muse: n. a source of inspiration

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

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

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