8 July 2009 Preparing Israeli teachers for ‘smart’ classrooms Key teachers from Israeli schools participating in World ORTs Kadima Mada programme have been brought together at the Weizmann Institute of Science to learn how to use Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs). World ORT pioneered the use of high-tech IWBs in Israel by introducing them at six campuses last year under Phase 5 of Kadima Mada. Last weeks three-day Moshinsky Seminar for World ORT Innovation Leaders the teachers who lead the implementation of new science and technology initiatives such as the integration of ICT into the structure of their schools provided an intense introduction into the IWBs use. It is the second Moshinsky Seminar for Innovation Leaders; the first, held a year ago, took a broader look at the technological innovations introduced by World ORT. But at that time IWBs were so new that it was felt insufficient practical knowledge had been accumulated to make them a focal point of training. This time, Innovation Leaders from the Kadoori Youth Village and Shaar HaNegev High School, which were among the six campuses each given 10 IWB-fitted classrooms, led major sessions showing their peers what had been learned over the past year. Dalit Avigad, from Kadoori, was one of them. I was very excited by this because I recognised that I had been given a great deal of credit, Ms Avigad said. Rather than use the impressive academic resource at the Weizmanns Davidson Institute of Science Education, where the Seminar was held, I was chosen to train teachers how to use the IWBs. But the fact is that before World ORT brought this technology into Israel they were all but non-existent here. So we now know better than any academics how to use them. We are the source of knowledge. She said that the Seminar participants could not hide their excitement at learning about the IWBs, which are Internet connected and linked to students laptops. In Israel, they are known as Smart Boards. But there is, in reality, no such thing as a smart board or a smart class only smart teachers who know how to make the equipment smart, Ms Avigad said. She voiced confidence in the rest of the World ORT Innovation Leaders ability to use the equipment thanks to the training at the Moshinsky Seminar. The IWB is like any machine, the more you use it the more proficient you become at using it, she said. The Seminar participants were also given CDs of the workshops so that they can start preparing lessons over the summer holiday. In addition, the connection we have established between us through World ORTs Kadima Mada programme means that they know they can always contact us if they have any questions were there for them. World ORT Representative in Israel Rony Kalinsky said the Seminar built on the foundations laid at last years inaugural forum. We understand much better their needs and what we need to teach them, Mr Kalinsky said. And at the end of the Seminar, they told us it was the best thing we could ever have done for them. Now they know that using the IWBs is not so complicated and so has given them the confidence to take on this whole new way of teaching and learning. Pedagogical Manager Dr Osnat Dagan, who organised the Seminar, added: This Seminar has shown that the relationship between the Innovation Leaders and the World ORT education team is very professional, very close and very committed. And this is important because we can not give them orders. They understand that we have something to give them not only equipment but also pedagogic advice. The fact that participants gave up vacation time to attend this Seminar and could wholeheartedly say that it had been a wonderful experience has made us very happy. The feedback from participants was very positive. For example, Dovele Lanir, of Tefen High School in the Galilee, said it was even more successful than last years Seminar; and Ofra Halperin, of Shikma High School, said the Seminar had been organised very professionally and most of the content was very useful. While sharing the practical expertise of using the IWBs formed the core of the Seminar, there was still time to tap into other vital areas with the help of experts from the Weizmann Institute and Matach, Israels Centre for Educational Technology. Teachers knowledge was enriched by lectures on the environmental issues surrounding water and on how memory works. There was a workshop giving guidance on the art of asking good questions, another bringing participants up to speed on the features of Web 2.0 and one explaining techniques of constructing a thesis and how to conduct experiments to test it. The Seminars success is all the more notable when one considers the diversity of the teachers involved: Jewish, Arab, Druze, religious, secular, kibbutzniks, junior high and senior high school, teachers of the sciences, humanities and Jewish Studies. We have agreed that the Innovation Leaders will meet one day every two months over the next year to continue learning the issues that they have asked to pursue and this will only strengthen the bond between us, Mr Kalinsky said.