muse: n. a source of inspiration

Links You’ll Love – 3-15-13

Animoto’s got educator accounts again! If you haven’t used it before, Animoto is an awesome website where you can upload a bunch of photos, choose your background music, and it makes a great slide show for you. They had discontinued educator accounts for a while…but they’re back. As an educator, you can get a free PRO account, which allows you to create videos longer than 30 seconds.

I don’t know about you, but I think these awesome NASA Pod transports look an awful lot like what George Jetson used (oy… I am dating myself). Tel Aviv is looking to become the first city where you can zoom around in some ultra cool two-person vehicles.

The World Digital Library is a collection of primary materials from all over the world. There are maps, newspapers photographs, illustrations and more.

Remember flash cards? There are a lot of online sites to create and review flash cards. Check out StudyStack, where you can use flash cards created by others or create your own.

I love this site!  Create text messages as if they were sent by fictional characters. So fun! Text messages can be saved for future editing, downloading or embedding in other sites.

Every teacher knows that maintaining a classroom library can be a chore. Book Retriever, an iOS app, promises to make that job easier. The $.99 app uses the book’s ISBN code to generate a listing, keeps track of which students have “checked out” which books, and can even email overdue reminders.

If you’re using please complete this survey to help improve the product. It’s nice when the developers care what we teachers think!

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Technology | | Leave a comment

Thursday hot tip

Buy a couple iPad stands. Once you have them you’ll find dozens of ways to use them. For our yearbook this year we took iPad photos of the graduates’ baby photos rather than scanning them. It was much faster and the quality was great. My teachers use them in class as document cameras, too. We bought the Justand brand – they’re really durable and versatile.

Here’s a video from the company:

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Technology | , , | Leave a comment

Interesting Infographic on Technology Use…

The folks over at tipped me off to their rockin’ infographic on tech use in the classroom. I’m actually kind of shocked that, with 70% of students entering school knowing how to use a mouse, only 40% of elementary school teachers are using technology. What do you think?

August 30, 2012 Posted by | Technology | | Leave a comment

Getting ready for Germany…are we there yet?

Once again I’m traveling with Centropa for their annual Centropa Summer Academy. This year I’m excited that it’s Germany: Mannheim, Frankfurt and Berlin. I really can’t believe that I’m doing this again – it’s a phenomenal opportunity and a wonderful, educational and stimulating way to spend ten days, but simply exhausting! I’m glad I have three weeks after I return before school begins to recuperate. Oy – only three weeks?

Are we there yet?

Of course I’m worried about how I’m going to entertain myself while I’m on the plane. I’ve already been to British Airways’ website to scope out the in-flight entertainment (excited to watch Salmon Fishing in the Yemen!), and I sprang for the iTunes Essential George Gershwin collection, but I want to put some movies on my iPad too. I mean, what if my video player thingie doesn’t work? Or what if I’m bored at night (yeah…right) and need to have something other than German TV to watch in the room?

Unfortunately, season two of Downton Abbey only got me through my last three trips (thank you, Downton Abbey – that was six blissful flights!), and there wasn’t another TV season I wanted to download. I do have some DVDs, though, that I want to watch but I’m not bringing my laptop – just the iPad (it’s so much lighter and easier to get through security!), which, of course, does not have a DVD player.

Now…I know you’re not supposed to do this. I would NEVER suggest my students do this…But if you already own the movies you want to bring on DVD, and let’s say you wanted to watch them on your iPad…you could rip the movies using Handbrake. Be sure to choose the iPad preset. Then you end up with a .m4v file that you could throw in iTunes and transfer when you sync. Easy peasy.

The only problem is that those movies can be pretty heavy – reaching 2 gb. That’s a lot of real estate on an iPad, so…

You might want to bring them along on an SD card. If you have the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit, you can do that. You just have to set them up in a way that your iPad will recognize them and know to import them as media. This post on CNET will be very helpful if you’re thinking about doing that.

