Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Search for Video Content

As part of my preparation for an upcoming class in Jewish Diversity I decided to assign my students to review articles and videos that highlight the different Jewish communities of Israel.

Information about some of the communities is easy to find. Ethiopian Jews, the B'nai Menashe community, the Iranian Jewish community....these are all topical issues and there are numerous film clips that provide an overview of these groups.

Finding videos about other Jewish ethnic groups, especially those which have been integrated into Israel's society for longer periods of time, has been more challenging. During my searches I decided to spend a little time learning about how to search for video content more efficiently. Here are some of the tips that I learned.

1.       Google offers an Advance Video Search tool that allows you to refine your search by more specified parameters. These include
a.       Searching for videos of a specific duration. This is especially important for my half-hour class period. I don't want the whole class period to be devoted to watching a video, nor do I want to divide the students into groups and have some students watching 20 minute videos while others are watching 5-minute videos.
b.      Searching for videos with subtitles -- many of the videos about Jewish communities in Israel are Hebrew-language videos, so I want to make sure that my American students will be able to understand them
c.       Searching for videos whose titles/descriptions include specific words or phrases -- it doesn't help me to have the history of Uzbekistan in my list of results when I want my students to learn about the Bukarian Jewish community

After typing your search query in the search box at the top of any YouTube page, hit "Enter" to see your first page of results. Then click the "Filters" drop-down menu below the search box. You can then refine your search by the filter that you need.
this is the page of initial video suggestions after I typed in my first search query "Ethiopian Jews." Now I can select a filter and refine my search. 

2.       Most people begin their search for specific video content on YouTube. There are, however, numerous additional platforms where videos can be found. This complicates the search and wastes time during the search process. Video Finder is a search tool that allows you to search for videos simultaneously on YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo and MuzuTV. You can sort the videos by platform, alphabetical dates or topics as well as by the latest top Google search keywords to get the freshest videos for every topic. The app is available at the Google Play store.
3.       If you're looking for a specific genre, search by YouTube channel. On the lefthand side of the YouTube homepage you'll see a "Browse Channels" button. Click on the button and then enter the general term for which you want to search on the "Channels" page.

In my case, I wanted to identify the history of various Jewish communities so I typed "Jewish History" into the search box on the "Channels" page and was immediately able to identify a wide range of videos about Jewish history.

 4.       If you find a YouTube channel which offers you valuable content, subscribe to the channel.  Not every person or organization that uploads content maintains a channel but many providers do organize their collections of video content into a channel. Simply select one of the channel's videos and click the "subscribe" button next to the video's name.

In the future, you'll be able to click on the "My Subscriptions" button which will take you to the channels that you've already identified,  making the rest of your search much easier.     

Educators are invited to join JETS' eCom eLearning Community for more tips and ideas about incorporating online tools into their classrooms. Each month centers on a different topic. Previous topics have included online games, Learning Management Systems and online posters.  Educators may join the asynchronous class at any time.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Use of Technology to Foster Collaborative Learning

Rabbi Stan Peerless
Technology has the potential to enhance collaborative learning and the development of learning communities. A variety of online tools allow for students to share ideas, provide feedback to each other, and to work cooperatively on joint projects. It also enables such cooperative work to extend beyond the classroom walls, as students can access their joint projects and can be in asynchronous contact at all times and from almost anywhere. Similarly, students can access learning sources for research at all times and from many locations. In addition, the development of social media makes it possible to extend the learning community beyond the class to embrace outside “More Knowledgeable Others” – whether peers or experts - who can help provide students with necessary information. 

For example, students in two different regions can provide each other with information on current climatic conditions. Similarly, in the same situation, students can seek out a meteorologist from the area under study to supply expert information.

