New Tools for Engaging with Jewish Texts

Judith Rosenbaum and Emily Scheinberg of the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) write about how modern technology can allow students to engage and interact with a wide variety of Jewish texts and media, allowing them to assess, organize, assign meaning to and share it with others and thus develop a sense of ownership over the material with which they are interacting. They tell of a new tool developed by the JWA, “Unlocking the Archive” – a multimedia display tool –  which provides an easy way for teachers and students to engage actively with a variety of sources drawn from both the Archive’s website and other websites. 
Using the “Unlocking the Archive” tool, teachers can easily create lesson plans and units that fit their needs; students can draw on a wide range of digital texts to complete homework assignments, do independent projects, and create interactive presentations. The result is a participatory learning experience that engages students with different learning styles. More importantly, this new tool increases the impact of Jewish education by offering teachers and students a deeper and more personal way to engage with the compelling stories on our website and elsewhere. 
They write in conclusion:
" The nearly constant access to community and to information afforded by the Internet has provided a wealth of new ways to engage students. In seeking to use these new patterns of engagement, we must be mindful of students’ awareness of and interest in sources beyond traditional Torah and Talmud. We must also consider that traditional Jewish patterns of engagement with text provide powerful metaphors that translate well to this new world.
Jewish educators should therefore look to provide access to a wider variety of meaningful texts with which our students engage with Jewish culture, history, and life, and to create tools that encourage engagement with those resources so that they become part of our students’ Jewish identities – tools that build on those traditional Jewish patterns of exploring text, links, and patterns.
JWA’s “Unlocking the Archive” is one example of a tool that encourages engagement with a broad range of significant texts, using new technology to re-invent and perhaps re-invigorate the age-old Jewish act of text study." 
Updated: May. 30, 2010