During my downtime a couple of weeks ago, I was reading Judaism’s Life Changing Ideas, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He mentioned the behavioural economist Dan Ariely, who completed a series of experiments on what is known as the “Ikea Effect”: even if someone else designed the furniture, there is something about investing your labour that makes you value that item more.
Ariely wanted to conclusively test this theory, so he asked volunteers to create elaborate origami models and then asked them how much they were prepared to pay for the models they made. The average answer was 25 cents. After he showed the models to other people, they responded they were worth 5 cents. In other words, people were prepared to pay 5 times the amount of money for something they had created.
This analogy is connected to one of the reasons why God asked the Jewish people to build the mishkan, the Tabernacle, rather than just miraculously providing a ready-made model. Rabbi Sacks’s life changing lesson was “the effort you put into something does not just change the object – it changes you. The greater the labour, the greater the love for what you have made”.
Could this have been any more apt for our teachers during and post pandemic? Teachers who were forced to create, expand and utilise new techniques amongst multiple challenges.
The pandemic coincided with the non-profit I lead, Jewish Interactive (Ji), embarking on an ambitious journey of creating a new digital platform specifically for teachers of Jewish and Hebrew studies. This was no easy task and we knew we needed to partner with our users. So we engaged Dr Shuli Gilutz PHD, one of the top UX advisors in the world, to conduct an extensive survey with teachers of Jewish and Hebrew Studies. We carried out two surveys – pre and during the pandemic, extensive interviews and user testing. The results of the survey are fascinating to read.
First, some context: the survey was posted online for four weeks during July 2021. 31% of the teachers were in supplementary education and 44% were in Jewish Day schools. Here are some of the questions and the responses below:
1. We asked teachers about their use of technology during the pandemic and how it had changed. An overwhelming 90% of teachers said they changed their tech use after the pandemic.
2. What were your delight points during the pandemic?
- Staying home and working;
- Everybody could eat, drink and use the toilet whenever they wanted’
- No travel time;
- Smaller classes;
- Having the ability to teach anywhere and everywhere;
- Less intense on standards, more about the experience;
- Immediate feedback;
- Resources at your fingertips;
- Students became better independent learners;
- Becoming an online community.
3. When we asked about some of the challenges, some of the most popular responses were:
- Learning how everything worked and finding all the websites that would be useful;
- Having to make time to find tools and trying to discern which tools are most effective;
- Zoom fatigue – some students stopped coming because of this;
- Keeping students focused;
- Lack of social interaction;
- IT limitations – internet connections /wifi;
- Online education was not suitable for kindergarten age;
- Hybrid sessions didn’t work – having some in person and some online was challenging.
4. We asked teachers what were some of the strategies they used for dealing with the challenges:
- Planning ahead;
- Shorter lessons;
- Staying calm and also humour;
- Letting students know that it’s OK to make mistakes;
- Good communication with parents;
- Allowing social time online;
- Giving super clear instructions;
- Giving students more freedom to seek out their own tools and learn so students feel they are being proactive about their education.
5. We asked teachers to share some specific teaching strategies that they were successful with:
- Break out rooms;
- Video and web links within the curriculum;
- Teaching using games;
- Using the chat function;
- Asking students for “help”;
- Students to create/post own projects;
- Using mixed media sources- discussions. videos, questionnaires.
We studied these answers and then worked with teachers over the past 18 months in combination with some of the top developers, UX and UI teams and pedagogical experts to create Jigzi.
Jigzi ‘s focus is “Learning Through Creation”. We have empowered our teachers to create and search for content that is specific to their needs, whilst uncompromising on ease of access, usability and operability. Use of advanced AI technology and a unique backend filtering system, means that teachers can find content that is right for them whatever their needs, language, age, subject. And if teachers can’t find the exact content they want, they can create content using some of the most advanced Hebrew text tools on any platform, in easy steps.
We called the platform Jigzi as its main focus is to create Jig’s – Jewish Interactive Games and the Jigglings help those, who may be uncomfortable, along their creation journey.
Jigzi, is a free open source platform and has been a labour of love with our team working tirelessly during the pandemic, behind the scenes, as Covid intensely magnified the absolute importance of this mission.
Ji was established in 2012. After ten years in the field, Ji saw our teacher heroes over the past two years, listened to their struggles, learnt from their innovation and, together with our heroes, we have created a solution. JIGZI.org is now live.
After all, according to the late Rabbi Sacks: “The greatest gift we can give someone is to give them the chance to create. This is the one gift that turns the recipient into a giver. It gives them dignity. It shows that we trust them, have faith in them and believe they are capable of great things.”
We now invite all of you to participate in creating Jigzi – to create in turn for others. We hope you love it as much as we do.