It is interesting to note, as well, that research implies that the use of laptops in education inherently fosters collaborative learning. In their evaluation of Microsoft’s Anywhere Learning Project, a significant number of the student and teacher outcomes resulting from the use of laptops identified by Gulek and Demirtas 2005  relate to elements of collaborative learning and the associated changes in teacher and student roles that it fosters.  The following is a summary of their results, with elements that are supportive of collaborative learning highlighted:

Student Outcomes:
  • Laptops lead to more student writing and to writing of higher quality
  • Laptops increase access to information and improve research analysis skills
Laptop Students:
  • Spend more time engaging in collaborative work than non-laptop students
  • Participate in more project-based instruction
  • Become collaborators (interact with each other about their work)
  • Direct their own learning
  • Report a greater reliance on active learning strategies
  • Readily engage in problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Consistently show deeper and more flexible use of technology
  • Spend more time doing homework on computers
Teacher Outcomes:
  • Use a more constructivist approach to teaching
  • Feel more empowered in the classroom
  • Spend less time lecturing

The relationship between use of technology and collaborative learning makes it incumbent on all teachers who wish to foster social learning to familiarize themselves with relevant online learning tools.

Social Media in the Classroom

The debate about whether to use social media tools in the classroom, and if so, how to use them, has never been hotter. According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8-18 year-olds, today’s teens spend more than seven and a half  hours every day consuming media — watching TV, listening to music, surfing the Web, engaging in social networking and playing video games.

So what does this mean for educators? Many parents and educators feel that classrooms are the one place that social media shouldn't intrude but others aren't so sure. There are increasing numbers of teachers and administrators who believe that schools should harness social media tools and use them effectively in the classroom.

Advocates of this type of social media use argue that, when used properly, social media can help students link to real-world examples of classroom lessons, boost student engagement and enhance collaborative learning. Social media tools can help students develop proficiency with technology, manage and analyze multiple streams of information and create, analyze, and evaluate input that they have on their PC, tablet or smartphone screens.

A significant issue with using social media for classroom applications relates to teacher-resistance. Many teachers simply don't like social media while others have not yet learned to effectively use the tool to enhance their curriculum.

In Burlington Vermont the new school superintendent, Eric Conti, is pushing the district's educators to incorporate more social media tools in their lesson-planning. Assistant superintendent Patrick Larkin expanded on Burlington's new direction. “It has to start with the leaders in the schools embracing [social media] and modeling it, not just talking about it, and that trickles to the teachers, because eventually we want it to end up in the classroom... [Teachers have] access to tools, but we still ask teachers to think about their goals and objectives. A crappy lesson with an iPad is very similar to a crappy lesson without an iPad.”
Larkin explained that incorporating social media tools into classroom instruction has helped the Burlington district expand its reach and educational abilities. “To be able to know where to find people and connect is one of the most important things we can teach our students to do. If we can find out how the world is ticking and how things are changing from [using] social media tools outside of schools, I think it’s past time that we started embracing this tradition in our classrooms.”

One of the tools that Burlington is using as part of its expanded social media policy involves blog posts in which schools feature a student, parent, educator or other school-related piece of news daily.

Another use involves highlighting student projects, research, and extracurricular activities online to motivate students and encourage them to strive for higher achievements. Finally, Burlington teachers and administrators have developed some innovative techniques that demonstrate to the students how social media can be used for good -- or not. When the students see real-life examples of the power of social media, Larkin noted, they are more likely to harness the tool in a positive way.

In summary Larkin offered his suggestions for creating a successful social media presence in the schools. “Make sure administrators support you first; make sure parents know what is coming, and pay attention to age specifications on sites.”

Online Learning -- Teachers Speak

Rhode Island's Commissioner of Education, Deborah Gist, recently held a digital learning summit in Providence with teachers and principals from throughout Rhode Island. The topic of the summer concerned the increasing shift in the public schools to elearning. The educators commented about the things that excite them and the issues that concern them about online learning:

