Changes in APPtitude

Joel Lurie Grishaver

Joel Lurie GrishaverWant technology? Have we got a Hebrew APP for you!

We started with a few goals:

  • Improving the Hebrew School experience.
  • Maximizing student success at Hebrew reading.
  • Involving parents in their child’s education.
  • Eliminating the failure that is based on lack of long term memory consolidation.
  • Providing teachers with valuable knowledge of student progress.

The Background

In the 90s we changed Jewish education by creating “Home Workbooks” for our Hebrew and Prayer series. These home workbooks involved parent by providing them with background on what was learned in class each day and by inviting them to do the practice material with their child.

The beauty of the Home Workbook was that no books would be lost in transit. Students could use the page at home (with their parents)—and then pull the homework out of the book because the pages were perforated.

The Home Workbook results were wonderful. We should have done something statistical so I could give you hard numbers, but we didn’t. Lots of parents leaned the Hebrew Alef-Bet with their children—and lots of homework got done, because it was short, fun, and easy.

At just about the same time, Jane Golub experimented with audiotapes (remember audiotapes?). She asked students to record themselves reading a passage and then pass in their tapes. Anecdotally, from both Jane and from the teachers she trained, participation was high and useful to teachers.

We’ve built all of these insights into the new APP.

shutterstock_32222887 -2 [Converted]Looking at the APP

This is easy. For the moment you need an Apple device. If you don’t have one—borrow one. Download the app: Tiyulim. Open the app and to use it follow the directions. For the moment, it is free, because this is a demo (test version), there will be a few changes in the final version.

  • It will move faster.
  • There will be more graphics.
  • At the moment the sample is for Tiyulim. It is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Soon we will have an Ot La-Ba’ot APP for all devices.
  • It will cost $1.99 to download.
  • And (if it is not obvious) the sample has three lessons, the student/family version will have the whole book.

The idea is simple: (a) Parents add the APP to a device. Tablets work better because they are bigger—but smart-phones will do. (b) Teachers will communicate the lessons to be done to the families. (c) Families (or just the student) will play through the review pieces and then (d) the student will record and e-mail the included passage to the teacher. Finally, (e) the teacher opens each e-mail, hears the recording, and evaluates each student.

Improving the Hebrew School Experience

Two things make kids hate Hebrew school. This APP begins to solve both problems. Both of them have to do with reading Hebrew out loud.

First, it is really boring waiting for everyone in your class to read a line in turn. The very way that teachers can evaluate and individualize the central goal of a Hebrew/Prayer program is its central problem. The entire collection of anti-Hebrew school literature centers on being bored during this one person reading at the time process.

What super-charges the boredom (that Freud described as the passive expression of anxiety) is fear of and embarrassment at pain. Reading out loud put a number of students at risk of public failure. Judaism compares embarrassing someone to killing someone. “Anyone who shames another person in public is like a person who sheds blood.” (Bava Metizia 58b)”

Boredom is one of the most destructive effects of passivity. Lack of variety is annoying; extreme repetitiveness drives people to despair. Passivity generates drudgery because it sucks ambition out of the environment. Little by little, routine turns to hopelessness. Life enjoyment wanes as individuals are emptied of their last drops of entrepreneurship.

The honest truth is that the process of sitting in class while the first person reads line one and the second person reads line two while the ninth kid anxious rehearses the ninth line is destructive. It is actually psychologically destructive. This APP can change that.

The APP offers teachers a chance to hear and evaluate every student without embarrassment and without waiting in line. Boredom and tension are gone. By recording at home and e-mailing the reading—we eliminate the public embarrassment and the waiting. We also grant students the right to record the passage as many times as they want—perfecting (and rehearsing) their performance. This means that the reading in class can be done in small groups, teams, and in lots of ways that are more fun and involve much less fear of embarrassment.

Maximize Student Success at Hebrew Reading.

