Sunday, March 23, 2014

Winter Flu Meets the Classroom Cloud

The flu finally caught up with me last week. I shouldn't have been surprised -- everyone in my neighborhood has been sick at least once this winter and I live with a teenager who spends more time at home 'sick" than she does in school. But frankly, I rarely get sick and wasn't prepared, especially not to teach an online class at 2:00a.m.

My Hebrew School kids, however, tell me that they look forward to our classes and since we only had 2 more scheduled sessions, I didn't want to disappoint them. By Wednesday morning, when it was clear that I would be coughing and hacking my way through any verbal exchanges, I figured that I'd better plan ahead so I prepared a lesson that would require me to speak minimally yet would allow the kids to walk away from the class with as much knowledge as if their teacher had been chatting for 30 minutes straight.

Our class is about "Israel," a broad subject that gives me a lot of leeway to present a wide range of materials. For our second-to-last class I wanted to throw the class open and just ask the kids "What's so special about Israel?"

In planning the lesson, I also had to take into account the fact that the equipment at the school is limited -- some of the devices don't always work and most don't support advanced websites or elearning tools. But I can usually count on the ability to show videos and use linos and google docs, so I built the lesson around those features.

I created a linoboard that displayed five different aspects of Israel that I find special. These subjects included:
1.       Jews' connection to the Land of Israel
2.       Israeli leadership in the environmental field
3.       Israel as a refuge for Jews from throughout the world
4.       Israeli leadership in helping in disaster areas around the world
5.       Israeli Diversity

Each of the five lino posts displayed a link to a video and an article about that specific topic. The students were invited to select one of the topics that speaks to them and to research it, using the video and article materials provided (plus any other information that the student wished to include).

We created a corresponding Google Presentation with a matching slide for each subject. The students were asked to record their findings on the appropriate slide and share it with their peers. The kids could then view each other's findings, comment, add their own thoughts and impressions and continue to pass the information on.

Preparing the assignment wasn't exactly time-economical -- it took a good amount of time to locate appropriate articles and videos -- but the students' comments  throughout the lesson made the investment worthwhile -- "I never knew this!", "Wow. This is great!", "Why don't they publicize this more?", "I'm so proud of Israel."  

And my achy throat survived the night.  

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