Sep 7, 2016
Yonah Kirschner

Tools for Elul: EdTech to Foster Deeper Student Reflection

Elul, the month just before the High Holidays, is traditionally a time for reflection and introspection. With Elul happening during September and coinciding with the beginning of the school year, teachers can take advantage of this opportunity and teach about the importance of reflection during Elul and before the High Holidays. Working on reflections during Elul will help students to better understand themselves as well as the meaning of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Reflections can also contribute to creating a deeper High Holiday experience. These EdTech tools provide various ways for learners to be creative while engaging in the act of reflection.

This tool provides a safe and secure online space for students to publish their writing, and its simplicity makes it a good choice for younger learners. You may want to assign a specific High Holiday themed prompt on which students can reflect, or you could have students choose their own topic, such as their goals, what they want to learn, or what they’re most excited about in the upcoming year. Another benefit of KidBlog is that it’s...a blog! What I mean is that, as a blog, all their reflections from the entire year will be saved in one spot. Next year, your students will be able to look back on their reflections from this year and see how far they’ve come.

If your students want to create both a visual and a video as part of their reflection, then this is the tool you’ll need. Students can upload an image or presentation and then record their own voiceover explaining their work. For students who learn through art, this tool is a great option. VoiceThread can also help students who may have trouble expressing themselves through writing. Instead, they can simply talk and record their reflection in VoiceThread.

If you plan on having students make reflection a regular part of their class time, then this might be the tool you want. Notes in Evernote are saved there forever, and notes can be just about anything - written text, images, whole documents, and more. If you want students to constantly jot down reflections on assignments, how they’re feeling about a particular topic, or anything else, they can easily jump into the Evernote app. Once the note is in the app, it’s accessible on the desktop version or anywhere they’re logged into the program.

If you’re students work with iPads, then SeeSaw is a great option for your classroom. The app serves as a digital portfolio and will organize all of your student’s work. They’ll be able to reflect on their learning at each step of the way. This tool is also particularly helpful for authentic assessment and giving students a real audience for their creations. Student work and reflections can easily be shared with classmates, published to a class blog, or shared with parents.

To motivate the teens in your classroom to do a kind of reflection, you might want this app in your teaching toolbox. This app has dozens of ways for students to personalize their very own collage. You could have them customize collages on different topics, such as the past year, what they want to see/do in the upcoming year, their Jewish identity, how they feel about the High Holidays, and much more. After creating their reflective collage, students could then write a brief caption explaining their photo choices.

With PlayPosit, you can create interactive videos for your students. You could create a video to introduce yourself and then provide opportunities for students to write a bit about themselves. Another idea is to create a High Holiday themed PlayPosit and prompt students to reflect on different aspects of their lives over the past year. The combination of video and questions will help you to get to know your students better while also encouraging your students to think about the new year and what they want to do and accomplish. Teachers can also switch things up and have students do the video creating as a more advanced reflection exercise.

Yonah Kirschner, former Project Manager, Digital Content and Communications at The Jewish Education Project.

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