Torah Games and the Future of Learning

August 25, 2012

Source: The Forward


Elissa Strauss interviews Rabbi Owen Gottlieb, a doctoral candidate in education and Jewish studies at New York University and the director and founder of ConverJent, which designs and develops games for Jewish learning about why video games are great educational tools, what they have in common with rabbinic literature and why no topic should be off-limits for games. 

Gottlieb described how games are being used in general education. "Learning games are now being developed and researched by game scholars and designers for subjects including science, technology, engineering, art and math. They are also used to teach history, civics and language acquisition. Video games allow researchers to gather a great deal of data on how learning is taking place and how changes in design relate to changes in learning."  

Gottlieb discussed how games can be used in Jewish education: "Video games and all games are built on rule-based systems. Many games also involve a narrative or story. Halachic debates, such as those in the Talmud, consider multiple hypothetical scenarios. Game systems are excellent for visualizing and sometimes (in the case of board and card games) making these hypotheticals tangible. A game, as a modeled system, allows a player to consider various situations and outcomes. The “play” of Talmud study can be designed into games. 

Gottlieb says:

"I hope to spread the practice of hevruta, the study of sacred text in pairs, through the process of collaboratively designing games — video games, board games and card games. I hope to see and help create games that get learners to move beyond memorization and Jewish trivia and fact — and into Jewish problem-solving, debate and wrestling with ethical dilemmas, considering history, the acquisition of Jewish languages and more."  

Gottlieb's company, ConverJent, has receive a Signature Grant from the Covenant Foundation for their digital mobile game/simulation project for teaching New York Jewish history. The game is in production and should be in the hands of learners within a few months. The game has been designed with the aid of Gottlieb's doctoral research.  

Read the whole article in the Forward.

Updated: Sep. 12, 2012