Can Digital Badges Save Hebrew School? Jewish Teachers' New Gamifying Technology

January 31, 2015

Source: Jewish Daily Forward


While purveyors of childhood Jewish education as a whole struggle with enrollment and relevance, a small number have become pioneering practitioners of “digital badging,” a new pedagogical model in which learners in a wide variety of learning environments earn digital badges that indicate their accomplishments, skills or knowledge. Depending on which side of the generational divide you’re on, digital badges can be thought of as analogous either to merit badges in scouting or achievements in video gaming. This is a way of gamifying education. It doesn’t turn life or school into a game, but it brings some of the fun and incentives of games into education.


In order to provide assessment for thee learning objectives that might go otherwise unassessed, The Epstein School, a Jewish day school in Atlanta adopted a system of digital badges. “We named the badges for the qualities we wanted kids to graduate with,” said Myrna Rubel, middle school principal of The Epstein School. “And we went one step further and put a Jewish role model’s name to each of those characteristics.” Epstein students can earn, for example, the Sergey Brin badge in technological literacy, the Ruth Messinger badge in collaboration or the Golda Meir badge in leadership. “And that way, the kids… learn about Jewish role models along the way,” she said.


Some of the teachers at Epstein have earned badges as well. Through Tamritz, a program that offers Jewish schools ways for both students and teachers to earn digital badges, teachers can take an online course over the summer.


For Tamritz creator Sarah Blattner, digital badges are more than just emblems. “All these teachers were reinventing the wheel, so this is also about getting them to share and collaborate and learn 21st-century learning techniques; and that’s one way of doing it: digital badges,” she said. “From working as a Jewish educator in many cities around the country, my observation was that many Jewish day schools were behind on the latest pedagogical methods.”


Several day schools now use digital badges, but The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, became the first supplementary Jewish education program to do so when it kicked off Project 613, its new digital badging program, at the beginning of this school year.

Read more at the Jewish Daily Forward.

Updated: Feb. 19, 2015