For the new year, we have compiled a list of “EdTech Tools for 2018” that we feel are very effective in the Jewish classroom. From assessments to presentations, timelines to games, these tools can transform your curriculum.

1. Wizer   

If you are looking for one online tool that can best enhance your instruction, Wizer is a good choice. It is an amazing tool for building varied, multi-sensory, interactive worksheets for students.

One advantage of Wizer is that it hosts many resources in one place. Review and analysis of previously learned material, and cultivation of new learning can be triggered through matching activities, open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, tag on an image, and more. In addition, images, audio recordings and videos can be incorporated in almost all Wizer activities. Thus, Wizer can be used to foster visual, oral, and auditory learning, and is a great tool for promoting second language acquisition.

Students find the visually appealing Wizer worksheets more engaging, and  the addition of multi-sensory activities encourages a more captivating learning experience that sparks student imagination and creativity.  Wizer also allows teachers to embed videos and other external activities directly into their worksheets so that students can complete an entire online lesson all within the same platform, which also allows for meaningful differentiated learning.

2. Hatanakh Maps

Hantanakh is a website made by Herzog College of Gush Etzion, Israel. The site, available in both English and Hebrew, is an invaluable resource for the Jewish classroom.The website includes Torah texts, articles from today’s Jewish leaders, an online concordance, recorded Torah classes, a “Mila Mancha” word finder and a Biblical mapping tool.

The “Maps” tool, available at this link, is a special highlight of Hatanakh, which allows users to view division of the map of Israel throughout many generations. The maps can be filtered by era (“The Beginning,” “The Forefathers,” “From Egypt to Canaan,” “Settling the Land,” “Monarchy,’ and “Return to Zion”) or by chapter of Tanach. This tools is very user friendly, so it can be easily accessed by teachers or students. Moving a cursor over the map allows the area to be expanded and explored in depth. Once each region is clicked on, a brief description of that region’s history pops up, along with all relevant Tanach references. There is also the option to view multiple generations’ map divisions simultaneously, for an easy way to compare and contrast Israel’s history; in addition, other map markers, such as tribal territories and bodies of water, can be added or removed. There is an option to view the map from either a modern or Biblical viewpoint and when the yellow character icon is clicked and placed on the map, a “street map” view is available.

All in all, the Hatanakh “Maps” feature is an essential addition to any Tanach, Jewish History or Israeli studies class in which the land of Israel throughout time is being discussed. For example, in a Chumash class teaching Parshat Shelach, the journey of the Mergalim through the land of Israel can easily be charted using this map; by filtering the map through chapter to Exodus:13, students can see the layout of Israel during this time period. In addition, the “Main Passageways” marker can be checked, to show the general paths that those exploring the land would have taken.  Teachers can expand upon the lesson by showcasing the differences between the division of the land of Israel during the eras of “From Egypt to Canaan” and “Settling the Land.”  A short tutorial on the maps feature can be found here.

3. Thinglink

Thinglink is a great presentation tool, which can be used to enhance any lesson. Images are uploaded as a background and then can be tagged to add content, such as text, videos, links, audio and more. When a student clicks on each customized tag, they can listen to or view any uploaded content to learn more about the chosen subject. Thinglinks are very simple to make but offer even more educational benefit when made into a “Thinglink tour,” taking the students from tag to tag, learning along the way. Tours can add even more interactive content when an external element, such as a Google form, is linked into a Thinglink tag.

To create a Thinglink, a free account must first be set up through Thinglink or by signing in through Google, Facebook or Twitter. Once logged in, click on “Create” and then “Upload Image.” Once your image is selected, you can begin adding tags to the image, which can be customized by color, size and style. External links, text, audio and videos can then be added to these tags, which embed directly into the Thinglink presentation. If uploading parts of a dialogue between two people or when making any other lesson that requires progression, tags can be numbered to allow students to easily follow along. An interactive tool such as Google forms, slides or spreadsheets can be embedded into another tag to conclude the lesson.

For example, a Thinglink can be used in a Chumash class, to teach the story of Akeidat Yitzchak. An image of the Akeidah can be uploaded as the background and tags can be added to the image with texts or recordings from the Torah verses that illustrate what is being depicted in the image. Students can also be directed, through another tag, to relevant links from sites such as Sefaria, or to applicable videos from Youtube or other sources. The lesson can be summarized in a Google form assessment, linked into the Thinglink presentation through a final image tag.

Overall, Thinglink is an amazing way to create fun, simple and easy-to-follow interactive presentations for any subject. A short tutorial on Thinglink can be found here.

4. Powtoons

Powtoons is a video creation tool which allows anyone to become an animator. Animated videos can be simply created through using set templates or can be specially crafted slide by slide. Powtoons has a variety of characters, objects, backgrounds and more to add to your video presentations. Each character has a variety of animated poses to choose from and every item added to each slide can be customized with some level of animation. Powtoons also allows you to upload any media content from your computer to add to your videos. Powtoons offers background music choices to choose from, or you can upload your own custom music or voice over track.