Finally – I decided to spring (amazing how these trips cost SOOOOO much!) for a really good set of earphones. I wanted good, I wanted noise canceling, and I wanted small. I also didn’t want to spend more than $50. This is not as easy as it sounds. I researched a lot of companies, and finally settled on Thinksound. What got me were the reviews on Amazon. Now, many of those reviews mentioned having cable separation problems, so the big question is why did I pay $50 for earphones that could break? It’s simple – every single one of the reviews also stated that as soon as they contacted the company, they were immediately contacted by the company (in many cases, the president) to arrange for a replacement. I also really loved that they’re made from wood, and that the product has a low footprint packaging-wise. I appreciated not having to dig out the scissors and deal with those nasty plastic clamshell packages which fill up my recycling bin. They came in a lovely little brown box, with their own little cloth bag for storage. I was using them in about two seconds after receiving the package and they rocked. Pun intended.

Oh – and I also bought a new suitcase. But that wasn’t interesting.

I hope to post lots from Germany – stay tuned.

July 3, 2012 Posted by | Centropa, Lifelong learning, Technology | , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love for 12-16-11

Want to know what everyone wanted to know last year? Google Zeitgeist sorted billions of Google searches for the answer :

The technology of storytelling, a map of the brain and more. Here’s a terrific list of the 10 best TED talks to share with your students.

Writing and need positive reinforcement? Do your typing at Written? Kitten!, and every 100 words (or whatever quantity you determine) you’ll be treated to picture of a cute fuzzy kitten. Prefer negative reinforcement? Go to Write or Die. (Hey – I don’t create these, I just find ‘em!)

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Links, Links You'll Love, Technology | , | Leave a comment

Designing a Digital Quest…

Update on learning how to design a digital quest:

I introduced my religious school students to last week. I broke out the laptops and had the kids go to my Interesting Questing wiki page. They watched some movies about using ARIS and SCVNGR and about Global Kids’ NY Haunts game. They are EXCITED!

After getting them excited about the project we played Grow a Game (thank you Natalie from the iCenter for introducing us to this!). I wanted to get their creative juices flowing.

Then we talked about what kind of quests we could send Jewish teenagers on. My students offered ideas like “teach about Judaism to someone who doesn’t know about it,” and “wear a kippah for a day and journal about what happens.” They had some great questions too, like “can we link this to Facebook?” (great idea!)

Then I started spending some time playing with ARIS. The editor is still under construction, and the creators warn you that the interface is shaky, but I haven’t had any problems in my limited testing. The biggest issue for me is that support materials are rather scarce: I like to work through tutorials and read manuals and those just don’t exist. But that’s part of the fun of using emerging technology, right?

I’m totally psyched about using ARIS for this project. I love that you can drop items anywhere using the map interface, so we can create the game from the comfort of our classroom and then just go into the field to test it. Once I understood the basic interface I found creating quests and characters fairly intuitive. I still need to master the terminology and how to logically create quests, and of course, how the game flows will be a big challenge. But I definitely see this having tremendous potential!

Next steps:

1. Design a few quests that kids can experience in the synagogue so they get the idea
2. Create a plan for designing a game flow
3. Design classroom dynamics. There are close to twenty kids who come regularly. How do we split these kids up so everyone’s engaged and productive?

Big questions: what are the educational goals for the activity? How do you blend “experiential education” with mobile devices?

To be continued!

October 30, 2011 Posted by | iCenter, Interesting Questing, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Using Wordle with a Google Form

Here’s a fun tip for you:

If you want to take a poll and then display the results in Wordle, try this:

1. Create your multiple choice form in Google. Here is an example of a form I’m creating for an upcoming presentation. Note the tilde (~) in between words. That’s so Wordle will keep the words together in the final product.


2. Once you’ve distributed the form, highlight the column with the selections. Copy that to your clipboard.

3. Paste the clipboard contents into Wordle. Wordle will thoughtfully ignore the commas, and since you used tildes to keep multiple-word entries together, it’ll keep those puppies intact. Like this:

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Technology, Wordle | , , | 1 Comment

Interesting Questing

Interesting questing logoA new interest for me is developing digital quests. These might be digital versions of old-fashioned scavenger hunts, or more complex activities like city-wide activities using GPS navigation devices. When I was in Vienna this past summer with Centropa, we went on part of a geocaching tour that was created by middle school kids. What a great activity, both for the people who are participating and the kids who prepared it.

