Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Meeting" a Settler

Following the news headlines about the building of 1,600 dwelling units in Ramat Shlomo and Vice President Biden's displeasure with it, my students had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with a settler who lives in one of the Yishuvim in the "disputed" territories.
Using a webcam, microphone and the Smartboard the students conversed with our contact in Hebrew who is a graduate of our high-school and who resides now in a Yishuv in Israel.
The students asked her some thought provoking questions.
The answers were very informative and interesting. The students were impressed with facts we as Jews do not hear in the U.S. They were surprised to hear that many of her Arab neighbors are contractors who seem to be very successful and live in big homes and have a high standard of living. She described how her Arab neighbors are constantly building while the young Israeli families who direly need places for their children to live are prevented from building.

Friday, March 19, 2010

iPods for Hebrew

We have recently tried to incorporate the iPods into recordings that involve more than one person presenting at a time. Other than using the iPods for individual reading and/or speaking tests, we are now trying them in recording a whole group presenting, a debate for example.

We would like the next step in using the iPods to include the use of the video capability. Can we download a video from you tube and present it to the students as part of an exercise or a test? Can we download the Israeli news for example and have students respond to it? We need to research and learn if downloading of this kind is possible and how it can be done.

One of our high school Hebrew teachers used the iPods with her class, in a similar fashion to what we have been doing this year. The issues with the iPods are not with the students; once again, the frustration is at the teacher's level because of the interface with iTunes and the Mac. We have learned that if you choose the option of exporting the voice memos to the iTunes Library, then the recordings cannot be transferred to a flash drive (at least, we haven't figured out a way to do this!) The recordings have to be left on the iPod, and then the Mac reads the iPod as if it were another hard drive attached to the computer. These are the kind of technical issues with which the average teacher has a hard time. Once again, having tech support on site makes a difference, but this particular teacher said she really didn't want to have to go through the bother of using the iPods again.

This is the way with technology; some people can work through the problems whereas for others it's too stressful. However, this won't stop us from encouraging teachers to use them. They are a valuable tool, in spite of the tech problems.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Shlenker School - Recordings Library for Oral Learners

The recording and playing technology I have in my class offer a variety of differentiation options and learning activities. I keep finding more and more uses for these technologies to help students with different learning styles.
The Hebrew curriculum I use is called Chaverim BeIvrit. This is a continuous program with many books which is used in third through fifth grades. The language is taught in units based on short stories – vocabulary and language patterns are learned through the text. The text is central to the language skills taught and practiced in each unit.
Assignments are based mostly on the text, and o help students who are not strong visual learners I’ve started a new project: recording all the stories in the first five books. My goal is to enable the students who are more comfortable oral learners to use the recordings in addition to the text in the book when doing their assignments. The recordings are done using a microphone/headset, and are saved directly into the computer and sorted by book (all stories in book 1in one folder, stories in book 2, etc.). The students can listen to the recordings either by using an earphone connected to the computer, or downloading the them to an MP3 player.
The recording is a long-term project. I’m recording stories as the students encounter them in the units we work on as well as others when I have time to spare. I hope to finish the recording library by the end of the school year.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

samples of smart idea lessons

this is a chart of the ramban's introduction to Sefer Devarim
I begin by making a template like the one above and then with the class we fill it in together. I either call on a student to come to the computer or I will do it with the imput of the class. Each class creates their own unique chart based on the information they learned. I save each classes' finished chart on their online homework page for them.
The next two pictures- are the text of Abarbanel's introduction to Sefer Devarim.
The first image is for a lower/ middle track- while the second image is designed for a high track.
I gave the students the text as a handout. We used these smart ideas lesson to chart out the commentary and title each section

This next image is the breakdown of chapter 1. This is one of the most effective ways of using smart ideas in the chumash classroom. I wanted the students to notice that two topics in chapter one at first glance seem to be completely unrelated to the general theme of the chapter. We colored these two topics different colors and separated them from the rest of the chapter. But once we were able to chart the chapter clearly we were able to see how these 'tangents' were really essential to the two key topics in the chapter.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Prime Minister Netanyahu Speaks

