muse: n. a source of inspiration

On the 9th day, they blessed the Torah

I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate that every summer I get to volunteer at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, California for two weeks as an artist for the teen camp’s Hagigah program.

This year, I worked with eighteen teenagers who wanted to paint their own tallit. I’ve done this before in religious school, so I was pretty confident that I could shepherd my teens from blank piece of fabric to a painted tallit complete with tzitzit. I had 8 days with my teens, with just under 3 hours per day total. We purchased pre-sewn products from TorahAura which included tzitzit, corner reinforcements and sewn-in buttonholes. The camp has a robust tie-dye program already, and we purchased a plethora of fabric paints from DharmaTrading. Campers also had kippot to paint and tallit bags to decorate (courtesy of a repurposed drop cloth, cut apart and stitched into open pouches).

Day one was prep day, with the teens sketching their ideas. They scoured through the Mishkan Tefillah for phrases to use on the atarah (most eschewed using the traditional bracha) and checked out the Jewish Catalog and the Shireinu for additional inspiration. Then it was time to begin putting paint and/or dye to fabric. Those who wanted to start with tie-dye headed to the art center and the painters, well, started painting.

Three hours a day is a lot of time to paint for some kids and not nearly enough for others. There were those who had a hard time getting started and those who jumped right in. There were those who missed a day or two while recuperating in the infirmary, and those who seemed to be taking a nap every time I peeked outside to check on their progress. There are those who were the first in and the last to leave, begging to skip cabin clean-up time (nope), pool time (really? In the 105 degree Sonoma sun?) and free time (well, okay). There were the kids who needed validation on lots of details, those who seemed to spend as much time cheering their friends on as they did painting their own, and those who were always willing to drop everything to help a friend hang up a wet tallit or strategize over a splotch or drip.

We cleaned a lot of brushes, kvetched over having to remove wet tallitot from tables so the tables could be repurposed for an evening activity (okay, I kvetched about that), and schvitzed in the sun.

It was awesome.

The finale of the Hagigah program is the Hagigah festival (which, well, would translate to festival festival) where the campers display their artwork, perform and generally celebrate having spent four weeks together learning and creating. In preparation, my campers wrote amazing artist statements and we hung the eighteen tallitot in our room. The statements took my breath away with their insights and deep thoughts about Judaism and camp. The tallitot were as beautiful as my campers, and every bit as unique. My campers’ pride in their work as they negotiated where and how to hang their tallitot was palpable.

The next day, Friday, we celebrated and took photos.

For most of the Hagigah campers, Friday represents the end of their arts experience. The performances are over, the artwork is put away, and all that’s left is one last Shabbat and the big goodbye. For my campers, though, there was one last celebration of their art – the opportunity to gather as a chevra to bless the Torah. Proudly, they all wore their beautifully crafted tallitot to tefillah Saturday morning and were called up for an aliyah in front of all of teen camp.

What a moment. What a process – nine days from blank tallit to aliyah. What a success!

As a career educator, I’m used to playing the long game most of the time. I don’t always know the result of my teaching efforts. Sometimes I’m lucky and a student will express an “oh, cool” moment in my class, or a returning alum will tell me how they used all they learned from me in high school. But those moments are pretty rare. This was a unique opportunity – the chance to work with a devoted, inspired and creative group of kids and to help them take their ideas and bring them to reality and to craft something they’ll treasure forever.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity.


July 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Interested in making short “how to” videos, or having your students record videos without a lot of fuss? Useloom is a cool Google extension that enables you to make short videos right in Google. Videos are stored in the cloud and easily shareable.

Boomerang is a lovely Google extension that enables you to schedule emails for later distribution. Let’s say you want to send a reminder about a field trip Thursday night, but you’re working on it Sunday and don’t want to forget. If you’ve installed Boomerang, you can set it up in advance and Boomerang will do the rest.

BouncyBalls is a fun website that displays classroom noise through the visual of bouncy balls, emojis, bubbles or (gulp) eyeballs. The louder the classroom, the bouncier the display.

Google is making some strides in terms of adding features to Google Sheets, their spreadsheet software. For instance, you can use Google Sheets to help visualize data now, simply by asking a question in real language. This blog post addresses that feature and more.

I am fascinated by tunnel books and would love for someone to collaborate with me in our innovation studio to use the Silhouette and Cricut paper cutters in their creation. See this article for inspiration.

Here’s a nice video with some tips for new Google Calendar users.

Competency-based learning – a focus on highly personalized experiential learning for students which allows them to learn at their own pace – is tantalizing but hard to assess. This article offers some valuable insights.

We like to think that we’re preparing kids for the future, but the reality is that we have no clue what that looks like. This post, by Little Bits founder Ayah Bdeir, discusses that dilemma and how Little Bits can provide some help with “unleashing kids’ inner inventor.” We have a student set of these little electronics kids in the innovation studio, and kids have been using them during recess and specials. 

Wizard School is a very cool free app (with no in-app purchases) that features videos, maps and other content on a variety of topics. Students can explore content, create stickers, videos and drawings and then share their creations.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

I am a huge fan of Google Drawing. Interested in learning more about this little-used Google feature. Here’s a good start. is a very cool website – and, yes, it’s the official site of the coveted Nobel Prize. On this site, you can find inspirational videos, facts about the Nobel Prize and prize winners, and a bunch of fun educational games, too. If you’re interested in right brain/left brain stuff, check out The Split Brain Experiments. Unfortunately, much of the site relies on Flash, so I’m not sure about Chrome or  iOS support.

The Open Education Resources Commons is a searchable, browsable, customizable collection of open education resources. Let’s say you’re looking for a unit on bridges for your 4th graders… put in your search parameters and poof! 14 results show up.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment


The Technology: Vizia

Vizia is website that allows you to add questions, quizzes and polls right into existing videos.

