Marsh Hopp, Ph.D., who along with her husband Ted created ZigZagWorld, is surprised by the staying power of their early work. "When we put 'The Hanukkah House' online at the end of 1996, we never thought it would be a permanent feature of our site," remarks Hopp. "Now, there is no way we could take it down -- too many folks have linked to the page! In fact, many of our activities have been up for a long time, yet they've grown in popularity, and have not become 'dated.' That's surprising, considering how quickly web pages can go stale."
There are many other games on the ZigZagWorld site, however, Hopp sees the future of ZigZagWorld focused on yet another new learning productivity software that will include a built-in Hebrew (bidirectional) text editor. This technology, called newSLATE, will incorporate learning materials created by teachers and/or students and automatically generate study materials and interactive quizzes. Developed in collaboration with the University of Michigan's Language Resource Center, newSLATE promises to expand the already successful use of platform independent, online learning modules in Jewish education.
Using newSLATE starts with the all important thought process any good teacher has in developing a curriculum. "You begin by thinking about the information that needs to be learned" states Hopp. "For example, this might be a vocabulary list, facts organized by topic, or foreign words and their translations. The newSLATE system offers you a choice of formats for organizing your information. Choose the format, enter the information."
I have found
that the students greatly enjoy the activities in
each lesson and am delighted by the fact that our
curriculum parallels many of the units on the
I have found that the students greatly enjoy the activities in each lesson and am delighted by the fact that our curriculum parallels many of the units on the website.
ZigZagWorld has embraced the Internet from it's beginning. "Software is undergoing a transformation to the web" says Hopp. "Our applets are steps along that road. And that's why newSLATE is being designed from the start as web-based software."
In their research the Hopps concluded that many software products such as word processors and spreadsheet applications were not designed for educational use. Marsha Hopp says they "have become essential educational software because they make everyday tasks easier and are appropriate for just about every subject."
"So we looked at the task of 'studying,'" says Hopp "which is appropriate for just about every subject, and found that the tools most recommended for this were flash cards, highlighting your text, and recopying your notes." The newSLATE technology is designed to help teachers create these electronic resources and make them available to students at any time. It is also possible that students could use the technology to create their own study tools.
Ted Hopp hopes the attraction of technology and the ease of use and utility of their product will lure educators and students. But, in the end, there isn't much difference between learning as it used to be and learning via the Internet. "Like word processors and spreadsheets, newSLATE has no educational content or philosophy," says Hopp. "It's just the 'better mousetrap' for doing the studying you were supposed to do anyway."
ZigZagWorld may not be a mousetrap but it
is an excellent resource for Jewish educators and students.
Teachers will find the educational games fun and valuable
activities to supplement traditional classroom work. Parents
can use the site with children of all ages and Hebrew
language instructors may expand their repertoire of tools
for starting their students on Hebrew word processing.
Whether you teach at a day school, congregational school or
at home, there is something for just about every Jewish
educator at ZigZagWorld.