15 July 2009 Teachers laud superlative de Gunzburg Seminar There is a fairy tale quality to the success of the Terry and Jean de Gunzburg Jewish Education Seminars which took place concurrently in Buenos Aires, Rome and Kishinev this month. If, as World ORTs Head of Jewish Education, Judah Harstein, said, that Hebrew and Jewish Studies are seen as the Cinderella subjects then the de Gunzburg Seminars are glass slippers thanks to which teachers of these subjects can receive the recognition they deserve. For the 75 educators from 15 countries who participated in the four-day Seminars there did not seem to be enough superlatives to describe their appreciation for the opportunity they had been given to increase their knowledge of, and skills in, incorporating technology into their lessons. Useful, very useful, extremely useful, very beneficial, really relevant, very exciting, very constructive and interesting, great, very, very good are just some of the ways teachers from ORT and non-ORT schools in Latin America, Italy and the Former Soviet Union have described the Seminars. Delegates at the Buenos Aires de Gunzburg seminar It was definitely, undoubtedly a success, said Odelia Liberanome, Coordinator of the Pedagogic Centre of the Department of Education and Culture of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, which organised the Rome Seminar together with World ORTs Education and Technology Department. We have had extremely positive feedback. Such feedback demonstrates the effectiveness of taking the seminars to the communities that need them so that the training can be delivered in the language, and with the cultural nuances, with which the teachers are familiar. In comments echoed by others around the world, Ms Liberanome said the good news started with the partnership with World ORT. Delegates from the Rome de Gunzburg seminar When organisations work together towards the same objective, the same target of reinforcing teachers knowledge and raising the level of teaching in Jewish schools thats the way to do it, she said. The invited lecturers were wonderful and the atmosphere was very cooperative, open and good. It was not passive learning, there was a lot of exchange and the lecturers could feel that they were talking to a group of people who wanted to learn. Were already looking forward to next year. For Tova Kaminsky, a Hebrew teacher at the Jewish Community School in Milan, her participation in the Rome Seminar was not her first experience of World ORTs training. I also attended last years Seminar in Rome, which was also very constructive and interesting, Ms Kaminsky said. I thought to myself what can they tell me thats new And yet I learned a lot more this year! With Italys Jewish schools introducing Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) in the coming months, the videoconference linking Shaar HaNegev High School in Israel with Rome and Buenos Aires was a highpoint of the Seminar. Atar Polak at Shaar HaNegev showed her peers how the IWB in her classroom which World ORT had provided last year through its Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme was used to take students through Bereishit (Genesis). It was just fantastic, Ms Liberanome said. The fact that we could benefit from the knowledge of a teacher in Israel thanks to this technology I found very moving. It opens up so many possibilities; it shows how you can build education in the future and, for example, build much stronger links between students in the Diaspora with Israel. We hope to make IWBs the focus of next years Seminar. Mr Harstein, who attended the Buenos Aires Seminar, said the videoconference was a modern-day interpretation of the prophet Isaiahs vision that Torah shall come forth from Zion. All the delegates welcomed the opportunity to participate in this unique experience, he said. I must congratulate Atar for her outstanding lesson which brought together so many different topics and showed that the Torah has the power to speak to us all at all times and in all places. It was a real pleasure to witness the way in which the technology is being used to enhance teaching and to transform learning. IWBs are also about to be introduced at the Jewish day school in Cordoba, Argentina, where Seminar participant David Seiferheld is Jewish Studies Coordinator. The videoconference was very exciting, Mr Seiferheld said. Now I will be able to apply what I saw at the Seminar to our school. IWBs are one of the most innovative developments in education: they are very appealing to our students and they transcend the barrier of distance. We can use them to make joint projects with other schools and bring the world into the classroom. Mr Seiferheld, who also teaches Hebrew and Bible at what is Argentinas largest Jewish school outside Buenos Aires, said that by bringing together teachers from ORT and non-ORT schools the Seminar had taken a significant step towards regenerating the cooperative network enjoyed by the countrys Jewish schools before the economic crisis of 2001. I am very grateful for having been invited to the Seminar; it was a privilege, he said. Together with other teachers from across Argentina as well as Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay, Mr Seiferheld benefited from a series of lectures and workshops by ORT Argentinas experts in Spanish and by World ORTs partner, Israels Centre for Educational Technology (CET), in Hebrew. Daniela Gomberoff, from the Leon Pinelo Jewish Day School in Lima, Peru, which is implementing ORT Chiles Advanced Technology for Science Education (TAVEC) programme, also expressed her gratitude for being invited to the Seminar. We must always keep one step ahead of the students so that we know what motivates them; then we can prepare good lessons, Ms Gomberoff said. Students can enjoy coming to school thanks to our use of technology. World ORT sessions included how to use the Internet as a source of material for effective teaching and learning of Jewish subjects, using Web 2.0 tools, rich media and video for delivering information and as a tool to encourage expression and creativity, how to make use of visual images, and an introduction to CET interactive websites to support the teaching and learning of Hebrew language and Jewish subjects. The presentations by CETs Noya Sagiv exceeded expectations, said Mr Harstein. The participants were united in expressing their appreciation for both the style and the content of her lectures and workshops, he said. They appreciated the new vistas that she opened for them in the realm of computer-mediated Jewish learning as well as demonstrating many of the innovative and impressive educational products developed by CET. Avi Gonen, Director of the Jewish Education Department at ORT Argentina, lauded the vision of World ORT President Dr Jean de Gunzburg and his family for instituting the Seminar. Jewish education is most important for our people because the new generation has to be taught their culture, Torah, Hebrew and history. If not, were going to lose them in the future. The de Gunzburgs have taken a very important step to create this Seminar, Mr Gonen said. Delegates from the Kishinev seminar In Kishinev, ORT and non-ORT teachers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia and Estonia were brought up to speed on, among other things, project-based learning, building lesson plans using software, preparing video materials for class, and the use of Web 2.0 technology. Moldovas Deputy Minister of Education and Youth, Galina Bulat, told the opening session: This Seminar is helping dozens of teachers from the CIS and Baltic States not only to share positive experiences but to get acquainted with the achievements of modern professional techniques. ORT Moldova President Ilan Shor, who financially supported the event, added: As Moldovan patriots we strive to bring to our country only the best social, educational and technological expertise. And Oleg Budza, First Vice-Chairman of Moldovas National Confederation of Trade Unions, said ORT Moldovas education seminars had his organisations complete support. Such seminars open new possibilities, considerably increasing the creative and professional potential of teachers and promoting an exchange of practical operational experiences with colleagues from other countries, Mr Budza said.