Hatter Seminars – a decade of developing ORT’s technology education


After a decade of generating innovation, encouraging networking, sharing expertise and exposing teachers from around the world to new and emerging topics in technology education, the World ORT Hatter Technology Seminar has returned to the theme of design.

It was the third Hatter Seminar, back in 2005, which first broached the topic but focused on traditional subjects such as product and fashion design. Since then, the Seminars have assessed creativity in technology education, examined bioscience and technology, looked at teaching environmental and green technologies, brought participants up to date in nanotechnology and material science, discussed how robotics can be used to integrate technology and learning, and looked at teaching entrepreneurial skills. This week’s Seminar is looking at design as a process. “Just as there’s a need for all students to be familiar the scientific process so there is a need for students to understand the design process and it doesn’t have to be limited to the fields of arts and technology, it can be presented to students through a multi-disciplinary approach. This Seminar is looking at how that process can be integrated in the teaching of technology but also how technology can be used to integrate the design process across the whole curriculum,” said the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman.

Seventeen teachers from Israel, France, Bulgaria, Russia, Latvia, Ukraine, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay have been brought together in ORT House, London for the five-day Seminar, each one bringing their own particular expertise to the theme “モ some from an art and design angle, others from electronics, ICT and science.

They are enjoying lectures and workshops with guests recognized as being leaders in the field such as Professor Kay Stables, the Head of the Department of Design at Goldsmiths, University of London. Professor Stables outlined fundamental issues and ideas relating to the pedagogy of design education based on 25 years research into the nature and assessment of design capability.

Other lecturers included Bel Reed, Programme Manager “モ Design Challenges for Schools, at the Design Council; James Pitt, Strategy Director “モ Design, Engineering and Science at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; and Dr David Barlex, formerly a senior lecturer in education at Brunel University and Director of the Nuffield Design and Technology Project.

But each of the participating teachers has been given a presentation slot as well “モ the mix between these and the guest lecturers illustrating a balance achieved thanks to the experience of the nine previous Hatter Seminars.

“The teachers come here to learn from each other as much as to learn from our invited experts. The Seminar is a chance to show some of the amazing things going on in ORT schools. Now we have struck the right balance between showcasing ORT talent and having world class presenters,” Mr Tysman said.

And by plucking participants from the pressures of school life for a few days, the Seminar gives them a rare opportunity to look at the bigger picture, to plan long-term, and to think strategically. In this way, the Hatter Seminars provide an opportunity to carefully examine new ideas and begin to incorporate them into what ORT teaches “モ a critical contribution to the innovation which is necessary if the organization is to provide its students with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

“As we commemorate a decade of these important gatherings, it is helpful to remember that these seminars were created to bring together groups of our educators in order to develop ORT’s technology education, to encourage teachers to be innovative in their work and to help them to bring fresh ideas in to the classroom,” said World ORT President Emeritus Sir Maurice Hatter. “Over the years we have examined a range of cutting-edge subject areas, many of which have been subsequently and successfully absorbed into our teaching curricula.”

Signs of further innovation and cross-border cooperation became evident soon after the start of the Seminar. Mark Barkan, of the Dubnov Jewish School in Riga, Latvia, which is part of the ORT schools network in the Former Soviet Union, excitedly listed some of the plans he was formulating in response to inspiring presentations from his peers.

He liked the way the Lauder-ORT School in Sofia, Bulgaria announced birthday greetings to students and said he would like to introduce something similar at Dubnov via the school’s radio.

“The more comfortable children feel at school, the better they will learn and the more they will want to come to school,” Mr Barkan said. “So we need to create a positive, warm environment in which they feel good.”

He also expressed admiration for ORT Argentina’s Virtual Campus and revealed that colleagues from Buenos Aires had agreed to help him set up something similar in Riga “モ a project which is much more than merely creating a website so that education can continue away from class.

“You need to change the way teachers teach and the way students learn and you need to create an environment in which everyone can study,” he said.

And he also hopes to establish video-conferencing links with Sofia and to co-operate with fellow Seminar participant Igal Ushin, electronics teacher at Nesher Comprehensive School in Israel, in a project through which students can design and build mind-controlled robots.

“The Seminar is great,” he said. “We’re creating connectivity and cooperation between teachers and schools; making the world a smaller place. I would not have had opportunities like this without World ORT.”

World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said the Seminar was once again proving to be an enlightening and motivational instrument of professional development and paid tribute to Sir Maurice and his family for financing it.

“In the world of education we always have to take the long view,” Mr Singer said. “We have to examine the topics and the issues that will dominate the educational curriculum a few years down the line and make sure that our teachers are equipped to deal with them and to provide effective educational leadership in these areas. We are fortunate that we have devoted supporters such as the Hatter family who share this view and are prepared to sponsor teacher advancement seminars such as this one.”