Dov WINER <email@example.com>
Internet Society, Israeli Chapter / Mofet Institute
This paper presents the development of the National Teachers Colleges Network in Israel and in particular the training and deployment of a development team for the network made by teacher educators. These educators specialized in different subject matter areas but had no previous experience in computing or in the use of the network created. The paper describes the educational policy that oriented the establishment of the network; the training of teacher educators and their role in the dissemination of the use of the network; the new roles these educators needed to assume in the new environment; and the development of computer-mediated learning environments. The paper concludes with a discussion of forces that facilitate and constrain the process of change in the educational system that results from the massive introduction of computing and networking.
The overall objective of the Tomorrow '98 project in Israel is to improve the quality of the science and technology education offered to children in Israel. The program was the result of a report on scientific and technological education in Israel published by a committee that was established in 1990 and headed by Prof. Haim Harari, the president of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
One of the four sections of the report included recommendations on "computers as teaching aids in all subjects." (See "Tomorrow '98: Promoting Science, Technology, and Computer Studies.") Among its conclusions and specific recommendations were the following:
The implementation of the Harari Report began in 1994, when the Israeli economy experienced an extraordinary expansion resulting from the absorption of a massive immigration from the former Soviet Union. The new priorities of the government were expressed in an extraordinary increase of the budget dedicated to education -- an increase that was far greater than what would be expected from the real increase in the school population.
The transformation of teacher education processes was viewed as a crucial intervention point. As part of this program, the MACAM98 network was established in the academic year 1994/1995 as part of the Internet. It now connects 36 teachers' colleges in Israel and serves about 15,000 users; it should encompass the entire population of 36,000 teachers and students of the teachers' colleges in Israel.
In 1996, there were 79,010 full-time teaching posts in the system: 39,920 in primary education, 14,380 in lower secondary education, and 24,710 in upper secondary education. The teachers' colleges train teachers for the primary and lower secondary levels (see The Structure of the Education System).
The establishment of the network parallels the process of academization of the teachers' training seminars in Israel and their development into university-level institutions able to provide academic degrees. This process, overseen by the Higher Education Council, included the upgrading of library facilities, the increased demands on the level of the faculty at the colleges; an increased awareness of teaching as a profession; and the development of research in the colleges.
Until the academization process began, the Mofet Institute carried out these functions for all the colleges almost exclusively. The Mofet Institute was chosen by the Ministry of Education to host the process of establishment of the network.
The MACAM98 Network (see http://www.macam98.ac.il) was designed to provide all the basic Internet services and be accessible from the local area networks at the colleges and by the users at home. It was the first network in Israel to provide wide access to graphic interfaces to the teachers' colleges network and Serial Line Internet Protocol/Point-to-point Protocol access at home. Services such as Telnet, File Transfer Protocol, Gopher, Web, Usenet newsgroups, Majordomo e-mail lists were established as well as content services, which initially catered to the training needs of the development team (DT) and the users of the network.
The DT was established simultaneously with the deployment of the network and is now composed of 42 teacher educators. Initially, it was composed of 26 experienced teachers, two each from the larger colleges who joined the network. The colleges were asked to provide one teacher from the sciences and one from the humanities.
Every teacher was provided with a laptop computer with networking capabilities (modem for home use and direct network access at the weekly lab). A weekly training day was set up for the DT and additional counseling meetings during the week. Further support was provided through an e-mail distribution list and a Web-based seminary page. In its present phase (1998), the DT is composed of 42 teacher educators, and face-to-face meetings take place only once every 2 or 3 months.
The work of the DT for the network is thereby described through three phases of development: (1) basic tasks of training and dissemination; (2) initial experiments in the development of learning and tutorial activities using the network; and in the last two years, (3) the full development of integrated telematized environments for teaching and learning.
Originally, the basic goals the network was expected to serve were (1) to enable access and navigation of the global network, (2) to give teachers and students a variety of experiences with computer-mediated communication (CMC) to enable them to choose those approaches best adapted to their educational goals and personal styles; (3) to develop new curricular paradigms.
In the academic year 1994/1995, the 26 initial members of the DT were trained to use the basic tools for navigating the network. These tools included the establishment of a connection; mail, mailing lists, and mail servers; file archives and file transfer tools; searching the network for e-mail addresses, mailing lists, institutions, catalogs, databases, and information services; and using hypermedia-integrating tools such as the Wide World Web. The completion of this basic training phase included the establishment and maintenance of information services in the Web using Hypertext Markup Language.
The exploratory learning that characterizes work in the network was focused on materials relevant to the disciplines and curricular interests of the DT members. In the second phase of the basic training, the DT was divided into subgroups that developed instructional materials: manuals, worksheets, and structured experiences for introducing new users to the network.
Once armed with the basic skills, the DT members, beginning in the summer of 1995 and continuing through and beyond 1996, started to train new users of the network. An initial group of 500 teacher educators were trained through 1996. Two main training models evolved. Some of the colleges and DT members preferred the massive training of colleagues in what was known as the "Driver's License Model" -- a basic acquaintance with the tools needed to navigate the network. Alternatively, other colleges preferred to focus the training on basic pedagogical development targets. These teams applied the network tools acquired by the trainees to specific subject matter and teaching practice.
The experience of developing teaching materials and introducing colleagues to the network demonstrated that the teachers needed to learn and enact multiple new roles such as the following:
In the third and fourth years of the DT's work, the goal was set of developing integrated telematized teaching and learning environments. The target populations for those environments were teachers and students in the colleges. It was determined that these environments should have the characteristics of learning communities, which should include access to (1) specialized information, (2) practitioners, (3) relevant data and analysis tools, (4) means of creating arguments, and (5) representation for negotiating disagreements. The basic model adopted was an attempt to emulate the work being carried out by the CoVis project team at Northwestern University (see, for example, Using the World Wide Web to build Learning Communities in K-12).
The wider literature orienting this project can be consulted at the Seminar Page for the MACAM98 Development Team, which I maintain at the following address: http://www.macam98.ac.il/~dovw/dt.
Telematized environments are being developed and maintained in the following areas: (1) English teachers training, (2) development of teaching plans, (3) the pedagogy of telematized school projects, (4) training teachers as tutors in a telematized environment (mathematics, chemistry, and English), (5) a virtual teachers' room, (6) computer applications in the training of early childhood education teachers, (7) a center for scholarly writing, (8) senses teaching, (9) science teaching, (10) biology and natural sciences, (11) gender studies, and (12) integration of the exceptional child in the regular classroom. Although they are most accessible to Hebrew speakers, these environments can be visited and studied at http://www.macam98.ac.il/chtml/svivot.htm. A good example for English speakers is the environment developed and maintained for English Teacher Trainers, which can be visited at http://mofetsrv.mofet.macam98.ac.il/~ett. This environment offers support that encompasses all the activities of English teacher educators. It has a local and international scope and includes resources and activities such as the following:
Collis (1998) describes the process that the University of Twente underwent in establishing the TeleTOP method. She stresses the many elements needed for lasting success in implementing and integrating information and communications technologies to support teaching and learning across a faculty. Among these elements are administration vision and courage; a sound research-based educational framework to motivate educational change; extensive experience with the design, development, and use of computer-related and networked educational tools and environments. In addition, there need to be creative energy and skilled individuals to translate creative ideas into usable forms.
Achievements of the MACAM98 DTs were significant in their dissemination of the use of the Internet in the teachers' colleges in Israel and establishment of virtual learning and teaching environments. The final judgment of their lasting success must take into account the cautionary words of Collis (1998), who provides a lucid discussion of the strong institutional resistance that arises in response to a process that can potentially revolutionize the educational system.