This past semester, I gave a senior elective called Torah Tech. The idea of this class was to function as a "beta" class for various technologies that can be used to further Torah study. The class switched off between frontal and project based learning as I interspersed lessons on Sefer Yonah, Gemara Berachot, and Amos with lessons on the using PowerPoint effectively, breaking down a Talmudic text with Gemara Berura, researching sources with Bar Ilan's web-based Responsa Project, using Smart Notebook for interactive learning activities, and creating Prezis for dynamic presentations. Students also used Poll Everywhere to answer questions in real-time with 100% class participation using their cell phones, Etherpad and Wikis to collaborate on group projects, and Google Earth and NASA to simulate the total eclipse of the sun predicted by Amos. In general, I think this class was a success with students creating very impressive learning products and giving very positive feedback.
One weakness of this class was its lack of organization since I was giving this class for the first time and designing the instructional activities throughout the semester. There were also some key technologies that I did not use. For example, I did not use Voicethread for audio based discussions or textual reading exercises or use wikis or blogs for asynchronous online discussions. Since, I am giving this class to a new group for the spring semester, I will be able to better plan my lessons and utilize these various technologies.
Here is a proposed outline for my spring semester:
Project I: How to Navigate a Page of Talmud
- This project will feature a webquest on how to navigate a page of Talmud based on Eliezer Segal's Page of Talmud hypertext map.
- Students will then create a PowerPoint presentation after receiving a mini-lesson on creating effective PowerPoint presentations.
- This PowerPoint will be uploaded to Voicethread where they will create audio narrations of their PowerPoint slides in lieu of in-class presentations.
Project II: Learning, researching, and presenting a Sugya in Berachot Perek Tefillat Hashachar
- Students will learn the first amud of Tefillat Hashachar with Gemara Berura. They will discover how to use keywords and other textual clues to divide, classify, and connect the text based on its function in the sugya. This will include frontal learning with the text from Gemara Berura projected on the Smart Board and chavrusa learning with the students reviewing the text using the program.
- Students will research topics from this page of Gemara using both Bar llan's Responsa Project and like Mordechai Torczyner's Webshas and Aaron Ross' Chaburas. They will create sourcesheets based on the topics they researched.
- Students will create presentations using either Smart Notebook or Prezi.
- Students will learn the first two chapters of the book of Amos through interactive Smart Notebook lessons. Poll Everywhere will be used for classroom feedback and participation.
- Students will then use Google Docs Forms to choose which of chapters 3-9 they would like to present on. They will research these topics using both web-based sources like the Amos Hypermedia Bible and seforim from the library.
- Students will write a two-page paper about there topic using Etherpad for collaboration which will then be submitted to TurnItIn.
- They can then create any presentation they wish either with Prezi, Smart Notebook, or using low-tech medi like art. The only medium not allowed is PowerPoint. The presentation will then be loaded on a wiki page together with their paper and other supported materials.
This is my plan for the Torah Tech class Spring Semester. I welcome your constructive feedback.