To create a Powtoon, you must first sign up for an account. A basic account is free, which allows you to use most features. Upgraded accounts are available starting at $19 a month and allow for the use of more features, such as high definition video quality and a larger selection of animated characters to add to your videos. Once signed in, click on “Create” and choose a video creation option. “Customize a popular template” allows you to choose from preset templates, including business pitches, book reports, birth announcements and more. “Build your story scene by scene” allows you to fill in set images to fit a story pattern. “Start from scratch” allows you to fully modify your animated creation by choosing the backgrounds, characters, objects and text that suit your needs. Through all of these options, as well as the addition of background music and voiceovers, no two videos look the same.

Powtoons have many applications in the Jewish classroom. Teachers can create a Powtoons video in order to tell a story or share an idea with their students in a creative way. A Powtoons video can be a great way to show an authentic Hebrew language conversation to students in an Ivrit classroom, such as demonstrating a sample conversation in Hebrew between a waiter and a customer at a restaurant. Powtoons can also be used to animate a story from the Torah, Talmud or Jewish history, to give students a true visual of what how an iconic story played out. Students can also create simple Powtoons as a final project, to demonstrate their acquired knowledge on a topic learned in class or at home. Using Powtoons, there are endless possibilities for creating engaging videos that will bring whatever subject you are teaching to life. A short Powtoons tutorial can be found here.

5. Voicethread

Voicethread is a sophisticated, versatile recording tool that creates lessons that includes video, images and sound.

VoiceThread comes with a cost, but in our opinion, it is well worth it, particularly for teachers of classical Jewish texts and/or Hebrew language.

There is no question that audio tools provide significant advantages for any class that includes fluency in its goals. Imagine giving all students the opportunity to read, and assessing their reading without taking up class time which leaves a majority of the students inactive.

Yet, audio tools have additional advantages for instruction in Jewish studies. For example, expressive or dramatic reading of a text can be an innovative assessment exercise, as the reading reflects the students’ understanding of the story or dialogue. Dramatic reading can also be incorporated into text instruction as a means to uncover or better understand textual commentary.

In teaching Hebrew, as well, audio tools enable students to develop expressive language, but also to asynchronously practice their communication skills by communicating with each other by means of a VoiceThread outside of class time. Why do we recommend VoiceThread when there are other audio tools out there for free or at a cheaper cost? VoiceThread is much more than an audio tool. It includes additional functions that enable you to create a complete and differentiated lesson using only one platform. These functions include background graphics, links and videos and a platform that allows for a virtual “conversation” to take place.

6. Edpuzzle

Edpuzzle is a great way to make YouTube videos more engaging for your students, by inserting audio notes and questions into your videos. As students are watching the video, the video will stop and the question will pop up. Only after students answer the question will the video continue playing.

Edpuzzle does require a login in order to create a video lesson. Once you’re signed in, you can search through the large database of pre-existing videos made by other teachers on a wide variety of subjects. To create your own video lesson, click on “Search” on the top toolbar to find the video you wish to use or add in your own link. You can preview the video and then click “use it” to proceed. Once your video has been selected, you can begin adding content. Click on the scissor icon in order to crop the video to the desired length, the microphone icon in order to add a voice over track for the entire video and the question mark icon in order to add questions to the video. Question types include both multiple choice and open ended questions and they can be formatted to include links and images within the questions. Once a video lesson is complete, it can be assigned to a class or shared via link.

Edpuzzles can be used in the Jewish classroom to make any video more engaging, to teach topics such as Hebrew language and Jewish holidays. A short tutorial on using Edpuzzle for the Jewish classroom can be found here.

7. JI Tap

JI Tap is an excellent resource for Jewish games for children. JI Tap utilizes the TinyTap platform, customized with Jewish themes, backgrounds, characters and Hebrew language. JI Tap games can currently only be created on an iPad but can be played on all electronic devices. In addition, teachers can use games created by others, categorized by both topic and age level, to share with their students as well.

To create a JI Tap game on an iPad, you must first create an account. Once signed in, click on the plus sign at the bottom to stare creating slides. The smiley face icon on the bottom left brings down the banner of available Jewish themed “packs” which include backgrounds, characters, key Hebrew phrases and images for each category. These theme packs span topics such as Jewish holidays, key Torah stories and more. The magnifying glass and camera icons allows you to search for images to upload from the internet and your iPad, respectively, to add to the slide. The text icon allows you to add text, in English or Hebrew, or to upload Hebrew texts from Sefaria to the slide. Once the slide is customized to your liking, interactive activities can be added, including “Sound Board,” which allows you to record on specific areas of the slide, “Cut a Shape Puzzle,” which allows you to create custom matching games from elements on your slide; “Ask a Question,” which allows you to ask questions which can be answered by tapping on specified parts of the slide; “and “Say Something,” which allows you to record content to a slide. Videos can also be embedded into slides and can be cropped to add in questions and comments.

