Using Aleph Beta in the Classroom
Using Aleph Beta in the Classroom
Come join Beth Lesch for a tour of Aleph Beta resources that can help bring the Torah to life in your classroom or homeschool setting, as well as ideas about how to turn these resources into engaging lessons or assignments. Click here to access the document that Beth shares in the video.
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- Access to live events with Rabbi Fohrman
- A license for public viewing, not available at any other membership level
And our most important feature……
10. The ability to create up to 30 student accounts for your students to use at home!
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Beth: All right, great. Thank you everyone for the introductions. Now we're going to get started in earnest. So the first thing that I want to do with you is share this document. I'm going to go ahead and put it in the chat to everyone, and that's going to be our magic document for today, and I'm going to share my screen as well. If you need to leave early, then the most important stuff of what I'm going over is on this chart.
These are the four things that I want to highlight at Aleph Beta that I think are going to be resources that are useful in a formal classroom or in a family setting, in a homeschool setting, in an after-school Hebrew school setting, so on and so forth. The first are teacher guides. The second are parasha guides. The third are parasha podcasts and the fourth are message boards.
It's a little hard for me to go back and forth between seeing what's on my screen, seeing your faces and seeing what's on the chat, so I want to put the impetus on you guys to interrupt me if you've got questions. Feel free to unmute yourself and say, hey Beth, and then I'm happy to stop. I will stop at the very end to try to answer all of your questions.
So here's what I want you to know. First of all, teacher guides are a wonderful product -- I think I should take a step backwards -- for those of you who have no idea what Aleph Beta is, you've just heard that it is a resource that has some great Torah stuff, so we are an online Torah media company. Our primary product that we're really famous for is making, like I said, very sleekly produced animated videos about parasha and about holidays. That's our bread and butter. That's how we got started.
We also dabble in some other mediums. We also have just straight audio podcasts. We also have some written guides, and we dabble in content that is not just holiday or parasha. We have also some deeper-dive material that either explores ideas by certain themes, like Jewish prayer, but we also have things that cover a wider range of texts, so not just something on Parashat Lech Lecha, but here is a ten-part audio series that covers the first five chapters of Genesis, of Bereishit, for example. Once we start exploring the website, I'll show you where to find that stuff, but, again, that is our bread and butter. Any questions about that so far? Okay, great.
Let me just give you -- just so everyone knows what it is that we're talking about, I'll just give you an example I want to play for one minute. Those of you who are Aleph Beta long-time fans, this is not going to come as any surprise to you, but those of you who are completely new, so here's an example of -- so Tisha B'Av is coming up. Tisha B'Av is a big time of year for us because it's a holiday during which people are allowed to watch videos and they spend the whole day watching videos, so here's one minute of what an Aleph Beta video looks like so you get a sense of who we are and what we do.
Rabbi Fohrman: Hi, everybody. This is Rabbi David Fohrman and you are watching Aleph Beta. Tisha B'Av is upon us. What are we supposed to do on this day? What do we do on the day? We read a book called Lamentations. We sing laments. It seems pretty clear what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to mourn. We're supposed to cry, but I have a question for you. Is that enough? Mourning and crying is what you do as an instinctive reaction to loss, but it doesn't change the loss.
Okay, so maybe this year, you come home from Eichah in your bare feet, and then, you read some Lamentations in the morning and you're feeling a little sad. Just to make yourself feel a little sadder, maybe you'll watch some of Schindler's List. Then, you know, if you can cry a little bit, have you sort of done what you're supposed to do on Tisha B'Av, or is there more to do? If there's more, what more would that be?
Here's a way, maybe, we should think about it. What does effective mourning look like? Is there such a thing as effective mourning? Mourning that doesn't just mourn loss, but does something too, is reparative, restorative in some way? I think we have a model for that in the Torah. Rachel, mother of our people. That's, at least, how Jeremiah seems to see it. I'm referring right now to probably the most famous verses in the entire book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah actually portrays the afterlife of another biblical figure. We are given a vision of Rachel weeping on high in the realms of heaven. 'Kol beramah nishma,' he says, there's a voice that's heard on high. 'N'hi b'chi tamrurim,' a voice that's crying bitter, bitter cries. 'Rachel mevakah al baneha,' it's the voice of Rachel. She's crying over her children being led into exile.
