muse: n. a source of inspiration

Jewish Interactive

Jewish Interactive is a not-for-profit organization that makes ios apps and Macintosh and Windows software that your students will love.

Here are just two of their offerings:

Ji Tap: With JI Tap, you can build your own Jewish themed games. (It’s very similar to the ios app, Tiny Tap, which we covered in Technology Tuesdays here.)  And here’s a plus: the JI website also features lots of pre-designed, JI Tap games that you can download and play right away.

JI Studio: Using JI Studio, students can create interactive books and posters featuring images, imported photos, audio clips, and Hebrew text. The vast selection of graphics, sounds (shofar blast, anyone?) and Hebrew texts is incredibly impressive!

Student creations can be shared via email or posted to the web. Visit Jewish Interactive’s  website to sign up for a free account, and check out their various tools, all of which are free at this posting. Educators can opt to upgrade to a premium account, which gives access to data and other features.

In Your Classroom

  • Use JI Studio to create an interactive Rosh Hashana card complete with audio greetings. What a great way to start out the New Year!
  • Import photos from your camera roll into JI Studio to create an interactive tour of your synagogue.
  • JI Studio includes prayers and Torah texts, which makes it a great tool for recording a student’s oral Hebrew progress. Start the new year out with each student making a recording, and then continue as the year progresses. Students will have an audio portfolio of their progress by the end of the year.
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Mobile devices and apps | , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Looking for just the right font? Head over to Wordmark, type a word or phrase and hit “enter.” Wordmark will display the word in every font you have on your computer so you can pick just the right one.

Holy smokes! This is awesome. If you’re a Google Classroom user (and if you’re not, why aren’t you?), you will love this. Install the Chrome extension Share to Classroom to your Chrome account and you can push any website to your students’ computers. So cool! Sadly, it’s only for Chromebooks and computers right now.

Let’s talk about Chrome tabs. There are two distinct groups of people when it comes to Chrome: those who limit their tabs and those who, well, don’t (you know who you are). The problem with having oodles of Chrome tabs open is that this can significantly impact your computer’s performance, as Chrome is a nefarious memory hog. There are ways to control this, including tab managers that put certain tabs “to sleep” by suspending their activity, but I’d like to suggest a management tool that’s way more fun. Install Tabagotchi and make tab management fun again! Okay, maybe it was never fun, but you get my drift. Remember Tomagotchi, the kids’ toy of the 90’s? It was a digital pet that you had to take care of, or it would meet an early demise. Well, Tabagotchi works the same way with tabs. Each time you open a new tab, your little Tabagotchi’s health is diminished in some way. Ease up on the tabs and keep Tabagotchi spry! The tech team definitely recommends limiting your tab usage – multiple open tabs is often the reason for poor computer performance.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love | , , , | Leave a comment


Comic Life is an iOS app that you can use to create your own digital comic book as well as many other types of projects including certificates, newsletters, how-to pages, and yearbook pages.

You can start your project from scratch, or, you can use one of the app’s pre-designed templates.

You can easily:
1) add images to your project  from your own camera roll or from Flickr
2) add text in a wide variety of styles (and languages-You can even type in Hebrew!)
3) add speech or thought bubbles to characters, and
4) add fun comic book sound effect graphics like “Pow!” and “Crunch!”

Once you’ve imported your text and graphic elements, you can easily design and customize how they all come together by resizing, rotating and styling each element. You’ll also want to experiment with all those great comic-looking fonts.

Once your comic book (or other type of project) is finished, you can print it or export as a pdf or jpg, and/ or open it in certain other apps, including Google Drive, Dropbox or Explain Everything.

Download the app from the iTunes store for $4.99.

In Your Classroom

  • This is my go-to whenever I need to create a how-to page. It’s easy to include screenshots for my readers to refer to as they follow along.
  • Students can easily use Comic Life to create comics about any topic they’ve studied. For example, if you are teaching the story of B’reishit in time for Simchat Torah, ask your students to create a comic depicting the six days of creation.
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Technology Tuesdays | , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Tes is a teaching community out of the UK with some great resources. Check it out for lesson plans and articles as well as “Tes Teach,” which allows you to create interactive activities for your students.

Stockio is a great source for copyright free images, photos and even fonts.

This is so fun – Fake Ticket Generator is, well, a website that makes fake tickets. It’s a clever way to create a “ticket to learning” or similar graphic for your class.

September 5, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love | , | Leave a comment

littleBits storage

IMG_3152Our innovation studio boasts several littleBits kits for building and coding. We’re even featuring the code kit in our innovation special this year. For right now, we’re sticking with the boxes for storage and my partner-in-crime came up with this great idea to take a photo of the box before we used it and taping it to the inside of the box lid so kids know where to put everything at the end of class. Genius!!

August 30, 2017 Posted by | LittleBits, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

How can you use Cricut in the classroom?

We’re going into our second year of having a Cricut Explore 2 in our innovation studio and I love how our faculty members are finding creative ways to integrate it into their classrooms. Some of the ways we’ve used it so far include:

  1. Cutting stencils out of laminated cardstock
  2. Creative bulletin boards
  3. Vinyl locker and laptop case artwork
  5. Labels (teachers LOVE labeling!)
  6. Puzzles
  7. Window artwork
  8. Removable wall artwork that keeps the maintenance staff happy
  9. Namecards
  10. Fun “trinkets” to go with student genius hour projects (for instance – a student did a genius hour project on USB drives so we cut a bunch out that he could give away)
  11. Theme confetti

How do you use your #Cricut in the classroom?

August 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cricut in the Classroom


A student-drawn image

We are fortunate enough to have several electronic cutters in our innovation studio. It’s been really fun to help teachers – and students – figure out how to use our #Silhouette Cameo and @Cricut Explore 2 in an educational setting.

One of the best activities was our To Kill a Mockingbird locker gallery that we created with the 8th grade last year. It was creative, a cool app smash, and showed deep thinking – all at the same time.

IMG_2573The students began in the innovation studio by using SketchClub on iPad Pros to sketch images that the novel evoked for them. We saw a lot of gavels, birds and

justice scales! Students used a variety of apps for this. We showed them how to import a graphic and use layering to trace over it. This is where having iPad Pros and Apple Pencils is a real advantage, but it’s doable with other tech as well.

Once the students had their images, we exported them as .jpgs and then imported them into Cricut Design Space. We made sure the students didn’t use color (since we were ultimately cutting these out of vinyl), so it was super simple to import the images and then prepare them for cutting.

IMG_2574When the images were cut, the students applied these to their lockers and added their artist statements. What deep thinking these showed!

This was a profoundly moving activity on a number of levels. It’s not easy to create a tangible symbol of a novel, but the tools we had enabled the students to do so. By 8th grade, kids are quick to say that they’re not artists, but the combination of the iPad Pros and the Cricut made everybody feel good about their artwork.

August 27, 2017 Posted by | Cricut in the Classroom, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Google has made lots of changes to Google Sites, and the redo is amazing! Google Sites feels way more like Google Forms now, and it couldn’t be easier to create a site.  You can embed forms, docs and more!

If digital puzzles are your thing, check out Deck.Toys. It’s an incredibly cool digital platform where you can create puzzles that your students solve digitally. This is great for teachers who are 1:1 Chromebooks! Lots of teachers are creating digital puzzles for Google docs – check out some resources here.

If you haven’t checked out Google Keep, you must! You can jot down notes there or send websites directly to it. You can add checkboxes to your notes and share them with collaborators.

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

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

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