At VRG, school development is a way of life …

IMG_7854During this past week, we welcomed our staff back to school to ready ourselves for the coming school year.  Well rested after a long summer vacation, everyone was ready to get started again.
In accordance with our organizational motto, “School Development is a way of life/Utveckling som tillstånd“, we began the week by reviewing how our students did last year and what did want to achieve this year.

Three specific development areas emerged: themes.PNG

To achieve an optimal understanding of what are students face as challenges and learning opportunities throughout their years at VRG, we have decided to strengthen our program teams.  To not only define and build a common thread throughout the 3 years, but also IMG_7855help students to manage a sustainable workload allowing each student to do his/her very best. We believe that it is only when students can see the connections between their different areas of knowledge that they can reach their fullest potential.

IMG_7870During this week, we have defined what a graduate from VRG Djursholm in each program should “look like” at graduation – which skills they should have, which experiences they should have had, which abilities and even which attitudes will help them the most after graduation.  This is important work.  It will continue throughout this year.  And, students will be included in the work of “defining” our ideal graduate.

Over the past three years we have studied how to develop innovative learning environments:  students’ abilities of self-assessment, value of trust in the classroom/relationships/growth mindset, varied assessment methods, formative working methods and how to use the right technology in the right way to lift the learning (we call this “pedagonik“).  Now, we are ready to study, develop and implement the next step through Blended Learning Initiatives.  We define blended learning as:

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communicationAnd, there is always a practical aspect to school start.  That is no different for us.  This year, our focus is on communication.  How do we communicate effectively and efficiently?  How do we communicate expectations in a way that all understand?  How do we mix digital and analog information?  How can we manage communication effectively to limit the cognitive stress of finding information or remembering details?  As an institutional step, we are shifting to Schoolity as our student information system and to Canvas as our learning management system.  We have identified all the challenges with communications between 504 students, 40 staff and 4 buildings.  Now, we must continue the work of finding optimal solutions to these challenges.  We are hoping our students will actively engage with us in this endeavor.IMG_7848

Happy to see each other again, satisfied with what we hope to accomplish clearly defined – now, we can’t wait to meet our students … Here we go again – Welcome to 2016-17!

 

 

 

 

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Remembering 2015-16 …

Thanks for this year!/ Tack för i år!

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Graduation Day – 2016

From 9.00 until 14.00, we celebrated the graduates of 2016 with photos, hat-signing, songs, lunch, speeches, awards, mentor meetings, hugs and words of praise … then, at 14.00 – they ran through the doors, out into the sunlight and crossed over to the other side – studenten!

Congratulations to our graduates!

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2016 – Best Friend/Bästa Kamrat – Nicklas Kull

2016 – Best Overall Student/ Gillet – Linnea Bendrot

 

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Digital tests make sense for our students …

This i was originally published here>>

Markus Andersson (1)

 

Markus Andersson

Lead Teacher, Viktor Rydberg High School

  • Why did you search for a digital examination tool?

We experienced a need to digitize mainly because we have been a 1:1 school for a long time. Our students use computers for basically everything, during classes, taking notes, researching, essays etc. Everything except when writing a test. The exam-situation therefore differed a lot from the rest of the education. At VRG we have a mixed environment with Macbooks, PCs and chromebooks. A necessity for the new exam-system was that it was hardware-independent.

  • What were your first impressions of DigiExam? 

We were one of the first piloting schools to use DigiExam, so it all started in 2012 when we received the beta version, in order to test and give feedback to DigiExam. My first impression was that the program was easy to use and that the students appreciated to write their tests digitally. One feature we helped improve was the annotation-system which effortlessly lets you annotate in students answers.

Together with the IT- Directors at VRG, I saw great potential in the platform. Now four years later a really good product has become great. We had some feedback, especially regarding the annotation-feature, which DigiExam listened to and developed a tool that simplified the feedback process for us.

  • What’s your best tip to someone in search of a digital examination tool?