Beth: Okay, I'm going to stop the video over there, but the reason I wanted to you show that was, again, just to give you a taste of what it is that we do here at Aleph Beta, what makes our videos a little bit unique. Rabbi Fohrman starts with what feels to me like a sort of universal pain point, like everyone is sort of struggling with, how do you do Tisha B'Av right? You're supposed to sit on the floor and make yourself cry? What's that all about? How do I do it authentically? Then, it's going to dive into this text from Yirmiyahu, from Jeremiah, and it's going to do a deep, deep textual study through the lens of a couple of famous midrashim in order to better understand these verses and bring them alive in a way that will transform your Tisha B'Av experience.
It's one of my favorite videos, and we won't watch the whole thing now, but I highly recommend it. That's a taste of what we do and what it actually looks like. Let's go back now to this using Aleph Beta in your classroom. So, teacher guides. This is a product that we developed, that we designed specifically for teachers for the purpose of taking an Aleph Beta video and integrating it into your lesson plan.
When I say integrating it, I mean the video itself. The idea is that you, as a teacher in a classroom, would be screencasting an Aleph Beta video, and the teacher guide is a guide for you. It's not something that you hand out to students. It's a guide for you in order to help to translate those ideas.
So I'll give you an example of what one of them looks like. This is a teacher guide on one of our Parashat Bereishit videos. So the teacher guide literally tells you, okay, so here are some points to pause and discussion topics. 'Before the video starts, you might want to prompt conversation among your students by posing this question, and then, pause the video at 51 seconds and ask this question. Then, pause the video at six minutes and thirteen seconds and ask this question.'
So it's a great way to be able to screencast something and then pause it and make it more personalized and make it more interactive by spurring that kind of conversation. Probably many of you have become experts in Zoom the last few months, but for a larger class, you could have breakout rooms where students are getting into groups of three or four in order to have these kinds of conversations, so that everyone has a chance to speak, and then coming back together as a class to be able to report back on their ideas.
So every teacher guide that you find is going to have this cheat sheet. Each teacher guide is also going to have this section on From Principle to Practice. So it's going to take the ideas in the video and then try to prompt the students to ask, okay, that's nice, that's academic. That's in the video, but what might this look like in my life? How might this change the way that I either view things or actually take action? That's a Level Two discussion that can come on the tails of the video, and I can easily imagine this becoming an assignment. Write an essay about how you would take this From Principle to Practice. Create a video, make a speech, create some kind of interpretive art project, something that captures how you would take this From Principle to Practice.
The next page what is included in many of our teacher guides is some kind of printable worksheet that is meant to be circulated to the students that allows them to check for their own comprehension and be engaged as they're going through the process of watching the videos. So in this case, the student would have an eye out while they're watching for, how is 'shelo asani ishah,' 'for not making me a woman' -- how is this brachah, blessing, as part of our morning blessings, explained by the Gemara, explained by Rashi, and explained by Rabbi Fohrman? Then, step two, what do you think of this explanation? Gemara, Rashi, and Rabbi Fohrman?
One thing that I'll highlight here -- one thing that we talk about all of the time at Aleph Beta, in terms of our educational philosophy, is evidence interpretation. Step one is, okay, what does the text say? When I read the first chapter of Bereishit, of Genesis, what is it telling me? I notice that the word tov, good, appears over and over and over again in the first chapter, and then I notice that in the second chapter, God says lo tov, God says 'not good.' Are those connected in some way? I'm noticing they must be connected. That's evidence, that's sort of objective.
Step two is interpretation. Interpretation is, okay, well, what do I make of it? What do I think that the Torah is trying to convey to me by juxtaposing those things, by offering me those intertextual parallels to notice and pick up on? That's never objective. In every single one of our videos, Rabbi Fohrman or the other scholars at Aleph Beta are attempting to state some kind of interpretation based on the evidence. They're doing the best they can, and we try to be as conservative as possible. We try to put forward an explanation that, to us, seems like the most conservative possible explanation based on the available evidence that the text is furnishing.
We're not interested in drawing a big beautiful poetic picture if we feel that it really isn't indicated and demanded by the evidence at hand, but that's necessarily subjective, and what resonates for me is not necessarily going to resonate for other people. So we always want to be as explicit as we can about when we are leaving the world of evidence and moving into the world of interpretation, because it's exactly at that point that a student should feel invited to step in and say, no, I see the evidence and I see it leading to a different interpretation.
