I’mteach­ingschools toapptheirgame

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

AS A teacher, Chana Kanzen did her best to bring Jewish stud­ies into the mod­ern age.

Frus­trated with pho­to­copy hand­outs, work­sheets and text­books, she spent hours de­sign­ing Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tions to mir­ror the meth­ods used to teach main­stream sub­jects.

In 2011 she quit her job at the Sacks Mo­rasha Jewish Pri­mary School to run Jewish In­ter­ac­tive UK, an or­gan­i­sa­tion com­mit­ted to bring­ing “Jewish ed­u­ca­tion into this century”.

But as her ex­pe­ri­ence in the class­room showed, it was not an easy task.

She says: “Some teach­ers have a fear of not be­ing able to use the tech­nol­ogy. But that’s no ex­cuse. We are do­ing a dis­ser­vice to chil­dren if we don’t give them skills they need in this century.

“Our chil­dren are brought up in a dig­i­tal and vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment, whether we like it or not.

“There is a real dan­ger of dis­en­gage­ment if we don’t change our at­ti­tude.

“There’s a mas­sive hole we need to fill. We’ve passed on Jewish knowl­edge from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion and it’s vi­tal that chain continues. How that knowl­edge is passed on is just as im­por­tant.” Kanzen, 40, a mem­ber of Adani syn­a­gogue Ma­gen A v r a h a m , has man­aged to get seven t e a c h i n g apps into 30 pri­mary and s e c o n d a r y schools. But while the re­sources are de­signed with an Ortho­dox out­look, changes have been made to ac­com­mo­date all move­ments, from Re­form to Charedi.

“Some schools want a rabbi with a beard to lead a prayer in the pro­gramme, and oth­ers want a woman,” she says. “We are never go­ing to please ev­ery­one but we got around that by


tak­ing away the hu­man el­e­ment and mak­ing our main char­ac­ters birds — they’re more generic.

“We have worked with some Charedi schools, but they’re not all us­ing our prod­ucts. Some­times, they don’t want to use the in­ter­net so are look­ing into tablets that will be off­line.

“In Stam­ford Hill they’re not us­ing our prod­ucts at all. The very Charedi schools are not ready for this.”

Three years ago, Kanzen, a mother of three, ran the or­gan­i­sa­tion from her kitchen in Finch­ley, north Lon­don. Now it is based in JHub’s of­fice in West Hamp­stead. There are also of­fices in South Africa and Is­rael, and plans to open one in Amer­ica.

She be­lieves the tech­nol­ogy ed­u­ca­tion group’s pop­u­lar­ity stems from a re­newed in­ter­est in Jewish ed­u­ca­tion, a fact that has seen her and her staff work 20-hour days.

“There has been a huge in­vest- ment in Jewish schools,” she said. “There’s de­mand so we sup­ply. Our aim is to digi­tise the whole Jewish cur­ricu­lum so it can be taught at home as well.

“A lot of the new Jewish free schools have non-Jewish pupils. This tech­nol­ogy can help them, or people not prac­tic­ing, learn about their her­itage in a colourful and fun way.”

For now, she is fo­cussing on ex­pan­sion but one day, she does hope to re­turn to teach­ing.

Tap­ping into knowl­edge: tablets are now reg­u­lar teach­ing aids

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