muse: n. a source of inspiration

Links You’ll Love

Here’s a terrific article about some updates in the Google Classroom iPad app that allow you to annotate PDFs and documents right in Classroom. This is cool!

Using Chromebooks in your classroom? Check out this awesome collection of tips!

September 22, 2016 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing An App

Choosing An App

by Debbie Harris 

Edited by Ann D. Koffsky 

It’s so enticing: a new (free!) app comes along and sounds great. But how do you decide if it’s worth using in your classroom?

Be Selective

There are good reasons to be very picky about what tools you provide your students. IPads have limited storage space and can fill up very quickly. You want to make sure your apps are filling the right need and will be a good match for your students.

Decide: What is your goal?

What are you trying to accomplish? Think about how you would complete sentences like, “I want my students to be able to create a presentation/game/slide show that shows…” and, “My students will use this app to learn more about…”

Remember, just because technology looks inviting, doesn’t mean it will help you achieve your goals. 

Preview the content

If you’re choosing an app that is designed to share information and teach content, (as opposed to an app that helps students create their own content) you’ll want to make sure to preview it from start to finish to verify:

  • That the information is correct
  • That it is age-appropriate
  • That it’s taught in a manner befitting the topic

A cautionary tale:When Tablet Magazine reported on several apps that were designed to teach about the Holocaust, it noted that the playful game experience might not be the most appropriate choice of tool for teaching about something so serious. 

Additional Resources:

  • Commonsense Media is the first place you should head when trying to find an app for a specific purpose. This highly respected site has a terrific section where you can filter by age, type of media and skill.
  • The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has a number of resources available for educators who want to make sure they’re choosing the right tool for the task. This article is a good starting point.
  • Mindshift is a terrific resource for educators in general, and I recommend it for general education information. This Mindshift article on 50 great apps for educators has some really nice recommendations.
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Technology Tuesdays | , , | Leave a comment

Meme Generators

What is a meme? A meme is any symbol or concept that is copied, imitated and easily shared via social media. Often, it is a photo with a unique quote laid on top of it. A classic example would be a photo of a “grumpy” cat, with a quote complaining about well, anything, such as Mondays, annoying co-workers or lack of coffee. Memes can be a terrific tool to engage students and help them think about a subject in a new way. 

For a more complete explanation of memes, and how they work, check out this video. 

Three websites that can help you create your own memes are:

All three provide multiple, free-use photographs, and will place any quote that you type in along the top and bottom of it. (If you use social media, you’ll recognize many of the images offered).

To make your own meme, just click on “create” at the top of these sites, enter your text, and click on “generate.” The sites will then offer you the options of sharing it on various social media sites, or, downloading it to your own computer.

Be aware that if you choose to generate memes in your classroom, that memes created by other users are visible on these site. (Some are not the most appropriate.)

There are also many iOS apps out that will generate memes, including Mematic, Make a Meme and Meme Producer.

In Your Classroom

  • Generate a meme, and use it as a tool to introduce a new subject.
  • Encourage critical thinking by creating and presenting a “half-meme,” providing only the top line of the quote, and leaving the bottom line empty for your students to fill in.
  • Create your own “classroom rules” memes.
  • For an ice-breaker activity at the beginning of year, have each student create a personal meme.
  • As your students to imagine:  What kind of memes would Moses have created? How about Joseph?
This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Using 3D Printing to Foster Students’ Creativity, Collaboration and Design Skills

“I’m working on a design for the Apple Pencil holder.”

“I need to print a poster that I designed.”

“We’re designing logos for the Israel Experience trip.”

This is what I hear as my 6th, 7th and 8th grade students gather in our new Innovation Studio for their innovation exploration specials. They can’t wait to spend time learning how to use the new iPad Pros with Apple Pencils, GoPro cameras and green screen, poster printer and electronic paper cutter, and especially the 3D printer.


While the tech staff had experimented quite a bit with 3D printing over the summer, we had only worked with designs that were sourced ready-to-print. When I created “Innovation Go,” a game designed to teach my colleagues about the new innovation studio during faculty planning week, my tech colleagues assisted by finding and printing various Pokémon Go characters for prizes. That was easy—designing and printing our first “from scratch” project has certainly proven to be much more of an interesting challenge.


Our first student-designed project is most definitely an ambitious one. We discovered right away that the Apple Pencil styluses are really cool but cumbersome to store when being charged. They kind of look like an electronic octopus, and it’s been difficult to keep them organized. So my Innovation Studio co-teacher and I posed the challenge to our 7th and 8th grade students: could they design and print an attractive, functional holder?



The 20 Pencil mess…

One of my 8th graders rose to the challenge. He began by using 123D Print to design a holder. After spending a couple days (and evenings) working on his design, we were ready to print our first project. We were shocked at the length of time that it took to print! 7th and 8th graders regularly popped into the Innovation Studio on their way to other classes to check on the progress, peering into the 3D printer to watch the tiny thread of filament build the object.

Three days later, when we returned from the Labor Day weekend, we found a beautiful, structurally sound, perfectly printed Apple Pencil holder. It was everything we hoped it would be…except it was too tight for the Apple Pencils to fit properly!

My students aren’t daunted in the least. We explained to the class that this is simply the first step in learning how to engineer. One 8th grader led the class in a spirited discussion of the process, including what worked and how we can improve on our design and building skills. The students debated important questions like how we can better test designs before committing hours of printing time and how we can avoid the 3D printer having to create wasteful supporting structures. Having seen a design go from an iPad Pro screen to an actual item that you could hold was powerful, and we could not have had the discussion before we had actually gone through that process.

