In this article, we will explore how technology can support language learning and how we use interactive technology in the NETA-CET Hebrew program. The NETA-CET Hebrew program is a comprehensive Hebrew language program for students in grades 6–12, reaching students in over 120 schools worldwide. NETA offers a rich collection of primary source materials, adapted texts, language exercises, songs, conversations, art, and movies that speak to teenagers. Grammar and linguistics are integrated with content, and topics come alive as students actively read, write, hear and speak Hebrew.
In the classroom, students have to keep up with the class or lose the thread of learning. But given a chance to learn on their own, students can study at their own pace and review until they “get it.” Interactive technology allows students to do just that and gives them greater responsibility for their own learning.
The NETA-CET books are full of texts and dialogues, and the majority of these are recorded. Until recently, students could only hear these recorded segments in class. Since the development of the digital books, students can hear these audio clips online (via the website) or offline (via the iPAD App). Students can listen as often as they need to, gaining understanding of the language and familiarity with the sounds of spoken Hebrew.
Grammar is an essential building block of language – but often the most intimidating aspect of language teaching and learning. In Hebrew, the verb system is notoriously difficult to master.
Our new tool, the Paalulan (Verb Machine) was developed to make verb study more user-friendly. Using the Paalulan, the student can type in a verb, in any tense, gender, or form. The wheel turns, and reveals the complete verb conjugation. To hear the verb pronounced, the student simply clicks on the speaker icon beside each form of the verb. The Paalulan also provides exercises for practice.
Content is Key
As important as grammar is, it is content and context that keep students interested and learning. Media such as video has a significant edge over printed material in enabling students to hear and see Hebrew in “real life.”
Our books and online activities feature numerous short documentary films showcasing real Israeli teenagers. Students often become so engrossed in the story being told (i.e. the content) that they forget that they are “learning Hebrew”!
Hebrew teachers now have the opportunity to leverage the capabilities of technology to motivate students and encourage their mastery of Hebrew, with an emphasis on active communicative abilities. Even the limited sampling provided above illustrates the power of technology to revitalize and improve Hebrew language education. Audio and video, voice recordings and games, appropriately integrated into a thoughtful curriculum, help us meet students on their own ground. Technology allows students to experience Hebrew as a living, dynamic language as they learn to read, write, understand, and speak it.
Read more at Jewish Educational Leadership.