר קבלת התמונות ועריכתן הכנו באמצאות המקינטוש (שנקנה הודות למענק מאבי-חי) מצגת המשלבת בתוכה את כל רגעי העזרה ההדדית.
כל תלמיד זכה לאיזכור מעשיו וכל הורה יוכל לחוות את התרוממות חדוות היצירה מצפיה במצגת, המצגת נצרבה על דיסק שינתן לכל תלמיד כמזכרת מפרויקט המצוות.

המלצתי - תנו לילדים מצלמה והפכו אותם להיות הצופים והמתעדים של עצמם. עוד בנושא מגישה אחרת ניתן לקרוא בקישור הנ"ל

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Almost There...

My students and I are so excited to launch our program. We are waiting to talk to our contacts and listen to their views and opinions. All the software has been installed on my laptop. My classroom now has all the technology needed. Everything was ready until we found out that a new webcam was needed. This caused our first delay. After installing the webcam required, all was ready for an experimental trial. Suddenly, we found out that the sound is not working properly. Another technical delay...
As soon as this problem is solved, we will be on our way to try our project out. It should be very soon. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Exciting times in Vancouver

Two things are creating a lot of excitement around here. The Olympics of course start one week from today and the city and its citizens are getting ready to welcome the world.
At King David we are also excited about seeing the finished family histories that the students have been working on. Their family members have been interviewed and we are delving into the laborious process of editing the video and combining it with still photos and artifacts to create truly engaging stories for people to see and hear. Editing of video can be a difficult process but having the new iMacs and iMovie at our disposal make a difficult job easier. The power of this program makes it fun for the students to learn and see their ideas come to fruition. We are hoping that shortly before or right after Pesach we will be able to post some of the extraordinary work the students are doing for all to see.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Stumbling point - online Hebrew homework help

Our student log-in has dwindled off to non-existent over the last couple of weeks. We're regrouping and trying a couple of different directions:

1) The teachers who have been working with the online video-chat technology offered to try oral homework - i.e., specifically to evolve homework that requires the students to consult online, so that we can reinforce the opportunity that we have to explore the medium.

*Students seem especially accustomed in the video/writing chat sphere to see it as a venue for communicating with their peers, and may be resisting interacting with "adults" in this medium. I will develop and post a SurveyMonkey to see if I can get some anecdotal response on this.

2) Consider that the students may not be calling in to a teacher who is not "their" current Hebrew teacher, and try to get all of the Hebrew teachers into the rotation. Two reasons we originally did not go this route were the question of training (not all teachers are as technologically apt), and the concern that not all teachers have the same availability (family obligations outside of school hours).

We're going to meet early next week to plan the next round of experiment.