So I see how the Gemara explained 'shelo asani ishah,' but here's what I think of that interpretation. I see how Rashi explains it, but here's what I think of that interpretation. All the more so, here's what Rabbi Fohrman thought about it, but I'm not on board with the way that he made sense of it. I think that these two things are related, and it should lead to this conclusion. So we try very hard to cleave to that, pedagogically, in our work, and it's something that I think resonates with teachers also. We hope that you'll notice that in our materials. We hope that you'll educate your students that way as well.
Finally, the last thing that you'll find in our teacher guides is whatever sources are mentioned in our videos, there's an unabridged printable version at the end. When I say printable, obviously, you can share the PDF's with students. You can print them out for actual use in the classroom. Those are our teacher guides. If you are looking for a teacher guide, where do you find it? So you will find it in the materials section of any video page. So, for example, the way that I found this one was by going to Genesis and clicking on the parashah and here we go, 'shelo asani ishah,' we have a whole video about that based on the first two perakim, chapters, of Bereishis. You're looking for this materials section right here. Materials is going to fold out when I click on it, and this is the teacher guide. That's how I got there.
That's number one. They are only included at the Educator's level, for someone who's subscribed as an Educator. They don't exist for all videos. The next resource that I want to point you to is parashah guides. Parashah guides were not written originally with educators in mind. They were written with the following person in mind: I love Aleph Beta, but I don't have a lot of time to watch your videos, but I have a lot of time on Shabbos. Can you give me something printable that will capture the idea from the videos so that I can bring it to my Shabbos table, share it with the chavruta (study partner), share it with my family, curl up on the couch and read it, something.
So we said, great. We developed a written product, an online PDF that's printable, which exists totally stand-alone from the videos. So this is if you want to take Aleph Beta ideas into your classroom, but it's not for bringing a video into the classroom. It's for bringing the ideas into the classroom, with a strong emphasis on discovery-based learning, and when I show you the format of the guide, you'll understand what I mean by that. So an example of a guide is right here. This is one of the two parashah guides for Parashat Shemot. You'll see in the beginning it's sort of essay style, includes sources, and then, when you get to here, now we've got a Consider This.
'Consider This, how do you see the function of Midrash? Is it just the text that God forgot to include? Thank goodness the rabbis came along and clarified that.' Again, you don't have the context here -- clarified, dot, dot, dot, 'otherwise, the story wouldn't have made any sense of all. That leads us to another question. Are we supposed to take Midrash literally? Is it explaining the plain meaning of the text? Is that what it's trying to do?' So Consider This are discussion questions that are outside of the text. That's going to be highlighted in blue with a question mark. Then, here, the purple Look Insides are an invitation to do sometimes light and sometimes quite intensive text study with a guided question.
So in this case, if you're a Hebrew reader, take another look at Exodus 2:1-10, which we have in the sources at the end. Every guide has source sheets. So take a look at that and -- what do we want you to do with it? Take a look at it and, 'can you find anything which hints at the daughter of Pharaoh dispatching her super long arm to save the baby?' So again, you don't have the context here, but that's inviting the students to read the text closely and, in this case, what clue was there in the text that the authors of the midrash picked up on in order to articulate their midrash?
Sometimes the Look Insides are a lot more intensive than that. Sometimes the Look Insides are, here are two pieces of texts. Someone was talking about intertextual parallels. Here is the 15 verses of text of Jacob leaving Laban's house in the middle of Genesis and here are 15 verses of text of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt in the beginning of Exodus. Read through them carefully. Compare them. There are over ten intertextual parallels. Highlight them and find as many as you can, and then turn to the next page and see what it is that we came up with.
So everything is staged so that we're not trying to give you all of the answers at once. We are creating opportunities for either your students or for you, as an individual, who's reading on the couch on Shabbos, or for your family, to go through the exercise yourself to discover what it is that we have discovered. That's a very useful division and prompt that you're going to find in the parashah guides.
Potentially, just in terms of actual application, I could imagine you using these parashah guides, number one, to distill the ideas of an Aleph Beta video into your own lesson. So you want to teach the midrash on Parashat Shemot? Great. You're going to use this in order to create a lesson plan based on it, so you know which parts of the plan are you asking your students to answer discussion questions, which parts of the plan are you handing them excerpts of text and asking them to look inside, so on and so forth. They're never seeing the video. It's all happening outside.
