For centuries Jewish students spent their days poring over thick, dense volumes of the Tanakh, Talmud, and other seminal Jewish texts. Today, students are also likely to encounter the responsa of Rambam on iPad screens while browsing Mercava, a digital learning platform with many volumes of Jewish books.
Through Mercava students and teachers can access texts ranging from the Torah to Tefillot. Educators can use Mercava’s built-in tools to create source sheets, flow charts, and even assessments, or embed images and videos.
“Mercava is very adaptive to every pedagogic style,” says Moshe Azizollahoff, Mercava’s director of education strategy. “Every teacher I meet with is able to take what Mercava offers and is able to adapt it to their specific lesson plan and curriculum.”
For educators, Mercava offers a wealth of possibilities. Teachers can create differentiated lessons and assessments. Through the classroom management tool, teachers can monitor students’ screens and make sure they are staying on task.
Moshe has seen teachers use Mercava to create an array of engaging lessons. One teacher uploaded 200 images and had students use the pictures to create a visual translation of the Gemara section they were studying. Another educator had students create animated videos with Powtoon, and then linked their Powtoons to the text they were studying in the Book of Shmuel.
“When teachers see Mercava it gets the creative juices flowing. They realize, ‘Hey, I can also do this,’” Moshe says.
Mercava’s interdisciplinary nature makes it accessible to students who prefer different learning methods. The ability to upload images, 3D graphics, maps, and videos, is crucial for visual learners Moshe says. Other students enjoy creating voice recordings and generating flow charts. Through Mercava, students develop skills in reading traditional texts and sharpen their understandings of the philosophic foundations of Judaism.
“Those skills are hard to come by and very powerful to see happen for a student,” Moshe says.
During the Mercava workshop at DigitalJLearning’s Judaic Studies Day of Learning, Moshe, will give participants a taste of the platform’s diverse offerings. Participants will work in hevruta to create lesson plans to take back to their classrooms.
While Mercava is digital, it is not meant to replace the experience of sitting down with a traditional, bound volume of a section of the Talmud or Tanakh. “The ultimate goal is that a student should be able to pick a book off a shelf and use the skills Mercava gave them,” Moshe says. “And when they pick up the book, they will have a good feeling on what it means to be Jewish from a traditional standpoint.”
No matter how students engage with traditional Jewish texts, Moshe and the Mercava team believe that through digital experiences, students will come away as more knowledgeable and inspired Jewish learners.
Gabriel Weinstein is the Project Manager, Digital Content and Communications for DigitalJLearning.