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06/05/2023 | Campus-Meldung

Kassel delegation in Israel: International cooperation on AI

Already in its tenth year, the Erasmus+ project CoGI+ (Cooperation Germany Israel) brings together students from the University of Kassel, Kibbutzim College and Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv (Israel), this time even extended with students from Miskolc University in Hungary in a virtual space to cooperate in international learning groups. The focus of the current summer semester is the joint work on the topic of "Artificial Intelligence". The cooperation between Prof. Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner and Prof. Dr. Miri Shonfeld originated in summer 2013 at the conference of the International Association for the Study of Education (IASCE) in Hull, England. The joint project won second place in the 2019 Hessian University Award for Excellence in Teaching. In addition, the very active cooperation is funded through Erasmus plus.

Yvonne Hesse, Rebecca Harke, Prof. Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner and Regina Kesting at Tel Aviv UniversityImage: University of Kassel
From left to right: Yvonne Hesse, Rebecca Harke, Prof. Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner, and Regina Kesting at Tel Aviv University.

The project builds bridges between Arab and Jewish students from Israel and heterogeneous student groups from Germany and other countries. It strengthens the ability for cooperative problem solving and critical thinking in relation to the possible use of artificial intelligence in teaching and learning scenarios. The highly innovative project combines the acquisition of future competencies, with digitalization competence and diversity competence in particular at the center of competence acquisition and development.

As part of the intercultural training and to continue working on the project on the topic of "Artificial Intelligence", for which regular exchange is central, as well as for international cooperation, Prof. Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner, Rebecca Harke, Regina Kesting and Yvonne Hesse accepted the invitation to Israel in May 2023. The excursion took place at a time of great unrest in Israel, which is still expressed today in fighting and strike movements in the context of new legislation and the preservation of democracy that is thus at stake.

Together with the cooperation partners, the delegation of Foreign Language Teaching and Learning Research and Intercultural Communication of the University of Kassel visited highly diversified schools:

Ashdod Naval Officers Ort School is located in Ashdod, a city with the largest port in Israel about an hour from Tel Aviv. The school provides students with education in general education subjects as well as Hebrew language acquisition for learners who have migrated or fled to Israel without appropriate language skills. Ashdod is the largest for Moroccan migrants. In addition, the school promotes the acquisition of skills necessary for the  naval career. It is a state school with an attached boarding school, so school attendance is not exclusive to young people from Ashdod. The school has 40 boats in the harbor and places great emphasis on naval education.   

The ementary School of Ghajar is located in the village of Ghajar, which is divided by the UN into a Lebanese and an Israeli part by the Blue Line. The village is relatively isolated in its geopolitical location between Israel, Lebanon and Syria and the children, according to the school administration, come from families that consider themselves Syrian as well as Israeli. Due to its location, the village, as well as the school itself, places a high emphasis on peace education. The educational work for the community of all in this special place is deeply impressive.

The return trip was from the Elementary School of Ghajar through the Golan Heights past the Sea of Galilee to Bethlehem, ending with a visit to the birthplace of Jesus Christ and the Walled Off Hotel, which draws attention to causes and sources of conflict with the collaboration of artist Banksy.

Only unpaved roads can reach the Atrash Bedouin Primary School and the Atrash Bedouin Kindergarten in Atrash in the middle of the desert. There we had a reception according to the old tradition of the Bedouins by the students. The children belong to different Bedouin tribes within a radius of about 10 km. The Atrash kindergarten as well as the school are minimally equipped and the teachers do a great pedagogical work. Since there is a lack of basic teaching and learning materials, they develop  creative ideas to produce teaching materials through recycling and invest their own financial resources to improve the teaching and learning situation.   

The Bedouin school Al Sheikh Khamees in Rahat was also very impressive. Rahat is a town that has only developed in the last 20 years as Bedouins have settled there.  At the school, there was a welcome concert led by three Jewish music teachers who played music with the Bedouin children and taught them how to play traditional Bedouin music on the violin, on a Bedouin stringed instrument and on drums. In addition to its emphasis on tradition, the school impressed with its humanistic approach as well as a high degree of digitalization. In all rooms, the learning process was supported and enriched by means of digital media.

In addition to the schools, the delegation visited Tel Aviv University and Kibbutzim College, where Prof. Dr. Anat Cohen and Prof. Dr. Miri Shonfeld are cooperation partners of Prof. Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner in the international online project on artificial intelligence. The visit of the universities allowed an insight into the teaching and learning methods there, which found its highlights in the visit of the Empathy Center and the laboratory for innovative teaching and learning methods at Kibbutzim College. Furthermore, the delegation gained insight into teaching and learning methods that address highly diverse student groups at Tel Aviv University.

Other highlights of the trip to Israel were the visit to the Yad Vashem Museum and the accompanying discussions with a contemporary witness. Afterwards, the visit to the Old City of Jerusalem with the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as well as the visit to Nazareth, where a guided tour by Prof. Dr. Manal Yakbaz  illustrated the perspectives of life there, were impressive.

Through the visit of different schools, universities and cultural sites and especially the encounters with the local people, the exchange contributed to a change of perspective and a high increase in experience regarding the great diversity of the country of Israel and its inhabitants.  The re-encounter with 25 students and their teachers, who were guests at the University of Kassel for a week in the summer semester of 2022, was also moving. The delegation was deeply impressed by the friendliness, the positive energy and the speed of implementation of the use of artificial intelligence at our cooperation partners and thus returned with many ideas in their luggage.

Text: Prof. Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner, Yvonne Hesse, Rebecca Harke & Regina Kesting



Prof. Dr. Claudia Finkbeiner
Foreign Language Learning and Teaching Research and Intercultural Communication
University of Kassel