However, because this is a stand-alone product which is completely self-contained, you could share the full guide with your students. They could do it for homework. They could do it during class time. It works as a self-guided individual study. A person could read through this material himself and kind of be guided through the process of learning it, or it would be great for study partner work or for group work. So the parashah guides are wonderful.
The parashah guides, there are over 100 of them. They exist for two years' worth of parashah videos, and we also have several holiday videos as well which are in this kind of guided form. You don't need to be an Educator to access them. If you're at the Premium level, you're also going to be able to access the parashah guides, and where will you find them? You're going to find them at alephbeta.org/guides. I'm just going to take you to that website and you'll see everything. These are all the parashah guides. Everything, everything, two for every single parashah and then a few holiday guides as well.
Okay, let me pause. I'm going to stop share for a minute just so I can look at all your faces. Does anyone have any -- let me pause for questions there.
Mindy wants to know where is the Jacob and Laban versus Egypt -- what, you want to know where the guide version is? That's going to be our Pesach guide. So if you look on our guides page, alephbeta.org/guides, and take a look at Pesach. You want the How to Read the Passover Haggadah guide. The holiday videos are much longer. In general, the parashah videos are about ten minutes long, whereas the holiday videos are closer to an hour, so the guides scale accordingly.
You'll see, here's our Pesach one. It's the same kind of structure, you know, Ponder This and Look Inside. Then you get all the way down to, 'read the two passages below. The first describes Jacob's departure from Laban's house. The second describes the Israelite exodus from Egypt. There are a number of parallels between these two accounts. Find as many connections as you can. Don't turn to the next page until you've given it your best shot.' Everyone's going to sit down with a pen and paper or their online highlighters and then, 'welcome back here's the parallels that we found. Let's compare notes.'
So that's an example of what our guides look like and how they treat intertextual parallels. Another formatting thing that I want to just draw your attention to, where you see green over here, here's how we see it. That's where we are moving from evidence to interpretation. 'Now, you've seen the evidence. There's no disagreeing with the fact that these five verbs in this order both occur in the account of Jacob's exodus and the account of the Israelite exodus, but what do you make of that? What is the Torah trying to tell us with that juxtaposition?
'So you want to know what Rabbi Fohrman makes of it? You want to know what Aleph Beta makes of it? Here's how we see it.' Again, we try to draw that out. We try to put it in different formatting so it's really very clear to the user, and all the more so the student. We're inviting you to take issue with it. We're inviting you to give us your own answer.
Let me come back and see what else I missed in the chat. How can I assign videos to students to watch on their own time if I only hold the Premium account? Okay, in answer to Leah's question, the Educator account comes with the possibility to provide -- Bev, question mark, up to 30 accounts for students?
Bev: Yes, so each Educator can receive 30 student accounts.
Beth: Then, the students will have their own login information and they'll be able, on their own time, when it's not screencasting during a live class, to be able to go and watch whatever it is that you're assigning them.
Beth: If you only hold the Premium account, then you have the option of screencasting during the class or having them access their own accounts. So that's why the Premium account is more expensive and it does have that extra capability.
'I'm looking for more philosophy and history.' Rabbi Fohrman and the scholars at Aleph Beta, a lot of what we do does veer into the philosophical. It often draws on history, but primarily, what we do is close textual readings with spiritual and moral implications. So I would love for you to play around with some of my favorites and see if they resonate with you, but they might not. You might be looking for something else. Watch 'Rachel's Tears' on the Tisha B'Av page and see if it resonates. I'll be honest with you about what we are and what we're not.
'Are you going to send us those links in an email?' I think what I will do is, I'm going to set up a Google form while we're talking so that everyone who's here at this event can send me their email, and then yes, I'm happy to share with you otherwise, but I don't know who you are yet. So here's what we're going to do. Everyone add your emails here, and I'm going to give you all permission to edit it.
Okay. Here's what we're going to do. Everyone sees the doc. Go ahead, grab it in the chat, and if you scroll down to the bottom, you can write your email in. Example, firstname.lastname@example.org. And then, after this meeting, I'm happy to share with you whatever resources I promised to share, but I will only know that you are here if you go ahead and do that.
'Will you be doing any Mishnah?' Aleph Beta really does focus on Tanach, and within the Tanach, really does focus on the Five Books, though there is some Nach work. There are a couple of interesting videos where Rabbi Fohrman tried to apply the methodology to strictly Rabbinic texts. More often, what you'll see is that we bring in Rabbinic readings of Chumash in order to understand it, but Rabbinic texts, stand-alone, are not our bread and butter.
