Students learning Hebrew at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield have a new tool this year to make their lessons a little more interesting.
The temple is piloting an online course offered through ShalomLearning, which is based in Bethesda, MD. Classes meet once a week on Sunday, and the online lessons give them the equivalent of a second hour in the classroom, Rabbi Arianna Gordon said.
"They were fantastic, very accommodating," Gordon said of the staff at Shalom Learning. "Students are using so much technology in their daily lives ... this will enhance what goes on in the classroom."
Piloted in one fourth grade classroom, the course teaches students how to read Hebrew and put words together. Gordon said the temple hopes to expand online learning to other Hebrew programs and into the 5th grade.
"I think anything we can do to meet students where they are is definitely the wave of the future," she said, adding that Jewish schools tend to fall behind secular schools when it comes to use of technology. "We need to catch up."
"That's why synagogues partner with us," said Sarah B. Steinberg, Ed.D., who is ShalomLearning's CEO, "to engage kids and keep them excited about learning."
The company works with education directors and teachers "to make sure they're using what we have to offer in the most effective way for their synagogue," Steinberg said.
The company was founded by Jewish education entrepreneurs, Andrew Rosen and Devin Schain, who belonged to the same synagogue and both had kids who were unhappy about going to Hebrew school, Steinberg said. Their idea of combining the curriculum with technology is spreading; the pilot program had seven students, and this year, ShalomLearning serves 300 students in 20 schools.
The company is also reaching out to families who may not be affiliated with a temple or synagogue, but still want their children to have a Jewish education.