Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tech Tips for Teachers: Lesson Planning Help

Smart Notebook Software lesson activities On the Smart Board website there are thousands of pre-designed lessons for the Smart Board using the Notebook software. These lessons are searchable by curriculum standards, subject, and grade level. You can download them into your My Documents folder, edit them to your unique needs, and use them with your classes. Even if you do not find a lesson appropriate for your classes, these lessons are great tools to see all of the capabilities of the Smart Board that you can utilize when designing your own lessons.

Daat: Jewish Learning and Spirit This site mostly in Hebrew created by Israel's Ministry of Religious Education features a vast database of curriculums, assessments, worksheets, maps and other illustrations, and learned articles on Tanakh (Bible), Talmud, Halakha, Jewish holidays and much more!!! This site is strong for all grades K-12 and is especially helpful for classes conducted Ivrit B'Ivrit. This site run by Torah Umesorah features the Creative Learning Pavilion, the world's largest database of materials created by Torah educators. It contains a clearinghouse for teacher submitted curriculums, school projects, assessment, bulletin board ideas and much more for grades K-12.

EduHound, Everything for education K-12 This website is a great resource for General Studies teachers in all subject areas and grades.

The Lookstein Center The Lookstein Center of the School of Education at Bar Ilan University is a service and research center deeply committed to enhancing the quality of Jewish education in the Diaspora. This site features Lookjed, the preeminent Jewish educators' bulletin board with over 3000 subscribers, Mifgashim, a spin-off of Lookjed on specialized subjects, and a vast database of Torah lesson plans, websites, and curriculum maps both teacher submitted and created by the Center. The educational materials on this site are especially strong for Middle School and High School.

The WebQuest Page This page gives teachers information and templates for creating a WebQuest which is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web.

WebQuest Design Patters Here are some easy to use templates for WebQuests on various topics and subject areas. All you need to do is find the WebQuest that closely matches your subject, copy it into Microsoft Word and edit it to your goals and objectives. You can then save your WebQuest to a public directory in Hillel Yeshiva. This is a vitally important site!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Using Google

The following article by Michael Miller about Google's tricks can be found in its original at
It is so good that I am quoting it verbatum below.

"Google Is a Calculator
When you can’t be troubled to reach over and pick up
the handheld calculator sitting on your desk, you can use Google as a high-tech
web-based calculator. All you have to do is enter your equation or formula into
the standard Google search box, and then click the Google Search button. The
result of the calculation is displayed on the search results page; it’s that
You can use the standard algebraic operators to construct your
calculations—+, -, x, and / for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and
division, accordingly. For example, to add 2 plus 3, enter 2 + 3 and press
Enter. To divide 10 by 2, enter 10 / 2, and so on.
And Google’s calculator isn’t limited to basic addition and multiplication.

It can also handle more advanced calculations, trigonometric functions,
inverse trigonometric functions, hyperbolic functions, and logarithmic functions.
Just enter the proper formula into the search box, and wait for Google to
display the answer.

Google Knows Mathematical Constants
In addition to performing calculations, Google also
knows a variety of mathematical and scientific constants, such as pi, Avogadro’s
Number, and Planck’s Constant. It also knows the radius of the Earth, the mass
of the sun, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, and a lot
For example, if you’re not sure what the value of pi is, just enter pi
into the Search box and press Enter; Google returns 3.14159265, as it should.
How about the speed of light? Enter speed of light, and Google returns
299,792,458 m/s. It’s amazing what Google knows.

Google Converts Units of Measure
Another surprise is that Google’s calculator also handles
conversions. It knows miles and meters, furlongs and light years, seconds and
fortnights, and even angstroms and Smoots—and can convert from one unit of
measurement to another.
The key to using the Google calculator as a
converter is to express your query using the proper syntax. In essence, you want
to start with the first measure, followed by the word "in," followed by the
second unit of measure. A general query looks like this: x firstunits in
For example, to find out how many feet equal a meter, enter the
query 1 meter in feet. Not sure how many teaspoons are in a cup? Enter 1 cup in
teaspoons. Want to convert 100 U.S. dollars into Euros? Then enter 100 usd in
euros. And so on and so forth.

Google Is a Dictionary
Want to look up the
definition of a particular word, but don’t want to bother pulling out the old
hardcover dictionary? Not sure of a specific spelling? Then use Google as an
online dictionary to look up any word you can think of. It’s easy—and there are
two ways to do it.
The first approach to looking up definitions is to use a
´All you have to do is enter the keywords what is in your query, followed by the
word in question. (No question mark is necessary.) For example, to look up the
definition of the word "defenestrate," enter what is defenestrate.
When you use a "what is" search, Google returns a standard search results page

(typically with several useful definition links in the list), as well as a definition
section at the top of the page. This section includes a short definition of the
word and two useful links. The first link, disguised as the result title, is
actually a link to other definitions of the word on the web. The second link,
Definition in Context, displays an example of the word used in a sentence.

