Empowering students through technology.
Located in Melbourne, Sholem Aleichem College is one of the pre-eminent Jewish schools in Australia. Catering to preschool and primary school-aged children, the school prides itself on its ability to cultivate in its students a pride in their Jewish identity, as well as a sense of belonging to the worldwide Jewish community.
As a private school, Sholem Aleichem teaches its students a mix of the standard curriculum including mathematics, literacy, the arts, STEM, health & physical education. In addition to this, the school teaches children a range of highly-focused courses on Yiddish language and culture, Hebrew, Jewish history, traditions & customs, and literature.
These highly tailored subjects often require bespoke content created by teachers. The need to rapidly generate and then share that content with pupils to maximise the key learning outcomes of these bespoke courses was the primary reason the school moved towards technology solutions including the SMART Board 6065 interactive at panels and the integrated SMART Learning Suite software platform.
Sholem Aleichem College had aging projector technology that teachers found difficult to operate. The need to continually recalibrate the devices while in use broke the flow of the lessons, making it difficult to keep all children engaged.
The teachers were so busy maintaining the projectors that they found it was more efficient not to use them at all.
This unwillingness to use the faulty technology was inhibiting the school’s ability to deliver the classes that required heavy content creation.
“The resources available to teach in Yiddish and Hebrew are minimal in Australia,” Michelle Nachsatz, E-Learning Coordinator at Sholem Aleichem College, said. “We really needed a solution that would allow teachers to create and tailor content to their needs.”
We really needed a solution that would allow teachers to create and tailor content to their needs.
The school turned to Unified AV to recommend a complete learning system that would leverage interactive technology. The solution that Simon Gordon, Collaboration Specialist at United AV, recommended, focused on the SMART Board 6065 interactive flat panel.
“I’ve had a long history with Sholem Aleichem College, and over the years have developed a deep understanding of how the school works,” Simon said. “Their priority was making sure key learning outcomes for the kids are achieved. Yes, that sounds obvious, but there is a diverse range of technology options available to schools.”
“The problem is that the complexity of most classroom displays loses the attention of kids; either through requiring too much effort to set up and operate, or being difficult for the children themselves to take information from or interact with.”
“Kids simply don’t respond well when their teacher is distracted while trying to get a piece of technology working. The SMART Board 6065s are viewable in bright light, have multiple points of touch, are nice and clear to view, and most importantly the teachers don’t need to worry about fiddling with the technology. The moment they walk into the room the panel turns itself on and it’s good to go.”
To ensure success with the new interactive displays and software, Simon and his team have regularly provided guidance to the teachers on how to best use the technology.
According to Michelle, at first, there was some reluctance among teachers to adjust to the new platform for teaching.
“Initially the teachers were slow with the adoption of the technology,” Michelle said. “This is typical, of course. It’s the young teachers that are generally quickest to come on board with technology, and we have been fortunate to have a great group of young teachers that recognized the value of the SMART Boards early, and really evangelized them to the entire teaching community from there.”
“It’s important that schools get this right. A lot of schools bring in a lot of very good technology, but unless the ones that will be using it – the teachers – have proper training, that technology is going to be underutilized.
“That said, it didn’t take long for teachers to adapt to this technology, and now the entire school is very much on board with the SMART Boards. The results have been so effective that we now believe that SMART Boards should be standard in all educational environments, and indeed, should not be seen as high-tech products.”
Michelle said that the parents were largely on board with these technologies too. “The fact that these boards facilitate content creation is hugely appealing to parents,” she said. “Where parents can become concerned is if technology is used for purely consumption purposes, but they can see the learning outcomes from these devices as soon as they see the children interacting with them.”
With parents and teachers on board, Sholem Aleichem College is looking to roll the SMART Boards into all teaching spaces. It currently has ten SMART Boards in classrooms, and will look to roll out another ve in the coming months.
These boards are leased for five years at a time. This is not because they will reach end-of-life, Simon said. “The panels are rated 50,000 hours, or 30 years equivalent teaching time,” Simon said. “We lease it in ve-year periods, the devices have depreciated themselves out of value. But they would continue to work. Indeed, they’re already compatible with 4K at 60Hz. The third-party content isn’t there to support that at the moment, but in the coming years there will be much more 4K content available.”
And, while Sholem Aleichem College is in the process of quantifying the educational benefit of the SMART Boards, there is a substantial body of research that shows the benefits of interactive learning for children:
"The SMART Interactive displays have enabled teachers to revolutionize how they teach."
"With the Notebook software, preparation time has decreased whilst student engagement has increased."
"With the Notebook software collaboration throughout the whole class is at the teacher’s finger tips. Suddenly each child has a voice and the platform to be heard on."
"The SMART boards and Notebook software have enabled our LOTE teachers to create custom made resources which were previously impossible to find."
"The SMART boards have enhanced our iPad program by enabling students to seamlessly share their creations with the class."