Stockholm International School – what’s in IT for students?

The importance of understanding today’s networked society starts in the classroom. Over the last year, the Stockholm International School (SIS) has made a major investment that truly begins with I and ends in T.

Stockholm International School - what’s in IT for students?

In just 12 months the school has transformed its technology offering, both in terms of equipment and education.

“The aim was not only to update our hardware, but also to increase student access to the internet in an attempt to expand their international learning environment,” says Ryan Kingsley, who along with Sandra Loureiro, heads up the IT Office at SIS.

The ‘1:1’ secondary school programme has equipped around 350 grade 6-12 students with Macbook Air laptops and classrooms are set up with Apple TV systems.

Technology for a future mission

Stockholm International School is an independent primary through to secondary school, founded in 1951. It was the first English-speaking school to be established in the Swedish capital and, having expanded over the years, has maintained a reputation for educational excellence.

A new approach to embracing technology, however, remains aligned to its original mission statement – valued, challenged and prepared.

The implementation of the programme has been a paradigm shift within the school according to Kevin Munro, SIS Secondary School Principal. “Teachers work with the students in a whole different manner and students can reach out to the world in a whole different way,“ he says.

“The use of multimedia in students presenting their work has been astounding. I would challenge all of our parents to produce similarly creative, skilled and interesting presentations,” Munro adds.

Indeed, the school’s stance on technology has been completely revolutionised at a time when communication continues to radically change the way we live. As Ryan Kingsley says: “When you think of technology and the world that our students are going to be in, in five or ten years time, the workplace is going to look different to that of today and technology will play a huge part in that shift.”

What’s in IT for SIS students?

The 1:1 programme has students to participate in world debates, seek out in-depth information, synthesise many information sources and widen their understanding of the issues being studied at school.

“Previously, when we had to do research we would have to go to the computer room which wouldn’t always be free,” says 15-year old Zoravar Kalkat. “Sometimes we had to wait for a few days but now all we have to do is open our lockers and get our laptops.”

“We used to do a lot of essays,” says Eleanor Mayle, 14. “But now we also make movies and webcasts, even for subjects like science and humanities, which is more fun because you can be more creative.”

Sometimes the pupils even have to lend their technological expertise. “Technology is changing all the time and everyone is learning new ways of doing things,” says 13-year-old Thilde Kjorstad. “Sometimes we have to show our teachers how to connect the Apple TV but I like showing them how to do it.”

From installation to integration

The SIS vision is to use IT as an integrated tool to enhance daily learning. “It’s not about taking over from existing education that already exists within the school,” says Ryan Kingsley. ”We’ve got great teachers and these tools aren’t going to replace them, but they make learning even better.”

It does make sense for students at an international school to have the World Wide Web at their fingertips. “For example, a teacher might arrange a Skype call in their Spanish class to a Spanish school in Spain – we can make that happen now,” he adds.

With limitless potential on making classrooms more interactive, the focus now for the school is finding optimal ways to integrate technology into the school day.

Professional development for teachers has already begun with many having attended training conferences on using technology in the classroom. On their return, discussions are held on using technology in the curriculum-planning stages. “It’s about trying to grow the technology bug within the teaching group itself,” Kingsley says.

Now, the school is also set to employ a specialist IT integrator full-time to solely with improving the blend of information technology and education.

“It’s part of the learning process as a whole,” Kingsley adds. “When it comes to young people technology is like their life now – if you talk to students they don’t feel complete without their phone or computer at hand. If we don’t incorporate that the school will be a foreign place for them.”

Primary resource for fun learning

The same sentiment stretches all the way even to the youngest pupils of the school. At primary age, SIS have access to four iPads per class.

“Parents expect our students to be working and learning in a technology rich environment,” says David Osler, SIS Primary School Principal. “The introduction of iPads and an expanded range of online resources has helped us meet those expectations.”

Even pre-school children from the age of three have their touch-screen skills already mastered.

“When I talk to the kids about taking a picture it’s not this anymore,” says pre-school teacher Lisa Ylén and shoot and clicks a pretend camera mid-air.

“It’s this,” she adds and holds u a makeshift smartphone. “Technology is moving quickly and since many children have iPads at home it’s important to move along with it.”

Applications based on educational needs are not in short supply. “At this age, the teaching is game-based so it can be anything from number formation to listening to a story,” adds teacher Jeanna Fergusson.

Rather than a distraction, the introduction of technology has been received as a welcome additional resource.

“You can even look at it from a sharing concept and learning to taking turns,” Ylén adds. “The children often teach each other, even us sometimes, and the more resources we can provide the more fun learning is.”

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Stockholm International School

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Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.