Monday, September 09, 2013

Guest Post: Games and Jewish Education

The following is a guest post from JETS Israel:

What will Jewish education look like in the year 2020? No one can say for sure but if current trends hold firm more and more educational frameworks will integrate online game models into their core curriculum as well as their enrichment activities.

Teachers throughout the educational spectrum are increasingly incorporating games and other online tools into their lesson plans. The new media that is available on the web enables young learners to develop and sharpen their abilities, teach themselves and mentor their peers using any of the dozens -- even hundreds -- of online platforms and games. These activities introduce new subjects and reinforce previous learning as they encourage students to problem solve, engage in role-playing, and strengthen their knowledge.

The Jewish educational world has been slow to embrace the opportunities that multi-media, online games and other digital tools bring to the classroom. Every year however, more Jewish schools, both day schools and afternoon enrichment programs, integrate these distance learning programs into their curriculum. Online Jewish educational groups such as JETS Israel incorporate games in an online venue as a way of heightening the students' engagement with the subject material and reinforcing the learning.

One popular activity involves "twinning" kids in Israeli and North American and challenging them to collaborate with each other to complete assignments. The wikispace model is a particularly adaptive tool for this kind of instruction. Kids can play any number of games with their peers across the ocean which highlight the lesson's main points and support the learning model.

Since one of the objectives of the twinning project involves strengthening the language skills of both groups (strengthening Hebrew for the North American kids and English for the Israeli kids) many teachers use the vocabulary from the subject to create online word games such as word scrambles, crosswords and -- a particularly popular game, description detective. Each pair of students -- one from Israel and one from the North American classroom -- receives their own sub-Wikispace where they join forces to complete the assignment as they compete against the other student pairs.

iPad classes offer another opportunity to bring online games into the classroom. When studying Israel's history or geography students can time themselves while placing Israeli cities and other geographical locations correctly on prepared map and then count the number of events that occurred in each location that they can identify. A timeline game offers the same challenges.

The web-conferencing model presents a perfect forum for trivia games, whether the subject involve Torah, Talmud, history or current events. As the teacher moderates the trivia game from his or her station anywhere in the world the kids can compete in pairs, in groups or as individuals. This game works best when the kids are split into groups and each group is represented by a different student, with the role of group representatives revolving among the students. Multiple groups can compete and as groups are eliminated, the last group standing becomes the trivia winner.
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