Using Hebrew in Harmony Makes Transition to Distance Learning Easy, Educators Say
After New Jersey ordered all schools closed in March indefinitely, Abra Lee, education director at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, New Jersey, didn’t panic about how her students would continue their Hebrew learning.
The large school has been using Hebrew in Harmony for several years, so students and families are used to bringing binders of materials home each week and using the app for regular Hebrew practice.
“Anyone who was lucky enough to have been using Hebrew in Harmony can just keep going” says Lee. To ensure there wouldn’t be technical blips when they moved class sessions online, she and her assistant recorded themselves holding a Zoom session to demonstrate how to use Zoom and log into the app, then shared that recording with families.
She’s noticed after several weeks of distance learning that more students are logging into the app, which contains videos about the 22 prayers, traditional and alternative melodies, games to reinforce the learning, and Hebrew reading practice. She’s also seen parents becoming more engaged with the material, sending her videos of the students as they use the Hebrew in Harmony app. “They are excited to see the kids doing the work on the app,” Lee says.
This echoes what another education director at a large Houston school is seeing too.
Samara Schwartz, principal of the Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center (MBJLC) at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, says that their Hebrew program “is ticking along remarkably well” and has been a pretty seamless transition from learning in school to learning from home.
“With the secular schools as erratic as they are, we’re seeing that some children have really latched onto their Hebrew as a way to feel like they are DOING something,” says Schwartz. “We’re seeing an uptick in usage of the app and children committed to not losing their learning. They feel successful at Hebrew and we’re more than happy to keep working with them on it.”
The school uses Hebrew in Harmony in grades 3-6, and sent home the print materials to each student. They already know how to use the app and have access to it through the summer. “If it gives them pleasure, by all means, we want them to keep going.”
The school has been holding weekly livestream schoolwide t’filah services. Schwartz said this past week they had three students t’filah leaders because they had just mastered certain prayers and wanted to show off that learning. She normally doesn’t do Sim Shalom during the Sunday t’filah but added it in because one student finished learning it and asked to lead it. “He had learned it through Hebrew in Harmony and asked if we could include it in the group tfilah service. It’s exciting to see.”
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