Aliza Rosenbaum has been teaching Judaic Subjects to seventh and eighth grade students at Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School in Skokie, Il for seven years. She has spent much of that time experimenting in her classroom in the hopes of developing the most effective ways to teach and work with her students. In 2017, she applied for the Sefaria’s Educational Partnership Initiative to see what might happen when Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy) goes digital.
The result, Aliza explains, was student-led learning come to life: “It’s the best – it’s how I’ve always wanted to do it.” In the past, she would select a given text, translate it, print it for her students, and they would have to respond to accompanying questions. However, it never felt to Aliza like they were truly learning as much as they could be. They were completing their coursework, to be sure, but because so much of the process was done for them, the students weren’t really owning their work. Unsurprisingly, she found that it was hard to get thoughtful answers out of them. With the introduction of Sefaria to her classroom, “it’s been a world of difference. They’re doing it on their own.”
Indeed, while her students are learning the same one or two perakim, or chapters, of the sefer each week that students in her class always have, the process through which they learn is now vastly different. Instead of merely responding to prompted questions, Aliza’s students now create their own resources weekly. Each student is responsible for producing one Sefaria sheet per unit: some weeks they create classical explanatory source sheets, other times they develop their own questions and craft worksheets. It isn’t just homework that’s changed, however; class time is now generative and interactive as well. Throughout the year, she and her students played with different tools that expanded what it meant to explore these biblical sources. Students manipulated texts, divided up pesukim (verses), color coded, bolded, highlighted, created explanatory keys, and added comments.
Equally as exciting as the changes she is seeing in her own classroom are the changes she is seeing in her students beyond it. When her students were assigned a research project on Sefer Tehillim (Psalms) in another class, for example, they voluntarily headed to Sefaria, comfortable with the charge to do independent research, because “they saw how easy and accessible a resource it was.” The agency that Sefaria affords Aliza’s students likewise contributes to a newfound sense of pride they have cultivated around their Jewish studies. Whereas in the past, if they wanted to learn about something, they might go to a website and find a dvar Torah that someone else wrote, they now have primary sources unprecedentedly available to them.
Read the entire post at the Sefaria Blog.
To learn more about Sefaria’s upcoming education opportunities for the 2018-2019 school year and to apply to be a part of them, click here.