April 26, 2012
In and out of the box: Rambam and Shalhevet connect with Sderot schools
The young men eagerly shuffle into the room, sit in their desks, open books and attentively face a blank television screen. Clicking a remote, one of the group initiates a video call and the screen springs to life. Ms. Batel Dahan appears on the screen and calls out “Shalom” to the 10th and 11th graders. That day’s Honors Hebrew class taught via remote learning by a teacher in Sderot, Israel has begun.
This pioneering step, known as distance learning in other venues, is already in its second year in Rambam Mesivta. With this out of the box approach with a teacher “in the box,” students not only learn and improve their Hebrew language and reading skills but connect on a cultural level, discussing current issues and life in Israel in real time.
Rambam has been videoconferencing (VC) for three years now with a group of students from Rambam having what Rabbi Yotav Eliach, principal of Rambam, calls a cultural exchange session for half an hour once a week with a group of students in the AMIT high school in Sderot. Last year they began having a Hebrew language class via VC with Dahan; this year the program has expanded to three classes.
In Midreshset Shalhevet, Rambam’s sister school, the top Hebrew speaking students in the school, four seniors and three juniors, gather excitedly and similarly face the blank screen in the office of Mrs. Esther Eisenman, Shalhevet’s principal. They speak Hebrew to a class of girls at the AMIT High School in Sderot who in turn respond in English. “Because of the existing success of the program at Rambam,” explained Eisenman, “we wanted to do it as well. They love it, they love talking to them; you can see how anxious they are to do it again. The conversation flows, they enjoy it.”