Google Is a Glossary
Even more definitions are available when you use the
Google Glossary feature. Google Glossary is what Google calls it, anyway;
really, it’s just another advanced search operator that produces some very
specific results.
The operator in question is define:. Use this operator
before the word you want defined, with no spaces between. So, for example, if
you want to define the word "defenestrate," enter the query
When your query includes the define: operator, Google
displays a special definitions page. This page includes all the definitions for
the word that Google found on the web; click a link to view the full definition.
And here’s something else to know. If you want to define a phrase, use the
define: operator but put the phrase in quotation marks. For example, to define
the phrase "peer to peer", enter the query define:"peer to peer".

Google Lists All the Facts
When you’re looking for hard facts, Google might be able
to help. Yes, Google always returns a list of sites that match your specific
query, but if you phrase your query correctly—and are searching for a fact that
Google has pre-identified—you can get the precise information you need at the
top of the search results page.
What types of information are we talking
about? Fact-based information, such as birthdates, birthplaces, population, and
so on. All you have to do is enter a query that states the fact you want to
know. For example:
To find the population of San Francisco, enter population
san Francisco.
To find where Mark Twain was born, enter birthplace mark
To find when President Bill Clinton was born, enter birthday bill
To find when Raymond Chandler died, enter die raymond chandler.
To find who is the president of Germany, enter president germany.
answers to these questions are displayed at the top of your search results page.
You get the precise answer to your question, according to the referenced
website. Click the associated link to learn more from this source.

Google Displays Weather Reports
Did you know that Google can be used to find and
display current weather conditions and forecasts? It’s a pretty easy search; all
you have to do is enter the keyword weather, followed by the location. You can
enter the location as a city name, city plus state, or Zip code. For example, to
view the weather forecast for Minneapolis, enter weather minneapolis.
Google displays current weather conditions and a four-day forecast at the top of the
search results page. And, while this is a good summary report, you may want to
click through to the more detailed forecasts offered in the standard search
results listings below the four-day forecast.

Google Knows Current Airport Conditions
Weather information is important to travelers, as is information
about flight and airport delays. Fortunately, you can use the main Google search
page to search for this information, just as you did with weather
To search for weather conditions and delays at a particular
airport, all you have to do is enter the airport’s three-letter code, followed
by the word airport. For example, to view conditions at the Minneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport (with the code MSP), enter msp airport. This displays a
link to conditions at the chosen airport; click this link for detailed

Google Tracks Flight Status
Google also lets you track the status of any U.S. flight and many

international flights. All you have to do is enter the flight number
into the Google search box. For example, to find out the
status of United Airlines flight 116, enter ua116.
Google now displays links
to three sites that let you track the flight status—Travelocity, Expedia, and
fboweb. Click one of these links to view real-time flight status—including maps
of where the plane is in its route.

Google Tracks Packages
Airline flights aren’t the only things you can track with Google. Google

also lets you track the status of package deliveries, from the
U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. All you have to do is
enter the package’s tracking number into the Google search
box, and Google will display a link to the service’s tracking page for that

Google Is a Giant Phone Directory
As part of its massive database of information, Google

now includes listings for millions of U.S. households in
what it calls the Google PhoneBook. You search the

PhoneBook listings from the main Google search box,
using specific query parameters.
All you have to do is enter some combination of the

following parameters: first name (or initial),
last name, city, state, or Zip code. For example, to

search for John Smith in Minneapolis, enter john smith minneapolis mn.
As you might suspect, the more details you provide,
the more targeted your results will be.
When you enter your query using one of these methods,

Google returns a search result page with a PhoneBook
Results item at the top of the results list. The two or three names
listed here aren’t the only matches in the Google PhoneBook, however. To see the
other matching names, click the PhoneBook Results link; this displays a full
page of PhoneBook listings.
And here’s something even more cool—Google lets
you perform reverse phone number lookups. Just enter the full phone number,
including area code, into the standard Google search box. You can enter all 10
numbers in a row, without hyphens (like this: 1234567890), or use the standard
hyphenated form (like this: 123-456-7890); Google accepts either method. When
you click the search button, Google displays a single matching PhoneBook

Google Knows Area Codes
It goes without saying that if Google
knows phone numbers, it also knows area codes. If you have an area code and want
to know which city it serves, just enter the area code; Google will return the
city in which that area code resides.