Most importantly, like any new tool, it must be used. The benefits of using the program must be clear and therefore I recommend that school leaders offer DigiExam as one way of carry out exams rather than something the teachers are forced to use. We arranged for a test group of teachers to try out DigiExam before buying, and when they experienced the programme, they became ambassadors towards the rest of our teachers and the use of the program spread quickly among our five schools in the Viktor Rydberg foundation.

  • How did the implementation of DigiExam work for you?

It was easy, much easier than expected actually. Our teachers wanted to use it and the students as well. In some cases when a certain teacher hadn’t started to use DigiExam the student asked the teacher if he or she could let them write their exam using DigiExam and then the teachers started to use DigiExam. They really embraced it. To my knowledge none of the teachers that use DigiExam has ever returned to the analogue version of handling assessments.

Over the years, the product has developed into a very stabile and reliable software. At VRG we have started to use DigiExam for quick diagnostic tests between graded exams as well. It’s great to be able to give students quick feedback and for me as a teacher to know how much of a topic the students have understood. This gives me the possibility to modify the teaching to better support the students.

It was easy, much easier than expected actually

  • What impact has DigiExam had on your School?

Students and teachers are very happy with DigiExam, over 95% of our students prefer digital examinations in favor of pen and paper. It has quickly become more natural with digital tests.

  • How do you think your organisation will work with technology in the future?

More areas within education will get digitised. Next big thing for us is to a greater degree use the opportunities digital teaching platforms give us. This will enable us to offer the students a blended learning environment and then adapt the teaching for each student.

 

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During a non-traditional exam, students solve challenges of global warming

Env. Conf. 4In a recent seminar, students were challenged to use their skills from their Natural Science and their Social Science class to manage the challenges of global warming.  By using a computer simulation program, students wereEnv. Conf. 1 able to test the long-term climate impacts of policy decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Students used the C-ROADS simulator as a catalyst for their discussions.

croadsThe C-ROADS simulator is able to make predictions about the levels of future global warming.

During the seminar, students represented different countries and negotiated with each other in order to reach a global agreement to cut emissions and help finance those countries that might find these targets difficult to reach.

Env. Conf. 7The students were tested on their ability to account for the problems associated with climate change, as well as developing arguments for how the problem might be resolved. This involved understanding the key terms and concepts related to climate change from both their Natural Science and their Social Science Env. Conf. 5courses. They also trained some of their “real world” skills such as negotiation and compromise.
During the seminar, students worked in groups. This unit will end with a written, in-class reflection about what the students themselves feel they have learned during the process.
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At a stressful time of year when many other courses are running lengthy exams, this was a welcome Env. Conf. 3alternative to more traditional assessments.
Students were able to learn (and be tested)  in a social, active, engaging and challenging environment without undue stress or academic overload.
Very cool!
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Memories from #Studentbalen2016

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Such a fun night … Continue reading

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Learning Biology in the great outdoors!

IMG_3475Tyresta National Park is a fantastic resource for teachers, students and anyone who lives near Stockholm. The park is full of pristine hiking areas.  Due to the forest fire that raged there in 1999, visitors have the opportunity to see and discuss many interesting ecological processes in a beautiful and dramatic (biologically speaking) setting.

On May 24, all Biology 1 students from VRG traveled to the national park and walked through the forest areas to the fire area. On the way, we discussed flora and fauna, as well as listened to our most common birds. A guide showed us around in the fire area and told us about how nature changes after a fire.  We learned about species that thrive only when the soil warms up, such as the beautiful flowers who went into full bloom after the fire.

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Students also got to go on a tour of Nature Room and learn more about our 29 Swedish national parks. They also watched a video that showed beautiful pictures of these IMG_3476magnificent natural areas, including Sarek, Stenshuvud, Kosterhavet and Gotska Sandön.

Thanks Tyresta for a nice and educational day!


