Israeli Entrepreneurs Use Facebook To Teach Kids History

By Elana Widmann, NoCamels December 19, 2012 Comments

For kids studying for exams (and for us adults too), Facebook is the ultimate distraction. So instead of trying to ban the social network or to control the urge to check it, why not use Facebook as a tool to learn?

Longtime friends and education enthusiasts Michael Shurp and Roi (Ziko) Tzikorel’s new project, “Making History: Israel on the Timeline,” is doing just this.

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“Making History” is a series of Facebook pages in Hebrew that use the “timeline” format of Facebook to create online study guides that are free for all Israeli high school students, and focus on the subjects needed to pass the standardized matriculation exam in history.

“We have one goal: To make learning history cool, interesting, and free for all,” Tzikorel tells NoCamels.

Shurp adds: “When Roi and I planned out “Making History”, we really thought about how to teach history in a way that fits with the young ‘online’ generation. We know History can be a fascinating subject, so we wanted to make it easy for students to love it.”

Along with the help of friends Yossi Aibinder and Tai Kaish, the duo was able to put together and upload the materials for the “Making History” pages in less than a week. The organization’s website has links to each Facebook page, which include a Second Temple page, a Jewish Communities in the Diaspora page, a Nationalism and Beginning of Zionism page, a World War II and the Holocaust page, and a Building the State of Israel page.

Making History’s WWII page

The pages are organized in chronological order from the bottom up. The posts contain the information required by Israel’s matriculation exam both in the standardized wording and also in simple wording. The timelines also include videos, pictures and additional links.

“We are not replacing teachers”

Tzikorel says their pages are also a tool for teachers: “It’s important that teachers understand we are not replacing them, rather, our pages should be used as teaching tools.” Shurp and Tzikorel point out that they have not invented or created anything new. “All we did was connecting the dots between social media and education” the two explain.

Currently, there are hundreds of “likes” on each of the pages. Tzikorel tells NoCamels: “The information for the timelines is taken from teachers in the community, study groups, and websites. Sometimes, students even send in material.”

Shurp and Tzikorel say they fact-check every piece of information with teachers and advisors before it is posted on the Facebook pages. In Hadera, Israel, four school principals built a timeline that covers the career and life of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.

Of course, Facebook’s many the notifications, messages, and a constantly updating newsfeed remain potential distractions while using the “Making History” Facebook pages. But the two men believe that despite these distractions, it is better to work with Facebook than to try to go against it. “Our pages allow each student to learn at times convenient to him or her. We believe that teens should be able to take responsibility for the learning process. From the feedback we have gotten so far, students are able to study seriously while on our pages.”

In fact, Shurp and Tzikorel say some students asked them to create pages that go beyond what is required learning, such as pages with extra information on the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and the first female Prime Minister Golda Meir.

“Leading an educational revolution”

Michael Shurp (L) and Roi Tzikorel (R)

Making History is not the first educational non-profit project Shurp and Tzikorel have created together. The two are responsible for managing “Razim La Bagrut,” a project that helps Israeli students to prepare for the matriculation exams by using virtual classrooms in the form of open Facebook groups.

“We believe and have always believed, that education should be free and for everyone. Unfortunately, there is a large social gap in Israel between those who have money, and those who do not. Those with money can get nice study books, tutors, and extra preparatory courses. The ones who don’t have money are traditionally left behind,” says Tzikorel.

The duo created 10 separate groups on Facebook, one for each compulsory subject taught in Israeli schools. “We recruited about 60 teachers who volunteered to answer questions of students posted in the groups. Students started helping each other and answering questions. In less than six months, close to 10,000 students took part in this,” Tzikorel and Shurp explain.

In the future, Shurp and Tzikorel hope to create similar new media study platforms for students with learning disabilities. The two say they have been approached by investors interested in monetizing their projects, but have declined the offers. “We want to keep this non-profit. It’s important for us that our services remain free.”

Roi Tzikorel manages the technological projects of the Trump Foundation, an organization established in 2011 with the primary goal of improving the quality of math and science teaching in Israeli secondary schools. Michael Shurp is the director of the new media department of Kineret Zmora-Bitan, a leading trade publishing company in Israel.

Together, the two have also built and run an online community called “Israel Educational Leader,” a place for education-lovers to share positive educational successes from all over the world. “We like to do projects for the soul, and projects for fun,” says Tzikorel.

“We see ourselves as a movement that wants to lead the educational revolution. We would like to expand “Making History” and “Razim La Bagrut” to other countries by showing educators and entrepreneurs the successes in Israel, in particular how anyone can build these types of projects in a small amount of time,” Shurp concludes.

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