Gaming the Bible: Supporting Tanakh Study with a Digital Game-Based Learning App

Published: 
Fall, 2019

Source:  Hayidion, Fall, 2019 

 

When challenged by Israel’s Ministry of Education to create a program to teach middle school students 170 Bible chapters over the course of seven months, Herzog College responded by developing an app that has been launched in Israel in 142 schools, encompassing 6,000 students. The smartphone app that was developed, Hayyinu KeHolmim (“We were as Dreamers”), contains a single unit on each chapter, divided into micro-units that include:

  • The biblical text of the chapter, with audio
     
  • A summary of the chapter, integrated with relevant pictures or icons
     
  • “Did you know?”: important facts/characters/places in the chapter
     
  • “My story”: meaningful ideas from the text that are applicable to contemporary life
     
  • Idea: an in-depth analysis of one particular section of the chapter|
     
  • A quiz measuring how well the student understood the lesson

The idea was to familiarize students with a broad overview of biblical narrative by means of engagement with the text, summary and quizzes, while helping them personalize it and make it meaningful to their lives through stories and ideas.


Each unit takes about 5-10 minutes for a student to complete. Answering questions and completing the unit accrues points for the student and his or her school. These points can lead to prizes for students and placement among schools in a national competition.

Action Research

While developing the Hayyinu keHolmim app, in the course of its launch and at the end of the pilot period, the development team at Herzog College was involved with three related research initiatives:

  1. A focus group of students played a role throughout the development of the app, offering real-time feedback and direction.
     
  2. A follow-up survey questionnaire was prepared and sent to both participating students and their teachers.
     
  3. A qualitative research initiative was carried out, involving a series of personal interviews with students who had participated in the program.

The various studies concluded that introducing the app—a combination of a mobile platform with bite-size units, interdisciplinary content and gamification—led to an increase in student performance.


Among the study’s findings:
More than a third of the students reported opening the app and studying the chapter every day. More than half reported doing so at least two or three times a week.
Almost two-thirds reported that the reason they kept returning to the app was because it was a pleasurable educational experience.
More than half or the students reported that their favorite parts were the various online quizzes.

Worldwide Impact

As a point of interest, the program’s success in Israel has made it into something of a worldwide phenomenon. When school leaders from Latin America were exposed to the Hayyinu keHolmim app during their visits to Israel, they asked for sample units to pilot with their own students. Today, with funding from Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the project has been translated into Spanish and adapted for use in Latin America, where it has been launched in several schools in a number of different countries. (There has been no funding so far for an English translation).
Read more at Hayidion.
 

Updated: Nov. 27, 2019
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