World ORT has completely updated the computers in Israel’s 27 schools for hospitalized children and is ensuring that its efforts on providing pedagogical material and training make similar progress. Since 2009, World ORT – in cooperation with Israel’s Ministries of Education, Health and Welfare, and the Prime Minister’s Office and thanks to a major donation from the Swiss-based SASA Setton Foundation – has invested significantly in revitalizing the Kadima Mada – Kav-Or program which enhances the educational services provided for children missing regular school because of hospital treatment.
Some 350 new computers have been bought – some with touch screens for children with special needs – to replace the old hardware and most of the schools now have Interactive Whiteboards and robotics programs.
“The hospitals see how helpful these things are for the children – so much so that some create new facilities requiring more such equipment,” said Rona Kwartaz, the Kadima Mada – Kav-Or Project Coordinator.
“It’s an on-going process to ensure that the equipment is up to date and it is one which we have pursued in parallel with staff development. But we have made such advances on the hardware we don’t want to be seen as just an equipment provider. So we’re focusing now on pedagogical substance.”
An important part of that drive is the annual training seminar for Kadima Mada – Kav-Or teachers which this month attracted a total of 50 educators to its two sessions in Shlomi, near the Lebanese border.
Workshops included an introduction to on-line learning tools such as Mindomo for mind mapping and Google Docs to create, share and collaborate on the web with documents and presentations.
They were also shown how to improve their use of the Interactive White boards and even “magic tricks” to demonstrate scientific principles using easily available props and materials.
“Tools like Mindomo allow you to create a completely interactive lesson which includes hyperlinks and videos; it’s very exciting and makes the lesson come alive,” Ms Kwartaz said. “And these are just the things which the teachers in the hospital schools are looking for, to stimulate the kids and make them eager to learn even though they are hospitalized.”
But it was the emotional reality of working with sick children which provided one of the most powerful bonding experiences of this month’s training seminar.
“They had a very fruitful and productive discussion of the conflict they face teaching children pedagogical substance even though the children are dealing with very difficult situations. It was very emotional, very bonding, because they could empathize with each other,” Ms Kwartaz said.
One of the first-time participants said: “It has helped me learn and understand new and exciting teaching tools that I can use with the children. I now understand how important it is to use the computer as a source of excitement for the kids.”
And another added: “I learned so much… there are so many things that I’m taking with me and will add to this year’s curriculum. I would love to be an inseparable part of [Kadima Mada – Kav-Or’s] work, to cooperate with you and get much more information and knowledge that I can use throughout my work with the children.”
Such comments were indicative of the seminar’s success in meeting its key goals, Ms Kwartaz said, creating a greater sense of community among the teachers and help them to increase their use of technology.
“We interact with 27 hospitals and can see the wonderful work they do but, usually, they don’t get to see what each other does. At these seminars they can learn from each other, support each other, and create bonds so that they continue to collaborate throughout the year to their and their students’ benefit,” she said.
Before Kav-Or teamed up with World ORT it had been working for 16 years providing hospitals with computers fitted with specialized software designed to allow child patients to maintain social and educational links to friends and schools as well as pursue independent learning. In addition, children could reduce their anxiety by accessing a specially prepared database of medical presentations with information about the treatment they are undergoing and so increase their understanding.
Now, with the added momentum of World ORT’s resources and expertise, the program enjoys a more sophisticated website, which doubles as a virtual school, and a greatly increased distance learning component. In addition, volunteer undergraduates and national service girls provide one-to-one tutoring for long-term patients.