More than 40 teachers from 15 countries have advanced their skills in the use of educational technology thanks to two seminars organised by World ORT over the past fortnight. In St Petersburg, 27 teachers from 20 schools attended this week’s Naomi Prawer Kadar International Seminar for Digital Technology in Jewish Education while a further 18 teachers gathered in London for the World ORT Wingate Seminar.
“Technology is a tool but it’s the well trained, empowered, devoted teachers who make the difference to our students and the participants at these seminars are precisely that,”? said World ORT Chief Program Officer Vladimir Dribinskiy. “What they’ve learned will help them with a major educational challenge: to apply the technology with which their students are already highly engaged for educational rather than recreational purposes.”?
At the Kadar Seminar, teachers of Hebrew and Jewish Studies from Bulgaria, the Baltic States and the CIS improved their skills in a range of fields, from the use of educational games to animation, Power Point, and interactive tools.
The range of presentations was the result of pre-seminar consultations with the teachers to find out their skill levels and specific needs.
“This seminar is very important because teachers of other subjects, such as physics and maths, can get together with their peers in their city for learning opportunities,”? said ORT Russia National Director Dr Sergey Gorinskiy. “But these Jewish Studies teachers may be the only ones in their city, so it is vital that we bring them together so that they know they are not alone, that they have colleagues facing similar challenges and can find out together how to adapt their methods to new realities.”?
And in acquiring technological skills, they are making the study of Jewish history and culture increasingly relevant to young people.
“It’s impossible in a modern school to teach subjects using old fashioned technologies. So the fact that these teachers will be using technology on a par with colleagues teaching other subjects, such as science, will elevate the status of Jewish Studies in the eyes of their students,”? Dr Gorinskiy said.
The Seminar was a great success according to the participants. Zhanna Kulagina, for example, said everything she had learned had a practical application which she looked forward to taking back to ORT Gesher in Samara, where she teaches Hebrew.
“I was yearning to learn something new, about new forms of teaching, about new technologies and how to apply them “ﾓ and I’ve achieved my goal. I’ve learned about interactive whiteboards, how to make educational films, and I’ve seen how other Hebrew teachers work,”? Ms Kulagina said.
For Galina Chumak, a teacher at ORT Rambam in Kishinev, Moldova, visiting the ORT high school during the Seminar was instructive.
“I was enthused by ORT de Gunzburg School,”? she said. “It meets the demands of the 21 st Century and provides us with an excellent example of what we should strive to achieve.”?
Previously, World ORT has held Kadar Seminars in Mexico, South Africa and Moscow but this was the first to be visited by a representative of the sponsors, the Naomi Prawer Kadar Foundation. Lindsey Blank, the Foundation’s Managing Director, addressed the teachers on the opening day.
“The Naomi Foundation strives to empower educators. We support World ORT’s professional development seminars which give teachers innovative tools and skills. It was a special experience for me to see educators from so many places coming together with the common goal of effective use of technology in the classroom. The teachers I spoke with were eager to implement what they were learning to encourage their students to reach their potential,”? Ms Blank said.
A similar enthusiasm was seen at ORT House, London, where the World ORT Wingate Seminar had been held the week before. The theme of the Seminar was Serious Games and Gamification for Learning. While games and simulations have always been part of education the advent of powerful gaming consoles, mobile gaming and super-computer performance in graphics technology, mean that games in education have the potential to move up to a whole new level. Teachers from Israel, the Netherlands, Argentina, Italy, Mexico, France, South Africa and the FSU were brought face to face with some of the top international authorities on the subject.
“The quality of the speakers was very high,”? said the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman. “For many of the participants it was their first exposure to the topic. I’m very pleased that now they’ve got the tools to start designing and making their own games as well as making use of existing games.”?
But even those with knowledge and experience of educational games found the Seminar invaluable. Mark van den Bos, of Rosh Pina School in Amsterdam, studied the subject as part of his education degree “ﾓ but much has changed in the three years since he graduated.
Back then a 3-D gaming program cost hundreds of euros but now the public could access them for free, he said. But the pressure on teachers was to increase the sophistication of the games they used in the classroom.
“Kids are more spoiled now with the level of games which are available commercially. The games you can buy are beautiful and have a high advantage over “ﾘserious’ games,”? Mr van den Bos said.
That said, he found the Wingate Seminar instructive.
“I got something from every presentation: to see the newest developments in the field was enlightening. It would be wise for every school to attend a seminar like this; this is the future, you can’t stand behind, you have to move on, you have to adapt new ways of teaching.”?
Nataliya Dukhon, an English teacher at the ORT Tekhiya Centre of Education in Moscow, added: “The topic of the Seminar was not up to date “ﾓ it was up to the future! The main idea I got here was the need to deal with 21 st Century children; it’s our job to find a way to reach them and here we got a key to open the door to them.”?
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer thanked the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation and the Naomi Prawer Kadar Foundation.
“As educators we are continually trying to keep up with advances in technologies which often come into the home before they come into the classroom. Their invaluable support is benefiting top level educators throughout the World ORT global network and so reinforces our efforts to nurture and strengthen the next generation of our community,”? Mr Singer said.