Introducing educators to smart technology


06 May 2009 Introducing educators to smart technology World ORTs leading role in introducing smart technology into Israeli schools was reaffirmed last week when some 100 teachers and principals from 40 schools attended an open day at Shaar HaNegev High School. The teachers spent the day being introduced to the theory and practice of using Interactive White Boards (IWBs) and associated equipment which World ORT brought to Shaar HaNegev and five other schools last year under Phase 5 of its Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme. In light of the successful impact of the new technology in the schools benefiting from Kadima Mada, Israels Ministry of Education, Ministry of Development of the Negev and Galilee and World ORT have become partners in an ambitious project to convert 1,000 classrooms into high-tech smart classes over the next two years. The teachers at last weeks conference came from some 40 schools across the Negev that are due to receive IWBs; most of them had never seen an IWB before let alone a fully functioning smart classroom with its laptops, video-conferencing and other equipment. Until World ORT provided 10 smart classes at each of six selected junior high schools, such computerised, Internet-linked technology which replaces the traditional chalk and talk approach had only been seen in 27 Israeli junior schools, and even then in only one classroom each. This is an important day because it enables us to showcase the new learning methods which are being developed, said Rony Dayan, Head of the Ministry of Educations Division of Computer Applications in Education. This day is expected to raise the confidence of teachers who will be using this technology in the near future. It is an opportunity for them to learn about the smart classroom and understand that, on the one hand, there is something new for them to learn and, on the other, they will not be treading entirely new ground there is already a base for them to rely on. This whole process shows that a new teaching and learning culture is being created which is adapting itself to the new needs of todays schools. The Executive Director of Kadima Mada, Rony Kalinsky, Kadima Mada Pedagogical Manager Dr Osnat Dagan, and Shaar HaNegev Principal Aharon Rothstein gave lectures on the use and potential of smart technology. In addition, delegates participated in two different smart classroom lessons as well as discussion forums. One day of the Passover holidays had been postponed to allow the school to be without students on the day of the conference so delegates had unfettered access to the facilities. The lessons took place in the 10 smart classes situated in the schools Grade 7 complex, all of which are reinforced against the rockets from Gaza which have been falling on the area for several years. Shaar HaNegev teachers ran through their lessons explaining as they did so what features they were using and why, describing the advantages of each feature, offering examples of how else a specific feature could be used, and the effects using the technology had on children with varying abilities and personalities. Shaar HaNegev Pedagogical Director Tzila Levy said: Now that so many teachers have started learning to use the smart classrooms we can see that teachers who dont use this technology are being relegated to the sidelines. We feel that we have a common interest with the delegates here today even though many of them are strangers to us. We find that they are really interested in the new developments taking place here. Among the delegates was Vered Tal, Principal of Maale Habsor High School, which is amalgamating with Habsor High School to create the Nofei Habsor Regional High School. Ms Tal will head the new school, which will receive smart classrooms under a government programme. The school will also participate in Kadima Mada and so will benefit from World ORTs experience in implementing the new technology. This is the first time I have ever seen an Interactive White Board, she said. It is extremely impressive. I am excited by its capabilities and I am sure that the teachers in our new school will be eager to take up the challenge in the new year. Like Shaar HaNegev, we plan to introduce the smart boards into Year 7 classes. We will ensure that all our teachers will attend special training sessions and I am sure that despite difficulties here and there it will be very successful for both teachers and pupils. World ORT Innovation Leader at Shaar HaNegev, Zohar Nir-Levi, said she understood the trepidation with which some delegates were approaching the use of the new technology. However, I am convinced that the benefits obtained from using it far outweigh any problems experienced by teachers as they learn it, Ms Nir-Levi said. It is enough to see the childrens enthusiasm and the light in their eyes to make me certain that we can, and must, find ways to overcome initial difficulties that may arise. We have succeeded in doing so to date. The children absolutely love it. Indeed, she said that there had been fears that students would damage accidentally or otherwise the equipment when it was newly introduced. However, the children are so concerned that they might be deprived of their interactive lessons that they treat the equipment with kid gloves and can be relied upon to make sure that it is well taken care of even if the teacher has to leave the classroom for a few minutes, she said.