International Education: On Location in Israel
Time To Know, An Israeli Company Merges Technology & Teaching
When I sat down to discuss Time To Know, a groundbreaking education organization that uses technology as a tool to help teachers teach, I’ll admit I was skeptical. To me the concept of replacing a teacher with a computer seemed analogous to removing an artist from the helm of his portrait. As Dovi Weiss, the chief pedagogical officer of Time To Know, began to speak about the evolution of the project, my preconception of high-tech businessmen designing curriculums without an understanding of the needs of educators and teachers was quickly dispelled. After a successful career in the high-tech industry, Weiss began to yearn to do “good work” — he embarked on a second career as a teacher. After receiving two prestigious degrees in the field, he met Shmuel Meitar, an Internet mogul and entrepreneur, looking for a partner to help him invest financial success and background in technology into helping him reform the field of education.
Their meeting was more than a marriage of convenience. Meitar saw in Weiss the talents and experience needed to help him implement his vision of using Israeli advancements in technology to transform the field of education. Together they became pioneers of a new approach to using technology to enhance the work of educators. Time To Know sought to replace the methodology of using technology as a way to put teachers “in a box,” trying instead to integrate the work of technology and teachers through a more interactive approach. Their goal is to use technology not to replace the work of teachers but to empower them with the tools to teach a wide range of students more effectively. The program attempts to provide a consistent experience for each student, while simultaneously catering to their independent learning styles.
Their philosophy is constructivist in nature. Time To Know strives to create active learners and independent thinkers by redefining the way schools teach. Replacing the methods of teaching to the test and providing answers that students are later meant to regurgitate, their method uses engaging computer exercises that challenge students to find their own solutions to problems. Lessons are based on systemized learning structures designed to cultivate consistency and flexibility in an environment where teachers can work freely to address a wide variety of student needs.
Time To Know provides each student with a computer. The computers use adaptive lesson plans on each topic of the teacher’s choosing. This innovative strategy enables each student to work at his or her own pace within the same classroom. The computers inform the teacher if a student is struggling on a specific exercise, enabling the teacher to provide one-on-one support to individual students without interrupting the continuity of the curriculum for everyone else. This innovative application of technology in the classroom makes the teacher available to support the work of a wider range of students; special-needs students can work side by side with higher-performing students. As a result, the system helps eliminate the stigmas, isolation, and low performance rates resulting from placing students in tracked classrooms.
While the Time To Know technology provides curriculums and interactive learning applets for its classrooms, Weiss is quick to clarify that the computer is simply a map from which teachers can design meaningful lessons and empower them to create a successful learning partnership with their students.
The differentiated barometer created by the computers also allows for students to select from a variety of multimedia activities including animations, games, explorations, discussions and collaborative projects. The variety of learning modules created by Time To Know is helping schools to create curriculums that emphasize teaching skills to the student rather than simply teaching to the test, while also meeting the academic standards of each state. They place the power of education back in the hands of the teachers and students.
Allowing students to choose between the different learning modules empowers students to become independent thinkers and to make their own choices, cultivating a sense of autonomy over their own learning. The technology gives students choices between learning activities designed to teach a specific concept, sharpening their decision-making skills and encouraging them to solve problems in a variety of different ways. Students also have the option to navigate between audio, text or visual instructions. The goal is to promote inquiry- and discovery-based learning and to help students sharpen critical thinking and problem solving skills, collaborate with one another, and become self-directed learners.
The program’s holistic emphasis replaces the paradigm of using computers simply as a replacement for the teacher with one that uses technology to empower teachers and provide an interactive solution that redefines the dynamic between students and teachers.
Students are also encouraged to share solutions to their problems with other students in the classroom who may be struggling with similar problems. Stronger students have the opportunity to aid weaker students in a variety of capacities — for example, through e-mail exchange.
After students have completed each exercise, the TTK computer provides the teachers with a report analyzing each student’s weaknesses and strengths. The information provided can help these teachers integrate and analyze the data immediately and help teachers select the next day’s lessons in accordance with the students’ individual needs. The reports not only help the teacher better cater to the needs of individual students, but also ensure that the assessments comply with the state standards.
Though the organization started in Israel, Time To Know has since expanded to Dallas and New York. Dallas has seen a rise in student test scores and academic achievement, and Time To Know is quickly replicating its success in New York. The Time To Know curriculum and technologies currently are used in 30 Israeli schools and 26 New York schools.
According to studies conducted in 2009 and 2010, students using Time To Know in the United States and Israel demonstrated significant improvements in their achievement levels on standardized tests. Time To Know students were compared with control-group students from other schools, which used traditional teaching methods and curriculum. Time To Know students exhibited greater success across the board in mathematics and English language arts.
By using a holistic approach, the Time To Know system has found a surprising and inspiring solution to help accommodate and motivate students from a variety of backgrounds, learning to build on their strengths and not their weaknesses. The system helps to create a positive and collaborative classroom environment, with curriculums that teach to the student broadly, not just to the test. If the mission of the program succeeds and the Time To Know vision is allowed to expand to other cities around the world, they may have found a key to ensure that, truly, no child is left behind. #