One thousand “リsmart classes’, one thousand times better!


World ORT’s goal to raise the standard of Israeli education has received a major boost with the Government’s commitment to help it expand its pioneering roll-out of ‘smart classrooms’ into a NIS 100 million ($27.5 million) project to bring 1,000 of the interactive classes to schools in peripheral communities.

A further NIS 21.5 million ($5.9 million) has been set aside for World ORT’s programme to create six Centres of Excellence “モ three in the Galilee and three in the Negev “モ to provide enrichment activities for high-achieving students and help for other students to improve their results and broaden their skills.

This week’s announcement of more than NIS 51 million in public money for World ORT’s Schulich Canada Smart Classroom Initiative and Centres of Excellence initiative is recognition of the outstanding achievements to date and a sign of the Government’s confidence in World ORT to continue to deliver benefits to tens of thousands of the country’s children.
Minister for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee and Vice Prime Minister, Sylvan Shalom, made the announcement at ceremonies marking the installation of smart classrooms at a primary school in Rosh Pina and a high school in Tsfat, the latter’s new facilities funded with help from the Edmund J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation.
Addressing the students among the crowds, Mr Shalom said: “The revolution we are leading today gives you the tools and the opportunity to fulfil yourselves. I’m a great believer in education as the key to success in life. Today, you are given this opportunity for progress, technological innovation that we don’t have even in the centre of Israel.”
The students shared the Minister’s enthusiasm, with one telling him that the new Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) were “a thousand times better” than the traditional boards.
More than 150 classes are already operating Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) and associated technology under the first stage of the Schulich Canada Smart Classroom Initiative. Now, hundreds more will be installed in schools across Israel’s relatively under-resourced northern and southern regions.
Among the Jewish and non-Jewish communities selected to receive the smart classrooms in the Galilee are Kiryat Shmona, Tuba, Hazor HaGlilit, Nahariya, Ma’alot Tarshicha, Marom Galil, Ma’ar, Peki’in, Ma’ale Yosef, Shlomi, Akko, Abu Sna’an, Lower Galilee, Kfar Yassif, Karmiel , Sakhnin, Tiberias, Megiddo, and Yokneam.
For the first time in these schools, teachers will have both the means and “モ thanks to funds from the Ministry of Education “モ the training to integrate animation, sound, video, live web content and text into their lessons and to do so interactively. Students can participate by using laptops and interactive voting kits.
World ORT’s programme involves the active participation of at least two-thirds of the schools’ teachers in the training courses for interactive teaching. The courses deliver 120 hours of training for every teacher over a two-year period, starting before the technology’s installation so that educators can hit the ground running.
Dr Orna Simchon, Head of the Northern Division of the Ministry of Education, said: “Our mission is to stimulate the joy of learning in our students, who are exposed to the digital world, and instil in them curiosity and interest. The change requires the planning and building of interactive lessons, and the building of a materials database for the use of teachers.”
This week’s development is a far cry from 2008 when World ORT tripled the number of smart classrooms in Israel with a pilot project equipping 60 rooms in six campuses and providing on-going teacher training in their use.
Independent evaluation by the world-renowned Henrietta Szold Institute “モ The National Institute for Research in the Behavioural Sciences pointed to the benefits in mixed ability classes where students of lesser ability became more involved in the learning process and participated in lessons where they would otherwise have lost interest.
Less than a year ago, mayors from more than 30 municipalities across Israel’s north joined Mr Shalom and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar in signing a declaration in support of smart classrooms.
Yesterday, the Mayor of Tsfat, Ilan Shochat, welcomed the technology into his community.
“The investment in smart classrooms and the closing the regional gaps in technology and education are things that will enhance welfare and progress in the State of Israel,” Mr Shochat said.
And the Mayor of Rosh Pina, Avihud Raski, said the new classrooms and associated teacher training demonstrated an appreciation of the importance of schoolchildren for the future of Israel.
“I hope that these classes, placed here with the great help of Minister Silvan Shalom and World ORT and with the assistance and training of the Ministry of Education, are just the very beginning of developing education in our community,” Mr Raski said.
The acceptance of World ORT’s vision for Israeli schools and the development of the Schulich Canada Smart Classroom Initiative into such a major force for change had been a fantastic achievement, said World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer.
“World ORT believes in technological progress as a tool to improve daily life and the learning of skills,” Mr Singer said. “The establishment of interactive classes opens a wide range of educational options for both teachers and students enabling them to grow in a virtually connected world. This is an exemplary partnership between two government ministries. Add to that the commitment of local authorities, the generosity of Diaspora donors, particularly Seymour Schulich and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, and the know-how of World ORT’s pedagogical teams and you have a project which raises education in the periphery to a completely new level.”