'Educators different than Premium?' Yes. An Educator account is distinct. We'll save a little bit of time at the very end to talk about account questions, if anyone has questions about upgrading. Can the Educator monitor what students in distance settings have watched? I don't know the answer to that. Bev, does the Educator know what students have watched?
Bev: As of this moment, no, but we do have a revamp of the Educator dashboard in a future plan, but right now, no.
Beth: In a future plan, they'll be able to see, yes, the student in fact, completed watching the videos that you assigned to them?
Bev: That's our goal. We're trying to totally remodel the Educator dashboard to make it more user-friendly to the Educator, but right now, we don't have that capability, at this moment.
Beth: Got it. I would say that, even without that feature, I think you will find that with the teacher guides, the teacher guides really do test for comprehension effectively, and if you're using those resources, then you're going to be able to tell if your students have actually watched or not.
I am going to continue going through some of the resources that are on my list to bring up to you guys.
Student: Can I just add something quick? It's just related to what you were saying about the dashboard. It's worth taking a look, and actually I think I emailed you about this EDpuzzle, because they have the capability of doing that, of tracking progress, but also pausing the video and then inserting the questions.
For example, in your parashah guide, as you say, you can stop at seven-point-fifteen, here, you can actually insert the question. What I've done, actually, is I've recorded via Zoom, I've played your Aleph Beta video, made a new recording for it, uploaded it to EDpuzzle, put in the questions, and then we did it live. So my students watched and then they all were typing at those moments. Then I could see their answers. So it was amazing but labor-intensive. I just wanted to tell you that would be an amazing feature, if you could pull that off.
Beth: Thank you so much for the recommendation, and I think, in the meantime, that you found a great workaround. Do you mind just chatting in so that other people can understand what it is that you did on a technical level, and that way they can think about doing the same for their classroom?
Student: Yeah, sure.
Beth: The next best substitute is what we already have, which is doing it live, doing it yourself. You do it with the teacher guide in one hand and with the video in the other, and then you can lead the discussion live.
Okay, did I see someone else raising their hand with a question?
Bev: That was me. I was just going to say the EDpuzzle thing is on our radar. We've looked at it, and our lead tech developer is aware of it and he thinks it's a great idea. As for the question, is it legal for us to record a copy of your videos, we don't really encourage that because we're a subscription-based organization, so we don't actually have that option readily available for that reason.
We definitely want to continue to receive support, since we're a small organization and we have lots of people who enjoy the material and we appreciate the donations to be able to continue to create more material. So in general, the only way to download is through the Aleph Beta app, and as long as you keep your subscription, those downloads will stay within your Aleph Beta app on your mobile device.
Beth: Great. Okay, Shimon just asked a question which is very important, which I forgot to share with you. Shimon's question is about, how do you present a video on Zoom and how do you make the computer audio audible for students? This is a very important Zoom tip. If you haven't figured it out already, if you need to screencast a video, there are two little buttons that you click when you share your screen, and what that's going to do is optimize Zoom so that your students can hear the video -- there won't be a lag between the audios and the visuals and they will hear the computer audio sort of funneled right into the Zoom wire instead of just hearing an echo of what's coming through your speakers.
So if what I just said didn't make sense, that's totally okay, but I'm going to show you the two buttons that you want to make sure that you press when you are screencasting Aleph Beta videos. Okay, it's on this list. 'When you screencast it in Zoom, don't forget to check off the boxes for share computer sound' and optimize full screen video.' There's a little ten-second video that will show you what it is that I mean. Select the screen you want to share. Check off one box, check off the other box. Click share and press play. You're good to go. Okay, that's how you do it.
What did I want to say about that? I wanted to say that even though you are sharing computer audio, you can also talk using your regular input microphone and continue to narrate while that video is playing. So the students are going to hear from you both Rabbi Fohrman's voice from the video optimized, but they'll also hear you saying, okay, now students, pay attention to this part. You can mute yourself if you don't want them to hear you, but it's going to invite audio from both channels.
Okay, so now I'm going to go back to this doc. All right. What else do I want you to know about, in terms of materials that we have? We talked about teacher guides. We talked about parashah guides. Again, just to underline this point, the parashah guides are wonderful, potentially, as a classroom resource, but they're also just great as an individual or a family resource.
