In this Educator Spotlight, Meirav Kravetz shares what she learned in our JBlend Miami program and how blended learning, personalization, and data are helping students succeed in Hebrew at all levels.
Meirav Kravetz was born and raised in Haifa, Israel, and has been teaching Hebrew for over 20 years. She holds a master's degree in education from Nova Southeastern University and has taught and mentored in schools in the U.S., Mexico, and Costa Rica. In addition to English and Hebrew, she also speaks Spanish, French, and Italian. Currently, she is the foreign language coordinator for middle school and high school at the Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach, Florida. Meirav believes that knowing a foreign language develops your thinking abilities in many areas. She strives to help students be successful in school and their lives, by teaching them how to be critical thinkers, independent, and collaborative learners. Meirav feels that Jewish students must understand the value of being contributing members of the Jewish community, and responsible citizens of the world.
When did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?
I have always loved children. I enjoy seeing them grow and develop into independent thinkers and young adults. When I left Israel I felt it was important for me to have an impact on the Jewish community. I believed, and I still believe, that education is the key to any meaningful and long lasting change. For that reason I chose to be a Hebrew teacher. Teaching Hebrew helps me connect my students to Israel and inspire them to be leaders in the Jewish community.
How are you using technology to teach Hebrew?
I use Bishvil Ha-Ivrit, an online platform that expands and enriches the learning from the physical materials. For example, the platform enhances and supports the learning with audio recordings, interactive technology, documentary films, and more. The students can speak, read, write, and listen to spoken Hebrew, and learn about daily life in Israel, Jewish tradition and history, and general world knowledge. There are vocabulary activities that check for understanding at the beginning and end of each chapter. There is also a variety of grammar exercises and practice activities available for listening and reading comprehension. The program is very comprehensive and includes all aspects of Hebrew language learning - grammar, conversations and literature, songs, writing assignments and independent reading, current events and Biblical texts. The platform allows for the teacher to customize a learning path for every student at his or her level, which is crucial in our school where we have a large spectrum of levels.
How does data from the program help?
When I assign online tasks to students, like grammar exercises and reading comprehension, they are automatically graded, and I can look at the data and see the students’ strengths and what they need to improve on. Each task can be assigned as an open activity, in which the students can try as many times as they want, or as a closed activity that is scored immediately. Sometimes the students start out practicing with the open activities and then I will change it to closed to get that data for an assessment. The data provides a clear snapshot of the level of the class. It will tell me how many students do not understand a concept, or if everyone gets it and we need to move a little faster. I can differentiate instruction based on the data.
How has using the online tool changed your classroom and teaching?
Integrating the digital platform has transformed the quality and timeliness of data I have about each student. Richer data tells me whether or not students have mastered what they need to or not. It also gives me the ability differentiate the learning with solid data so I don’t have to rely on just my feeling about how a student is doing. I’ve found that the students are very accepting of it, because it’s not just the teacher saying what they need. They look at the data and see that they do need to work on certain areas. When I assign them different activities now I can show them the scores in the backend to explain why. I’ll sit with each student and go over their results. They find out what they’re struggling with and will see “Okay, this is what I need to work on.” Then we’ll revisit their scores every few weeks to check their progress. There is complete transparency and the students are always very aware of what they’re learning now and how those skills can take them to the next level.
The program also enables students to move forward on their own. If they finish an activity, they don’t have to wait for others to finish, they can do the next activity on their own. They understand the concept of “you are never done” and that learning is never over. They’ll say “I’m done so I’m moving to the next activity online.” It’s working really well for students who have always been bored from a lack of challenge, and it also gives me time to work with students who are having difficulty. I can pull one or two students out and make sure they are on the right track.
What are some other benefits of using technology for teaching?
Having every student on a personalized learning path allows for students to monitor their own pace. Additionally, it has reinforced the value of learning time as there is no "downtime" (“Ein Efes” as we say in Hebrew), which there often can be in a traditional classroom. They feel like individuals and I know them more personally. Each one is different and they know I know what they need. It’s also more interesting for them because they’re doing different activities, have so many ways to learn, and have new experiences.
As the head of the department, how have you helped other teachers use technology?
I have four other Hebrew teachers using the same curriculum and online program. They are all working in a similar way - everything I learned in JBlend Miami trickles down to them because we have a weekly team meeting and weekly individual meetings. Everything that I do is going to the rest of the department as well. For example, I have a teacher who has students at different levels and we came up with an individualized plan for every student that is modified to match their needs. We make those plans based on the data from the program and the needs of the students.
What other kinds of technology have you used to teach Hebrew?
Students have used the video camera and voice recorder on their phones to record monologues or conversations. They’ll record themselves speaking and then drop it into their Google Drive folder so I can access it. I use Google Classroom to give them assignments. They do research online and read Wikipedia and other sources in Hebrew. Sometimes they research in English and then write in Hebrew.
We teach them not to use Google Translate, but to read, understand, and then write in their own words in Hebrew. I ask them “What is the main idea? How would you explain it to a younger child ?” Then they’ll be able to move it into Hebrew on their individual level.
You mentioned participating in our JBlend Miami cohort. What have been the highlights of the program for you?
This year has been one of immense change thanks to the blended learning background I have now from JBlend Miami. It has really changed the way we’re teaching. Now, after only a few months, it feels like we’ve always been doing it this way. We decided to move to a completely paperless classroom and are using Google Drive. Students all have different folders online and are working entirely on iPads or laptops. Everything is accessible to me in Google Drive, so I can see the Hebrew work of all the students in the school throughout the year. The students have a portfolio of all their work during the year; writing assignments, vocabulary lists, voice recordings and movie clips they made. They can see their progress and be proud of their achievements.
One of the best advantages of JBlend Miami was the opportunity to collaborate with teachers from different schools and subject areas and to see what others are doing. It was also helpful to hear people talking about trying and failing, and how that’s part of the process. The cohort was organized and supportive so that I was encouraged to try new things. Another highlight was the site visits to schools in New York last year. I saw teaching with technology in action, including Hebrew classes, and that gave me the fire to push and come back and say “We’re going to do this!” I also liked that JBlend facilitators went slowly and deliberately, showing us how to plan a month, a year, and so on. That gave us clarity on how to make big changes. I enjoyed being part of this initiative because of the experience of being part of an internal team at Hebrew Academy that spanned multiple divisions and subjects, planning and implanting personalized and blended learning across our whole school.
What’s been the most rewarding thing about teaching with technology?
I remember at the end of last year a student said “You’re not teaching me” because we started letting them do things on their own. This year the experience has been so different. Students are looking forward to being independent. They are choosing their own goals and owning their learning. It’s because the new model was built little by little. They know how much we value them moving forward and how looking at their data contributes to their progress. This year, that same student is so proud of himself and is saying “I read this text independently and I was able to answer the questions correctly, so I am ready to move forward.” Making these changes has been a process, but I feel like we have succeeded.
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