Last night as I was browsing through the Israeli news in Hebrew on the internet, I noticed a video clip, in which President Netanyahu was addressing the Knesset. I thought it would be interesting for my students of the tenth and eleventh grade to see and hear this clip, as he was talking about the two principles that will guide him in his indirect talks with the Palestinians.
I immediately captured this video, using the technology of Jing on my laptop. I loaded it to the internet using When I came to school the next morning, I was able to show the clip on the smartboard in my classroom (since sreencast is web based). The students watched this video clip, learned the new vocabulary and phrases. We then discussed the topic in Hebrew. Not only did the students learn the issue at hand, and the new vocabulary and phrases, but also they trained their ears to listen and understand Israelis as they discussed various topics. The students were very excited once again, to combine learning Ivrit with cutting edge technology.

Monday, March 08, 2010

First full "meeting"

I am so happy to report that we held our first full "meeting" with our contact in Israel. The students viewed a video clip in Hebrew, which was sent to the contact in Israel via a link to Our contact viewed the same clip and researched the topic so that she would be well informed. After listening and learning the new words, verbs, and idioms on the smart board, the students understood the topic of what happened in the hotel in Dubai. They formulated questions in Hebrew to ask our contact face-to-face in order to gain a deeper understanding of the topic. They spoke into a remote microphone, which was passed around the classroom so each student had a chance to ask a question. It was very exciting to see our contact, a graduate of our high-school, who is studying now at the Hebrew University in Israel. Not only did she answer the questions of our students in Hebrew, but we were also able to sense the attitude of the average Israeli toward this subject. She introduced new words which we later reviewed and studied in class. The technology of Jing and Adobe Acrobat helped us listen, view, and speak simultaneously. It was a great experience! We are looking forward to our next "meeting".

Friday, March 05, 2010

Students moving forward in long-form film project

The Bialik students in both our Grade 5 & Grade 7 pilot classes have had their pitches approved and have now moved on to the scripting stage. A short SmartBoard lesson on how to write scripts was given to each class last week. To recap: so far the classes have had a VideConference with a real filmmaker to get them excited and introduce the process of student filmmaking, had two critical viewing exercises (Music videos), brainstormed story ideas, Divided their ideas into beginning, middle & end, created backgrounds for the main characters of their story to help them "think in their shoes", crafted and delivered "pitches" to the "Executive Producers", and have now started writing the scripts.

A Hebrew filmspeak glossary will shortly be provided to students. The rough draft of the script will be in English and then then translated into Hebrew for all future drafts. Classroom teachers will help with the scriptwriting process. A rubric for the marking of the film will be delivered to students during the scriptwriting process so that expectations are clear for this and all future phases. As the students write their scripts, and the project moves to the pre-production and production phases, the students will get their first experience with the camera equipment and another mini-assignment to reproduce one of each type of shot they'll be taught.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