The images on JI Tap are mainly suitable for younger students but the games can be customized for Jewish students of all ages. These games can be an excellent way to introduce or review a Jewish concept taught, teach Hebrew language and can also be a fun way to learn about Jewish themes or holidays.

8. Padlet

A Padlet is a collaborative, interactive bulletin board which can be modified in countless ways. A Padlet board can be set up by a teacher and then, once saved and shared, can be added to by students with comments, uploaded images, videos and more. There are a number of ways to arrange a Padlet board, which can change the look and organizational structure of the discussion.

To create a Padlet, you must first create an account or sign in through Google or Facebook. Once signed in, click “Join a Padlet” to collaborate on or remake an existing Padlet, or “Make a Padlet” to begin creating a new bulletin board. The layout options include “Wall,” which arranges content blocks as “bricks” throughout the wall; “Canvas” which scatters content blocks throughout the board; “Stream,” which creates a linear flowchart from the content blocks; “Grid,” which sorts the content blocks into rows; and “Shelf,” which organizes the content blocks into a series of columns. Each of these layouts can serve a different functional purpose and should be chosen based on the educational goals of the Padlet board. Once a layout has been selected, you can then name the board and either choose from a variety of background images or even upload your own image to set as the background. You can then begin adding to the Padlet by clicking on the plus sign, which allows you to add text and images, or even embed videos and some other external tools directly onto the Padlet. Padlets can be made to house a more complex, sophisticated discussion board, or they can be a resource for independent learning, in which a student can discover a lot of information in one place, making this a great tool for differentiated instruction.

Padlets can be a very beneficial, functional tool for the Jewish classroom. For example, students can learn all about a holiday such as Tu B’Shvat by accessing different videos, texts and more all linked into a Padlet. A Padlet can also be used to chart the flow of a Halachic text or a Torah story or to house multiple resources in one place, such as popular Israeli songs. A short tutorial on using Padlet in the Jewish classroom can be found here.

9. Sutori

Sutori is an excellent tool for creating interactive, educational timelines. You must first create an account or sign in through a Facebook, Google or Office 365 account. Sutori offers users a free 30 day trial account, in which all features are available for use. After the trial period, users can access a basic version of the site for free or can pay for the use of the premium features.

To create a new timeline, click on “Create a story” and then give your timeline a title and short introduction, as well as a background banner image. You can begin charting the flow of the timeline by giving a heading, which can be a specific date or time period, and then adding in events that happened during this time. Events can be added by clicking on the plus sign, which allows you to add in text, an audio recording, or additional headings. Images, videos and external tools can also be embedded directly into the timeline. Interactive elements can also be incorporated, including quizzes, forums and matching quizzes, which allow students to respond to the material by answering related questions or adding to a discussion on a topic . Once a timeline is completed, collaborators can be added or the timeline can be copied and modified by other users. Teachers can share their Sutori creations with their students for them to view and interact with either the entire timeline or with the individual educational materials which are incorporated.

A Sutori timeline can be customized for the Jewish classroom in many ways, to map out different aspects of Jewish history, such as the history of the city of Jerusalem, or Torah stories, such as the ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

10. Quizlet

Quizlet is a fantastic, simple tool which creates review games, incorporating images, text and recordings. By creating matching pairs, a “study set” is made which can be used as flashcards or in different versions of matching games. Quizlets are very simple to prepare so they can easily be created by students as well as teachers. Matching sets can easily be created in foreign languages as well, making this an excellent tool for teaching Hebrew.

To get started, a free account must first be created. Once signed in, you can search through the large database of existing Quizlet sets on a variety of subjects by clicking the “Search” button on the top toolbar. To create a new matching set, click “Create,” choose a title and then begin adding matching sets. Words can be matched to one another or a word can be matched to an image. As soon as a word is written in one column, Quizlet automatically displays images which match the written text. Since Quizlet recognizes Hebrew, words entered in Hebrew can easily be matched to either their English definitions or to related images. An upgraded teacher account allows you to also upload an image of your own choosing or to record content to match as well. Once the study set is completed, it can be played as a matching game, in which you must drag one half of the study set to the other in order to make a match; reviewed as flashcards or a test; or can be played as a “Gravity” game, in which half of the study set falls down as an asteroid and player can only progress when the correct matching text in entered. Players are timed as they are playing and can track their progress to compete with one another. To ensure that a lesson is being thoroughly reviewed by students, teachers can challenge their students to complete a Quizlet game under a specific time limit, ensuring that they continue playing until they reach their goal.

There are countless ways to use Quizlet in the Jewish classroom, including Hebrew language vocabulary review or matching of Tanach characters to psukim. A short tutorial on using Quizlet for the Jewish classroom can be found here.

Check out all our tools, tips and tutorials in our EdTech Toolkit

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