It might seem like Jewish studies and technology aren’t a natural fit, yet the founders of a new startup called ShalomLearning are proving that wrong. ShalomLearning is a tool aimed at Jewish instructors that not only includes lesson plans, videos and academic materials but hopes in the near future to provide an opportunity for teachers to upload their own lessons as well as customize those available to suit the unique needs of each of their students.
The pedigree of those working on ShalomLearning is impressive. It was co-founded by Andrew Rosen, whose previous foray into ed tech resulted in the massively popular learning platform Blackboard who is now working with David Shain, himself no stranger to the industry. Together, they created something customizable and engaging that hopes to bring a completely modern way to learn material that goes back millennia.
It’s a trendy notion among educational technology professionals: Rather than waste precious time by delivering droning lectures, teachers should provide their students with tools to do much of the acquisition of information on their own time and use the classroom to hold discussions, complete projects, or otherwise interact with students in a more dynamic way. Using ShalomLearning, teachers are able to upload videos, slideshows, worksheets, texts, and others aids for students to peruse.
Students are growing up in a new kind of environment today – one full of gadgets, games and other distractions. ShalomLearning is about reaching an audience who might find the traditional approach to be tedious and slow.
The curriculum that Rosen and Shain have designed takes into account what they consider to be the seven core values of Judaism: personal responsibility, honoring God, doing the right thing, fulfilling your duty to the world you live in, joy and gratitude, owning what we say and working to bring forth peace on earth.
The curriculum strives to bring these ancient lessons into the modern world as it does when – to demonstrate the importance of finding strength to do the right thing – it shows the video of the bus monitor who was bullied by the school children she was supposed to be supervising.
And then there are the prayers: Streamlining the often intimidating experience of chanting liturgy in a foreign language, the platform offers PDFs of prayers, as well as overviews of their meanings and origins and a guide on how to teach them to students. This month, ShalomLearning also launched the Prayer Player application for the iPad, which allows students to learn individual Hebrew phrases by playing interactive mini-games before progressing to teaching entire prayers in sequence.