Jewish Java Brews Up Learning

Brad Lakritz
Marin Academy High School

In the late 1970's many educators began to herald the promise of "computer based instruction" (CBI). Teachers believed CBI would help improve learning by providing extended opportunities for students to "drill and practice" their studies. CBI could also eliminate some of the more mundane instructional tasks of the classroom teacher and create opportunities for individualized classroom activities and home learning.

As the multimedia capacity of computers increased with the advent of interactive CD-ROMs and Internet sites, CBI quickly got lost in the back alleys of the information superhighway.

However, like many educational trends which come and go, CBI did have some positive characteristics which many educators held onto and developed. Today, one of the best examples of CBI is available at the Hebrew learning web site This site incorporates JAVA enhanced web pages to provide simple, but effective, computer based instruction.

ZigZagWorld began with graphic applets which allowed students to create "Jewish scenes" with movable objects in a web browser. Teachers and home schoolers could send students to the site and have them work with Java applets related to Jewish holidays, Jewish history and Hebrew words. The basic premise of these games is that you click and drag a Hebrew word and the corresponding object appears in the scene. Students can have fun creating the picture while learning to read and understand the words and the context in which we normally say them.

Computers are fun, a change of pace, and combine the kinesthetic and visual which is very helpful for many students. Yes, this is absolutely the wave of the future.

Rochelle Sobel
2nd Grade Teacher
Charles E. Smith Day School
Rockville, MD

Myriam Feldman, educator at Congregation Beth Emek in Livermore, California uses the web site often. In her work with tutoring individual students and adults she finds the applets to be useful tools, especially for a Congregation with limited resources.

"I use the site 2-4 times a month," says Feldman. "The Java applets are supplemental to my teaching. I like them because a lot of the words used duplicate the vocabulary used in the Behrman House series Siddur and Heritage. My students have to learn a lot of new words in a short amount of time and this is the only reinforcement I can give them."

Rochelle Sobel, teacher at Charles E. Smith Day School in Rockville, Maryland uses "Hebrew computers" each week with her 2nd grade students. "I have found that the students greatly enjoy the activities in each lesson," Sobel says. "I am delighted by the fact that our curriculum parallels many of the units on the (ZigZagWorld) website, ie. clothing, in the classroom, shabbat, lech lecha, holidays, shopping for shabbat, the picnic, in the house etc. The units are an excellent source of enrichment, reinforcement and to trigger Hebrew conversation."

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