Laurie Rappeport lives in Safed, Israel. She is an online Israel and Jewish studies educator for JETS Israel and works with the Jewish Educators Awards (http://www.jewisheducatorawards.org) to increase the visibility of online education in the Jewish educational landscape.
What role can edtech tools play in Judaic studies? Haven't teachers been imparting Torah wisdom for thousands of years without the use of online tools?
The benefits of online tools in the Jewish classroom is dependent on the goal of the class. If the teacher is mainly interested in reviewing texts and expanding on the meanings, frontal classes, traditional chevrutas and pen-and-paper assignments work well.
If, however, the teacher is looking for new ways to inspire the students and help them develop skills which will enhance their learning while allowing them to internalize the material in new and different ways, online learning offers such an option. eLearning involves the newest and most innovative edtech tools for a highly interactive learning experience.
Student-Centered, Individualized Instruction
ELearning gives educators the opportunity to offer their students a wide range of specialized classes. In a well-constructed differentiated elearning class, students can work according to their own levels and interests. One assignment can be modified to fit a variety of student skill levels and interests.
Web-conferencing forums enable classes to be held with teachers located anywhere in the world. This allows for specialized instruction in a wide range of topics. For instance, in the Jewish classroom, having a teacher presenting instruction from Israel adds an exciting, realistic element to Israel and Judaic materials.
Online courses are flexible. Students can access the information and complete assignments at any time of the day. This flexibility can work in favor of students who are sick, unable to attend the class, or want to review again for deeper comprehension -- they can easily access the material via a recorded lesson or via a Learning Management System.
Distance learning facilitates peer-learning and collaboration between students-teachers and students-students. Even if the partners are located in different areas, they can easily continue their collaboration. In the Jewish classroom, this may even take place in partnerships between Israeli and diaspora classrooms. In such a collaborative environment, the students work together on the same projects and, get to know each other through their online collaboration.
There are dozens of available online tools which create an interactive and meaningful classroom experience. These tools include online bulletin boards, tools that allow students to create their own audio and video presentations, social posters, animations which dramatize content, teacher-produced and student-produced quizzes and more. Using these tools students can communicate with each other, work collaboratively, engage in project-based learning, evaluate their own achievements and acquire the skills and desire to retain the information that they've learned far beyond "test day." The Internet is full of tools and curriculum to enhance Biblical and Talmudic texts that can meet any level or philosophical stream.
Learning Management Systems
Learning Management Systems facilitate organized learning in an online environment. An LMS keeps all of the class material organized in an easily-managed format. There's no opportunity to forget or lose assignments, miss material because of absences or forget what needs to be done since everything is clearly spelled out and easily accessible 24/7. Using a LMS a teacher can craft a lesson to accommodate differentiated and self-paced instruction for more individualized learning opportunities. The LMS also allows for easy learning management, assessment and feedback to enhance learning.
Check out some outstanding examples of innovative edtech learning that have been recently implemented at JETS Israel, Jerusalem Ed Tech Solutions: