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 Daat.ac.il 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