Google Has Movie Information
Numbers aren’t the only types of information available via a Google lookup. You can also
use the standard Google search box to look up movie reviews and showtimes. All
you have to do is enter the word movies followed by the name of the movie. For
example, to find out when Casino Royale is showing in your neighborhood, enter
movies casino royale.
Google now displays a movie information section at the
top of the search results page. From here you can click to view movie reviews,
showtimes for a theater near you, and so on.
And if you can’t remember the
name of a given movie, you can use Google to figure it out for you. Just enter
the movie: operator, followed by whatever information you do know—an actor’s
name, the movie’s director, a plot detail, or whatever. Google returns a list of
movies that match your search criteria, along with reviews for each movie
listed. Click the movie title to view more reviews for that movie.

Google Loves Music
Google not only lets you search for movie information, it also is
a great search engine for music. Google knows the names of tens of thousands of
popular performers; all you have to do is enter the performer’s name in the
search box, and Google returns specific information about that performer.
For example, when you search for norah jones, Google displays a Norah Jones section
at the top of the search results page. This section includes a brief listing of
the artist’s most recent (or most well-known) albums and songs.
And there’s more. Click the performer’s name and you see a visual listing of the artist’s
albums. Click any album art or title and you see a listing of album tracks, a
link to album reviews, and links to download tracks from the album from a
variety of online music stores. Back on the main artist page, there are also
links to websites devoted to the artist, news about the artist, photos of the
artist, and mentions of the artists in Google Groups discussion forums.
Google Knows the Answer to the Ultimate Question

Let’s return to Google’s calculator for one final hidden feature.
As you recall, the Google calculator
has been hardwired to include the answers to some fairly complex—and fairly
fanciful—calculations. For a bit of fun, try entering the query what is the
answer to life the universe and everything. Google’s answer should delight
long-time fans of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (It’s
"42", in case you were wondering.)"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tech Tips for Teachers: MS Office 2007

Those of you who have tried out Microsoft Office 2007 will notice that it is a massive upgrade from Office 2003. They did not just update the program with some new features but totally redesigned it from the ground up. I happen to think that they have been succesful in greatly simplifying the program and making it more user friendly but those who were power users of previous versions of Office could be slightly annoyed at first since everything is in a different place.

There are 4 major differences between Office 2007 and Office 2003. I will focus on Word but the same differences exist in varying degrees in other Office programs like Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

1) The Office Button or what I call the "Magic" Button. You will notice on the upper right hand corner of every Office 2007 application a cirle with the Office symbol on this. This is not a fancy design. It is a button which has in it all of the major functions like New, Open, Save, Save As, Print etc. Those of you who are familar with the Mac will see that this is just like the Mac Apple in the upper right hand corner of every Mac application. The good thing about this button is that it is always available no matter what part of the program you are in.

2) The new menus. All of the old menus from MS Word have been changed. Instead of File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, Window, and Help, you have Home, Insert, Page Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View. These new buttons make sense as they are arranged chronologically from beginning to create a document with basic editting tools in Home, to inserting pictures or tables into the document in Insert, to changing the page margins in Layout etc. However for those of us who knew where everything was in the old menus it will take getting used to.

3) The ribbon. The most conspicuous new feature of Office 2007 is the ribbon. This is a graphical interface where all of the functions in the application appear. What makes the ribbon dynamic is that when you start specialized functions like inserting a table of making a text box new ribbons appear that are specific to that task. If you cannot find things with the new menus and ribbon in Office 2007, you can watch the following online tutorial:

If you would like to hide the ribbon you can by doing the following: Click Customize Quick Access Toolbar (on the top of the program). In the list, click Minimize the Ribbon. Full instructions appear here:

4) The new file format, X. All Office 2007 files are saved in a new format with an X at the end. For example, Word documents are docx, PowerPoint presentations are pptx. This type of file can only be opened by the Office 2007 program not by versions 2003 or earlier. In other words it is not backwards compatible. There are 3 solutions to this. 1) You can save all your files in the previous version of Office called Compatibility Mode. This can be done by pressing the "Magic" Button choosing Save As and choosing 1997-2003. You will lose some advanced elements when saving an Office 2007 file in this earlier version. 2) You can covert your file into a PDF that can be viewed by anyone who has Adobe Acrobat Reader. This can be done by pressing the "Magic" Button and choosing Save As and choosing Adobe PDF (if you have Adobe Acrobat). 3) Finally you can download a patch to your computer running a previous version of Office that will allow it to open Office 2007 files. You can find this patch at

Altogether, I like the new Office 2007 and think it will help me work more creatively and efficiently once I get used to it. To read a a detailed description of Office 2007 go to Microsoft's Office 2007 website:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tech Tips for Teachers

Here are 4 Tech Tips I recommend for Teachers.

1. Use shortcuts.

The comic Frazz talks about how wonderful it would be if we could use Control Z in real life to "Undo" mistakes we make in real life. Control Z is just one example of the common computer shortcuts one can use to make life easier and faster when using Windows.

