World ORT sees wisdom in Athena laptop programme


05 September 2008 World ORT sees wisdom in Athena laptop programme World ORT is increasing its support for a national Israeli programme to provide a laptop for every teacher. Nearly $40,000 has been committed to providing laptops and associated training to 95 teachers at Tirat HaCarmel. Twenty-five of the recipients are on the staff of the Shifman Junior High School, which is one of the more than 30 campuses in Israel benefiting from World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme, and the rest work at elementary schools that feed Shifman. Last year, World ORT helped to launch the programme, which was initiated by the Athena Foundation under the leadership of its founder Uri Ben-Ari, former Executive Vice-President of Ness Technologies. World ORTs initial contribution comprised 100 laptops to teachers at the Makif Aleph Junior High School in Beer Sheva as well as in four elementary schools whose pupils are expected to join Makif Aleph. Makif Aleph is also a Kadima Mada school. This project fits in with the aims of Kadima Mada using science and technology to enhance education, improve pupils achievements and advance and empower teachers, said the Head of World ORTs Representative Office in Israel Rony Kalinsky. The laptop, together with 120 hours of training and on-site implementation instruction, will give each teacher access to a wide range of information and teaching magterials and will allow them to prepare lessons, assignments and presentations whenever and wherever its convenient and not just when an office computer becomes available, Mr Kalinsky said. Teachers will also be able to use their laptop in class, in the staffroom, in the World ORT Teacher Empowerment Centres (WOTECs) that have been installed in Kadima Mada schools, and even in their own homes and gardens. One of the recipients, science teacher Hila Genis-Melul, attended the presentation ceremony despite being on maternity leave. Ms Genis-Melul has already benefited from World ORTs provision of Nova 5000 data loggers at Shifman, a prime component of the intelligent laboratories installed at Kadima Mada schools. The equipment is wonderful at helping students enjoy and understand science and the Nova training course organised by World ORT at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology seriously enhanced my knowledge, particularly in preparing teaching materials, she said. Now, thanks to this laptop, I will be able to work at home without having to compete with my family for time at the computer; its mobility opens up endless possibilities. World ORT Project Manager in Israel Sherrie Gazit, who developed the programme with the Athena Foundation, said the laptops would help to put teachers on a level with their pupils. From a technical perspective the laptops will enhance the skills of teachers who are not yet computer literate, Ms Gazit said. And from a social point of view they will allow those teachers who have not yet done so to enter their pupils on-line world. All the principals of the participating schools in Tirat HaCarmel signed a declaration at the presentation ceremony committing their institutions to the path of computerisation. Also at the ceremony was Arieh Farjoun, the Mayor of Tirat Ha Carmel, who thanked World ORT for its support of the local education system. World ORT is one of the few organisations that work as speedily as I do in both decision-making and implementation, Mayor Farjoun said. The Athena programme, which is also supported by the Israel Government, the Israel Teachers Union, the Mirage Foundation and Fujitsu-Siemens, will ultimately see the distribution of 60,000 laptops one for every teacher in Israel. In addition to Beer Sheva and Tirat HaCarmel, World ORT plans to take Athena to Nesher later this year another Kadima Mada community. Assuming that the programme proves its effectiveness, World ORT will be ready to consider taking the programme into more locations.