Guest blog from a teacher using Shabbat Interactive in her classroom
I teach Jewish studies to Grade 3 and Grade 5 in a Modern Orthodox Jewish Day School.
The whole point of Jewish Education is to instill a love and passion of Torah and Yiddishkeit into our children, not just the dictates of the laws, the “do’s and donts”, the “musts and mustn’ts”. We are teaching children what to believe in – but are we teaching them to believe in themselves??
There are so many recourses and so much stuff out there when it comes to teaching general studies, through different apps and programmes. For us Jewish studies teachers unfortunately it is like a dessert. When I heard about the prospect of different apps being created for Jewish education in the classroom – I was delighted – we are living in the 21st century – kids are born with the innate knowledge how to operate computers and electronic gadgets – it’s the way of the future. This is the way kids of the present and future need to be educated – it talks to them. Just for example – teaching Jewish history, teaching the time line could be a very linear, factual lesson – yes there will be the odd student who will be interested – but if we could interactively go back in history – take a child into any time period – it makes things comes alive for children across the board, even for the weakest of students. It makes the history into OUR story!! This is ultimately the continuation of the Jewish people.
Tefilla – how can we make these 30 minutes at the start of everyday impact on the whole day and in fact on their whole lives?? In first and maybe second grade davening is new and exciting – kids are enthusiastic – do they know the meaning of what they are saying? – Probably not – but there is still that enthusiasm. It’s sad but as they get older the more boring and tedious davening becomes for them. They say the prayers by rote – in a parrot fashion – it has no meaning and value. It becomes a one dimensional and flat 30 minutes. If there were digital resources and apps to experience the tefillot – to engage them in the process it would completely change their approach. It would make each word of davening into a world. That is after all how they are wired. It is my dream to walk into a classroom one day and say “kids it’s time for davening” and to hear a unanimous, enthusiastic “YES!!!!!!!!” Like when we announce recess.
I brought the Shabbat Interactive programme into my classroom – the students were literally “wowed” by it. The interest and excitement was catchy. Here were ideas and lessons, some which they had learned before which suddenly came alive for them. They could navigate through different parts on their own which is such a boost to their self esteem and learning growth.
I believe having Jewish educational apps in different subjects will completely transform Jewish education and make it so much more accessible to so many more people. Which will G-d willing keep the flame and passion of Torah strong for future generations.
It says in Mishlei 22:6 …”educate the youth according to his way”… We are now living in the 21 century – the way of “the youth”, the way to reach the kids in an exciting and innovative way today is through technology – we have to speak their language. Who knows if this is not what King Solomon had in mind when he wrote these words?