smart ideas review

My goals were to create interactive chumash lessons using the smart board, specifically a mapping software called Smart Ideas. In the past I created powerpoint presentations for my classes but I found that I was doing all the work and my students were just passive. They knew that the next slide would reveal the answer or the next idea and therefore they did not become active learners.
I am grateful to have been given the opportunity by the Avi Chai grant to work on changing how my students learn. A little more than half the year has gone by and it is therefore an opportune time to review my successes and challenges so far.
Getting Hebrew to work has been quite a challenge.
Here’s what I wrote in my own progress records dated July 3rd:
What seems to work best all depends on the program‐
For Smartideas‐ no nikkud. I can use machon mamre with out nikkud for the tanach. For mepharshim has many mephorshim available without nikkud nicely broken up or bar ilan as one larger unit.
For smartnotebook. I’m finding that even without nikkud the text order gets all scrambled because of the punctuation. I downloaded an rtf version of the tanach with nikkud and this is working much better so far in notebook.
I was frustrated that Hebrew text could not be manipulated as I would have liked. In Smart Notebook the software often views it as a picture and not a font. In smart ideas when one tries to manipulate and separate text‐ the order of the text can become gibberish (this also occurs with Smart Notebook even when using RTF formatted text.) I felt like I reached a brick wall and would not be able to create the types of interactive lessons I wanted to create.
Once I was able to figure out how to use Hebrew best in each program and accept each program’s limitations I began making smart notebook and smart ideas lessons. I had to create the divisions myself since the students would not be able to divide the text effectively using these programs in class.
In the beginning I made more notebook lessons but I found that again the students were less involved in the process of learning. As the year progressed I have been making about one smart ideas lesson for every other lesson. I didn’t want to use technology just to use technology and I didn’t want the students to get bored with it either. I think I created a nice balance. I have been using smart ideas to introduce a unit/ chapter – where in class we divide the text together. I also find that smart ideas is a great review tool – it helps students express ideas in their own words, categorize what we have learned and visualize the material.
The best feedback from my work with smart ideas comes from my students. My honors tracks down to my lower track love the smart ideas lessons. They don’t space out at all‐ they will either offer answers from their seats or I call on one or students to come up to the board and computer and fill in the chart themselves. The students always come over to me after a smart ideas lesson and tell me how much they loved what we learned.
In terms of time management this program is a huge success. 1. The technology is easy to use in class. I create the template and usually my own model at home. In class I use the software to accompany my lesson. We come back to it and add to it several times during the class. It does not take the place of frontal teaching but it serves as a great visual aid and collaborate learning experience. Once I mastered how to use smart ideas I can effectively make charts quicker than drawing them myself on the board. Smart ideas is a wow program but doesn’t distract the students or have technological setbacks that detracts from the overall learning atmosphere.
2. I find that lessons that would have taken at least a week to teach‐ now take less time with this software. It very time consuming showing kids a chiasmus structure or demonstrating the key themes of several chapters at once‐ but when using smart ideas and teaching them visually the students comprehend much easier.
Another great feature with smart ideas – is aesthetics. The smart ideas lessons come out looking amazing. This may sound trivial after the more substantive benefits I discussed above, but appearance are important. I have some students who put so much effort into color coding their notes. These student especially love the beauty of our smart ideas lessons. They can’t wait to print out our latest creation and add it to their notebooks. When they review these lesson weeks later for the test the information is easy to remember since the charts are clear and organized beautifully. It’s a great synthesis of function and beauty

Coming soon samples of my smart ideas lessons

Re-posted from Older Post: Multi-Media Creativity - For the student, By the Student

Lights, Camera, Action all at DKJA!
The Donna Klein Jewish Academy High School is excited to announce that we are implementing an intense, student-driven, multi-media integration program. This program will be aimed at affecting all facets of the school’s environment, the classroom, the hallways, school programming and assemblies as well the online DKJA community.
With modern technology advancing at a gallop and gaining speed continuously, our school needs to stay ahead of the curve, exciting our students and making use of all creative outlets. The program will involve the following:
Beginning immediately – the students will form a multimedia club, that shall meet weekly. Rabbi Yaakov Green will facilitate the club in order to meet the following goals:
o Students will train in various forms and uses of multi-media, its value in education and art, and its societal importance and affect.
§ Some programming and technologies that are used to create media.
§ How to effectively and artistically use various media as a form of self expression and education.
o Students will receive training in the use of various websites and online resources, software and hardware:
§ editing of digital images,
§ capture and manipulation of audio content
§ capture and manipulation of video content
§ combining all forms of content
· The students will produce several (minimum of four) finished multi-media projects that will make use of newly learned editing skills and their personal creative tastes.
o The subjects of these videos will relevant to the Judaic studies and Hebrew dept. curricula of the school, and will augment and support ideas and themes from the classroom.
o The finished products will be showcased at school assemblies, and for Jewish Holiday commemorations.
o Students will be encouraged to work on club assignments in school, and to post their work on the internet in specific ways so that they may be shared with their friends and the online DKJA community.
· In addition to the club, starting second semester, the use of multimedia will be directly incorporated into the curriculum. Students will be expected to collaboratively produce media that augments and supports the thematic material covered in class.
o This will accomplish many goals:
§ Students will use their creativity in new ‘teen-friendly’ and exciting forums. (PowerPoint is not new anymore, and hasn’t been for quite some time.)
§ Multimedia will be given a spotlight in the school
§ The students will be given a forum in which to showcase their art and creativity.
§ Their art will be used to augment the Jewish goals and educational goals of the school
§ Their art will be able to support thematic learning in the future.
The buzz in our school about this club is palpable! From the students and up through the faculty and administration, we can’t wait to see what our artistic and talented students will be able to produce. We are excited to afford our students the opportunity to use every new available medium to express their Jewish knowledge and pride, and to find new ways to see their individuality come to life! Being on the cutting edge has never been so fun!