So I'm talking about the classroom because that's what you all came to hear, but I use them personally to print them out and read on the couch myself on Friday night after dinner, or to lead a discussion with your kids at the Shabbos table, or to guide a study partner study that you're doing with a friend or a neighbor from your community. So they're really excellent for a whole variety of different self-guided, self-directed forums.
What's the next resource that I want you to know about? I want you to know about Parasha Podcasts. What are Parasha Podcasts? Totally audio, they are conversations between Aleph Beta scholars, Rabbi Fohrman, but also myself, my colleagues, Rabbi Ami Silver, Daniel Loewenstein, and Rivky Stern and Imu Shalev, about the parashah. We have one year's worth of them. They're 25-45 minutes long. They are lightly produced and edited. What do I mean by lightly produced and edited? Well, I will tell you. I'll give you a short taste. I mean this. Okay, so here's one from Leviticus.
Rivky: Hello listeners. My name is Rivky, and I'm the producer of Parsha Lab at Aleph Beta. Before jumping into today's episode, I want to remind you that Passover is just around the corner, and there's a lot of great courses at alephbeta.org to help prepare for your Seder. My personal favorite is How to Read the Haggadah, where Rabbi Fohrman discusses the Haggadah's unique relevance to our lives today. Check it out! Now, please enjoy today's episode.
Imu: Hello and welcome back to another episode of Parsha Lab. I am Imu Shalev.
Rabbi Fohrman: I am David Fohrman.
Imu: And together we are Imu and Rabbi Fohrman.
Rabbi Fohrman: Imu, sometimes your profundity shocks and amazes me.
Imu: I try. I always wanted to be part of, like, a superhero team, so I was trying something out there. Okay, so Rabbi Fohrman, Sefer Vayikra is a difficult book, to say the least, and I think one of the reasons it's such a difficult book is because there's very little story. There's very little narrative. This is something we talked about way back in Parashat Mishpatim, but, up until really the book of Vayikra, you have lots of stories. You've got the stories of Bereishis and the families of Avraham and Yitzchak and Yaakov and they go down to Egypt, and then, slavery and the Exodus, the great encounter with God at Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) and then, you get into laws. You get into laws in Mishpatim, you get into the Mishkan and we got through that, but now, we have a whole book full of laws.
A lot of people don't pay attention too closely to these parshiyot. They're hard to relate to. They wake up again in Bamidbar in the stories of the desert, but, Rabbi Fohrman, in the Parasha Experiment that I did with David Block, we tried to solve some of those difficulties in Vayikra by hunting for the overall storyline. What I wanted to do with you is do sort of a Parasha-Experiment experiment, show you what we noticed and see what that provokes for you. How do you feel about that?
Rabbi Fohrman: So I feel good about that. I always love meta stuff and this feels very, very meta. Basically, if I understand you correctly, you're going to be giving me some of the beginnings of your thinking, we'll sort of see where it goes and I wonder if we'll end up in similar places, but time will tell. So go ahead, shoot.
Imu: Okay great. Thank you. So this is sort of how David and I did it. We would open up the parasha. If you want to join me at home, you can do that by opening up Leviticus 1, Verse 1. We would read and see, okay, what's going on in this chapter. So let me read with you. 'Vayikra el Moshe vayidaber Hashem eilav mei'ohel mo'ed leimor.' So God called out to Moses. God spoke to Moses from the Tent of Meeting, from the Ohel Mo'ed, saying.
Then, what ends up in this chapter is a long list of korbanot, of sacrifices. I actually don't want to focus on the list of sacrifices. I want to ask the classic Parasha Experiment question. How is this section, this God calling to Moses from the Ohel Mo'ed, connected to the very last story, the chapter that precedes it, which is the last chapter of Exodus.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, yeah, so I'm looking here at Exodus --
Beth: Okay, so I'm going to stop the share there, but the reason I let it go on for so long was because I wanted you to get a taste for what it is that we're doing in Parsha Lab, how it feels, how it's different than our other content. We only watched the first minute and a half of the Rachel's Tears video, so you didn't get a sense for what our standard parasha and holiday videos are like, but what I can tell you is that they are very tight, they are argument-driven, they have a clear thesis with what we deem to be compelling evidence to back up that thesis.
Parsha Lab is much more speculative. I chose this one at random, but Imu played right into my hands. Parsha Lab is hey, I noticed some stuff in the text. I have some early thoughts about where it might go and how we might interpret it, but I'm not a hundred percent -- I don't have a full, complete thesis picture yet. I want to throw it out there to you and I want you to respond and see what we can come up with. So what it really is, is a study partner session that was recorded and with some cool music added at the beginning and the end.
