Source: MOFET International
Over the last years World ORT has been sponsoring seminars for teachers of Jewish Studies in different locations around the world in order to keep them kept abreast of innovations in teaching and to enrich their professional toolboxes. In recent years, these seminars have focused on the use of technology in the teaching of Jewish Studies. In order to accomplish this goal, World ORT approached The MOFET Institute, which is a leader in the field of integrating technologies into education in general and into teacher education in particular. Thanks to MOFET’s International Channel, a fruitful cooperation commenced in 2007, and continues until the present day.
Prior to every seminar, the International Channel recruits suitable experts (considereng the language of the event, the specific content field, the schedule, and so on) from among the faculty members of The MOFET Institute and/or the various colleges, and together they build a program that conforms to the needs of World ORT and the local the target audience.
Two MOFET International faculty members who recently undertook the mission report their impressions of the experience as well as of the nature, products, and educational significance of the activity:
Reuven Werber – Buenos Aires
At the end of June, 2011, World ORT held the second Terry and Jean de Gunzburg Jewish Education Seminar in Buenos Aires for Jewish Studies teachers from across Latin America. Twenty eight educators from Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Mexico gathered in Buenos Aires for four days to work together at the campuses of the ORT technical schools to improve their skills in utilizing ICT tools and resources in teaching Jewish studies. The Seminar was held alongside the World ORT annual Robert and Eileen Sill National Directors Forum (NDF), which brought together top ORT management from Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cuba, United States, France, Israel, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Uruguay, India, Mexico and Argentina to share expertise and experiences related to educational planning issues and corporate strategies.
World ORT invited me through the MOFET International Channel to work with the teachers at the seminar to learn how to incorporate ICT tools and skills in their Jewish educational programming. The seminar program was built in coordination with Daniel Tysman of World ORT and Avi Gonen, Coordinator of Jewish Studies at the Buenos Aires ORT Technical School.
At the seminar, I introduced a curricular model of integration of information literacy, problem based learning and ICT skills in the various subjects of the school curriculum, including Jewish studies. The participants learned about the use of freely available web 2.0 tools to enable their students to easily create, communicate and collaborate while building their knowledge of Jewish topics as well as about many online Jewish content resources and tools. The teachers worked on the wiki which I created for the seminar to practice their use of these tools.
As it truly is quite difficult to teach the entire Torah while standing on one foot, it was important to introduce the many educational resources which would allow the seminar participants to continue to grow professionally after the seminar. I devoted one session to introducing them to the many MOFET educational resources which could help them do this (The MOFET educational portals in Hebrew, English & Spanish, the MOFET educational webinars, the MOFET Online Academy with courses in the didactics of Jewish studies in English, Hebrew & Spanish and of course the MOFET teachers seminar in Israel). I also introduced them to Shluvim, the MOFET social network for educators, where they can network with many other educators interested in sharing their questions and answers to advance their professional practice. I also left the participants with a LiveBinder of annotated resources for each of the topics of my presentations which they can reference at their leisure.
During the seminar we created a Facebook group for the seminar participants to share their projects, questions and reflections and serve as a source of ongoing professional support and growth. Many of the participants have already joined the group and the ongoing conversation.
At the seminar, many of the participants shared presentations of their own programs with the group, enriching us all. Of particular note is the ORT Buenos Aires Technical School Virtual Campus with its rich pedagogical environment and the professional development program aimed at preparing their staff to incorporate it in their practice.
Dr. Elaine Hoter – South Africa
The first seminar was held in South Africa in the summer of 2010. The seminar, which lasted a week, focused on improving the teachers’ work in the elementary schools. In view of its success, a decision was made to hold an additional seminar this year (Summer 2011) for secondary-school teachers. In both cases, I was recruited to this important enterprise in my capacity as a faculty member of both The MOFET Institute’s International Channel and the Talpiot College.
In collaboration with Daniel Tysman, head of World ORT’s Education Department, and Ariella Rosenberg from ORT South Africa, a program was devised with the intention of exposing its participants to a range of tools used for integrating technology into the teaching of Jewish studies, as well as to sources and web sites that are indispensable to every teacher in the field. The program was built in a modular form, since the group in question was extremely heterogeneous as regards both level of ICT proficiency and teaching disciplines (Judaism, Hebrew, Jewish history, etc.).
The seminar participants hailed from South Africa’s big cities as well as from Zimbabwe. Up until now, due to the enormous distances between the various places of origin (necessitating journeys of some 12 hours), the teachers did not have the opportunity to work together continuously for any length of time. One of the main objectives of a seminar of this kind is to build a learning community that is also capable (from the point of view of knowledge and infrastructures) of continuing to work together after the final whistle of the seminar has sounded. Since Shluvim, the social-professional network developed at The MOFET Institute specifically for such purposes, only operates in Hebrew at present, I established a group on Facebook. Originally, it was meant to serve as a closed group for the seminar participants only, but it was later expanded to include additional Jewish Studies teachers in South Africa. The Facebook group affords its members privacy, serves as a shared database for documents and clips produced by the participants by means of the various tools they acquired (for instance, Goanimate and Photostory), and constitutes a familiar and convenient place for keeping in touch after the seminar.
During the seminar itself, the participants’ assignments and products were uploaded to the group site on Facebook, and a “bank” of materials, which included recommended websites and clips from the Internet as well as original projects by the participants and photos from the seminar, began to be built.
The MOFET Institute’s success in these seminars is reflected in the positive feedback of the participants as well as the cordial professional relationship that was established between the Institute's International Channel and its teacher educators on the one hand and the teachers in the Diaspora and WORLD ORT on the other. We look forward to continued collaboration in joint ventures in the future.