World ORT shows the future of Jewish education


28 October 2009 World ORT shows the future of Jewish education In a display that would have been all but impossible before World ORT brought Interactive Whiteboards and videoconferencing technology to Israeli schools on a significant scale, some of the Jewish States top decision makers were treated to a glimpse of the future of Jewish education at the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. In less than 20 minutes, World ORT showed more than 120 politicians, industrialists, Jewish communal leaders and academics at a panel discussion on Judaism in the Internet Age the power of educational technology to transcend geographical and cultural barriers Ours was very different from the other presentations which relied on PowerPoint; ours was interactive, it was like something from another world, said Kadima Mada Pedagogical Manager Dr Osnat Dagan. They gave us 15 minutes and it felt like only one minute because there was so much happening. After the session people were coming up to me asking me how we did it. They were fascinated. Zohar Nir Levy demonstrates how the Interactive Whiteboard works at the Presidential Conference. World ORTs presentation used interactive Internet-based technology it has introduced to communities in more than 30 municipalities through its Kadima Mada programme to link classes at three schools Shaar HaNegev and Kadoorie Agricultural High School, in Israel, and the ORT Jewish School 1311 Grigory Lipman in Moscow. The World ORT Innovation Leader at Shaar HaNegev, Zohar Nir Levy, was joined by fellow Sharar HaNegev teacher Segit Rink in the hall at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre where they led the presentation using an Interactive Whiteboard. Using the live link with the classes at the three schools, which allowed students to see and hear everyone in the hall in Jerusalem and be seen and heard in return, Ms Nir Levy presented a dilemma for everyone to discuss the case of legislation proposed five years ago which would have required all public buildings in Israel to fix a mezuzah to the entrance doorway in accordance with Jewish tradition. An animated examination of the issues raised by the bill, including the passionate exchange of opinions, ideas and facts between the students in the two countries, was followed by a vote using the interactive technology which automatically displayed the results as a graphics on the IWB screens on whether such legislation was a good idea. It was amazing to see the views of the Russian students because they dont live in Israel, Dr Dagan said. They argued that Israel was a democratic country and so everyone should be free to do what they wanted. Although some of the Israeli students felt the legislation was a good idea, the vote was overwhelmingly against such a law. The technology enabled students from different communities and cultures to learn together and about each other. The whole world is now the classroom, Dr Dagan said. And the students were very excited by it. Their teachers told me that even after the presentation finished they kept the link open and sang songs together, such as Shalom Aleichem. It was spontaneous, stimulating and enjoyable for all involved. And it would probably not have been possible to have executed this presentation three years ago, before World ORTs Kadima Mada programme was launched. Before Kadima Mada, only a handful of Israeli schools had even one Interactive Whiteboard (the Internet-connected teaching tool which replaces the old chalk-and-talk blackboard), Dr Dagan said. Now World ORT has brought the equipment with corresponding teacher training into dozens of classes at schools participating in Kadima Mada and has joined forces with the Ministry of Education to bring 1,000 more to schools across the country. The connectivity provided by the technology is opening up dramatic new possibilities for educators. In science, for example, experiments can be conducted simultaneously by students around the world and the results which may vary according to local conditions compared and investigated. And students will have direct access to different cultures and ways of understanding the world. This is powerful technology which will allow us to realise what would have been idle dreams just a short time ago, Dr Dagan said.