The Internet in Israeli Education -- Sink or Swim?
Education Panel - Internet World 97 - Jerusalem, June 18,1997
Reuven Werber
Neveh Chanah Torah High School for Girls - Gush Etzion, Israel
Herzog Teacherís College - Gush Etzion, Israel
reuw@mofet.macam98.ac.il


Reuven Werber


Here in Israel, we are on the verge of The Information Age finding itís way into our
classrooms all across the country. The popularization of the Internet in businesses &
homes across the country, the more easily accessible hardware & software and the falling
prices of technology are giving rise to more & more internet connections in schools
around the country, some modem supported & some WAN online access. The question
we must bravely confront is whether the Wave of Information & data which flood our
schools will inundate our students or whether it will it be properly harnessed, controlled
and used to irrigate the fruits of a new knowledge. Will the flood of information (textual,
graphic & audio) bring about a trivialization of education, decorated with pizzazz &
frills, but low on content and true understanding or will it serve as the vehicle to convey
our learning to new heights of all- encompassing comprehension & meaning?
I will illustrate what I mean by referring to some remarks made by Michael Crichton,
author of Jurassic Park, at a PC Forum conference in Tucson, Arizona last month as
reported in PC Magazine.

"Crichton opened with a foreboding set of predictions about how Internet access
for school-age children could undermine, not help, education in America.
During his speech, Crichton showed a video clip from Microsoft that depicted a
student delivering a multimedia research report on Mayan civilization. The child
had built the report's elements from the Internet. After the clip, Crichton surgically
took apart the facts in the child's report, characterizing the report as heavy on glitz
and dead wrong on facts."The worst part about this," Crichton said, "isn't just that
the teacher-impressed that this showy report was built with the aid of the Internet-
praised it, but that nobody at Microsoft knew that the facts were wrong."
Crichton asserted that those who support bringing the Internet into the classroom
aren't thinking about training issue's for students and teachers. "There is a lot of
data supporting the idea that technology does not make a difference in classrooms,"
Crichton said. "

The danger is clear. But so is the way to salvation. We must train our students to cope
with the vast amounts of constantly changing information available to them. Ignoring its
existence will not further education. Learning to locate information efficiently, to analyze
& evaluate it, to classify & utilize it intelligently are the skills that were always important
but today are absolutely essential.

The entry of Internet access to our educational environment requires us to redouble our
efforts to develop insructional models based on Information Literacy principles. We
must teach our students along with the traditional 3 Rís (Readiní Ritiní & Rithmetic) -
the basics of Information Literacy. Only if these skills become ingrained in them as
second nature, can we hope that they will truly learn to swim in the Great World Sea of
Information & not sink hopelessly in her depths.

To that end, we at Neveh Chana Torah High School for Girls in the Etzion Bloc, have
been developing a technological information usage program as part of the introduction to
our students & staff internet literacy program. This year, with the introduction of a
school network frame relay internet access system to our 2 computer classrooms, library,
teachers room & administration wing, we introduced an Information Literacy Program
based on the Big Six Model developed by Professor Mike Eisenberg & Dr. Bob
Berkowitz of Syracuse University & ERIC Information Technology Clearinghouse. The
program included teaching the theory & technology of the internet hardware, software &
services but weaved these around a framework that taught our students:
1. To define their goals in terms of information questions
2. To formulate an information search strategy
3.To Locate & access Information
4. To use the information wisely
5. To synthesize the information into a unified project
6. To evaluate the product & the entire process.

The project was built around curricular assignments along the school year:
For Example:
Evaluating Science web sites
Doing a science treasure hunt
Writing a formal science research Paper
Participating in the Researching, writing & Web publishing of a national Online English-language newspaper (Cet-link that you have heard about From Sarah)
Researching, writing & web publishing pages about Cities Around the World on the
school web site.

To help our students learn how to swim in the wide expanses of the Information Sea
without losing their way, we built a lighthouse to serve as a departure point and a light to
mark the way - I refer of course to our school Web site
The site includes curriculary links to educational sites and a rich annotated listing of
search engines and directories of Web, FTP, News and listserve sites on the net. The links
have been chosen for their reliability, ease of use and relevance to the interests of the
students and their curriculum.

Our aim is to have our teachers build their own course web pages with relevant online
bibliographies and assignments. Until that happens, the computer resource people help
the teachers locate the relevant resources & put them up on the school site.

The site also features links to all the national & international projects in which our
students participate, i.e. The Cet- link English Newspaper, The National Good
Citizenship Project run by CET & sponsored by the National Good Government Alliance,
Talmudic Law Project run as a pilot by by Snunit Hebrew University, Online
mathematics tutoring by teacher-students of Jerusalem Teacherís College, etc. We plan
to add others next year.
I would like to mention a unique interdisciplinary project that we ran last year & will be
repeating this summer. The Haggadah Happening International Summer Camp. Two and
a half weeks of studying the text & Art of the Passover Haggadah over the Ages -
Crowned with designing & printing of an original Haggadah produced as a group effort.
Digital Graphics, Desk Top Publishing and usage of Internet online resources all served
to help create a unique product.

In conclusion, if we remember the thoughts of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) "For the
Man whose knowledge is not in order, the more he has of it, the greater will be his
confusion." and implement the proper Information Literacy training procedures early and
continually, we shall realize the great educational potential contained in the Internet.


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