World ORT in NIS 47 million project to make Israel smarter


10 February 2010 World ORT in NIS 47 million project to make Israel smarter World ORT is at the forefront of an educational and social ‘revolution’ in Israel with its implementation of a three-year, NIS 47 million joint project to install more than 400 smart classrooms across the countrys north. Through its programmatic arm in Israel, Kadima Mada, World ORT is investing NIS 16 million to bring 21st century technology to 72 relatively under-resourced Jewish and non-Jewish schools and to benefit some 40,000 students a year. The Minister for Development of the Galilee and the Negev, and Vice Prime Minister Sylvan Shalom, and Education Minister Gideon Saar, whose ministries are partnering with Kadima Mada in the project, have written to each of the mayors of Nahariyah and Megiddo informing them that their areas are to be the first to benefit. An Interactive Whiteboard in use at a school participating in Kadima Madas pilot programme. [This] is a significant step in the ambition to brand the Galilee as an area of excellence in the subjects of science and technology through innovative teaching and learning technologies. The infrastructures will allow access to digital content, experiencing a new way of studies in a smart class and the use of state-of-the-art equipment with the emphasis on science and technology, the Ministers wrote. We are convinced that this project will give a significant donation to strengthen the school system in your city. In 2008, Kadima Mada tripled the number of such high-tech classrooms in Israel by equipping 60 rooms with Interactive Whiteboard (IWBs), wireless Internet connectivity and other technological aids in six campuses and providing on-going teacher training in their use. A favourable independent evaluation of the pilot programme by the Henrietta Szold Institute The National Institute for Research in the Behavioural Sciences, based in Jerusalem, promises a significant impact on the educational performance of the Jewish State. The evaluation reinforced international findings that all children became very involved in the lessons and concurred that the biggest improvement with regard to lesson participation was to be found in children with learning difficulties, said Hanan Rubin, Kadima Madas Smart Classes Project Manager, who is handling the expansion of the pilot programme. We hope that once we put smart classes in each of the new schools then the municipality will buy more of them like they did at Horfeish, one of the pilot schools, where the local administration raised funds for this purpose. We hope to be planting seeds of technology- and skill-led educational enhancement, Mr Rubin said. Minister Shalom said that the new technology would improve the learning capabilities of children in the Galilee which would inevitably lead to a reduction in the social gaps that now exist between the northern and central regions of the country. This would bring about an educational and social revolution, he said. His Ministrys Director General, Orna Housman Behor, said the cooperation with Kadima Mada provided fertile ground for unlimited possibilities in developing advanced educational frameworks. This is a fantastic project and Im very proud to be part of it, Ms Housman Behor said. I have no doubt that in another three years we will reap the fruits students excelling in their studies, an exceptional school system and educational and social achievement. The Ministry of Development of the Negev and the Galilee has committed NIS 15 million to the project and the Ministry of Education will provide 120 hours of training over two years for each of the 3,600 teachers using the technology, a contribution worth upwards of NIS 7 million. Some of the teacher training will be undertaken virtually as part of a special project developed in partnership with the Clore Foundation and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Municipalities will undertake the necessary refurbishment of the classrooms to accommodate the new technology, earmarking an estimated NIS7 million over three years for the work. Kadima Madas pilot programme benefited from the reservoir of expertise built up by the use of IWBs and associated technology in ORT schools around the world, the Former Soviet Union and Argentina in particular. The experience gleaned from the pilot will, in turn, benefit the regional roll-out. The Henrietta Szold Institutes evaluation noted the overwhelmingly positive effect of the new technology, which will be introduced to elementary, junior and high schools catering to the Jewish, Bedouin, Cherkes, Muslim, and Druze communities. The Institute reported that user feedback affirmed that the use of the IWB suits most pupils and provides a solution to a wide variety of pupils needs, in particular the needs of weaker pupils and those with learning difficulties. It is recognised that the most obvious benefit of the IWB is that pupils in all schools demonstrated enhanced active participation in the lessons, enjoyment, interest and motivation. The long run benefits for children are potentially immense, said Kadima Mada Pedagogical Manager Dr Osnat Dagan. Using the smart classes enhances the interaction between students, teachers, learning materials and even the subject content, Dr Dagan said. It enables the pupils to acquire life-long study skills and encourages them to become proficient in independent learning, eventually transforming the teachers role to that of a tutor. The use of computerised technologies in the classroom and, later, at home, encourages pupils interest; use of the voting kit, for example, involves them in classroom discussion and decision-making processes and, of course, helps them to learn how to make decisions. In addition to the standard lap tops for everyone in the class, teachers will now also have a tablet PC, which is a hand-held computer about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, so that they can walk around the room interacting with pupils individually. And a voting kit which allows for spontaneous multiple choice tests during class will allow teachers insight into just how well their students are following the subject. I am extremely excited that the journey started two years ago through the initiative of a group of major philanthropists headed by Charles Bronfman and Gene Ribakoff has arrived at the point where the Israeli Government is buying into the project. I am sure that the implementation by our Kadima Mada team in Israel will be very professional, efficient and in coordination with the Government, said World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer. This will bring to schools in the periphery 21st century technology and know-how which World ORT has obtained in various operations worldwide, Mr Singer said. And, since we already have initial results from the pilot programme, we are very confident in the success of the project. We are grateful to the Ministries and our other partners in this initiative the Hebrew University, Clore Foundation, the Davidson Institute, and the Weizmann Institute as well as the Jewish Federations of North America, and our donors.