Lisa Friedman blogs about Sukkah Challenge
Technology is here to stay. Our children are engaging with digital games and navigating online content on a regular basis. Indeed, our children are being raised in a digital age rich with opportunity, but not without complexities and challenges. Parents and educators must make sense of this world in order to help our children find success.
The Jewish world strives to keep up with the digital world. Many rabbis, educators and other Jewish professionals are highly engaged through social media, building professional learning networks to advance and enrich their own Jewish learning. #BlogElul is one example of the professional opportunities today’s technology can afford. Additionally, Jewish educators strive to utilize technology in ways that are meaningful and relevant for students. Companies like Behrman House, who have long produced print materials for Jewish classrooms, launched an Online Learning Center; and other similar opportunities are continually popping up.
Yesterday I was asked to review a Jewish interactive learning game with an eye toward its use with students who have learning challenges. The app is from Jewish Interactive, “an innovative non-profit organization, founded in South Africa, that strives to create interactive Jewish programs, utilizing modern technology, to make Torah more relevant, accessible and alive to Jewish educators, children and parents globally.”
The app that I was asked to review is called Sukkah Challenge. From the website: “This easy-to-use, colourful, animated app invites children to virtually experience the Jewish festival of Sukkot.”
The first thing that I noticed when I entered the site is that I was given a choice to play the game in English Sephardi (with Hashem), English Sephardi (with God), English Ashkenazi or Hebrew. This really appealed to me as a Reform Jewish Educator in the United States. (Unfortunately, even though I chose English Sephardi (with God), the blessings link still took me to read and listen to the blessings using Hashem.)
Nonetheless, the game itself was lively, colorful and interactive. So, as I was asked, I put on my Special Educator’s hat and looked at the game more closely:
- Students’ pre-existing knowledge, regardless of ability, will vary. I like that this app does not assume students know certain things. I also appreciate that there are multiple levels, allowing those with advanced knowledge to feel greater challenge.
- The app is colorful and pleasing to the eye, without being too busy or overcrowded. This is important for anyone with visual or spatial issues.
- The characters were not childish. This is significant for older children who may read and/or function on a “lower” level.
- In the activities themselves, when a given answer is incorrect, there is not a buzzer or loud sound to indicate an error; rather, there is gentle correction from one of the characters. This is very important for children who react to sudden noises or for those who get frustrated easily.
- There is an option, at the start, to turn off the sound. This will benefit children who are easily distracted and can also be useful when one student is playing while others in the class may be engaged in other activities. (A great opportunity for differentiated instruction!)
As with all materials and resources, it is essential to know your students and their abilities. For those seeking to ensure that their classroom approach engages all learners; I would definitely recommend incorporating an app such as Sukkah Challenge.