Benefits of Online Learning

  • Students can progress at their own rate
  • Online learning allows for increased opportunities for customized learning, allowing students to find the learning techniques that meet the strategies that work best for their individual styles
  • Students become more engaged and motivated by the available online tools and games
  • Online learning offers more opportunities for collaborative learning
  • eLearning makes it easier for students to continue a project at home after the school day has finished
  • Using PCs, tablets and smartphones students can learn any time and from any location
  • Students have more access to more information and more data when they use online tools
  • Online learning offers more opportunities for different types of feedback and evaluation
  • Parents can become involved in their child's education by monitoring their work 
Concerns of Online Learning
  • Not all students have access to the same level of Internet and computer tools at home
  • Teachers will need to manage and schedule their curriculum more effectively
  • Some schools find it difficult to stay up to date with the new software and hardware needed to offer high quality online classes
  • Some teachers don't feel prepared to create digital lessons that will require acquiring knowledge of significant amounts of information about sofware and etools, for which they feel ill-prepared. 
  • Working online may make it easier for students to cheat. Other security issues relating to elearning are also of concern to teachers.  

Teacher and Learner Benefits of Using Computers in the Classroom

this article was excerpted from an article first published by the Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences and edited by Rabbi Stan Peerless, JETS 

Positive elements of laptop programs in general are highlighted in research done by Gulek and Demirtas (2005) in their evaluation of Microsoft's Anywhere Learning Project. Their research demonstrated positive results on student learning and curriculum delivery. The evaluation of student and teacher outcomes are summarized below: 

Student Outcomes:
  • Laptops lead to more student writing and to writing of a higher quality
  • Laptops increase access to information and improve research analysis skills
Laptop Students:
  • Spend more time engaging in collaborative work than non-laptop students
  • participate in more project-based instruction
  • Become collaborators (interact with each other about their work)
  • Direct their own learning
  • Report a greater reliance on active learning strategies
  • Readily engage in problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Consistently show deeper and more flexible use of technology
  • Spend more time doing homework on computers
Teacher Outcomes:
  • Use a more constructivist approach to teaching
  • Feel more empowered in the classroom
  • Spend less time lecturing

Collaborative Learning: The Theoretical Foundation

Guest Post by Rabbi Stan Peerless
1st in a series of five articles

In our study of collaborative learning, we will deal with collaborative learning in its broadest sense. Thus, we will discuss collaborative learning as a general concept, but will also learn about specific methods of collaborative learning, such as cooperative learning and even aspect of project based learning.

Before discussing methods, let's understand the theories that underlie the collaborative learning approach and their implications. Collaborative learning is based largely on the social learning theory of Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky's theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition (Vygotsky, 1978), as he believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of "making meaning." Everything that we learn takes place in a social context. From birth and throughout our lives, our interactions with others shape our understanding of the world. Consider the learning of a young child – learning occurs as parents interact with their child, as the child plays with other children, and as they grow, as teachers interact with the child in school.   

Unlike Piaget's notion that children's' development must necessarily precede their learning, Vygotsky argued, "learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychological function" (1978, p. 90).  In other words, social learning tends to precede development. For a comparison of the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, view the following short video:

Piaget acknowledged that some children may pass through the stages of cognitive development at different ages, and that some children may show characteristics of more than one stage at a given time. Nevertheless, he insisted that cognitive development always follows a universal predetermined sequence, that stages cannot be skipped. As such, according to Piaget's theory, a student should only be given learning activities that are appropriate for their current level of development. Vygotsky believed that cognitive development could not be so rigidly defined, and that development can occur as a result of interactions with others. Thus, according to Vygotsky's theory, learning activities need not be determined by a pre-defined level of cognitive development. Rather, according to his theory, the most worthwhile learning activity is that which involves interaction with a "More Knowledgable Other (MKO), and fall within the learner's the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).    

