The field of Jewish Educational Technology is a small but growing sub-segment of the greater educational technology world. Its dedicated group of developers, educators, and funders are building unique Jewish EdTech apps and resources and adapting existing EdTech apps for Jewish education.
This deep dive outlines the various trends in general educational technology with its opportunities for funding in the Jewish sphere, while at the same time describing how these trends are being adapted to Jewish education. We include two dimensions of Jewish education for the purposes of this site: first, the study of Jewish and Hebrew texts in classrooms, and second, the ways Jewish day schools harness developments in general education.
Engaging with jewish text
Today, anyone with a smartphone carries thousands of times more processing power in their pocket than all of the computers used to launch a man to the moon.
Today, we do not need to own a printing press to reach an audience of millions. Our ubiquitous Internet access provides access to any Jewish text, article, or resource anywhere, anytime. In an age of such cognitive surplus, the challenge is to wade through the sea of available resources to find those that can be most effective in Jewish education.
This section lists apps and websites designed to promote Jewish text-based learning. In the process, it illustrates the need for funding an open ecosystem of Jewish texts both in the original Hebrew/Aramaic form and in high-quality translations. It also identifies opportunities for furthering Jewish text-based learning in the online space.
- Open is a Winning Strategy for Technology Investment
- Will the Mercava take us into the future of Jewish education?
Virtual Jewish Learning
One of the hallmarks of Jewish learning has always been the transmission of traditions through the relationship between teacher and student. Until recently, to maintain this relationship students have had to live in close proximity to Jewish schools and these schools had to be situated in areas where they could draw knowledgeable Jewish educators.
Today, online communication and collaboration tools are dissolving many of these barriers to Jewish learning and opening new opportunities to provide access to high-quality Jewish education. Using both synchronous real-time environments and asynchronous learning management tools, teachers and students can interact with each other regardless of physical distance.
This section describes some of these new online learning spaces and puts them in the greater context of the MOOC movement towards massive online open courses offered by the world’s leading centers of learning.
- Blog post by Chana German, founder and director of Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy
Examples on Pages 19-20 Davidson >>
“Blended learning” combines personalized online learning with instruction in a brick-and-mortar school. It promises a more student-driven educational experience (in which students advance at their own pace through a personalized online platform) while simultaneously achieving substantial costs savings due to the online platform. This not only provides opportunities for remediation and enrichment, but yields a wealth of data for teachers to utilize in targeted instruction.
This section describes how blended learning is being harnessed in Jewish day school and supplementary school education. It lists many of the blended learning platforms for general studies, as well as funding opportunities to support similar platforms for Jewish education.
- Rachel Abrahams, Avi Chai report on Blended Learning in Jewish Day Schools
“Flipped learning,” like blended learning, offers students online personalized learning. The chief distinguishing aspect of the current flipped learning model–advocated by Sal Khan in his Khan Academy platform–is the use of short video segments to teach key concepts and skills. In this way, students are still provided with a “teacher” or instructional figure to complement their online personalized learning, only now virtually rather than within a traditional brick-and-mortar school setting.
Professionally produced flipped learning videos by Jewish EdTech developers have become a staple of the Jewish day school and supplementary school classroom. The flipped learning model has also been adapted by many Judaic studies educators who have created their own videos using low-cost apps to introduce new concepts or segments of Jewish text or to review areas studied previously in class.
This section introduces the flipped learning model, describes the need for research and metrics to help developers create more engaging videos, and explains how the flipped learning model is being adapted for the Judaic studies classroom.
Game-based learning (or “gamifying” education, as it often called in EdTech circles) has been lauded as a way to teach key concepts in a highly engaging format while providing badges and other incentives for students to advance educationally.
Some of these games take the form of blended learning activities, where school instruction is coupled with the additional motivation provided by the game. Other more open-ended games allow players to explore a virtual world while gaining Jewish literacy. Still other platforms allow students to create games of their own, to construct their own learning experiences (utilizing the constructionist approach of Papert), and to share these learning experiences with a wider audience on the platform.
This section offers examples of Jewish gaming (including the Jewish game creation platform Ji Tap), and explores the ground-breaking work of one of the leading researchers and proponents of gaming in Jewish education.
- Minecraft in Jewish Education
Engaging Jewish Teens through Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool to engage Jewish teens from all levels of Jewish involvement. The viral nature of social media and the low entry-point for users makes this an area in which funders can have a substantial impact.
This section describes examples of how social media platforms are used to enhance Jewish learning and Jewish identity.
Augmented / Virtual Reality
Augmented and Virtual Reality is just beginning to transform the technology world. This became apparent through the viral app, Pokemon Go, which provided an augmented reality experience for gamers using their smartphone and ultra low-cost virtual reality viewers.
This section describes how this nascent technology is already making inroads with forward-thinking Jewish educators and how funders have the rare opportunity to help launch the “next big thing” in Jewish educational technology.
- Student Reflections on the Jeremiah VR Experience
Project-based learning is a dynamic educational approach which emphasizes the role of the student as central to an active learning experience driven by engaged exploration of real-life challenges. While closely related to the concept of inquiry-driven learning, project-based learning goes beyond posing questions and discovering an answer. Rather, it encourages students to explore the challenge at hand in a more complex and comprehensive manner.
In the Jewish classroom, project-based learning provides opportunities for students to engage in meaningful Jewish learning experiences and to present their learning to real-world audiences. While not all project-based learning utilizes technology, students very often use technology to research their topic and showcase their learning.
This section provides examples of how project-based learning is transforming Jewish day school and supplementary education.
Professional development is an often overlooked component of successful educational initiatives, especially those involving technology. Teachers need time and expert guidance to provide them with the proper training and continued support to make a new EdTech initiative a long-term success. Each of the areas for meaningful integration of technology into Jewish education mentioned previously in this section would benefit from a well-designed model for ongoing professional development.
This section provides various complementary models of teacher support. It features:
- A funder’s perspective on creating a structure of ongoing support for a number of schools within one community.
- The perspective of a provider of high-quality Jewish educational technology for professional development.
- A model of teacher-driven personalized professional development through online Jewish communities on social media.
- Could a Facebook Group Provide a New Model for Jewish Education?
The so-called “maker movement” is one of the most exciting innovations in EdTech today. A prime example of constructionist learning, this form of innovative education allows students to design in a digital space and then give a physical form to their designs through 3D printing, coding and other digital fabrication tools.
Jewish day schools throughout North America have been crafting maker and engineering programs and creating “makerspaces” and “fab labs.”
This section describes how the maker movement is transforming STEM and STEAM education in Jewish day schools. It also provides perspectives from educators and students on how the maker movement is being integrated into the Judaic studies curriculum in order to create opportunities for meaningful learning by doing.