Now, why is it that I think that this is an educational product that I want to highlight for you? So here's why. I describe it here as being lightly edited and produced. Insofar as it is that, it gives students a window into the behind-the-scenes at Aleph Beta. How is it that we develop our ideas? So it feels a lot less like a finished product and a lot more like a beit midrash (house of learning). It's based, like I've been saying over and over again, on the Aleph Beta evidence-interpretation model. Listening to these podcasts gives students the opportunity to witness the creative process and then invites them to offer their own take.
If you watch a feature-length hour-long video on Rachel's Tears, where Rabbi Fohrman is studying a particular excerpt of text from Jeremiah and showing how he views it through the lens of this Midrash and the lens of that Midrash and ties it all together with a beautiful, amazing bow at the end, so it's going to knock your socks off, but, much to our dismay, it's probably hard for a student to come in and say, I don't know. I read the Jeremiah pesukim (verses) differently. We want them to do that, but sometimes the final product is too cohesive and too impressive for a student to really feel permission to do that.
With Parsha Lab, they're going to feel that permission. So I love the idea of inviting students to listen to a Parsha Lab and critique the ideas. Maybe you can assign them to write a podcast review. You know, I liked what Imu found, but I disagreed with the conclusions he came to and I thought that he should have concluded this instead about what he saw. Another real assignment that you could make based in this -- and again, this is, over and over again, for a conventional classroom, for a homeschool environment, for a family -- give the students the opportunity to develop 21st-century digital skills by dividing them into groups and assign them to create their own Torah podcast based on Parsha Lab.
One format that might take is to divide them into groups of three. As that group of three, students have one or two sedarim, one or two set hours to sit down together and learn to discover some kind of chiddush in the parasha, like ah, you know, I just read the first two verses of that parasha and the same word comes up in the parasha, but, in one case, it's singular and, in one case, it's plural. What's the Torah trying to do there? Notice something noteworthy and then, go ahead and turn on a recorder. Two of the students act as the interlocutors in the conversation, and one has the task of being the producer/audio editor.
They've got to teach themselves how to download some kind of free audio editing software and figure out what it looks like to actually take a recording and then chop it up into something that's listenable and then post it all on YouTube or share it with the school community in some kind of form. So I think that could be a very fun, very relevant exercise all based on seeing our product and then being inspired by it.
The last thing I want to say about this, at the risk of repeating myself, is I think if you showed our students an Aleph Beta video -- we are so passionate about the idea that we are not the experts in the Torah, we are the holders of a methodology. We are passionate about putting our ear to the text and hearing what it has to say, but we don't want to have a monopoly on that. We want to teach other people and empower our users and students to be able to do that themselves. Again, if they're seeing an impressive, beautiful, hour-long feature video, it's kind of like, well, I'm an eighth grader. How do I do that?
However, if you show them some examples of our less-produced products, then maybe, all of a sudden, they start to see ah, that is the kind of thing that I feel that I could do. So I think that could be a very fun assignment. They could do that all year long. They could do it every single week, they could do one parasha a month, however much time you have with them every week and however much you can ask of them.
That resource is only available for our Premium and for our Educator accounts, and if you want to find all of them, then you can find them at alephbeta.org/podcasts-parsha-lab. So when you look at the page, you'll see that you can scan through all of them, and if you click on any of them, then you can see a little description about what it covers.
So on the playlist page there is a description about the episode. In some cases, we'll have links to related Aleph Beta material. Every single one of our videos, with very few exceptions, has a printable transcript, and you can always use the transcript instead of listening. Then at the very bottom there are comments, which is actually the last thing that I want to talk to you about.
Before I move onto comments, does anyone have any questions about Parsha Lab podcasts? Shimon asked me, are you able to talk at the same time as the video. Yes. So this is going back to the question of screencasting. Yes, if you click that button, share computer audio, what that does is takes whatever you are listening to on your computer, in this case, an Aleph Beta video, and sends that right through your output so that the students who are hearing your Zoom will hear that computer video.
It doesn't preclude you from talking. On the contrary, the default is still that, if you have your microphone on, they'll hear you, but if you don't want them to hear you because your kids are in the background making noise, like mine, and you want them just to listen to the video, then mute yourself and then unmute when you want to say something.