Tyresta nationalpark är en fantastisk resurs för lärare, elever och alla som bor i närheten av Stockholmsområdet. Parken är full av orörda strövområden, och på grund av skogsbranden som rasade där 1999 har man möjlighet att diskutera många intressanta ekologiska processer i en vacker och lite dramatisk miljö.
Tyresta nationalpark är en fantastisk resurs för lärare, elever och alla som bor i närheten av Stockholmsområdet. Parken är full av orörda strövområden, och på grund av skogsbranden som rasade där 1999 har man möjlighet att diskutera många intressanta ekologiska processer i en vacker och lite dramatisk miljö.
Den 24 maj åkte alla biologistuderande årskurs ett-elever från VRG till nationalparken och promenerade genom urskogsområden till brandområdet. På vägen diskuterade vi flora och fauna, och lyssnade till våra vanligaste fåglar. En guide visade runt i brandområdet och berättade om hur naturen förändras efter en brand. Bland annat finns arter som endast frodas när marken värms upp, till exempel den vackra brandnävan som slog ut i full blom efter branden. 

Eleverna fick även gå en rundvandring i Naturums hus och veta mer om våra 29 svenska nationalparker. En film visade vackra bilder från dessa storartade naturområden, bland andra Sarek, Stenshuvud, Kosterhavet och Gotska sandön.

 

Tack Tyresta för en fin och lärorik dag!
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Kenyan students and VRG students connect via Entrepreneurship

IMG_7088Self-confidence, risk taking, curious, courageous, team player, organized, focused … these were the qualities discussed during our conversations in Entrepreneurship class this week.
On Wednesday, May 18, VRG Economy students welcomed four students and three teachers from Kenya to visit our school.  These four students had won a national competition for “Best Young Entrepreneur” in Kenya via an afterschool program sponsored by Hand in Hand.  Their prize was to come to Sweden to attend the Swedish national competition in Entrepreneurship (SM in UF).IMG_7091

As our school is very involved in the UF process here in Sweden and our school is focused on building future entrepreneurs, we were a natural stop for a school visit for this team.  Even better was that the Kenyans hosts were two former VRG students, IMG_7099Susanna Johansen (VRGD Class of 2001) and Nina Sidenö (VRGD Class of 2008).  They helped us to make the necessary connections to make this visit possible.

During their visit, the students from Kenya shared their Hand in Hand projects:


Solo 15yrs old – Solo intends to establish a search system indicating the availability of pharmaceutical drugs. Frank has identified the need
of a system that can tell which pharmacy stocks certain drugs.  Today, customers usually need to visit many pharmacies before finding their prescribed medicine. This is something he wants to change.

Francis 17yrs old – Francis has found a lucrative business in selling eggs. He buys eggs from a local IMG_7087farm and sells them with a small margin. He has realized the positive effects of online marketing and exposes his business via Facebook. He now offers home delivery as a way to wipe out any competition.

Evelyn 19yrs old – Evelyn ́s enterprise is focusing on breeding and keeping doves. Once fully grown, the doves are sold locally. As doves are a popular pet in Kenya she experiences a huge increase of demand prior to school holidays.

Nelson 17yrs old – Nelson is contributing to sustainable tree farming and his enterprise is focusing on growing seedlings of three eco resilient types of trees. Among his customers are many big farms and the three varieties that Nelson grows are Eucalyptus, Macadamia and Khat.IMG_7093

And, then the VRG students shared their projects. Their projects included:  Apps for preparation for the college entrance exam in Sweden and course evaluation, a service that sells wild game, a service that raises money for charity and more.

What we found is although we have different school systems and different implementation approaches, we share many of the same key ideas.  Core content areas of marketing, risk analysis, organizational theory, best practices, business plans, sustainability, etc were obviously of central focus in both programs.  But even more interesting were the “soft skills” – self-confidence, curiosity, team spirit, grit – that were also very similar.  We realized that although many “worlds apart”, we shared the same values.

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According to our national curriculum, the Economy students should …

“… gain knowledge about the role of business in the development of the society – local, regional, national and global. … Content and working methods should encourage the student’s creativity and ability to cooperate, take responsibility and convert ideas into action…”

This engaging visit did just that.  We were all very inspired by our time together and hope to make these discussions an annual event each year when the Kenyan national winners visit Sweden.

