De Gunzburg Seminar comes to South Africa


17 February 2010 De Gunzburg Seminar comes to South Africa It is back to basics at this weeks Terry and Jean de Gunzburg Jewish Education Seminar. The latest in the highly successful series of opportunities for teachers to learn how to use modern technology in the teaching of Judaisms timeless wisdom is wowing educators in South Africa with practical insights into how they can enhance their lessons. This, the first Seminar to cater to primary rather than secondary schools, is being hosted by King David Linksfield Primary School in Johannesburg. True to its tradition of being tailored to the needs of the country in which it is being held, this weeks presentations and workshops focus on what fundamental techniques and information. This Seminar is intended to jump start something which is almost non-existent at the moment, said the Head of World ORTs Education Department, Daniel Tysman. Many of the 27 participants have hardly used PowerPoint or the Internet at all in their teaching. In terms of equipment, many of them have not got access to an Interactive White Board or a projector at their school. Some of them dont even have computers at school. Guest presenter Peretz Tabor, ICT coordinator for Jewish Studies at Michael Sobell Sinai School (Europes largest Jewish primary school), said there was still much that new technology could do to help the teachers. They have access to Internet at home so I am introducing them to on-line resources which they can use to print out lesson plans and worksheets. Theres something for everybody, Mr Tabor said. Its a fantastic experience being here. Everyone is very eager to learn and they are very appreciative of ORT giving them the opportunity to see these things for the first time. The diversity of the participants is contributing to the exciting atmosphere: the teachers range from strictly Torah observant to non-Jewish, from schools across South Africa and also Namibia and Zimbabwe. We want to develop an on-line community of teachers from across southern Africa, Mr Tysman said. In this way they will be able to share resources. And it looks like the teachers will hit the ground running once the Seminar is over. Were understanding the genius in being able to share each others knowledge, thats perhaps the biggest benefit in starting a process which we can take forward, said Rabbi Epharim Levitz, Executive Head of Jewish Studies at Herzlia School, Cape Town. Its very possible that we will be able to keep the momentum rolling after the Seminar. Well done to ORT for sponsoring this! As in the previous de Gunzburg Seminars in Rome, Buenos Aires and Kishinev, the teachers in South Africa have been full of praise for the learning opportunities presented them. Darryl Frankel, Deputy Principal of King David Linksfield Primary School, said: Its been unbelievable; such an eye-opener in terms of whats out there because in South Africa were a bit behind the IT times. To expose the teachers to the resources that are out there for Jewish education has been a complete eye-opener. Mr Frankel was particularly enthralled with a presentation by Dr Elaine Hoter, Head of Information Technology at Talpiot College of Education in Holon, Israel. Her session on podcasting introduced the teachers to making audio files, broadcasting them through the Internet and using the technology in the classroom. I am already thinking about how to apply the ideas, Mr Frankel said. For example, we have a Heroes project with Year 7 children. Instead of using PowerPoint or making a poster perhaps we can get the children to make an audio advertisement promoting their hero. He added: Were all very motivated to take what we have learned here and present it to the rest of the staff at our schools. Among the highlights of the Seminar was a live link with Shaar HaNegev School in Israel where Jewish Studies teacher Atar Gaibel demonstrated the use of the Interactive White Board (provided to the school by World ORT through its programmatic arm in Israel, Kadima Mada) in the teaching of Genesis. Ms Gaibel gave a similar presentation to the de Gunzburg Seminars in Rome and Buenos Aires last year. And the Head of ORT South Africas Education Empowerment Division in Gauteng, Ariellah Rosenberg, gave a presentation on creating virtual networks to carry on the personal and professional relationships established in the Seminar. Gila Ash, a teacher at Johannesburgs Torah Academy, said she was loving the Seminar. Its been the most motivating, inspiring seminar, Ms Ash said. Its propelled me to go out there and improve and use all the tools and guidance we have been given. Its unbelievable to see what modern technology is out there and how it can be combined with teaching kodesh. She also deeply appreciated the opportunity to be with peers from so many other schools. It is wonderful to be together brainstorming and seeing how we can implement what we are learning in the classroom and just to share ideas and to network, she said. Thank you ORT for an unbelievable privilege to be part of this seminar; its been amazing. And to think how many kids will benefit from such programmes; its very special. Such feedback prompted Mr Tysman to conclude: This has been an outstanding seminar. We have really hit the spot with the presenters and the topics were covering. Its just what was needed to start the process. World ORT President Dr Jean de Gunzburg, who supports the Seminar with his wife Terry, greeted the participants through a video link. He noted ORTs reputation for ensuring that its students and trainees are equipped with the skills that will enable them to become productive and contributing members of society. But he said it was also necessary to give them the ethical and moral tools which will help them to make principled decisions in their lives by helping them to develop their sense of attachment to their people and to appreciate how they fit into its history and culture. In order to do that effectively, a learning environment had to be created which would stimulate children and appeal to them. That is why our family is pleased to sponsor this initiative to provide seminars where Jewish education teachers are encouraged to harness computer and communications technology to the teaching of this traditional subject, Dr de Gunzburg said. By speaking to our students in a language with which they are familiar, we are sending a strong message that Jewish education is relevant and a key component of their lives.