In order to gain an understanding of Vygotsky's theories on cognitive development, we must understand these two principles:
·      The more knowledgeable other (MKO) refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. Although one might assume that the MKO would be a teacher or an older adult, this is not necessarily the case.  Many times, a child's peers or an adult's children may be the individuals with more knowledge or experience.  For example, who is more likely to know more about the newest teen-age music groups, how to win at the most recent PlayStation game, or how to correctly perform the newest dance craze - a child or their parents? In other words, it is often the case that different individuals have different areas of expertise that are not related to age, and social learning can thus often be a reciprocal process.
·      The concept of the More Knowledgeable Other is integrally related to the second important principle mentioned above, the Zone of Proximal Development. This important concept relates to the difference between what a child can achieve independently and what a child can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner. Vygotsky (1978) sees the Zone of Proximal Development as the area where the most sensitive instruction or guidance should be given - allowing the child to develop skills he/she will then use on his/her own - developing higher mental functions.

So, what does an ideal learning activity look like according to Vygotsky? Let's take a look at a common example that often occurs in the development of a young child. Shaffer (1996) gives the example of a young girl who is given her first jigsaw.  Alone, she performs poorly in attempting to solve the puzzle. The father then sits with her and describes or demonstrates some basic strategies, such as finding all the comer/edge pieces and provides a couple of pieces for the child to put together herself and offers encouragement when she does so.  As the child becomes more competent, the father allows the child to work more independently.  According to Vygotsky, this type of social interaction involving co-operative or collaborative dialogue promotes cognitive development.

Vygotsky's theory case important implications for classroom instruction regarding the respective roles of teachers and students, the design of learning activities, the creation of a positive learning dynamic, and grouping. We will examine these issues as we proceed.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Contemporary Jewish Issues -- Then and Now

How do you –help students understand the concept that many of the 21st century's contemporary Jewish issues were also Jewish issues with which Jews who lived 2000 years ago grappled as well?

One unique assignment that the students of Kadima High School in St. Louis are presently completing involves researching a contemporary Jewish issue to examine how it affects the Jewish world of today and how it manifested itself in the Jewish world of the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. This assignment has demonstrated to the Kadima students  that some issues of importance to Jews who lived in the time of the Tannaim have not lessened in importance  over the last 20 centuries.
Galilean Home
 The students were asked to create a game, skit or visual presentation that would clearly delineate an issue of concern to the Jewish communities who lived in the years following the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, and that continue to concern today's Jewish communities. They were required to ensure that each presentation include relevant quotes from texts and sources, visual images reflecting both periods in history, and written or oral explanations and comparisons of the two time periods. 
Israel technology then and now
Rubrics were established so that the students would understand exactly how their work would be assessed. The rubrics include standards for how well the students covered the material, the depth of the source material cited, creativity and originality in the project's creation, and the method of delivery. The rubrics are designed to ensure that the students fully understand the material and are able to convey it to their peers. 
Jewish Streimels Then and Now
The students chose the following subjects (and some have shared their projects here):
Hadassah,  Kosher Animals, Then and Now 
Bella, Female Power
Yoni, Charedim in the Army
Yonatan, Israel's Enemies, Then and Now
Eitan, Warfare then and Now 
Yoneena and Elisheva, High Tech in Israel Then and Nnow
Jake, What Kind of Hat is That? Jewish Hats Throughout History
Sammy, David vs. Goliath today
Eliana -- Galiean House

Part of each student's grade involves responding to questions their peers' projects.
Strong Jewish Women Then and Now
As the students presented their projects, it was clear that they helped them more fully understand the topics that they studied, to gain experience in examining data from primary sources, and to develop imaginative methods for sharing information with others.  
Warfare then and Now

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mural.ly -- Social Poster for the elearning Classroom

After I wrote last week's post about using Storify for elearning a colleague suggested that I take a look at another tool, the new Mural.ly collaborative blackboard. Mural.ly allows you to add sticky notes, images, links, and files to visualize, imagine and discuss ideas on an open platform that you can make public so that everyone can see your presentation. 

You can use it for collaborative research and visual brainstorming, as well as for designing storyboards and flow charts, and get feedback right on the spot.
It's easy to start adding content by double clicking to add a sticky note, drag a link or add a picture or video from the Web, Evernote and Google Drive.
One of the best things about the mural.ly tool is that you can start a collaboration session and open it up so that other people can contribute their own links, pictures and other material.
Sign in at Mural.ly and, once you've opened an account, click on "create new mural." Title your mural and click "Create a Mural" button. Everything on Mural.ly is based on the Drag and Drop principal in which you drag in links and files and use them to build your mural.
Along the sidebar you'll find options to add in background patterns, sticky notes, text boxes, shapes and designs, websites, videos and more.

