World ORT helps frontline schools keep technological edge

Videoconferencing and a smart whiteboard are used to keep students up to speed when they're stranded at home by Kassams.

teacher at board 88 (photo credit:)
teacher at board 88
(photo credit: )
World ORT has donated some of the most sophisticated technology to schools in the Gaza rocket zone, and, together with the Education Ministry, has just kicked off the "smart classroom" program. Beginning this month, the Sha'ar Hanegev School on the campus of Sapir Academic College outside Sderot and the Shikma School at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai will start figuring out how to use the "smart classroom" technology such as videoconferencing and a smart whiteboard that the teacher can write on and then e-mail exactly what she wrote to every student. When attendance is very low, as it was at the Sha'ar Hanegev School last week, one option is to create a virtual classroom. "Theoretically, if the students aren't here, I could set up a videoconference and then e-mail them what I've written on the board" while they watch from home, Zohar Nir Levi, the new innovation coordinator and a veteran geography teacher at Sha'ar Hanegev, told The Jerusalem Post. World ORT has committed to investing NIS 150 million by 2010 in technology for Israeli schools, as part of the Science Journey program that the ministry and ORT launched last year. The initiative focuses on schools in the periphery. The focus comes after Israel's poor showing in the Second International Technology in Education Study, which gathered data on schools' technological capability in 2006. According to the study's initial results released on Thursday, while more Israeli principals stressed the importance of technology in preparing students for the real world than in other countries (54 percent vs 38%), availability was still insufficient in Israel. In 2006, many schools had one computer for every 20 students, whereas the ideal ratio would be 1:10. Those results put Israel in the bottom third of the 22 countries studied. The Education Ministry said, however, that since 2006, investment in technology had increased and there were now 20% more computers in schools than two years ago. The ministry and Sun Microsystems also signed a three-year agreement on Thursday for the company to provide computer labs, programs and teacher training. The "smart classrooms" were not the first such assistance World ORT provided to the two schools. Last year, World ORT came to visit Aharon Rothstein, principal of the Sha'ar Hanegev High School, to find out what he needed. Rothstein asked for laptop computers since the school's computer lab had been rendered unusable as it was unprotected from rockets. "The next day, 15 laptop computers were delivered to our door. And the day after that, 15 more were delivered," Rothstein told the Post. "Usually, philanthropies come with demands. Sometimes they even want to tell you how to run your school. Not only did World ORT not come with demands, they asked me what I needed," he said. World ORT also donated a number of NOVA 5000 scientific computers that teachers use to conduct experiments in the fortified classrooms. ORT also set up a fully-equipped room for teachers to prepare lessons, including computers, copiers and video equipment.