An online community for Jewish moms

by Laurie Rappaport

As the academic year begins teachers, students and parents review the new school schedules and programs with high expectations for a successful school experience. Jewish day schools offer a dual track of Jewish/Hebrew studies and secular subject material and in many of these schools as well as in afternoon enrichment programs, new technology increases the schools' ability to create more engaging and dynamic educational opportunities for its students.

There are a wide range of opportunities which enable Jewish schools to include educational technology in the classroom. Almost any subject, including Gemorah, Chumash, Tanach, Jewish history and even Hebrew language can be taught in an online framework. The introduction of these distance learning programs allows the students to acquire new information in different, often more individualized formats and use varied online tools to make the introduction of new material and the reinforcement exercises fun and meaningful.

The Jerusalem EdTech Solutions (JETS) works with Jewish educational institutions to provide multiple distance learning opportunities for students and educators alike. The Israel-based project has, over the past 4 years, created numerous new learning prospects that provide vibrant enriching educational possibilities for teachers who want to direct online learning in their own classrooms, partnership programs that twin Israel and North American classrooms and schools, schools that want to introduce new teachers and new concepts in an asynchronous (independent learning) format and individualized home-based Jewish study options.

Schools can bring new and exciting concepts into their schedules with distance learning that includes such subjects as an overview of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Judaism and Environmentalism, Tikkun Olam, Israel Archaeology, Ancient Israel and more. Each class involves the presentation of the material and a chance for the students to explore the information and share perceptions via Internet tools that include virtual post-it notes, WikiSpaces, Memes, Social Posters, Linoboards and more.

Teachers can take a Professional Development Course and learn to implement these strategies themselves or they can co-teach with an Israeli teacher who will "meet" the kids once a week and teach Live from Jerusalem. A school twinning program creates a partnership between Israeli and North American classrooms. "Twinned" students collaborate on assignments on a shared virtual blackboard from across the ocean, with the Israeli kids posting in English to strengthen their English skills and the North American kids, where possible, posting in Hebrew.

One of the more unique Jewish online learning programs involves the Jconnect Online Hebrew School that allows students to click into a weekly Sunday Morning Live Jewish enrichment program and participate right from their own homes. JconnecT offers two Sunday classes, the contemporary Hebrew language Hip Hop Hebraics and a reflective course on Contemporary Jewish Issues. JconnecT students are pre-teens and teenagers who either don't have access to a local Hebrew School or haven't found a Jewish enrichment framework that is appropriate for their level and needs. Many of the students and families are looking for alternate Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah preparation or follow-up. The program was recently featured on the Jewish Military blog Jews in Green

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