When you've created your mural you can share it, download it as an image or embed it in a document or website. You can export all of your content on your mural to a downloadable ZIP file. You can either create a view link for people to see your content or, if they're signed in, share your edit link so that they can go in and edit and add their own content.

My upcoming class wants to learn about Israel, so I created this mural.ly in about an hour, including the time that it took me to learn to navigate, prepare the lesson and gather all of my materials. And, I had a blast!

You get one free mural.ly "room" and after that you'll need to upgrade your account. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Introducing Video Tools into Classroom eLearning

A recent professional development session with a group of educators on how to include YouTube and Animoto activities in a classroom has given participating teachers ideas and strategies for introduce these powerful elearning tools into their lesson plans.

A group of New Jersey teachers including both new participants and graduates of the JETS No Teacher Left Behind introductory Professional Development course, requested a conference session with JETS Director Smadar Goldstein on how to implement basic online and video tools into the classroom. The two-part session included help with creating videos on YouTube and Animoto platforms as well as how to embed their own music and videos into Animoto.

Two sample Animnotos can be seen here

Rabbi Shelley Kniaz of Temple Emmanuel of Pascack described the first session, which included the use of linoboards in the classroom. "My teachers loved the lino board.  Both have already created two and sent them to their students' families" she said.

Barbara Haber of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom described her experience, including the request from some of her staff for follow-up sessions. "The teachers really enjoyed the professional development workshop – they found Smadar to be wonderfully engaging and were impressed by her wealth of practical, hands-on ideas for implementing new technologies in the classroom!"

The teachers were already familiar with the Linoboards and they enjoyed trying them out and tweeking them during the session.  Ms. Haber noted that the teachers had requested one more in-house training session in which they would be able to trouble-shoot, brainstorm on ideas for expanding the lino boards' use, explore more uses for the Animoto and talk about how to expand all of these tools.
Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, Devorah O'Brien and Chana Zinstein

These additional sessions are scheduled for Ms. Goldstein's February 2014 visit to the States. Ms. Goldstein will be visiting Jewish schools throughout the United States and is available for additional sessions with educators.

The upcoming JETS online No Teacher Left Behind Course, to introduce elearning tools to Jewish day school and complementary school educators, is scheduled to begin on February 19th

Ms Goldstein also directs an eCom community of continuing learning which encompasses dozens of Jewish educators from throughout the world. The 2013-2014 course has begun but new members can join at any time.   

Expanding The World of the Connected Jewish Classroom

Jewish day schools and afternoon school educators are expanding their understanding and skills in elearning as online learning evolves nationwide. Online learning can encompass any subject from Jewish History, Mishna and Talmud to issues which relate to Israel, Hebrew language studies and more. The wealth of opportunities has encouraged Jewish educators to prioritize keeping up with new tools and advances in the field .

One indication of the increased interest in the mechanics of including elearning in Jewish schools could be seen last month when Jerusalem EdTech Solutions (JETS) director, Ms. Smadar Goldstein, traveled to the United States to attend the New Jersey Day School Conference and the Jewish Education Project Conference.

During her visit, Ms. Goldstein was invited to give presentations at several area schools including the Solomon Shechter School of Bergen Field, the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, the Forest Hills Jewish Center, and Yeshivat Noam of Paramus, NJ. Two additional sessions were also given at the Conference itself.  

In addition, she gave two sessions with the Jewish Federations of Northern New Jersey which brought together 50 participants from 25 congregational schools in Northern NJ and a second session with Special Education teachers during which the teachers explored ways in which these tools could be incorporated into special education classrooms. (The unique session with the Special Ed teachers was reviewed in a blogpost at the National Jewish Council for Disabilities' website.)

