A high school in Kibbutz Ein HaShofet has become the first to have high-tech “ﾘsmart classrooms’ fitted as part of the multi-million-dollar plan led by World ORT “ﾓ through its operational arm in Israel, Kadima Mada “ﾓ to fit more than 400 such classrooms in schools across northern Israel.
Teachers at Megiddo Regional High School were thrilled to find 10 rooms fitted with Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs), wireless Internet connections and laptop computers on returning from their Pesach break and threw themselves into learning how to use them with the help of specially provided training. The Ministry of Education will provide them with further pedagogical training in the months ahead.
The classrooms were officially dedicated in a ceremony last week attended by relatives of the London-based businessman who funded the classrooms with a $200,000 donation. Both he and his family have requested anonymity. “My introduction to the “ﾘsmart classrooms’ was a very special and novel experience,”? said the donor’s daughter, whose 14-year-old niece attends the school. “Seeing the Interactive Whiteboard in action I could appreciate how it will improve teaching and learning as well as student motivation and confidence to participate in class.”?
Her niece, who is in her own words, a “classic ADD (attention deficit disorder) student”?, was invited to use the IWB by Boris Gorfinkel, the World ORT Innovation Leader at the school. She and Mr Gorfinkel wrote simultaneously on the board to solve a mathematical equation “ﾓ a demonstration of the technology’s flexibility compared with computers.
“Usually I can spend periods sitting in a kind of limbo in class, especially if the subject matter is not stimulating,”? she said. “But with this method of teaching I am drawn to the board and can absorb the subject matter more easily than when there is simply a teacher standing immobile at the front of the class.”?
A further 86 schools across the Galilee are scheduled to receive up to 10 “ﾘsmart classrooms’ each over the next three years through the project which is also receiving funding from the Ministry for Development of the Galilee and the Negev and local municipalities. In addition, Toronto-based philanthropist Seymour Schulich has donated $2 million to the programme in partnership with the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
Most of these schools have not received support from Kadima Mada until now but the 742-student Megiddo Regional High School is one of the more than 30 campuses nationwide which has enjoyed the benefits of World ORT’s investment.
Thanks to Kadima Mada, the school has a World ORT Teaching Empowerment Centre (WOTEC), a staff room full fitted with everything educators need to prepare lessons; Nova data loggers, computer-linked sensors which enable students to record and tabulate results of experiments quickly and accurately; a Computer Aided Design-Computer Aided Manufacture (CAD-CAM) laboratory; and selected students spend time in Atlanta as part of the annual ORT Lipson programme.
The school is laid out in blocks, each of which houses a particular field of study; three of the new “ﾘsmart classrooms’ have been fitted into the science block. However, the technology can be used to enhance the teaching of any subject.
“I teach history and citizenship and although the IWBs have only been in the school for a short time I have already had the opportunity to use them three times in my lessons,”? said the school’s principal, Gadi Rakowsky. “It has been a wonderful experience and I am looking forward to learning more about the pedagogical aspects of using the board.”?
His enthusiasm is shared by members of staff who are “very excited about this new opportunity to learn and grow”?.
“There is no doubt,”? Mr Rakowsky added, “that since cooperating with Kadima Mada our school has improved in many ways. This school welcomes change and we are constantly developing various types of new study programmes in order to meet the changing needs of the pupils.”?
Also at the dedication ceremony was a representative of the Ministry of Education, Joshua Tzadok, and the Mayor of Megiddo Regional Council, Hanan Erez, who also testified as to the impact made by Kadima Mada.
“There has been nothing less than a whirlwind since Kadima Mada entered our lives just over three years ago,”? Mr Erez said. “However, we are certainly up to the challenge.”?
Kadima Mada Executive Director Rony Kalinsky paid tribute to Mr Rakowsky for the way he had handled introduction of the “ﾘsmart classrooms’.
“A smart leader knows you can’t progress without taking account of the obstacles in your way and Gadi has shown wisdom in the way he has introduced what is a radical change in the school’s working environment so that staff have embraced it enthusiastically,”? Mr Kalinsky said.
“In addition, he is part of a strong team whose members “ﾓ notably the World ORT Innovation Leader, Boris Gorfinkel “ﾓ have worked very well together in implementing the programme.”?
Mr Kalinsky added: “This is not just a matter of installing technology and learning how to use the basic functions. In order to ensure optimum use and gain it is all about teacher training from a pedagogical perspective. Kadima Mada will be involved in the implementation by the teachers of this new technology in the school. It is not easy to revolutionise a whole system but it is possible.”?
British ORT Chairman Simon Alberga said this had been the first significant donation for the Kadima Mada “ﾘsmart classrooms’ project from the UK.
“The benefits of this investment will ripple through the generations,”? Mr Alberga said. “It is a very important donation, secured as a result of an excellent collaborative effort by British ORT and World ORT. We’re working on others and hope to announce similarly important partnerships with UK donors in the near future.”?