To begin, you first choose a source video that has already been posted to YouTube or Wistia. Then, click on “new video,” and enter the URL of the source video. Finally, choose the interactive elements that you’d like to add into the video. You can add open-answer questions, polls, multiple-choice questions or a call to action in the form of exclamatory text or a link to a website. 

Once you have completed your additions, the finished video will appear on the Vizia website, and you can share it with others via link. Vizia videos can also be embedded onto other websites. 

As your viewers answer the embedded questions, their answers will populate a spreadsheet that you can open in Google drive or download as a .csv file. Note that students can opt to skip questions as they’re viewing the video, so you may not get answers to all your questions. 

To use Vizia, sign up for a free Vizia account, or use your Google credentials.

In Your Classroom

  • Invite students to view videos and suggest their own polls and questions about them. Then create a Vizia video that incorporates them into it, and share it back with them. 
  • Viza is a great tool to use as part of a flipped classroom lesson.
  • Consider making a class video and embedding questions for parents to answer. This could be particularly useful for social justice or “what would you do?” type issues.
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

TouchCast Studio

TouchCast Studio is an ipad app that functions as a whole TV crew and studio! It allows you to create and share detailed multimedia presentations that incorporate many different types of content, including links, webpages, files, images, videos and more. You can annotate videos, diagram with a whiteboard, add green screen effects, and make a professional looking interactive video experience for your students to engage with and enjoy.

Once you complete a TouchCast presentation, it can be viewed on their website and also shared via email or via social media. 

TouchCast Studio is complicated and not for beginners. But, if you have some tech-adept high school students who are looking to create more complex videos, this might be the right match for them.

Visit the website to create a free account, then head to the iTunes store to download the free iPad app.  Your TouchCast account also automatically gives you a channel, which you can use to share your videos with others. 

For more information and tutorials, check out the teachers training area on TouchCast’s website.

In Your Classroom

  • You’ll need to think differently about video production to use TouchCast successfully. Be sure to plan and use a script and storyboards to help you decide where interactive elements like responses, polls and hotlinks will be placed within the presentation.
  • TouchCast is a great app to use for a collaborative project, since it allows several students to work on various elements at the same time.
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

May 9, 2017 Posted by | Links, Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

My daughter was an intern at DisneyWorld for a semester and learned a tremendous amount about good customer service. She often talks about what it taught her and how she utilizes it in her current position as a camping director. In this article, a principal reflects on lessons learned from Disney and how they apply to education.

Is it technology integration or just digitizing traditional education? This article explores that very question.
Think you know everything Google? Check out this post with hidden tips and tricks.

April 28, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

“It all starts with a question…” Here’s a nice article about inquiry-based learning and how to encourage students to take charge of their learning.

People tend to confuse problem-based learning and project-based learning. Check out this article for an in-depth examination.

Remember the great scene in “Star Trek IV” where Scotty tries talking to the computer? And then he says “How quaint” when he’s told to use the keyboard. Maybe you even talk to your phone to get it to do things for you (Siri…). If voice recognition interests you, you may want to pop over to Google’s newest web program, Speak To Go. Designed to work with a VR headset (think Google cardboard), the site does work within your Chrome browser if you enable your microphone. It’s not perfect (yet), but it’s just the tip of the VR iceberg.

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love | , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

The Smithsonian Learning Lab is a very cool site with more than a million resources, create personal collections and educational experiences, and share your work.

According to this article, one way to encourage empathy among students is by reading the news. The article references Newsela, which is a spectacular resource. Educators can browse by category, filter by lexile level, assign articles and more.

April 7, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment


The Technology: Visme

Everybody knows that old quote about how many words a picture is worth. It’s true! And with the website Visme, you can create your own infographics and other visually based content easily. 

You can build your infographic using the images that Visme provides, including layouts, shapes, text, graphs and backgrounds. Or, you can choose to upload your own images. It also allows you to insert video or music into your infographics.

When you’re finished designing your image, you can download a watermarked low-resolution .jpg and embed your infographic on a website or share it on social media for free. (Higher resolution images without Visme’s branding are available with a premium account).

Sign up for a free account at Visme.

In Your Classroom

  • An infographic is a terrific alternative assessment to allow students to “show what they know.” For example, ask them to create an infographic that displays the meaning of the four questions.
  • Do give students sufficient time to carefully plan an infographic that actually presents meaningful data.
  • Infographics are terrific for illustrating the flow of any tefillah service, or the seder.
  • Timelines are a natural activity for history classrooms. Ask them to start from Joseph, and end with Moses parting the sea.

This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

March 28, 2017 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment


The Technology: Wizer

Wizer is a free website that can help you create beautifully designed digital worksheets and share them easily with your students. They can be created and completed using any device that has web access. 

You can customize your worksheets by choosing its design and giving it a title. Then simply add your own content, such as open questions, or matching, multiple choice, and fill in the blank questions. You can also add audio clips, videos or web links to your questions. Hebrew is supported, too.

Once you have designed your worksheet, you can easily share it with your students via any learning management system, such as Google classroom. They can complete it on their devices, and send it back to you digitally as well. Finally, Wizer will also quickly assess student’s responses for understanding. Alternatively, you can choose to check each sheet one by one and provide individualized feedback to your students.

Sign up for a free account, and watch an introductory video about Wizer here.

In Your Classroom

  • Wizer can be used anywhere a traditional worksheet would be used. Fill-in-the-blanks, matching and multiple choice questions are all familiar ways to check for mastery.
  • Wizer is a great way to present a video or website to your students for feedback.
  • Think beyond the classroom. Wizer worksheets can be used to collect responses from anyone in your community.
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

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