04 July 2008
Inaugural de Gunzburg seminar takes Rome by storm
Another arrow has been added to World ORTs quiver of high quality seminars for education professionals with the Terry and Jean de Gunzburg Jewish Education Seminar.
The inaugural de Gunzburg Seminar attracted 15 teachers from across Italy to Rome for four days of intensive and practical lectures and workshops on increasing the use of modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Hebrew language and Jewish Studies.
It is a new model for World ORT, whose existing Wingate and Hatter annual seminars bring educators from around the world to London to enhance their skills; the de Gunzburg Seminar will be held at least annually but each time in a different country and adapted to local needs. Judging by the response to the Rome seminar it is a formula which is set to make a massive impact.
It was very good, said Tova Kaminski, a teacher at the World ORT-affiliated school in Milan. I dont want to exaggerate by saying that 100 per cent of the content was usable so I will say that 99 per cent was new and practical for us. Sometimes one can go to a seminar and perhaps only half of it is usable.
Funded by World ORTs new President, Dr Jean de Gunzburg and his wife, the seminar was held at the Angelo Sacerdoti Junior High School, which is in the same building as the ORT Renzo Levi High School in Romes historic Ghetto.
Teachers from Florence, Milan and Turin joined colleagues from the capital to hear Dr Orly Albeck and Ram Steiner from Israels MOFET Institute a non-profit foundation that provides a forum for the exchange of information and ideas, research, and advanced study in teacher education describe and explain the availability and practical use of Internet and software tools in the teaching of Hebrew language and Jewish Studies. And Romes Paolo Cutini presented a session on an educational software programme, Hot Potatoes, which enables teachers to create interactive lessons.
Orly and Ram were excellent, said Odelia Liberanome, a teacher in Florence and Coordinator of the Pedagogic Centre of Jewish Communities in Italy. Orly took us deeper into Hebrew, showing us e-teaching software designed to teach topics in the language, and Ram showed us how to build blogs and use Wikis and other technological tools. Its like a new world thats been opened to me.
For Dr Albeck, it was her first professional experience in Italy and one which, she said, she greatly appreciated.
I dont have the words, even in my mother tongue of Hebrew, to describe how warm and how motivated everyone was. This was an outstanding group of teachers, she said. The seminar was a huge success.
Dr Albeck said that Hebrew was a particularly useful language for Italys Jewish community which is sometimes overlooked internationally, its small size exacerbated by the fact that its members are divided between various cities.
Hebrew may become the lingua franca because Jews in Italy seem to be more willing to learn it than English, she said. Hebrew might give them the opportunity to keep in touch with other Jewish communities around the world like it did in the Middle Ages.
The participants only criticism of the seminar was that it was too short. However, with their new found skills, they are setting up a blog to keep in touch with each other and with the Israeli lecturers.
This seminar opened the world for us, Ms Kaminski said. I know a lot more than I did before. It taught me so many things its amazing. But it is just the beginning of doing many more interesting things. The books that I have to teach Hebrew are a little dull. Now I can use computers to make the lessons more interesting and motivate the children. Computers are the language of the children.
Dr Yakov Ronkin, World ORTs Research and Development Coordinator, said: It was a very interactive seminar in which the teachers were engaged in the activities. We are all very happy with its success and are looking at the possibility of a follow-up seminar in Italy, in addition to taking the Terry and Jean de Gunzburg Seminar model to other countries and continents.
The President of ORT Italy, Professor Giacomo Saban, said the seminars formula was so successful that it could be applied to other subjects.
This seminar helped to improve the teachers didactic performance, Professor Saban said. It would be effective in all the fields in which World ORT is active.
World ORTs Head of Jewish Education, Judah Harstein, noted that Jewish Studies was not meant only to transmit knowledge but also a sense of identity and belonging but, too often, children find the subject a chore.
Modern educational technology products have the power to offer solutions both to the challenges facing the teachers and to the frustrations experienced by their students, Mr Harstein said. Using ICT is an unprecedented opportunity to create an educational environment that is exciting and engaging, that can greatly enrich the learning experience. It is heartening to see that our seminar participants appreciate this and are eager to put what they have learned into practice.