The staffs' responses emphasized the value that online tools provide in adding more interactive and engaging activities to their existing curriculum. The gatherings examined elearning options, including linoboards and Learning Management Systems, that enable educators to expand collaborative learning and integrate elearning opportunities into their programs.
Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, Devorah O'Brien and Chana Zinstein at the elearning session with the Jewish Federations of Northern NJ 

Mashie Kopelowitz, Israel Educator and Middle School Judaic Studies Teacher of the Solomon Schechter school of Bergen Field, had encouraged her school's administration to invite Ms. Goldstein to give an introduction to the available etools that teachers have at their disposal after her own participation in the JETS "No Teacher Left Behind" professional development course. Mashie reported that the teachers were enthusiastic about the session with Ms. Goldstein and, within days, the entire 7th and 8th grade student body was working on linoboard projects and assignments. Ruth Gafni, Head of School, reported the exciting new tool in her weekly newsletter to the parents. Ms. Gafni plans to present SSBF's elearning activities in an orientation program for parents of next year's prospective students.

In addition to the popular Linoboards, several of Ms. Goldstein's PD sessions concentrated on the opportunities that Learning Management Systems offer to the Jewish classroom.

The Hebrew Academy of Long Beach requested a LMS session as part of their overall plan to increase their collaborative asynchronous learning modules via the Haiku LMS. Session participants received a Google worksheet which provides an example of how the LMS can promote asynchronous evaluation alternatives. One of the HALB participants noted that she plans to use the system to enable the students to share their recordings, which will be used to advance Hebrew reading fluency and conversational Hebrew, with the other teachers.

Stephanie Hausner, head of the SLI, Synagogue Leadership Initiative of the Jewish Federations of Northern New Jersey noted that, “Over the past year the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has had the opportunity to provide training to our principals, educators and teachers with JETS and Smadar Goldstein. These experiences have been tremendously valuable and have given participants the confidence and skills to integrate technology in the classroom. JETS has been great to work with and we look forward to continue to work together in the future."

These sessions demonstrate that elearning offers an accessible, engaging and highly effective mode of instruction for students of all ages, at all ability levels and for all areas of instruction. All of the schools involved are planning follow-up sessions with Ms. Goldstein during her February 2014 visit to the region. To reserve a session, please contact Smadar@jetsisrael.com.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Storify your eLearning Class

A recent storify thread titled How are Online Tools Changing Science Education perked my curiosity about how the storify web 2.0 tool can be used for elearning.

Storify has been popping up on my Facebook feed for quite a while, but I never gave it much though until I came across an article in Hybrid Pedagogy that takes us through the steps of creating a Storify story.

Storify, the article explains, basically "allows the user to arrange pieces of conversations to construct a narrative." So in short, a user pulls images from a wide range of social media platforms and other media (including Flickr, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, etc) to organize and map a sequence and create a story.

As I read the article, I began to think about how to use such a tool in an online classroom. Storify not only allows the user to arrange material from a variety of sites in an organized fashion, but also promotes collaboration among a group of learners.

Here's how it works: At the bottom of the Storify homepage, you can click on the "Tools" icon which brings you to a Store in Storify button, which you can drag and save to your toolbar. This icon enables you to easily save all social media posts, videos, photos, etc as you surf the web. You can then access these resources later to build your storify page. When you click the "profile" button at the top of your storify page, you'll find all of the elements that you've stored. When you're ready to create a story, click "Create Story" and your collection will show up on the right-hand side of the template. Click and drag each element that you want for your story, add text and -- voila! A storify story.

So, how can you use storify in an elearning situation? I'm already adding the tool to my bag of tricks for my upcoming 10-week course on Israel for a winter Hebrew school class.