Despite a phonics predisposition, the NRP (National Reading Panel) concluded that “phonics instruction produces the biggest impact on growth in reading when it begins in kindergarten or 1st grade before children have learned to read independently” and it “failed to exert a significant impact on the reading performance of low-achieving readers in 2nd through 6th grades” (NRP, 2000, pp. 2-93-94). The NRP also noted that “it is important to emphasize that systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program. Phonics instruction is never a total reading program….”

While recently early education (and hence Hebrew education) has favored phonetic learning, there is a lot of research favoring WPW (Whole-Part-Whole Learning Model) learning, which is supported in constructivist learning.

The truth is almost never 100% true. What leads to the confusion in the “Reading Wars” is that some students do better with Part-to-Whole processing (phonetics) others do better in Whole-to-Part-to-Whole learning (Whole Language). In creating both Tiyulim and Ot La-Ba’ot we favor phonics but give a nod and include some material that is WPW. In that way we honor both learning styles. The APP does the same thing, using both part-to-whole and whole-to-part activities. The drill lets everyone learn in their own best way.

All drill is good. Everything that you can get students and families (note: and families) to at home: Dayenu! But listening to Gardner and reinforcing each student in their own style is even better. Our APP does that.

Involve Parents in Their Child’s Education.

To create the kinds of school-family partnerships that raise student achievement, improve local communities, and increase public support, we need to understand the difference between family involvement and family engagement. One of the dictionary definitions of involve is “to enfold or envelope,” whereas one of the meanings of engage is “to come together and interlock.” Thus, involvement implies doing to; in contrast, engagement implies doing with. (Ferlazzo, Larry “Involvement or Engagement?” Educational Leadership.” May 2011. Volume 68 Number 8)

The word “engagement” is the hot word in Jewish education. It was originally used in the context of family engagement. Secular educators figured out that student did better if their parents were engaged (actively involved) in their child’s school. Jewish education seconded that conception. When we created the Home Workbooks) we knew that knowledge of Hebrew was a boundary issue that kept parents (Jewish or non-Jewish of origin) from being involved with their child’s Hebrew learning.

Years ago, we solved this problem by including “Today I Learned…” pages that allowed students to teach their parents how to read Hebrew, letter by letter. These have now been transferred to the application making it easy for student and parents to play the activities together. We know (1) the co-viewing can be a powerful parent-child learning format  and (2) that learning through teaching s a very powerful way to learn. Both happen wghen students use the APP to teach their parents.

Using the APP, you can build Jewish family engagement, further parent learning, and create a powerful, positive, co-viewing experience.

Eliminating the Failure that is Based on Lack of Long Term Memory Consolidation.

It takes three classes a week to mazimize second language mastery and move new learning from short term to long term memory. (Yosi Gordon, unpublished Doctoral Dissertation)

Meeting once or twice a week (for Hebrew) makes success less achievable. If you can add an involved Review (using the Review APP) you dramatically increase the odds. The review APPs for both Tiyulim or Ot La-Ba’ot accomplishes another Hebrew intervention per-week.

  1. Parents object to Hebrew School Homework.
  2. Parents are demanding that Hebrew Schools use technology.
  3. Our APP sells homework as technology and invites parental engagement.
  4. Our APPs give students a much better chance at succeeding in moving short-term memory (new learning) into long term memory (learning that stays). Not only does the review help, but the fact that it is fun, also adds it chance to make it into long term memory (see Mind, Brain, and Education: Neruscience Implications for the Classroom edited by David A. Sousa).

Benefits of the New App

  1. COST: You can save about $10.00 per student by using Torah Aura Productions technology.
  2. HIPNESS: You will be using the latest technology platform. Families are moving to tablets (and APPs) and not to more laptops.
  3. LEARNING: Students will gain insights into Hebrew and not focus just on psychomotor coordination.
  4. ENGAGEMENT: You will invite parents to successfully learn Hebrew along with their child.
  5. TEACHERS: Your teachers will have a chance to accurately evaluate each child’s progress—not with a number of passes but with an actual performance.
  6. STUDENTS: You will see actual improvement in students’ Hebrew Learning because our materials are designed to help that progress.

Click here for more information on the new Tiyulim/Ot la-Ba’ot Hebrew Review App. Download the demo now from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.