New smart classes in Israel


30 May 2008 New smart classes in Israel World ORT has installed high-tech smart classes in two more Israeli high schools as part of its Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme raising the standard of science and technology education in the Jewish State. The new classrooms, which feature interactive smartboards that can be connected to the Internet and to students laptops, were given enthusiastic welcomes at the schools in Beer Sheva and Misgav. World ORT is installing 10 smart classes in each of six Kadima Mada schools as a pilot project. The classes replace traditional chalk and talk methods and are a huge step forward in a country where, until recently, only 27 elementary schools have had even one such classroom. Kadoorie and Horfesh high schools received the 21st century classrooms earlier this year thanks to investment from World ORT in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and local municipalities. By the end of this year, World ORT is due to have installed 120 such classrooms in Kadima Mada schools. The high-tech classrooms that World ORT is installing are contributing to a radical change in the Israeli education system. Last week I and World ORT Deputy President Dr Jean de Gunzburg met Education Minister Professor Yuli Tamir, said World ORT Director General Robert Singer. We agreed that when there are 1,000 smart classes in Israeli schools that will be the moment when the quantity will truly make a significant impact on the quality of the countrys education. World ORT will do its utmost to help the Ministry of Education achieve this target. This week, hundreds of people attended a festive open day at Misgav where all 10 of the new classrooms were put into operation to show their versatility the technology is used in the teaching of humanities as well as sciences. The Mayor of Misgav, Ron Shani, urged teachers to overcome any fears they may have of using the new technology saying they were entering new territory a land without limits. Recognising the challenge faced by teachers, World ORT is providing two years of training to ensure that educators are able to use the new equipment effectively. As the school Principal, Amir Michael, said: There is no smart board, theres a smart teacher who stands at the board. Deputy Principal Elisheva Tesler said the new technology heralded a new era in teaching. Using this equipment brings the teacher closer to the world of the students, Ms Tesler said. The interactive class extends boundaries and allows us to teach in a multi-disciplinary way. This is a great opportunity to re-examine the whole culture of teaching. The open day was an opportunity for all participants to experience the technology first hand by attending lessons; the potential and significance of these advances were explained in two lectures: Dr Alon Hasgal, of Bar-Ilan University, discussed the creation of on-line educational communities, and Dr Avrum Rotem, an advisor to the Ministry of Education, spoke on the sharing of pedagogical ideas to maximise social benefits. The inauguration of the smart classes at Beer Shevas Makif Aleph high school was attended by long-time ORT America supporter Billy Joel and his wife Sandra. Together with the Mayor, Yakov Terner, and other local dignitaries, Mr and Mrs Joel watched a physics lesson using the new technology and also observed biology experiments conducted in an intelligent laboratory that had been installed by World ORT in an earlier phase of Kadima Mada. Mayor Terner said: Makif Aleph was the first high school in Beer Sheva and the first comprehensive school in Israel. Now its the first school in Beer Sheva to have a smart class and among the first schools in the country to have 10 such classrooms. The Mayor added that Beer Sheva had a bright future as the capital of the Negev: the city was developing a high-tech industrial science park and the IDF was moving some bases nearby both would add significantly to job prospects for local people. But the key to our future success is education, the Mayor said. With better education our children will be able to take full advantage of the greater opportunities that are opening up here. World ORTs social, as well as its educational, values are crucial to this vision. Mr and Mrs Joel also visited World ORTs SMILE project at Beer Shevas Soroka University Medical Centre. The project brings 10th grade students from Makif Aleph Junior High School to the hospital where they join volunteers from Israels elite cadre of trainee air force pilots to bring friendship and scholarship support to bedridden children. The young patients, who are too sick to attend sessions at the hospitals education centre, are able to use 10 laptops provided by World ORT thanks to wireless internet links in the wards. Ive wanted to see World ORTs work for a long time, Mr Joel said. Im thrilled to have had the opportunity to see such wonderful activities meaningful ones like SMILE and groundbreaking ones such as the smart classes. World ORTs Pedagogical Manager, Dr Anat Shayovits, said World ORTs progress in installing new equipment in schools in disadvantaged areas was restoring education to its rightful place at the core of communal life. For 20 years attempts have been made to bring computers, software and new technology to students in these areas but without success, Ms Shayovits said. Now we are fulfilling the hopes of the past. The education system in some places was in danger of becoming redundant but this equipment is make education relevant again.