Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Friday, March 28, 2008

Inspirational Stories in the News

Sometimes we need to give ourselves and our students a break from the daily grind and give them something positive to think about. One way to inspire and enlighten our students is to make them aware of inspirational stories from the news media via the Internet. Often we can not only give our students a print article but we can show them a video segment about the story directly from a website or downloaded onto a Smart Board using Video Download Helper, an extension from Mozilla Firefox. These can be great discussion starters or topics for written assignments by our students. I have 2 stories in mind that I would like to share.

  1. A number of your have heard about Shimon Waronker, a Habad Hasidic Jew who as principal of a school in the Bronx was able to change the culture of a tough school. Here is a link to an article about him from the New York Times: In Bronx School, Culture Shock, Then Revival. Here is a New York Times Video about him currently on YouTube: NBC News had an even better video on Shimon Waronker which you can access here:
  2. Another inspirational story about a bunch of Yeshiva girls and their campaign to stop Lashon Hara, gossip appeared in yesterdays New York Times, Weaning Teenagers Off Gossip, for One Hour at a Time

One more great feature about the New York Times website is their online dictionary. Most people don't know about this. (I stumbled across it by mistake.)When you click on any word in an online New York Times article, it gives you a detailed dictionary definition of the word. For example, when you click on "grievous" you get the following definition from the American Heritage Dictionary:

griev·ous (grē'vəs)

  1. Causing grief, pain, or anguish: a grievous loss.
  2. Serious or dire; grave: a grievous crime.

[Anglo-Norman grevous, from grever, to harm, aggrieve, from Latin gravāre, to burden. See grieve.]

grievously griev'ous·ly
grievousness griev'ous·ness

This feature is a great tool to help improve our students' vocabulary and comprehension.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The interactive nature of the Internet is a great way to show timelines that illustrate important events together with supporting links, documents, and other media. This can be great for anything where time and place matters including history, Jewish and general, Tanach, literature, art, and scientific discoveries. I always tell my students that while memorizing dozens of dates is not important, knowing how events relate to each other, the order of events, and general epochs in history is very important. I also like to choose a few anchor dates that students are responsible to know and then they must know how other events relate to those dates along a timeline. For example, in Tanach and Jewish history students need to know 1000 BCE (the founding of Jerusalem), 586 BCE (the destruction of the First Temple), 70 CE (the destruction of the Second Temple), 200 CE (the redaction of the Mishna), 500 CE (the redaction of the Talmud), 1096 CE (the first Crusade), and 1492 CE (the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Using a timeline it is very easy to show students how these anchor dates and other key dates in various disciplines relate to other events throughout history. Below you will many useful timelines sorted by discipline. Click on each blue underline and it will lead you to the website that it is linked to. Enjoy!

American History

National Constitution Center Timeline of the United States Constitution from its inception until today. This site contains many great supported documents and multi-media links.

The History Place - U.S. Civil War 1861-1865 Timeline of the Civil War including many period photographs and hyperlinks to famous people and events.

The Presidential Timeline Timeline of 20th century US Presidents from Herbert Hoover until Bill Clinton.

Martin Luther King Timeline of the life of Martin Luther King

Encyclopedia Smithsonian: American History Timeline

Jewish History Among the many features of this award winning website is a timeline with a slider that lets you view Jerusalem from the modern day back to the ancient past. It also has another interactive timeline here:

Heritage Timeline of the Jewish people from antiquity until today based on the PBS Documentary: Heritage: Civilization and the Jews.

Jewish America Traditional timeline of Jewish history using both the Hebrew and standard dates from the Creation until modern times.

Significant Events In Jewish And World History Another timeline from Jewish America.

Jewish History Jewish History Timeline from the destruction of the Second Temple until today.

Internet Jewish History Sourcebook Internet sources on Jewish History arranged by time period. Timeline of Jewish History.

Timeline for the History of Judaism Jewish History Timeline and supporting documents from the Jewish Virtual Library.

Crash Course in Jewish History - Timelines 2000 years of Jewish History at a glance using a graphical interface.

A Timeline of Jewish History - The Pedagogic Center Timeline of Jewish History from Creation until today from the Department for Jewish Zionist Education of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Timeline of 350 years of American Jewish History.

National Museum of American Jewish History Timeline with events in American History, American Jewish History, and World Jewish History side by side.

Digital History Timeline of American History with a map of the United States and a slider to scroll to each time period.

World History

Imperial History of the Middle East 5000 years of Middle East History with interactive map and timeline in 90 seconds.

World History : HyperHistory 3000 years of world history

History of Religion 5000 years of history of religion in 90 seconds.

Roman Empire Map The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Ancient Roman Timeline & Dates

Maps of War - Maps Various interactive maps and timelines.

The Great War. Timeline. Timeline of World War I based on the PBS documentary: The Great War.


DNA Interactive This timeline gives a history of the discovery of DNA from the 1920s until today.

