Title: Introducing Quizlet – an online learning tool – into my Talmud class.
I teach Jewish studies for an all-boys Jewish high school in Sydney. The main Jewish topic that is taught is called ‘Talmud.’ Talmud is a collection of statements, discussions from hundreds of Rabbi’s dating back to the beginning of the CE. This topic is very challenging for a variety of reasons. 1) The language used is Aramaic (similar to Hebrew, was used in Babylonia). 2) There are no sentences. There are just huge columns with lots of words and it takes a very skilled learner to know how to read and decipher it. 3) There are many new ideas, concepts and themes that get mentioned throughout the discussions.
Term 4, 2014 I decided that I wanted to make some changes to my Year 8 Talmud class. The key reason for me was that the boys all loved technology and trying to teach them this topic from a textbook was becoming increasingly harder. Additionally, this class was going to prepare the for the next 4 years of High school which would culminate in Classical Hebrew HSC. So getting my students to really like and enjoy this topic was crucial. All the students have an innate likeness for this topic, for it commentates on all aspects of Judaism.
I heard about a program called Quizlet, which has many cool features that could be used for my class. I spent some time learning how the program operates and decided it would be perfect for the class. The goal was to firstly, get the students to memorise all key words and concepts. Secondly, they should be fully engaged and enjoy every part of this learning.
I way I would know if it works, would be by gauging how many students are involved in the weekly discussions and debates, which include themes and key words that were taught from the Talmud. As well there are tests and quizzes that will clearly allow me assess their knowledge.
So I booked the laptop trolley from the School facilities for the full week. The plan was that every day from 9:15-10:00am I would have the class use the laptop and complete their tasks on it. The class begins at 9:05am, I would outline what tasks I wanted them to do and how they would achieve it through the app called quizlet on their laptops. The way this programs works, is that I upload files (any word in any order I want) and place them in the (virtual) class I made on this program. I then send all the students invites to my class and when they log in to the class they can see those files and then proceed to answer/learn those words.
The first day I tried it was challenging, the boys had no clue how to sign up and get a username. So I quickly Air-played (same idea as projector with out any wires) my laptop on the smart board and showed them step for step how it gets done. Once they have their names and logged into he class they were off and figured out how to use the program very quickly. They loved it and when the class finished they all just wanted to carry on. I realized that this is what they need to master the topic. One issue I had was, how do I know what each student is actaully doing? Despite the many options on quizlet; games, flash cards, test etc. it doesnt tell the class director what is going on.
After the class I had to ask each boy to tell me what games he played and how well he did, but that was taxing and I knew it couldn’t last. So I researched the program some more and find out that if you pay (a small minimal fee annually) you can be upgraded to higher stats that allows for the teacher to see the class progress, which I did.
The next day, I uploaded three more files to the class. They not only loved the learning, they even had competitions amongst themselves who could have the best time (in one particular game). The best thing for me was, I knew who played which games and how often. As well as it gave me the class percentage of each word (how often it was spelled / answered correctly or incorrectly).
The learning was amazing. All the students performed better in their tests and there were many more voices heard on our weekly Talmud discussion. This reinforced the ideas of lateral learning. The fact that all students can pick from a variety of games gives then the opportunity to learn in their fashion
I would like to incorporate more gaming style programs in my class. It seemed to me that these boys were natural gamers; they love the individual challenge and the fact that they are competing against a classmate. Also this tool can be used for homework, so before a test, the teacher can just tell the class review files xyz and they can go on the program whenever they want a review through all the games available.