 

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Focus on learning rather than grades …

 

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Nanna Olsson (VRGD alum 2014) attends Columbia University in NYC

” … focus on learning rather than grades, to take advantage of all the help VRG can give you and not be frightened of being yourself and pursuing your true interests.”

Dear students,

I wanted to follow up with some advice that I think you should consider if you are applying to an American university. First of all, you need to ask yourself, “why do I want to study in the US?”. It is very rare for a Swedish student to get their Bachelor’s degree in the US for the simple reason. Swedish universities are so good, and free, that in many cases, it might not be worth the hassle to go through the application process. I actually don’t know any other Swedish students at my school (I’ve heard there is one more student somewhere, but I’ve never met her!). If you can’t come up with a compelling reason why should study in the US, I’d say it’s probably better that you don’t even apply and focus on getting into a good school in Sweden. I’m not trying to be discouraging, but I remember when I applied, I had many friends who had come a long way on their applications, and decided last minute that they did not want to study in the US. They didn’t even send in their complete applications. They had all made a serious effort, but that time could have been spent on their schoolwork or social life. Remember, there are other ways you can study in the US, for grad school or internships.  I’ve heard a lot of Swedish graduate students hanging out on the Columbia campus!

If you can find a good reason why you need a Bachelor’s degree from the US, I think the best time to start your application is your second year in high school. Put in a lot of time finding a great school that fits YOU. Not everyone should go to Harvard, Yale or Columbia, because they offer very different educations that are not a good fit for everyone. When researching a school, study their curriculum, their geographical location, resources for undergraduates and what kinds of professors that teach there. All schools have a very specific culture, which you need to figure out. Note that undergraduate is different from graduate school! There is no business school at Harvard for undergraduate students, and there is no journalism school at Columbia for undergraduate students. University of Pennsylvania has probably one of the best business schools in the US for undergraduates and Northwestern University has a top-notch journalism school for undergrads as well. None of those schools are Ivy League.

American universities requires you to take either the SAT or ACT, the TOEFL-test, and probably two SAT subject tests. The SAT has been changed from when I took it, I think it is supposed to be more analytical and more reading heavy now. It is important that you start taking these tests early, so you have time to improve your scores. If you are more of a science person and good at math, I’ve heard that the ACT is easier, while the SAT might be easier if you are better at English and reading. For the subject tests, you should just take the subjects that you are good at. The TOEFL-test should not be difficult for you, it basically only tests if you are able to take a class in English, which most you already are at VRG, but do not take it last minute, just get it out of the way. I hate to say this, but you do need good SAT-scores in order to get into a competitive school. For the Ivy-league, it’s common for people to have a total score over 2000 and to get over 700 on the reading section. The good news is that you can “super score” which means that admissions officers will only consider the highest scores you’ve had on each section of the test. The SAT only tests how good you are at taking the test, which means that you can study for it. How? By taking the tests. There are many practice tests out there. Just simulate test conditions and do it over and over again. That’s the only way to study for it.

I want to address grades. You do need high grades to be admitted to a competitive school. I know how obsessed VRG-students can be about their grades, but you all need to stop that behavior. Trust me, at Columbia, people are just as obsessed about grades but at a much higher degree. I have found a general study technique that works for me, both at VRG and at Columbia, which has relieved me from a lot of stress. Don’t let your ambition guide you, but your curiosity. Forget about the grades, and make a genuine effort to understand the material in a profound way. Questions that you should ask your instructor after class are not, “How can I get an A in this class?” or “Can I still get an A in this class?” but rather specific questions about the material that you do not understand. I promise you, if you forget about grades and really try to understand the material, the grades will come automatically. School will also become less stressful and more enjoyable if you focus on what you learn, instead of what you are not able to learn. Keep in mind that it is much more difficult to get an A in Sweden than it is in the US. In many places, a B in Sweden would be worth and A in the US.

