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Thursday, March 24, 2011

From Jewish Action: Technology in the Classroom - by Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky

Below is an article from the Spring 2011 edition of Jewish Action written by Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, Director of Educational Technology at Frisch.
You can read the entire article here.

Technology in the Classroom

Teachers often bemoan the fact that students who have been in yeshivah their entire lives often have difficulty deciphering a pasuk in Chumash. However, while all teachers agree that Hebrew reading skills are important, they rarely devote significant class time—especially in high school—to this important skill. The reason is simple. Teaching reading is boring and time-consuming. In the traditional yeshivah environment, where many hours are devoted to chavruta-style learning, perfecting reading skills in the majority of students may be an achievable goal. However, in a typical Jewish day school where classroom instruction is divided into forty-minute periods, teachers cannot spend time calling upon multiple readers without tuning out the rest of the class.

Enter Voicethread. Voicethread  is a free web-based application that allows one to record himself without using any special software. The teacher can post a piece of text and assign students to read it for homework. The student then logs in and, using a computer and a microphone (virtually every laptop today comes with a built-in microphone), the student reads the text back to the teacher. The teacher can then grade each student individually on his or her reading, even on a nightly basis, without taking a moment of class time.

What’s a Wiki?

Wiki is another great example of how web technology can be used in the classroom. Hawaiian for quick, wiki lives up to its name as a fast and easy way to create web sites that allow users to add and update content. The most famous example of a wiki is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia collaboratively created by thousands of volunteer contributors. At The Frisch School, where I serve as the director of educational technology, we use Wikispaces ( to create wikis for each grade level focused around a common theme. The goal is to tear down the classroom walls by fostering collaboration between different classes. Pages are edited by multiple teachers who post content from various classes related to the particular theme. 
Such online discussions are more than just homework assignments; they are valuable forums for students to flesh out their ideas about religion and life.
Therefore, a typical page can have material posted from Chumash, Navi, English and science classes. 

Students interact with the wiki primarily through discussion forums included on each page. These forums promote student reflection, participation, and interaction. In a typical classroom discussion, students have little time to reflect. Many thoughtful students who require more time to process information are sometimes left out of classroom discussions. In an online discussion, however, students can think over a question before composing a carefully crafted response. Some of the most profound responses have come from students who rarely speak up in class. Such online discussions are more than just homework assignments; they are valuable forums for students to flesh out their ideas about religion and life in a safe educational setting.

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