Washington, DC is known for its blend of old-school tradition (seersucker suits and old-boys’-club power lunches) and new-school innovation (smartphones and social networking). However, technology innovation is no longer just for the secular world. It was only a matter of time before the combination of yesterday and tomorrow came to our cultural and religious institutions. Enter ShalomLearning, a way of bringing Jewish education in line with how today’s youth learns.
You know the story: “My one-year-old son/grandson/nephew knows how to unlock the iPad and play a game of Angry Birds, all by himself.” If kids are “digital natives,” using technology at home, in their secular classrooms, and socially, technology should be integrated into their Jewish education as well.
Most synagogues know they need to do more to capture their young congregants’ attention; however, at the same time, they struggle with basic technology infrastructure, let alone the ability to bring technology into their Hebrew school curriculum. Even those congregations with the resources often do not know where to start. ShalomLearning set out to change that by customizing and packaging existing technology for synagogues, building a pluralistic curriculum that is engaging, relevant, flexible and fun.
Todays’ tech-savvy, overscheduled kids benefit from ShalomLearning’s “flipped classroom” format. This model blends new (online) and traditional (in-classroom) educational methods. Students access online videos, slideshows, worksheets, texts, and other aids prior to class. When the kids come together – in person or online – they are then able to participate in meaningful discussions and interactive lessons, rather than trudging through content.
One of the tools included in our curriculum is the Prayer Player app for the iPad, which allows students to learn individual Hebrew phrases by playing interactive mini-games before progressing to teaching entire prayers in sequence. The app is ShalomLearning’s answer to the outdated way of learning prayers by attempting to rewind that mp3, CD, or (more likely) cassette tape in order to get the line just right. The app was developed with our younger students in mind, but we have received tons of great feedback from adults who just need that quick refresher before going to services on Friday night or to a family member’s bar or bat mitzvah. You can get the free app here.
In early 2013, I was recruited to be the CEO of ShalomLearning. As its first CEO, I am committed to realizing the company’s mission to positively disrupt supplemental Jewish education (“Hebrew school”) through a unique blend of innovative curriculum and cutting-edge technology. Our goal is to partner with synagogues and families to impact teaching and learning in new and exciting ways.
We are growing at an exciting rate and plan to continue our partnerships with Jewish educators and institutions to offer more content and more applications. ShalomLearning has a 100% renewal rate with our current synagogues from the past academic year, and we now stretch from Virginia and Maryland, to Illinois, New York, and up to Toronto. For the unaffiliated families, ShalomLearning is offered at the JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville.
We have big plans for the for the 2013/2014 academic year, including offering a streamlined, fully online version of the curriculum and to expand vertically and horizontally to reach more JCC families, camp families, military families, international families, and the broad base of unaffiliated families.
For more information on ShalomLearning, please visit our website www.ShalomLearning.com.