Bringing 21st Century Technology to Israeli Schools

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 country’s 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.

Nahariyah and Megiddo will be the first areas to benefit.

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 positive independent evaluation of the pilot program by the Henrietta Szold Institute promises a significant impact on educational performance.

“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 Mada’s Smart Classes Project Manager, who is handling the expansion of the pilot program.

“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.

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 NIS 7 million over three years for the work.

Kadima Mada’s pilot program benefited from the reservoir of expertise built up by the use of IWBs and associated technology in ORT schools around the world, including in the Former Soviet Union and Argentina.

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. 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 program, 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.”

image: an Interactive Whiteboard in use at a school participating in the pilot program