Drexel University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 5442-5448
ISBN: 978-84-606-5763-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2015
Location: Madrid, Spain
In the world of Jewish education, specifically informal Jewish education, there has been much discussion about how to reshape educational approaches in order to be more effective in a media driven youth culture (Woocher, 2012). At the center of these efforts is the desire to create meaningful personal connections to Judaic content (Sohn, 2014).

Judaism lends itself towards the idea of educating through games and play. Religion in general is composed of a complex series of ritualistic practices that are in strong alignment with the philosophical concepts of play, mimicry and world creation (Huizinga, 1944). It is no coincidence that Johan Huizinga’s pivotal work “Homo Ludens” is not only fundamental within the area of game studies, it is also considered an important work in Christian theology (Cox, 1969). Within Judaism, the deep connection between religion and play is shown by one of Judaism’s fundamental principles: to emulate the ways of G-d as laid out in (Devarim 28:9): “…if you observe the commandments of the Lord, your G-d, and walk in His ways.”

We argue that a digital game-based learning environment is therefore extremely well suited to not only help students create meaningful experiences related to their religion, but also provide a contemporary outlet for students that are disengaged from both Judaic content and traditional teaching methodologies. In this paper we discuss the design and development of “Korach’s Fall”, a three dimensional virtual learning environment aimed at assisting in the delivery of informal Jewish education.

Set during the parshah (Torah portion) “Korach,” players take on the role of a citizen in the settlement stuck in the midst of a conflict between Korach and his followers and Moshe Rabbeinu. As the parsha details, G-d became upset with a disturbance caused by the actions of Korach and opened up a hole in the Earth to swallow Korach and his followers. In actively experiencing this story through a game based learning environment, players’ will not only come to understand this particular parsha, but will grow to understand many cultural ideals, practices and customs of the Jewish people.

“Korach’s Fall” is currently in development as part of a Master Thesis project at Drexel University. In this paper we will detail the theoretical foundations of this game base learning approach through an in-depth analysis of the connection between play and religion as well as how this relationship informs pedagogy and instructional design of “Korach’s Fall”.

[1] Cox, H, (1969). The Feast of Fools: A Theological Essay on Festivity and Fantasy, Harvard University Press.
[2] Huizinga, J. (1944). Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
[3] Sohn, J. (2014). Exploring the integration of technology into Jewish education: multi-user virtual environments and supplementary school settings. Educational Doctoral Thesis, Northeastern University, Boston, MA. 2014.
[4] Woocher, J. (2012). Reinventing Jewish Education for the 21st Century. Journal of Jewish Education. Vol. 78(3), pp. 182-226.
Game based learning, informal jewish education.