Jewish studies at Naima have undergone a digital revamp thanks to Jewish Interactive
Lindy Lamed has gone for a walk at night but got lost. Can you help find her, asks teacher Channah Moses.
Even in olden days, rabbis knew learning Hebrew could be a chore for children. To make the aleph-bet more palatable, they put honey on a slate and got children to lick it off the letters.
Although health and safety would probably disallow such aids today, teachers have a new batch of educational tricks up their sleeve.
Mrs Moses, who teaches at the Naima Jewish Preparatory School in Maida Vale, has created a series of digital games about the Hebrew letters to get children to master the alphabet. If they tap the right place on screen, they can help lost Lindy Lamed back home.
She is not the only tech-savvy JS teacher at the school. For nearly a year, the independent Sephardi primary has been working to modernise its programme with Jewish Interactive, the London-based specialists in digital Jewish studies.
“We are light years ahead of where we were a year ago,” said headmaster Bill Pratt. “We are more at the cutting edge. It’s fair to say there’s no end of resources for secular subjects. It’s slightly harder to find for Jewish studies.”
Elisheva Seifman, Naima’s head of Jewish studies, said, “Our school prides itself on the use of technology across the curriculum. We felt it time to look at investing in our department.”
Not only have teachers been introduced to Ji’s own resources, but they are learning the skills to adapt these to their own school’s needs and to devise their own material, presenting Judaism within a more modern system of learning rather than as some antiquated branch of knowledge. “Teachers have used Ji’s platform to create elements that reinforce and are relevant to our curriculum,” Mrs Seifman said.
For year-six children, for example, one teacher produced a guide to the three different types of eruv.
And children can create their own games as well.
“Children’s learning styles have changed considerably in the last few years,” said Mrs Seifman. “Attention spans are shorter and children respond better to images. We need to adapt to engage them. When you say, ‘Now we are going to use our iPads,’ the children say ‘Yesss!’!”
In Mrs Moses’s reception class, an interactive whiteboard has replaced the rows of black letters in bare white textbooks that were once routine for Hebrew learning.
But the new digital resources are a supplement to and not a substitute for classical texts. From year three, Naima children still daily take out a Chumash.
The technological upgrade “relies on the enthusiasm of the Jewish studies staff to grasp it,” Mr Pratt said.
While the children were recently at lunch, teachers were busy with iPads at a session run by Ji’s UK and European director Sammy Morhaim, learning how to make a basic Purim video.
As they tried to bring Mordechai and Esther to the small screen, he assured them the effort would be worth it. “Children love everything to do with movies.”
For the original article in The Jewish Chronicle, click here.
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