What’s super exciting for me is that I’m going to getting support from the great staff at the iCenter as part of my iChallenge incubator grant. There are three projects which I’m working on:

  1. A pretty straightforward digital scavenger hunt to be held in the synagogue building.
  2. A digital quest for Purim.
  3. My preconfirmation (8th and 9th graders) “Finding the Jew in You” quest. My students and I will be creating a digital quest for Chicago-area teenagers to use. The quest will include going to various Jewish sites in the Chicago area, performing tasks and collecting student reflections

I’ve started to compile resources on my wiki. Here are a few of my favorites:


SCVNGR is an app which is widely used commercially. It has a clean interface and it doesn’t seem terribly complicated to create challenges. Free accounts are limited to five challenges, but the developers graciously granted me an increase to 25 just for the asking. The editor is online, and the user needs to download an app to play.

ARIS is a platform developed at the University of Wisconsin. The site is impressive and extensive, with user docs and samples. Players can interact with virtual guides and collect artifacts (which can then be annotated using voice or a smartphone camera).  The learning curve on this product looks steeper than SCVNGR, but there’s great documentation. Like SCVNGR, the user needs to download a free app in order to play.

QR (quick response) codes are not software per se, but rather digital tools. You create a QR code to encode some kind of data, such as displaying text or directing someone to a website or to create an email. There’s been a lot of discussion on how to use them in education, including digital scavenger hunts, links to podcasts and students portfolios and more. Users with smartphones, laptops or computers with webcams can use QR code scanners to read the code.For a video on how you can use QR codes in school, check this out.

Need some inspiration?

Getting a grip on the tech side is one thing, but there’s nothing like a little show and tell to get you going. Here are a few videos that might help:

Aris demo


And for a real dose of inspiration, check out Global Kids. Their New York City Haunts game will blow you away!

If you’d like to share what you’re doing, or what you’d like to do – please let me know!

September 14, 2011 Posted by | iCenter, Interesting Questing, QR Codes, Technology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

QR Code Fairytale Storybooks

Saw this on Trendhunter today: QR Code Fairytale Storybooks. It’s simple: armed with a smartphone or iPod touch, a child can access media by scanning QR codes in a storybook. I’m really kind of loving the idea of augmenting books this way. My 8th graders create comics from folk tales – how cool would it be to add QR codes?

August 1, 2011 Posted by | QR Codes, Technology | , , | Leave a comment

A tiny rant about passwords

As part of my job I have to sign up for a lot of websites. Websites where you can create slide shows, edit photos, upload stuff, download stuff.

In fact, it’s one of my pet peeves in general – the account thing. I would say that, when I’m vetting a website for student use, having to create an account is not a plus. In fact, in some cases, it’s a deal breaker. If I can find a website that will allow my students to do something and they don’t have to create an account, I’m far more likely to use that one. Thank you Vocaroo.

But sometimes you have to just suck it up and create that account.

Which requires a password.

Now, because I have so many websites for which I have user names and passwords, I use the same one. No, it’s not the same one that I use for the bank or important stuff, but, let’s face it, I’m over fifty and I can only remember so many things. So I use the same password.

I’m reasonably certain that nobody will try hacking my “create a presentation” account or the “great animations from your desktop” account. There’s no financial information. Honestly, in many cases, there’s no real information period.

So, Mr. Website-creator…can I just say? Keep your nose out of my passwords. What is the point of making me choose one that’s at least 8 characters, uses a combination of letters and numbers, with a mix of upper case and lower case? Other than to annoy me and possibly convince me that using your service is just not worth my time, and, more importantly, my students’ or colleagues’ time.

Just sayin’

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Technology, Thinking | , | 1 Comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 778 other followers

%d bloggers like this: