Guest Blog by Laurie Rappeport
Jewish education once primarily involved either a day school or an afternoon congregational school experience of frontal teaching, review, tests and homework. That’s still the model in many Jewish schools but increasingly Jewish institutions are creating more dynamic environments that offer interactive activities and asynchronous learning projects that in which students can work on their own or in groups as they acquire knowledge, increase their curiosity and interest in the subject matter and complete various assignments that enable them to reinforce the learning material.
One such model involves the twinning program in which North American Jewish classrooms partner with Israeli schools. The Shutafut program enables educators to present learning materials in a vibrant atmosphere in which the students can “meet” each other in an online forum.
Participating classes are divided into groups and each group is paired with a group from the partner school. Thus, in a program that involves an Israeli class of 30 kids and a diaspora class of 30 students, six groups are formed. Five students from the diaspora school are paired with five students from the Israeli school in each group which enables the students to cooperate and collaborate on the subject material in a small group environment.
The Israeli and North American students work together on different units including units relating to holiday celebrations, cultural issues, tikkun olam/volunteerism and building unity. The program that facilitates this project, JETS Israel, coordinates the learning material and all of the activities.
Each group of students has its own online blackboard — a WIKI. The assignments, including the source material, references and questions are posted for each group. The students can work asynchronously — independently — to research the answers and post their ideas, thoughts and impressions which are then shared with their group peers, both from their own classroom and from their partner-classroom across the sea.
The program has been operating for several years and, according to the needs and interests of the students, changes are made as indicated. The 2013-2014 Shutafut program will include face-to-face meetings between the students in a web-conferencing forum in which the students will be able to see their peers and talk to them in real-time.
The program involves students from across the spectrum of the Jewish community. Participating schools include Orthodox schools, community schools, kibbutz schools and public, non-Jewish schools. Schools which are interested in participating in the program may contact JETS at [email protected]