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25 Oct 2013 15:03 Age: 5 yrs
Category: News Update, Europe

ORT school at the forefront of Europe’s educational development

The ORT school in Milan is developing new ways of technology-supported teaching and learning as part of Europe’s biggest ever initiative to shape the future of the continent’s education.


Dany Maknouz takes a class in the computer lab at ORT’s school in Milan.

It is one of only 15 schools in the whole of Italy which have chosen to participate in iTEC, a four-year, European Commission-funded process of experimentation and development in 15 countries.

The person leading the way in Milan is maths teacher Dany Maknouz, who is set to become an “agent of change” not only at her school but also schools throughout the ORT network thanks to her participation in next month’s Naomi Prawer Kadar International Seminar for Digital Technology in Jewish Education in Rome.

An initiative of European Schoolnet, the Brussels-based network of 30 European Ministries of Education, iTEC has developed toolkits to provide schools with a framework to design innovative learning activities that encourage both teachers and students to move out of their comfort zones.

Dany has implemented the project – called Designing the Future Classroom – with her class of 15 year olds using collaborative video-making, flipped classroom methodology and EdModo sharing technology to create video maths tutorials for younger students.

“It puts them in an active role of producing something and they find it interesting because it’s not easy. They are studying more and it’s become natural for them to go deeper into the subject matter because they have to explain things. It’s also not easy to formulate questions about what we’ve studied. And that’s a very Jewish side of this experience: the question is more important than the answer!”

As positive as the experience has been, she says there are also problems which she is working hard to address.

“The project involves group working which is good because we want our students to be able to work in a team. The problem, however, is how to evaluate the individuals working within each group,” she said.

One method she is using to overcome this is to have individual students evaluate the work of other groups.

“It’s very effective because if you know what you’re talking about then you will make a good evaluation.”

The end result should be a way of educating that will develop “competencies”, that is, the ability not merely to teach content but to enable students to apply what they have studied to different situations. On a wider scale, iTEC is poised to be a flagship project for the design of the future classroom. The projects’ outcomes will provide a model for the use of technology in support of innovative teaching and learning to guide policy making for all European schools.

Already, analysis of the first three years of the iTEC project has shown a positive impact on students’ knowledge, skills and understanding – in particular on their 21st century skills, motivation, engagement, attitudes, and learning practices. iTEC has also had a beneficial effect on teachers, impacting positively on their technology-supported pedagogy, digital competence, and their motivation and attitudes.

INDIRE, Italy’s National Institute for Documentation, Innovation and Educational Research, selected the Milan school for the iTEC process and sent a crew to film Dany’s class in action. Much of the two days’ filming was done in the computer lab provided by World ORT with the financial support of the family of former pupil Michele Silvers a”h.

“We were the first school in Italy to have a one-to-one computer lab. It’s a wonderful lab with an interactive whiteboard, places for 20 students and the software and layout we need to ensure a dynamic situation in class. It’s made us famous in the education sector,” Dany said. “We have been asked to make an iTEC project and to go to conferences and share how we teach and learn.”

However, it is pedagogy, rather than with hardware, which is essential to the best learning experiences and, while gratified by the impact made by the computer lab, the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman, said Dany’s skill as an educator is the critical factor.

“iTEC is a prestigious programme intended to put Europe at the forefront of using technology in education; to achieve that they have recruited the best practitioners to become trainers. So to have chosen Dany is a reflection of her standing in the education sector and confirmation of the faith that we have in her as a world class educator,” Mr Tysman said.