1.       Ask students to pick out pictures, tweets and videos that cover a variety of perspectives on a specific subject. Our class is going to concentrate on Israel's diversity, so it should be fun to get the kids to work together to find elements which we will combine into a Storify story about Jewish diversity in Israel.
2.       Comb the web for videos, links, pictures and more items related to specific subject matter. I want to explore with the kids how Israel became so diverse -- from which countries did the Jews come to Israel? If each student searches for material about one country and contributes that link or element to the storify piece, we'll have a collage of Israeli peoplehood.
3.       Assign each student, or pair of students, a particular aspect of a historical episode that, when linked, will tell the entire story in sequence. If my students aren't tired of storify by now, I'd like to divide up the periods of the 19th and 20th centuries to examine the periods of aliyah for each Jewish community and look at those aliyah stories in context of the historical events of that era.
4.       Storify can be used to evaluate a student's understanding of the subject material. When a unit is completed, students can be asked to create a storify story that demonstrates their understanding of the subject matter and present it to the class. 

Storify is completely free and allows the students to form, narrate, describe and tell a story in a way that is compelling and engaging. The combination of texts and visual data provides a great way for students to approach new material and reinforce old information. 

If I can do it, anyone can!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Parents, Meet Haiku. Haiku, Meet Parents

What do the issues facing the Jewish community of today have in common with those which faced the generations of Jews who lived 2000 years ago?

Plenty, judging by an innovative and highly interactive online course. High school students of Yeshiva Kadima in St. Louis are presently taking the online Jewish Contemporary Issues course via JETS Jerusalem EdTech Solutions and are expanding their understanding of Jewish history as they grapple with the concerns of today's Jewish world.

Kadima students study online, using a Haiku Learning Management system to track their progression as they create video and audio presentations, take polls, consider opinions, compare and contrast opinions and events and post on online bulletin boards. All this allows the students to develop their own way of looking at the contemporary Jewish world in light of the destruction and renewal that took place within the Jewish world of the early years of the Common Era.

In November of 2013 the course facilitator, Smadar Goldstein, JETS director, traveled to St. Louis where she met with her students. Together they presented the course to the administrators, teachers and parents of Kadima students. The presentation allowed the evening's participants to review the core of the program including
·         What do we learn?
·         How do we learn"
·         What are some of the challenges of this style of learning?
·         What are some of the benefits of this style of learning?
The students, together with Ms. Goldstein, displayed the Haiku Learning Management System on which the course is based. The Haiku allows each student to progress at his or her own pace while ensuring that all students cover the material. There are multiple types of evaluation options via the Haiku and these were also exhibited at the meeting. The students demonstrated how evaluating a student's progress can actually be, in and of itself, a learning experience as it provides each student with the opportunity to select his or her preferred evaluation strategy.

Participants of the evening presentation enjoyed the opportunity to see how the elearning tools that Yeshiva Kadima students employ are creating a highly effective classroom environment of engaging, innovative and meaningful learning that can promote studies in any subject.  

One attending grandparent commented ""The way you kids are learning is unbelievable. Taking what you're good at - modern technology, chat rooms, discussion forums - and turning it into online educational experiences, is something I never could have done and yet you clearly are learning so much. Kudos to the teacher, Smadar Goldstein, for implementing this and to the school, for encouraging innovative teaching and education."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Learning about Jewish Diversity

Growing up, I always assumed that all my Jewish friends' families were similar to my own. It seemed obvious to me that their ancestors came from Russia, Poland or, if they were really exotic, Romania. We all ate gefilte fish, none of us ate grains or legumes on Pesach and it was assumed that Yiddish was every Jew's "mama-loshen."
Today a JETS twinning project partners Israeli and American classrooms in a collaboration of discovery and exploration as the students examine the diversity of the Jewish world.
The Shutafut partnership for 5th and 6th graders is based on the TALI schools' "Friends Across the Sea" curriculum. Seven[s1]  Israeli schools have twinned with seven American Jewish Day Schools to have students work simultaneously and interactively on asynchronous activities that guide them as they learn more about themselves and each other.
The twinned classes spent their first few lessons getting to know each other. Students had the opportunity to consider their own families as they examined the varying origins of Jewish families, information about each student's individual family roots, similarities and differences among Jewish families from around the world and unique characteristics of different Jewish communities.
Chanukah proved to be a perfect opportunity for the students to consider how different Jewish communities observe the laws and traditions of the Jewish people, each in its own way.
The students began by watching an Animoto clip that gave them food for thought about the similarities and differences of Chanukah celebrations throughout the world.
The students were then asked to list some events that were featured in the movie  which they might have seen in their own grandparents' homes, describe their own Chanukah celebrations and share a personal Chanukah memory.  Students had the opportunity to read each other's stories and memories as they considered how the different families, all of whom celebrate Chanukah, observe the holiday differently.