Extra-curricular activities are extremely important for the application. Not necessarily for the prestige, but they give clues to the admissions officer on who you are as a person.

Therefore, you must focus on things that YOU find important. Admissions officers want to see some evidence that you will make use of all the resources that they offer to their students. If you are a scattered person who are interested in many things (like I was) they at least must see some form of narrative on how you became the person you are today. I think there is a reason why “This American Life” with radio host Ira Glass is such a popular radio show in the US, because Americans love a good storyteller. So, don’t get involved in things because you think it might stand out on your resume, do it because you think it is meaningful or fun. Do not hold empty titles. The title “head of student council” or “editor of the student newspaper” does not mean anything unless you’ve been an active leader who improved your organization.

I also mentioned in my talk that I got help from Kent Fernandez. Although he helped me a lot, I don’t want you to think that you need to hire outside help in order to get admitted to an American university. The reason for why I hired him, was because I wanted a second opinion on my application, and I also felt a little bit lost in the process (and short of time) after having decided to not apply to my dream school, Stanford. My father had been a professor there, I had taken classes there and networked with researchers and grad students so I thought that it was a school for me. I realized however, that despite the important connections I had made, I was not the student they were looking for.

It’s all about finding the right school, which I have already mentioned. When I learned more about Columbia, I felt destined to go there, it literally took me one day to do the application because all of my answers to the Columbia-supplement came so naturally. That’s when you know you’ve find a good school for you. As long as you are a mature person and realistic about your prospects of getting into a school, you are fine to apply by yourself. That said, there are many free resources that you should take advantage of if you are serious about studying in the US. Start at VRG. Talk to your school counselors. I know that Sue and Keren offer mock interviews that I highly recommend you do before your interview with a college representative. Contact the Fulbright office in Stockholm. They offer free college consultations, and you can also borrow college literature for free, such as books on how to prepare for the SAT, personal statements and books about colleges which is a good way to learn about different universities. They are closed over the summer, so it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment before they close so you could get books over the summer to read. They are very good at answering any kinds of financial aid questions. Occasionally, Fulbright hosts events where representatives from different colleges come to talk about their schools. This is a great way to learn about different universities, and these schools might also be more likely to accept Swedish students since they are making an effort to speak to you. Bombard theses reps with questions, they might be the ones reading your application.

To hit the homerun, I will address the questions I often get on why I got into Columbia. There is not one thing that made me stand out, but it was the whole picture. Everything on my application made sense of why I should study at Columbia, and that’s the key to having a successful application. Everything you do, should be consistent with who you are as a person and what you want to achieve. Forget about prestige. Be genuine and curious. In other words, embrace your inner nerd.

Good luck with your plans after graduation, whatever they might be!

Nanna Olsson

Political Science

Class of 2018

Columbia University

 

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International Relations students involve whole campus in their studies

During a recent assignment, students in our International Relations (IR) class involved our whole campus in their assignment regarding NGOs (non-government organizations).

As a part of their elective course, IR, students were asked to investigate how NGOs work – structure, economic financing, their purpose and impact.  In addition, students were challenged with raising awareness and support for their particular NGO.

One group shared via social media:

The Malala FundOver 60 million girls are missing out on education because they have to work, are married off early, lack access to school facilities, or have to care for younger siblings, denying them their fundamental right to education. Malala Fund works in several different countries; Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Kenya as well as Syria. The different countries require different strategies to achieve the goal of 12 years of free education for girls. For example, to increase percentage of girls receiving education in Pakistan, the donation aids received has gone to repairing damaged schools, providing with education material, and also increasing enrollment for girls at secondary school in order to provide education for vulnerable and married girls as well.

Malala Fund is a non-profit organisation and we are now accepting donations. Every donation counts.
Donate by swish: 0735239885
Bankaccount: 33009707044088
Cash: We are outside HB in the beautiful sun!
For more information, visit https://www.malala.org/

Other groups set up info tables all over campus:

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Thanks … International Relations students for sharing your learning with all of us!

(The second half of the group will be sharing next Tuesday)

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