Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Sunday, June 03, 2012

How can we utilize student-driven, project-based learning in Judaic Studies?

This week, I was energized by an event that took place at my school. We hosted an Engineering symposium featuring students from 5 schools including my own presenting their engineering projects throughout the year. This event was the culmination of the SciTech Engineering Elective which was supported and sponsored by the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education. Here is a description from The Frisch School Blog.

These students worked throughout the year on providing scientific solutions to real-world problems. The passion and enthusiasm they displayed at this conference and in the many times that I popped into their lab throughout the year was exhilarating. The Frisch engineering students, under the able guidance of their teacher Mrs. Rifkie Silverman, would start working even before their teacher arrived and many times would stay in the lab after the bell sounded for the next class. The learning was supplemented by presentations by many parent and alumni volunteers in the areas of robotic surgery and mechanical engineering who provided real-world examples of engineering solutions in various fields. There was a constant buzz of activity, problem solving, and discussion in the lab as students switched between various modalities including computer programs, Lego robot models, electrical circuits and the list goes on. You can watch an exceptional video created by our students about their engineering projects below.



The question that I have is how this project-based real-world model can be utilized in Judaic Studies. My friend Rabbi Aaron Ross has posted often about this on his blog, my colleague at Frisch, Mrs. Tikvah Wiener, has been working on this paradigm shift with her RealSchool curriculum, and I have shared many of my own technology based Judaic projects in this forum as well. In many ways, Judaic Studies is the perfect place for project-based learning since we do not suffer from the malady that plagues many other areas of education today, standardized tests. However, while it is relatively easy to give a project in Tanach or Gemara, to do this consistently, in a way that is both student-directed and addresses the real-world, Halakha Lemaasa as they would say in the Yeshiva, is an issue that I am grappling with. Furthermore, Judaic Studies pedagogy with it's strong focus on the Rebbe/Talmid relationship and the passing of the mesorah to the next generation has often focused on the Sage on the Stage frontal learning model. Of course, the importance of chavruta beit midrash style learning fits right into project-based learning. How do we find the right balance? I welcome the collective wisdom of my readers to grapple with this issue. Please post your responses to this question in the comments section and keep the ideas flowing.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent question. As a first year Judaic Studies teacher at a school that is similar to yours in many ways, I am grappling with this issue. One of my main issues with project based learning this year was insuring the quality of the project. I would really love to hear some ideas.

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