I'm often asked what I think will be the "next big thing" when it comes to technology and Jewish education. Recently, I've been focused on QR codes. You know those odd little squares that look like a cross between a thumbprint and a bar code? Scanning that QR code automatically provides you with information about whatever it was that you just scanned. A lot of information. Scan a book and immediately be able to search inside its pages or find the lowest price online to purchase it.
I've always dreamed of ways to take advantage of these QR codes in Jewish education. So, I was obviously excited to read David Gerber's guest post on the Jew.0 blog (from Darim Online) about ways he's already using QR codes in Jewish education. Here's his post:
Jewish tradition has always supported technological innovation. In fact, with apologies to Apple or Android, it was Moses who introduced the world to the first tablets. Kidding aside, the events at Mt. Sinai as described in the Book of Exodus do provide us with a clear understanding of the role of technology in Judaism. As leaders in our respective Jewish communities, we take upon ourselves the responsibility of presenting the values, tenets, and traditions of our religion in the most understandable and accessible medium possible.
With this in mind, I have created The QR Project. QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes readable by smartphones. In the past two years, QR codes have become a popular tool for advertisers and marketers. The QR Project, however, is demonstrating that QR codes can revolutionize the way we approach outreach, education, and conservation.
The most comprehensive example of the impact of QR codes can be found at Congregation Shaare Emeth in St. Louis, MO. Over this past summer, I worked with Shaare Emeth to insert QR codes into their Religious School curriculum. We put codes on any pages that require the students to practice out loud. When they scan the code, their smartphone pulls up an audio recording of their cantor chanting the prayer.
We have taken these prayer QR codes and created a bookmark to accompany their siddur. Adult learners and b’nai mitzvah students can scan the bookmark to learn the blessings. Additionally, the recorded prayers are now housed on the Shaare Emeth website along with links to further learning opportunities.
The results speak for themselves. The QR codes in their curriculum have been scanned more than 200 times since their debut in mid-September. The online site that hosts the prayers has attracted over 3000 hits in that same time span, with over half of them coming from outside the state of Missouri. And finally, the existence of the QR codes means the cantor no longer has to create a CD for each student, saving over 100 CDs per year and hundreds of hours copying.
Curious to know more about integrating QR codes? On Wednesday November 30th, Darim Online and I will be hosting a webinar to talk about the potential for QR code integration. You will have the opportunity to learn the basics of how QR codes work and how to make them, as well as how to use them effectively in your community. By utilizing mobile technology, you will put your organization at the forefront of technological innovation, position yourself to engage those critical, often young members of your community, and meet your constituents in the place that is becoming the most familiar—their smartphone.