Is it only audio? So the Parsha Lab podcasts, yes, are 100 percent audio. Fabulous. Okay. Parsha Labs will show up if we search for the parasha, yes. So, to Carol's question, what I tried to give you on this sheet was just the easiest, one-click destination in order to find all the guides, all the Parsha Lab podcasts, but our website is hyperlinked and another way to browse the website is -- so, if you're on the homepage, and obviously, you'll be served up Parashat Shlach for this week, so you can click on any of those links. There's the next holiday that's coming up, so that will be served up. There's some featured content, and under Shlach you're going to see three years of parasha videos. Then is the Parsha Lab and then you'll circle back to the three years.
So all of that stuff is going to be easily found on the website, and if you're on the front page, and if you're planning two weeks in advance for the parashat hashavu'a two weeks from now, then just go to search by book, go to Numbers, go ahead and click here on Chukat. Again, you'll find Parsha Lab, the three years of parasha videos, and then some related content. Okay, that's everything that you need.
Any other questions that folks want to raise about the Parsha Lab podcasts? Podcasts are so entertaining. They really are fun. I think the music just makes it magical, and we have an audio editor who's really fantastic at what she does. So shout-out to Rivky Stern behind the scenes.
Okay, since there are no questions, I'm going to move on to the last thing that I want to talk about, which is really quick. The last thing is comments, the comments section of our website. Again, obviously, it's not designed with students in mind, not with teachers in mind. It's designed so our individual users could have a chance to communicate with one another and also share ideas with Rabbi Fohrman, but I see a lot of teachers using it and I want to invite you guys.
It is a medium that you can absolutely use and say to your students, okay students, I'm assigning you to watch this video, and then I want you all to post a comment on the video. I want you to post a comment and I want you to respond to at least a comment of one of your fellow students. That way, if they're doing that for homework, everyone can show up to class having already watched the video, thought about it enough to articulate their own question, read through the questions of all of their peers, and responded to at least one of their peers. Now they are ready to talk, which is going to lead to a much more robust discussion than the students walk in, they haven't done any preparation and you hit play and now they have to start learning.
So again, you'll need an Educator account in order to grant accounts for students to watch, but it's a great way to use it. The comments section is on every page so that you can share with your students. All pages are the same. You have the scholar who did it, you have a short description, the transcript is under that. Then under that is where you find the comments. There's a lot of conversation, it's easy to reply to people, and when you reply, you'll get an email that says hey, this person is continuing the conversation. So it makes for some fun follow-up.
We folks at Aleph Beta, the creators of the videos, really do read these. We do our best to respond to them. This is set aside from a classroom, but -- two things I want to share with you. One is that there are a couple of schools that, before COVID, would regularly watch our parasha videos as part of their classwork with their teachers and then, together, they would all come up with a bunch of questions that they wanted to pose to the writer of the video. They would post every week. Hey, we're the seventh graders from Akiba-Schechter in Chicago, and here are our questions for you. As writers, we would always get those and try to respond to them.
The second fun thing that I want to show you about comments is that there was a comment written by one of our superfan users, Jason McDaniels (ph), who noticed something in an analysis that Rabbi Fohrman was doing about the mitzvah of shilu'ach hakan, about sending away the mother bird. Jason said, you know, I'm noticing all these intertextual parallels between that description of the mitzvah and the story of Jacob's family back in Genesis, and he gave a couple of examples.
Rabbi Fohrman looked into it and said, oh my gosh. There was so much there, and probably about six months later it ended up birthing a four-part, deep-dive series all about those intertextual parallels. So we really do read the comments, whether they come from students or adults, and with students there's even more nachas there.
I think that that's what I wanted to show you. Those are the four resources that I wanted to highlight for you. I have a link at the bottom of the doc, which is, click here for more ideas for using Aleph Beta in the classroom. This is a one-page cheat sheet which was developed by my colleague, Daniel, who is a classroom educator and an Aleph Beta scholar. You'll be able to access this in your own time, but what he offers is a little bit more in the way of pedagogy. You know, here's some ways that you might think about teaching, whereas what I've tried to do for you, being, admittedly, not a classroom educator myself, is: Here are some resources that I think could lead to really great assignments.
I'll leave it to you to figure exactly what it is that you want to do with them and how it fits in to your educational philosophy. I think, if you spend 10 minutes with this cheat sheet, then hopefully, you'll find it to be fruitful. Okay.