Hebrew Class Uses iPads For Teaching, Learning

IPad Course Materials
Jane Seo

Students in Intermediate Modern Hebrew class learn about verb conjugation using the digital textbook that senior preceptor Irit Aharony has created for the course. Harvard has provided iPads to students for use throughout the semester.

In this fall’s Modern Hebrew 120a: “Intermediate Modern Hebrew” course, digital apps and iPads have replaced paper flash cards and textbooks. In collaboration with Harvard’s Academic Technology Group, Irit Aharony, the head of Harvard’s Modern Hebrew Studies Program, has created a digital textbook on iBooks for use in her second-year language class.

Some of the functions on the digital textbook include interactive exercises and vocabulary flashcards, as well as stories in Hebrew that students can read as they listen along to the audio recording.

According to Aharony, Intermediate Modern Hebrew is the only class at Harvard that exclusively uses a digital textbook via iPad. To equip students for access to their coursework, Harvard has loaned iPads to all nine students in the class. Students use the iPad for both homework assignments and in-class activities.

Elette C. Boyle, a graduate student at MIT who cross-registered for the class, said this is her first time using an iPad.

“It took me a little while to get used to the iPad, but it’s a great tool that I can take anywhere, like a coffee shop,” Boyle said. “I also get immediate feedback on my work.”

Aharony said the idea of integrating technology in her classroom emerged last year when she saw students who were simultaneously talking on their phones and flipping paper flashcards on their way to class.

As she watched them pass by, Aharony said she remembered thinking, “Why do they need both tools? Why not combine them?

The desire to allow her students to use the study material on their devices, coupled with the need to go greener, prompted Aharony to make the switch first to an online flashcard program and ultimately to a digital textbook on iPad.