Here are some common shortcuts:

Common Windows Shortcuts and Combinations
CTRL-X - Cut
CTRL-C - Copy
CTRL-V - Paste
CTRL-Z - Undo
CTRL-Y -Redo
CTRL-A - Select All
CTRL-S - Save
CTRL-F - Find
CTRL-N - New (including opening a new
browser window)
CTRL-P - Print
CTRL-W - Close Window/Document
- Open Window/Document

The only one that I would add to this list is Control Alt Delete which brings you into the task manager to close programs or shut down when Windows is crashing (as it often does)

2. Use email to communicate with parents and students. Just be careful to keep a positive tone in all of your emails and only send jokes to friends and family.The 2 most important rules of email etiquette are:

Mind Your Manners: Think of the basic rules you learned growing up, like saying please and thank you. Address people you don't know as Mr., Mrs., or Dr. Only address someone by first name if they imply it's okay to do so.

Watch Your Tone: Merriam-Webster defines tone as an "accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion." It is very difficult to express tone in writing. You want to come across as respectful, friendly, and approachable. You don't want to sound curt or demanding.

32 common email etiquette rules are:

1. Be concise and to the

2. Answer all
questions, and pre-empty further questions

3. Use proper spelling, grammar &

4. Make it

5. Use
templates for frequently used responses

6. Answer swiftly
7. Do not attach unnecessary files
8. Use proper structure
& layout

9. Do not
overuse the high priority option

10. Do not write in CAPITALS
11. Don't leave out the
message thread

12. Add disclaimers to your

13. Read the email
before you send it

14. Do not overuse Reply to All
15. Mailings > use the
bcc: field or do a mail merge

16. Take care with abbreviations
and emoticons

17. Be
careful with formatting

18. Take care with rich text and HTML

19. Do not
forward chain letters

20. Do not request delivery and read

21. Do not ask
to recall a message.

22. Do not copy a message or attachment
without permission

23. Do not use email to discuss
confidential information

24. Use a meaningful subject
25. Use active instead of

26. Avoid using

27. Avoid long sentences
28. Don't send or forward emails
containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks

29. Don't forward virus hoaxes
and chain letters

30. Keep
your language gender neutral

31. Don't reply to spam
32. Use cc: field sparingly

3. Add a technology component to assignments in order to reach all types of learners. Even if you do not know how to use PowerPoint or create web pages yourself, many of your students do. When assigning visual presentations, give some of the options for students to create PowerPoint presentations or webpages. You will be amazed with what you get. Here is one example of a very successful web based assignment.

4. Use Webquests to actively engage students in the learning process. According to Bernie Dodge of the University of San Diego:

A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web.
WebQuests are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

With the students actively engaged, the role of the teacher shifts from "Sage on the Stage" to "Guide on the Side".

Here are some examples of webquests that I have found to be helpful:

Here is a Webquest about Webquests created by Bernie Dodge, one of the pioneering developers of Webquests.

Here are Webquest design patterns or templates with examples of Webquests in many different subject areas.

WebQuests - Web-Based Lesson Plans, Arranged by Dewey Decimal Classification

The WebQuests on this page have been written and designed by students preparing to become teachers. They were created in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a course entitled Integrating Technology Across the Curriculum. After reviewing these projects, please feel free to send your questions, comments and/or suggestions to their instructors, Kimberlye Joyce, M.Ed. and Patricia Stohr-Hunt, Ph.D.

A Webquest on how to navigate a page of Talmud. This is a great introduction to Talmud learning.

A Webquest on the Meshe Stele and how it relates to Melachim II Ch. 4.


WebQuests from the Judaic Web Institue for Teachers run by Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago.


More WebQuests from the Judaic Web Institue for Teachers.

Webquests by Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

Monday, October 15, 2007

Andrew Keen: Critic of Web 2.0

I found an interesting interview with Andrew Keen who is a critic of new technologies on the Internet like YouTube MySpace and Wikipedia. You can read it at: Jersey Blogs.

He says what these sites lack is perspective and an evaluation of events with some perspective of history. For example, he notes that the entry in Wikipedia on Pamela Anderson is as long and meticulously footnoted as the entry on Joan of Arc. He also decries the Internet's use of anonymous critics who contribute to a debased online dialogue (if you can call it that) without ever being held accountable for it.

Even though I am an avowed techie, I agree with most of Andrew Keen's points. There is a reason why I prominently display my name and picture in my blog and use it as a venue to develop and share my ideas about technology which enhance my career as a Director of Educational Technology. I have not created a MySpace or FaceBook page for myself and refuse to do so because I want to encourage the Internet and technology as a thoughtful and mind expanding excercise.