We explained to the students what going “back to the drawing board” really means, – and off they went!


In the meantime, these 6th, 7th and 8th grade students are learning how to use the iPad Pros to design for the 3D printer, and we’re excited to see their ideas coming to fruition. We’re carefully planning how to test, test and test before printing, and how to continue to build on what we’ve learned to ensure future successes. Stay tuned for updates on our design and manufacturing processes as we continue to collaborate and innovate our way to 3D printing success.

Cross-posted from Solomon Schechter of Metropolitan Chicago

September 18, 2016 Posted by | iPads, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

The New York Public Library’s Collections

The Technology: The New York Public Library’s Collections

The New York Public Library’s digital collections site gives you free access to their prints, streaming media, maps, photographs and more. And, there’s no account to create, no password to remember, and no subscription to maintain. You don’t even need a library card!

You can explore their images by clicking on the featured collections icons, or you can choose to search by keyword. (When I searched by the term, “Jewish” the site returned over 4,000 results, including images of sisterhood cookbooks, an oral history of Milton Berle, and photos of fifth and sixth century amulets found in Jewish tombs in Jordan.)

Photos can be easily downloaded, and cut and pasted into documents. The library provides the credit and citation information for you to include in any materials you use their images in.

Keep in mind that the site does not provide an option for you to save your searches. If you want to retain an image to refer to later, you need to download it onto your computer, or do another search for it later. 

In Your Classroom

  • If you’re teaching history, this is a terrific place to find photos that relate to your subject. For example, a search for “lower-east-side” resulted in photos of street scenes that could add a great deal to an immigration unit.
  • Historical  photographs can make great discussion starters.This photo, for instance, would be a wonderful visual to prompt student discussion on what it must have felt like to be waiting to be allowed to immigrate to America.
  • Are your students doing biography projects about American Jews? Invite them to search the site to find engaging memorabilia that relate to their projects. For example, this image from 1931 shows the Supreme Court justices of the time, including Louis Brandeis.  

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

September 15, 2016 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Technology Tuesdays, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

We’re getting a couple GoPros. What’s a GoPro? It’s a very cool mountable action camera. They can be worn (have you ever seen a video that was shot by someone skiing?), remote-controlled, or set to work automatically. Here are a couple of articles written about GoPros in the classroom to get you thinking about how you might use these:

How a GoPro got my students excited to learn

First Impressions from Recording in the Classroom

Filming Observations with a GoPro

Here’s an awesome TED Talks playlist about math in unexpected places.

The Digital JLearning Network has compiled a nice list of YouTube Channels with videos for teaching Judaic Studies. Find it here.

September 8, 2016 Posted by | Links, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Jacob Richman has created a really nice three-year Jewish calendar which you can access here.

Here’s a Hebrew keyboard that you can download for your iPhone or iPad. Why another Hebrew keyboard? Simply long press any key to access nikudot! This is very cool!

Snapstouch is a cool website where you can convert photos to sketches, paintings, drawings or single shade images. Check it out!

September 2, 2016 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Here’s a really powerful video about bullying created by a 7th grader.

I know that I’ve written about before, but I wanted to remind everyone about this great site. For every question your students answer correctly, donates 10 grains of rice. You can even choose now from a variety of subjects.

Another reminder: don’t forget about GoNoodle! It’s a great site with lots of movement break videos. You do have to sign up for a free account.

From the good folks at Google: Google Maps Street View Treks lets users see what life is like from the road, in full panorama. And you can check out some really amazing sites like the Great Barrier Reef, the pyramids in Egypt and the Eiffel Tower. So cool!

August 25, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Sketchnoting at Camp

Here are some more samples of my continuing quest to become a sketchnoter. While spending two weeks at an overnight camp is a departure from the typical sketchnote-worthy activity, I thought it would be a good place to practice. Still loving the process!


July 21, 2016 Posted by | Sketchnoting | , , | Leave a comment

Sketchnoting at ISTE

One of my goals for my time at the ISTE Conference was to practice sketchnoting on the iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil and the Paper app. I had a great time doing it! I found that I was significantly less distracted when sketchnoting than if I was typing into a word processor, and thoroughly engaged (even though I was internally debating over which color to shade the box and how large to make the title).

I also attended two great sketchnoting sessions. One was presented by Matt Miller and the other was a panel facilitated by Vicki Davis and featured Kathy Schrock, Sylvia Duckworth and Carrie Baughcum talking about how they got started sketchnoting, how they use it with their students, and about some favorite resources.

My first attempts at sketchnoting during the conference appear below, in reverse order. I feel like I can already see how I improved, and that was just in a couple of days. Check back for more attempts (sketchnoting at URJ Camp Newman, anyone?) and for my thoughts on how I’ll teach this to actual students this fall.

Sketchnoting in Education session:

ISTE - 6

Using Games, Play, Digital Media to Build Your Own Maker Culture session:

ISTE - 7

Matt Miller’s Sketchnotes: Tools and Tactics for Visual Notetaking Session:

ISTE - 3

Sketchnoting Exercise from Matt’s session:

ISTE - 4

Innovation and Tradition in Jewish Education Jewish Educators’ Network

ISTE - 5

Innovative Learning Spaces session:

ISTE - 1

June 30, 2016 Posted by | ISTE, Sketchnoting | , , , , | 2 Comments

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