Ariel, a town which already has a reputation as a hi-tech center, thanks to the university which plays such a large role in the town's life, is moving even further up the tech ladder: Beginning this year, all 204 teachers in the city's school system, from grade one through twelve, will receive laptop computers, along with a training course on how to use them. The event makes Ariel the first city in Israel participating in the national “Laptop for Every Teacher” program to realize the vision of the program's organizers, actually ensuring that every teacher gets a machine.
The program itself, national in scope, is directed by the Athena Fund, a non-profit organization established in 2006 in order to give teachers the resources they need to do their jobs at the highest level possible. The Fund, a spokesperson for the group said, aims “to empower teachers in and raise their status to that of officers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).”
The first laptops were distributed a ceremony earlier this month in Ariel, with Mayor Ron Nachman praising the project, and telling participants that the project was a fulfilment of his vision of Ariel as a "smart city, in government, education and community. The Laptop for Every Teacher program will certainly make a big difference in the lives of teachers and students caught up in rapid technollogical change."
The laptop is a tool that will certainly enhance the schooling experience for both teachers and students, says Chen Kedem-Maktobi, a spokesperson for the Ariel Municipality. “Besides computers, teachers receive 120 hours of instruction, in basic and advance uses of applications.” Such as? “Among other things, they learn how to hook up their laptop and project their screen onto a whiteboard, giving them an interactive board that lets them access the internet, dictionaries, math problems, or whatever else they need in an active manner, making lessons much more interesting for students than they would be with the standard, static tools usually found in a classroom,” she says.
The Athena Fund (established in 2006) has already distributed laptops to over 6,000 teachers (working with 90,000 students) in 160 communities in Israel. In Ariel, the municipality itself decided to add to the amount that the Fund provided, in order to ensure that all teachers could get a laptop this year, says Kedem-Maktobi. “We serve thousands of students in Ariel,” she says, “and the fact that they are able to access a hi-tech infrastructure and have positive role models who are involved with technology will hopefully point them in the right direction for their own hi-tech futures.”