Art History

Timeline of Art History The Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of art history from prehistoric times through today with many examples from each time period.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Interesting Technology Posts from the NY Times

Whatever your opinion about the NY Times news reporting (which I often find to be deplorable especially about Israel) its Technology articles are excellent. I find they are both a resource for new technologies that are coming into the market and for commenting on current trends in technology. Especially noteworthy is David Pogue whose NY Times blog is irreverent and insightful. For example, a few weeks ago he posted about the real dangers of the Internet in How Dangerous is the Internet. He observed that the dangers of child predators online is completely overblown by the media since most kids who are smart enough not to talk to strangers in the real world will identify a Cyber Stalker in a second. The real danger he observed with the Internet for children is cyber bullying in which kids use the power of quickly sharing information online coupled with the ability to remain anonymous to post obnoxious and disgusting pictures and comments about their fellow students. My own experience in schools confirms David Pogue's observations.

I found a number of interesting articles in this last Sunday's New York Times (March 9, 2008) that I wanted to share. The most notable is: Text Generation Gap: U R 2 Old (JK)
By Laura M. Holson. She explains the phenomenon of text messaging which most of us older than 30 might be mystified by but most of our students and children find to be a regular part of life. The most interesting anecdote is when a father commented to his teenage daughter and her friends who were riding in the back seat about a movie star. The daughter flippantly stated: "Dad you're so out of it!" and there was silence. The father believed the girls were engrossed in their own thoughts but then saw each of them with their cell phones text messaging. When he commented that it was rude to text message other people when your friends are in the car, they commented that they were not being rude. They were text messaging each other and they just did not want their father to overhear their conversation. It is amazing how with text messaging children have created their own world often free of adult supervision. They have even created their own language with the many keyboard shortcuts they use.

Another article: Coming Soon: Nothing Between You and Your Machine By John Markoff, describes the latest web technologies which will soon allow users to navigate pictures over cyberspace without ever having to interact with the web pages that these pictures come from. Finally, The Faculty Is Remote, but Not Detached By Eve Tahmincioglu, describes the burgeoning field of online higher education courses. It discusses its pros and cons in terms of how much it can emulate a real educational classroom experience but at the same times the imitations of these systems over real life interaction in the classroom.

Friday, March 07, 2008


The Internet is a great resource for finding biographical information about famous people. Our students favorite website for this is Wikipedia. This website is not authoritative since it literally can be written by anyone. It also lacks perspective since celebrities in popular culture take on as much prominence as historical figures whose importance has been established through their legacy over time. For example, the entries in Wikipedia for Britney Spears and Joan of Arc both contain around 8,000 words.

However, Wikipedia is a great resource for images and useful links about a famous person. For example, the Wikipedia entry on Rashi ( yielded the following useful links:

Besides Wikipedia, there are many authoritative websites for both Torah Studies and General Studies that provide useful biographical material about famous people.
My favorite site for information about the people in the Talmud and other famous halachic works is Eliezer Segal's interactive image map of a page of Talmud: When you click on any part of the page it tells you about it so if you click on Talmud it tells you about he writing of the Talmud, if you click on Tosafot it tells you about them etc. This is a great resource to give to students when they have research projects. You can also design a classroom activity using the laptop cart where students answer a series of questions based on this site and create a project. Here is a link to the research project that I assigned based on Eliezer Segal's site: Eliezer Segal also has image map of pages of Mishna, Chumash Mikraot Gedolot, and the Shulchan Aruch.

Here are some other biographical sources for Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim:

Aaron Ross' Chabura-Net also contains biographies of famous Rishonim and Acharonim and can be accessed here: 2 other great resources for Jewish biographies is Aish Hatorah's Crash Course in Jewish History: the Jewish Encyclopedia: The Jewish Encyclopedia contains the complete text of the 1906 edition. Obviously, this means that such 20th century phenomenon like the Holocaust and the State of Israel do not have entries but for famous rabbis from the Mishna, Gemara, Gaonim, Rishonim, and most Acharonim the entries are very comprehensive.

For General Studies, I have found the resources from the Biography channel and A&E to be very good. Here is the biography channel: and here is their classroom resource: Here is A&E's classroom resource:
Here are some other useful resources for biographies of famous people:

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I Need a Virtual Break. No, Really.

I found this recent NY Times article:
Published: March 2, 2008
The author tries taking a real day off by fully disconnecting himself from his cellphone, land line and computer.
The author discovers what we Jews have always known that everyone needs a break from technology at least one day a week. God wants us to be creative, to imitate him through technological advancement. In the last two centuries with the industrial revolution and especially in the last two decades with the rise of the Internet and wireless communication, technology has become a pervasive and indispensable part of our lives. But one day a week every human being needs a break from technology.

I am a BlackBerry addict. I check my email as a part of my morning ritual and as the last thing before I go to sleep. However, it is really invigorating to have the Shabbos when the BlackBerry is turned off and I cannot check any emails, voice messages, or RSS feeds on the web. Everyone can use a virtual break to enjoy the family, sit down and have real conversations without the assistance of technology, and just to think, read, daven, and learn Torah. It is great to see that the value of the Shabbos is now being rediscovered in this technological age.