Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shabbat Interactive: Making Real-World Connections With an Ancient Text

One of the fundamentals of 21st Century Learning is making the content relevant to the students. This entails that the learning having a connection to the real world and more specifically, to their own lives. At the same time, the content needs to be presented and taught in way that is engaging and interactive. In order to enable our students to reach their full potential, we need to give them ample opportunities to take charge of their own learning. To do so, it is important that we become the "guide on the side" and act as facilitators of their learning as opposed to being the "sage on the stage." Allowing and encouraging our students rather than ourselves to be at the forefront, prepares them for optimal success. Of course, it's easier said than done. Connecting students' learning in the textbook to outside the walls of the classroom is no easy task. What about making real world connections with the Torah, an ancient text that is several thousand years old? For this purpose, I use the program Shabbat Interactive, a program developed by Jewish Interactive.

Shabbat Interactive is a multimedia learning environment that explores Shabbat (Sabbath) for children from ages 6 to 11.   It is an engaging tool that utilizes cutting-edge technology.  Not only can educators use it as a resource in their classrooms, but children and their families can use it at home as well.  Jewish Interactive has clearly taken the lead in developing high quality, educational and interactive content for the Jewish sector.  The program contains 9 digital modules designed for interactive white boards and PCs, accompanied by 9 lesson plans for teachers, formulated by top curriculum developers. The first 3 modules explore the history of Shabbat whilst the last 6 modules explore the customs and traditions of Shabbat every week.

Each digital module consists of:
  • A blended learning curriculum plan outlining learning objectives, knowledge, skills, understanding, learning outcomes, and success criteria for that module 
  • A printable worksheet for the class 
  • A PowerPoint lesson plan with resources consisting of: Baseline assessments, learning objectives and guidelines for blended learning lessons on the interactive white board 
  • Activities – crafts, dramas, quiz, games, songs, projects
  • Stories for teachers to read with the children 
  • Additional material relevant to the module such as enlarged Chumash texts, Gemorahs, and Midrashim
  • Discussion points based on the module that emphasize personal, social, health and emotional aspects that enhance growth in value systems and personal attributes 
  • Digital homework based on the content of the program encouraging students to be innovative, active learners in control of their education 
  • Summative assessment tools
When using Shabbat Interactive in my classroom, my students had an enriched educational experience.  It was extremely engaging and they clearly could not get enough of it - they were yearning to learn more and more.  They were able to connect the pesukim (verses) about the Six Days of Creation to the activities within the program.  





Here, students are assembling a puzzle of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that the Jews carried in the midbar (desert).  

A student is sequencing the steps of preparing the lighting of candles for Shabbat.  

Of  Shabbat Interactive's many great qualities, the one that I have found to be most beneficial is the ability for my students to make real world connections.  The Torah and the commandments about Shabbat were given by G-d to the Jewish People over thousands of years ago.  Hypothetically speaking, how can the commandments pertaining to Shabbat be applicable to this day?  There were no cars, cell phones, laptops or other electronic devices back then.  The Torah includes many shades of gray and calls for interpretation.  How is one supposed to know that the use of these modern devices are prohibited on the Sabbath?  

That's what's special about Shabbat Interactive.  Through interactive, engaging activities, the students learn the connections between the Torah and today.  This gives them a much deeper understanding as to why certain things are permissible and others are not even though the commandments were given many years ago.

So when planning your technology budget for the coming school year, make sure to consider Shabbat Interactive.  It is a great resource to use when teaching about the Six Days of Creation, the Jews in the desert, and of course about the Shabbat.  Your students will love using it to support their learning and will be ever grateful as mine were!

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