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November 16, 1984 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-11-16

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, November 16, 1984

with lam' hits
local Jewish schools

Computer programs for Jewish
schools are being created locally by Dr.
Harold Mathis, a West Bloomfield
psychologist, who is utilizing new
technology to link an ancient lan-
guage, Hebrew, with the new lan-
guage of the micro-computer.
"Computerese" is a flourishing
language at Jewish day schools and
some Hebrew schools within the area,
teaching Judaica and Hebrew dating
back 5,000 years to 20th Century
Jewish children. Area Jewish schools
are utilizing computers, as are their
public school counterparts, though on
a more limited basis.
In 1983, the Oakland County In-
termediate School District conducted a
survey to determine the number of
micro-computers in use in the public
and private Oakland County school
districts. Computer use on a per-
student basis ranged from a low of 30
students per computer in Troy to a
high of 151 students per computer in
Berkley. Southfield's ratio was 52 stu-
dents per computer; W. Bloomfield's
was 49 students per computer; Oak
Park's was 53 students per computer.
The total number of computers in
place in Oakland County was 3,912 in
At the United Hebrew Schools,
three computers are used by approx-
imately 40 students who are in pre-
and post-bar mitzvah classes, and high
school classes. Programs developed by
Dr. Mathis help teachers instruct stu-
dents in Hebrew. Dr. Mathis adapted
the Hebrew lessons and then an al-
phabet in order to enable even a non-
literate user to transcribe the Hebrew
characters to the computer screen. The
first program was an English/Hebrew
disk; then came a Hebrew/Hebrew les-
Dr. Mathis' company, Compu-
Tations, Inc., produces and markets
original software designed to teach
Jewish traditions, Hebrew, basic

Judaism and conversational Hebrew.
He believes the computer should serve
the teacher, providing drill and feed-
back to students on a positive and in-
teresting level and taking the
monotony out of the routine of learn-
ing. Ideally, teachers can work in tan-
dem with the new technology, making
the computer a partner in the educa-
tional process by enhancing what the
teacher presents in class.
At Hillel Day School, computers
and Dr. Mathis' software are utilized
for drill and practice in Hebrew by 125

grade school students. The programs dent, wrote the first program. There
generate excitement and enthusiasm are now up to 40 games and quizzes per
from both students and teachers, ac- disc, a menu of software to make learn-
cording to Assistant Principal Mary ing exciting.
Jane Wall. This positive reception is
Dr. Mathis believes that a com-
shared by administration and faculty. puter's audio-visual approach to
Teachers have developed lessons, can
Judaica and Hebrew is also a way of
adapt existing programs when neces-
personalizing the study experience for
sary, and maintain flexibility. "These
the student and the family. If the stu-
are teacher driven programs," says dent works with a particular program
Rabbi Robert Abramson, Hillel prin-
at school, and then is able to bring that
program home for use and study on a
At Akiva Day School, computers home computer, the reinforcement is
are utilized for both the general and phenomenal, not to mention the fact
the Judaic studies program, which in-
that the family can participate with
cludes Hebrew. According to Rabbi
the student in the Hebrew lesson and
Shmuel Lopin, principal, the entire
the learning process. The Jewish fam-
school population is involved in some ily that programs together . . ."
way with the computers. There are
Although there are a few com-
nine Apples and approximately two puters in place in Jewish schools and
students per terminal. In the Judaic
in Hebrew schools, there is still resis-
studies portion of the curriculum, the tance. One of the Jewish schools in the
elementary students utilize the
area does have a computer, but it is
micro-computers to review holidays,
kept in a closet. Dr. Mathis believes it
traditions and to sing songs and chant
is time to take Jewish education out of
prayers. The computers are so "user the closet and into the 20th Century in
friendly" they can be programmed to
a definitive way.
"sing." According to the rabbi, drill
He believes that there are several
and materials which once took three-
ways to circumvent the fear, apathy
four months to master, now take
and occasional hostility directed
three-four weeks.
toward technological learning. He
Dr. Mathis' insistance that
foresees a coalition of teachers in-
Jewish education and the micro-
terested in this instructional medium
computer can be positive allies in
attending conferences, in-service pro-
Jewish daily life comes from his family
grams and seminars in order to pro-
background and experience. His par-
vide support, software and program
ents were Hebrew teachers for the
up-date. He envisions computer clubs
United Hebrew Schools, so when his
and computer tele-communication
own son was studying for bar mitzvah,
bulletin boards to enable computer
it seemed only natural for Dr. Mathis
aficionados to create their own pro-
to integrate his knowledge of Hebrew,
grams, expand interest in the utiliza-
educational psychology and com-
tion of the computer for Hebrew and
Jewish education and, most impor-
He began with a basic program
tantly, to make Hebrew and Jewish
adapted from a fact sheet dealing with
education an even more relevant part
what a pre-bar mitzvah student should
of the 20th Century world Jewish chil-
know about basic Judaism and He-
dren live in.
brew. Using material from Adat
If Dr. Mathis has his way, when a
Shalom's United Hebrew School
Jewish child says "Shalom Haverim"
branch, Dr. Mathis and assistant
he'll be including his micro-computer
Jonathan Samuels, a high school stu-
as he begins another Hebrew lesson.

Dr. Harold Mathis works on a new computer game. Above, the screen flashes a congratulatory mazel toy for answering all the questions


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