Wingate Seminar puts content over style


From 3-D projectors and computer games using Wii-style motion-capture technology to interactive whiteboards and on-line resources, the range and sophistication of products on display at BETT, the world’s largest educational technology show, is astounding.

World ORT is taking 19 educators from 11 countries to BETT as a scheduled feature of the World ORT Wingate Seminar which is being held this week on the theme Digital Content Creation for Learning.

But the challenge facing the 19 Seminar participants, together with the 30,000 other visitors at the four-day show, is not to be seduced.
In his keynote presentation, Professor Jonathon Drori, chairman of the H.H. Wingate Foundation, which sponsors the Seminar, reminded everyone that while new technologies used well enabled better learning experiences, often they fell short of expectations.
As Foundation Trustee Roger Wingate said in his welcoming address to the Seminar participants: “You can have all the technology in the world; it’s what you impart that’s important.”
Previous Wingate Seminars have anticipated and prepared for major developments in technology and education. This year’s, said the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman, was “taking stock of what people are doing and working out how to get the best out of the innovations which are already taking place “モ it’s about instilling best practice”.
All the institutions represented “モ from Israel, Argentina, France, Ukraine, Uruguay, South Africa, Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, and Russia “モ have implemented digital processes to varying degrees. Through their presentations, the participants were able to share their experiences and expertise with their peers.
Olga Tuzova , computer science and robotics teacher at the ORT de Gunzburg School in St Petersburg, is working on a pilot modular educational system to modernise the learning environment. At the heart of it lie personalised learning tracks using tailored digital resources and the encouragement of team co-operation and collaboration.
“The people here are going the same way,” Ms Tuzova said. “Argentina is a few steps ahead of us in some aspects although in other things we may be a little further. The Seminar’s been very useful; I have seen how others have overcome problems that we’re facing and that will help us to find a way forward.”
Jimena Castellion, an English teacher at ORT Argentina, is a member of the teacher training team contributing ideas to the School 2.0 Project to be launched at her high school in Buenos Aires this year. Focusing on attitudes and teaching strategies, the project aims to create appealing virtual environments which will bring staff, students and the community into this new way of learning with an understanding of the processes involved in communicating and producing knowledge.
“ORT Argentina is ahead of the others in some aspects. We no longer use blogs, for example, while some are just starting to use them,” Ms Castellion said. “But we have been able to learn from the different approaches that others have taken to applications similar to ones we’re using.”
The Seminar has been a highly valued opportunity to share and compare. As Dr Nir Yehudai, who develops and advances the use of IT at the Eynot Yarden Comprehensive School in Israel, said: “It has been a materialisation of being in a network. You get to know people from other places who actually share the same problems and we can share ideas and grow professionally.”
Among the highly appreciated guest presenters was Theo Kuechel, a researcher and consultant at the University of Hull, who said it had been inspiring to meet such an international group, in particular to meet educators from Israel, Argentina and Russia, countries with which he had not worked before.
“He was extremely interesting and useful,” Ms Tuzova said. “He gave us materials but he showed us how to build digital educational resources, how to integrate them into the learning system.”
And Ms Castellion particularly liked Professor Drori’s checklist for assessing the sustainability and effectiveness of a project.
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer noted that in the past, the creation of digital content was the sole preserve of IT professionals using expensive equipment and specialist software.
“Today, teachers and students have access to powerful and often free applications to create all types of content,” Mr Singer said. “With increasing availability of digital cameras, mobile devices and internet connectivity, the challenge for us is to exploit new opportunities to further learning and sharing.”
If Dr Yehudai is anything to go by then the World ORT Wingate Seminar will prove to be one such opportunity that will be exploited to the full, thanks not only to the expertise shared this week at ORT House but also to the professional relationships forged there.
“When I return to my school I will have more resources at my disposal and I will have new people to consult and to learn with,” he said. “I am sure that I will be staying in touch with the people I have met here because they are doing some really great things; there’s much to learn with them.”