Did you upgrade your iPhone to ios10 this week? Are you as frustrated as I am about the new way to unlock the phone? I keep swiping when I’m supposed to press the home button and it’s annoying! From experience, I know that in a few weeks I’ll have gotten used to the new technology and unlocking my iPhone will once again be a simple task. We can’t avoid technology in our world today. We are surrounded by it and if we want to keep up, we need to constantly adapt to new changes…like iPhone updates.
Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ Jewish Learning Connections (JLC) develops and implements a variety of strategies to help part-time congregational and community schools transform the Jewish learning they offer children and their families. One of these strategies is in the area of integrating technology. Children today are “digital natives” and all forms of technology are naturally part of their everyday lives. Incorporating exciting technology into teaching and learning is one way for part-time Jewish schools to reach their students in relevant and meaningful ways.
Since 2011, JLC’s Teaching & Technology Fellowship has helped over 75 congregational and community school teachers integrate technology into their classrooms and engage their students in new ways. At the conclusion of the Fellowship, one teacher noted: “I realized that using technology enhances the students’ engagement and learning.” And another acknowledged that technology helped her move her teaching into the 21st century: “I never thought about making a class web page or a blog but I am now doing that. I am very excited to bring my teaching to the modern times.” A recent Fellowship participant summarized her experience this way: “My view of technology has changed dramatically. I’ve learned all kinds of new apps and ways to make learning fun. My approach before this Fellowship was very simple – do a google search. Now there are endless possibilities!”
You can find some of those endless possibilities on the Integrating Technology page in the Jewish Learning Connections section of CJP’s website. There you will meet two teachers in Greater Boston who are doing amazing things with technology in their classrooms. Wilma Oskar, a teacher at Mercaz Aliyah in Needham and Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, shares a number of short videos highlighting some of the apps and websites she has adapted to fit what she wants to teach. She loves using Explain Everything and Animator, two amazing iPad apps that you too can begin to use with just a little practice. Tiny Tap (both an iPad app and a website) is a social platform that empowers people of any age to create their own games. Visit Tiny Tap and search for Morah Wilma (Morah means Teacher) and you can play the games that Wilma and her students have created!
Sara Greenberg, also a teacher at Mercaz Aliyah in Needham, uses Book Creator (another great iPad app) to deepen her students’ understanding of biblical texts. After study around a topic, they combined their new knowledge with photos, their own drawings and videos to create a lovely book, All About Holiness, which you can view here. On this page, you will also learn how Sara’s students used Explain Everything to illustrate all that they learned about certain periods of Jewish history.
Wilma and Sara are both great examples of how staying current with technology (and those iPhone updates!) can enhance Jewish teaching and learning. This isn’t about letting technology take over the classroom. Wilma and Sara demonstrate that changing how they teach makes the learning come alive for today’s students in new and exciting ways. As students are drawn in to both the learning and the technology, their teachers are thrilled to see them continue working on projects outside of class.