In conclusion, the students were asked to comment on something that had surprised them about what they had seen and heard during the activity.

As the students broaden their horizons about their peers and their friends across the ocean, one thing is certain -- they will develop an awareness of Jewish diversity that eluded me until my own aliyah.


 [s1]Only four of the Israeli schools are actually TALi schools

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Haiku -- Easier than I Thought!

For several months I've been observing my colleagues' use of Learning Management Systems. An LMS allows the teacher to manage their class's online learning activities in one centralized location.

·         allows teachers to present new material that he/she wishes the students to acquire
·         allows teachers to post assignments and track student progress
·         allows students to follow each other's assignments
·         facilitates collaboration among students
·         facilitates online evaluation tools that serve not only to evaluate, but to further learning

 In preparation for my upcoming 10-week online class with a group of pre-teens, I decided to organize my class on a Haiku Learning Management System and see whether the system lives up to the hype.

I taught a similar class last year and found it difficult to keep track of all of the audio-visual materials, online tools, documents and learning strategies that are needed to create a high quality online lesson.

I've created two of the ten lessons so far and, although I don't know yet whether it will be a more effective learning environment for the students, I can already see that the Haiku LMS will help me stay organized and on target.

There have been a few bumps on the learning curve, but basically, with one click you can create a new content block or a new page, sending you on your way to establishing your class Haiku. So non-techies, we can do this too. 

Before beginning my lesson plans I did a little research and acquired some tips that have been helpful.
1.       There's more than one way to skin a cat. When the technology seems overwhelming, consider alternate ways to solve a problem. Or just move on. I wasn't able to embed a video or post a photo on my Haiku page so I just added in the video link instead of the embed code -- we'll have to view the video on an alternate forum --  and cut and pasted my photos  in the text box from a WORD document instead of inserting them as a computer file.
2.       Look at your lesson from the standpoint of someone who knows less about technology than you do. I noticed that when I put different activities in different content blocks it was difficult to tell where one activity stopped and the second one began. I alternated text colors for each activity -- that simple change ensured a more comprehensible format.
3.       Keep it simple, at least at first. There are numerous ways to prepare the Haiku layout. You can arrange your pages and content by date, topic, category, chapter - whatever works for you. You can create a page with sub pages for each unit you teach or organize your pages based on a general topic. You can also organize the information on any page and rearrange as you wish. Start simple and get more creative as time goes on, as you start to feel more comfortable with the system. Again, the idea is to make the system work for you. If you get frustrated and abandon the LMS, everyone loses.   

4.       Keep your class URL simple. The URL is created when you type in your class title. Keeping it simple will allow you and your students to easily find the URL if you ever need to do a search.
5.      The Manage Class Button allows you to share your class, import content, quickly access the students' emails and more. Become familiar with the Manage Class tool and take advantage of everything that it offers you. 

6.       If you like to use Wikis, the Haiku LMS makes it easy to incorporate Wikis into the LMS. WikiProject Templates offer students an easy platform on which to work, create videos, audios, etc. The students can collaborate on their projects and see each other's WikiSites as they share the links on the Haiku. The "connect" tab in the upper lefthand corner takes you pages that offer you the opportunity to make announcements (the students will receive notifications of these announcements via their emails), discussions, polls and WikiProjects.

Sometimes the hardest stage in using online tools is taking the first step. I encourage you to take the Haiku plunge – you'll be glad that you did.