Multi-Media Club In Full Swing

Our DKJA HS club has been getting there feet wet, and have begun taking longer strides on their own. Through our recent meetings, the students have learned how to recognize the various distinct components in modern media. We studied various types of media in order to recognize how video, audio and still images are all manipulated together to form every commercial, every music video, and virtually all forms of media consumed by modern society.

We then began to learn where to look for raw materials and inspiration, how to capture content from streaming video and how music is used to create atmosphere in combination with visual images. Our students have begun to use basic editing software to manipulate video and audio they have captured. By employing some of the basic editing tools and features they have practiced, the students are training their artistic eyes to see how transitions and cuts work to a film's advantage. Our club members are able to critique videos and to peer edit each other's work to make all the components compliment each other, and help improve their projects.

As our club members studied a video of one student and his friends wake-boarding, we examined how he successfully incorporated music into his video as well as many cut scenes and camera angles to keep the attention of the viewer excited and entertained.
In examining another peer-made video of interviews we were able to notice some basic mistakes that when corrected, dramatically improve the video's viewing experience.

As our students have been working to learn new concepts and technique, I too have been closely working with our new technology integration specialist Francine Safdeye, from whom I have already learned tremendously. I am very excited to have her help and guidance.

As DKJA moves forward into an even brighter more technology-filled future of education, this Multi-Media club will be the catalyst that pushes our school and its students to test its creativity in new and exciting, ever-expanding ways.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

On a roll and working out the kinks with Rosetta Stone!

We have now successfully set up 4 Ivrit classes on the Rosetta Stone program and are thrilled with what we've seen! First, and maybe most important, our students are excited and really enjoying it! They always ask to have an extra "Rosetta Stone Period" each week! The set up for each student, and getting them acclimated was a little stressful, but expected. Fortunately, it only took one period for each class to get into the swing of things. Now, the students sign on and begin their work on their own with minimal need for assitance. They feel the program is cutting edge, and really makes Ivrit a lot more applicable in their minds.
The teachers that have used it so far are also very impressed. One thing they especially like is the fact that the students are forced to speak with the correct pronunciation of letters and syllables or their answer is not recognized as correct.
The one issue we are faced with now, is the fact that it seems a large number of computers that had the software installed on them, are not allowing the students to access the program. It seems to me that since we didn't have students set up accounts on these computers right away (since the classes that have begun using the program have only used a quarter of the computers) the activation may have expired. I assume I will have to have Rosetta Stone re-activate the program on those computers. I hope to get in contact with the support center this week and fix everything. Will post when issue is resolved.
Although there are still some kinks to work out, we are still already seeing the positive results which makes us motivated to do so!

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Final Test

I am proud to announce that we did our final testing of the equipment and worked out all our hardware issues. We went to the Adobe Connect meeting and tested the video conferencing platform with the microphone and video camera. We set our user preferences so that all users have video and microphone capabilities. We even tested our equipment by video conferencing from another area in the school. We were able to see, hear and talk to our contact person and it all worked successfully. We are surely ready for our first conference which will take place very soon.