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A Revolution in Israeli Education

World ORT Science Journey: 'Smart Classrooms' and Kav Or Hospital Learning

Crowded classrooms and uninvolved students are some of the biggest challenges for Israeli educators. With funding from the Jewish Federations of North America, World ORT has long been engaged in the creation of new, innovative responses to upgrade education in Israel and around the world.

Since 2007, Science Journey (Kadima Mada in Hebrew), World ORT’s science and technology program for Israel schools, has been addressing the need to provide young people with cutting-edge pedagogical tools they need to succeed.

Major initiatives include a multi-million dollar program for the installation of 1000 interactive “smart classrooms” throughout the country – many in the country’s geographic and socioeconomic periphery – and the “Kav-Or” program, which allows hospitalized children to connect to long-distance learning.

“These programs are different but both constitute a revolution in pedagogy. The focus on interactive learning puts the child and the teacher in the center of the equation,” said Rony Kalinsky, Executive Director of Kadima Mada.

The common denominator throughout World ORT initiatives is a willingness to respond to critical educational needs wherever they may emerge.

Kadima Mada has brought their technology to some 65 schools, including instituting major change in the Sha’ar HaNegev school, located in the Gaza perimeter a few minutes from Sderot.

The “smart board” displayed in the classroom allows each student to take an active part in the group learning experience. Teachers explain lessons while accompanied by visuals provided by a web-connected computer and projector. Students get to participate by “writing” on the board with a computerized marker. After school, students can take the lessons home on a disk-on-key or catch-up using the school’s website. 

According to school principal Arele Rotstein, this kind of creative solution helps keep the class interested.

‘We had the curriculum and the dedicated people but we didn’t have the technology. The “smart classroom” makes the lesson varied, colorful and exciting,” he said.

For Rotstein, Kadima Mada’s work goes beyond improving education. By providing consistent support to communities in the embattled periphery, they help keep Israel safe. Unlike other organizations, which were active only during the worst of Operation Cast Lead, Rotstein explained that Kadima Mada remains in the picture even during periods of calm.

“They are always there, saying: ‘We are together; we are with you.’”

Currently, Kadima Mada is partnering with the Sha’ar Hanegev school system in the building and overall planning of a new rocket-proof campus for the area’s educational institutions. The Jewish Federation of San Diego has been engaged in raising funds for a community center to be housed within the complex. 
 
“We bring optimism to the teachers’ room and to the classroom. Teachers are feeling the change that innovation brings. They are happier and that’s something we can feel too,” said Kalinsky of developments in Sha’ar Hanegev.

The fact that a school located in the periphery has not only kept technologically current but has actually surpassed other, more well-off institutions is a significant element in Kadima Mada’s philosophy. The group aims to bring innovative educational techniques specifically to those who won’t easily have access.

The Kav-Or organization is operative in some 30 hospitals in the country, helping sick children keep up with their school work, and even giving them opportunities to study new topics while getting medical treatment. Children, from 3 to 21, connect to teachers over the Internet, with whom they can communicate, ask questions and talk. For students well-enough to participate, there are central computer rooms with an on-duty live teacher and a selection of online teachers. Those children confined to their beds can connect to a bedside laptop instead, an initiative known as Project Smile.

At the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, hospital classrooms are regularly filled with children. Some interact with in-hospital teachers while others are engaged in long-distance learning via computer.

After school hours Kadima Mada provides workshops in a variety of exciting areas including robotics and filmmaking. Instruction in the arts or communications fields is accompanied by the usage of sophisticated technology, a special opportunity for kids going through a truly hard time.

In a recent development, Kadima Mada has received approval to create interactive learning environments in every hospital in Israel, as this unique educational approach is now being recognized as especially suited to children dealing with attention challenges and special education needs as well as those going through trauma.

For more information on Kadima Mada (Science Journey), click here.

To learn about other World ORT, visit the main website.