Thanks for this year!/ Tack för i år!
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!
2016 – Best Friend/Bästa Kamrat – Nicklas Kull
2016 – Best Overall Student/ Gillet – Linnea Bendrot
This i was originally published here>>
Lead Teacher, Viktor Rydberg High School
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Tyresta 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.
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 magnificent natural areas, including Sarek, Stenshuvud, Kosterhavet and Gotska Sandön.
Thanks Tyresta for a nice and educational day!
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.
Self-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).
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, Susanna 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 needof 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 farm 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.
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.
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.
” … 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.”
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!
Class of 2018