What we learned on our study trip to Tanzania …

(This blog entry is written by many students – a collaborative effort of all the students who participated in this study trip …)

Day 1 -2: Environmental Field Studies in Selous

tz1Our group of 14 students and two teachers land in Dar Es Salaam at 02:25 on the 28th of March and into the hands of the incredibly professional outfit of Tanzania Explorer.  At once we are fascinated with the contrasts from our lives in Sweden: not just the obvious ones like the fact that it is 40 °C and not just 6 °C but also cultural differences. Customs seem disorganized and unreliable in our Swedish eyes. This journey is going to be a journey of acceptance and observation and not criticism and everything is so new. The new impressions keep coming as the jeeps bounce on our way past the sleeping trading post of Kibiti, to Selous, a huge Game Reserve southeast of Dar Es Salaam. As villages fly by the open windows in the yet dark night we are impressed by life on the street: dancing, talking, groups of people hanging out: cars, trucks and tz2especially motorbikes ignore traffic rules, running red lights. Men with their motorbikes either sleep on them or just hang around next to them, in the dark Dar es Salaam at 3 a.m.

The six-hour journey on the inferior roads takes us 200 km southeast of Dar Es Salaam to the Rufiji River Camp. The camp, located INSIDE the reserve, has adapted to the tropical savannah in a western manner and is extremely exclusive in comparison to the local villages we observed as we flew past them on the red clay roads. Still, it is different from what we are used to. In Sweden, and the rest of the western world, having tz3electricity is a matter of course but since there are no power stations in the countryside the only electricity available was generated by generators. There is one generator at the lodge we stayed at but it only generated enough energy to provide electricity for a couple of hours. Forget internet.

Electricity and roads: logistics in this remote rural section of this huge country called Tanzania are the most powerful impressions on these first days. Potholes the size of smaller Swedish lakes that drivers tackle with complete abandon and sea sick inducing nausea and the ever present odor of burning firewood emphasize the emerging status of this fascinating country.

During our day excursions we are able to study a number of impressive animals. Conversing with our amazing guides: Rashid, Joshua and Paul we learn about the bachelor herds and the harem herds of impala, the rate of decomposition in this part of the world as opposed to Sweden, about the harsh laws of the lion pride where the alpha male kills cubs to reduce the threat to his reign, that elephants and water buffalo who are cast from the herd are more aggressive and angry than those still in the herd, about how to tell an animal by its droppings and when they had passed them and how to tell a hyena’s footprint from a lion’s or a hippo’s footprint from an elephant’s one.tz4

The habitats of Selous are diverse. The river provides life and death for many as the crocodiles threaten young zebras, wildebeest and gnu as well as the women from the local village, Mloko, as they cross the river twice a day to farm the fields. The river also provides water for the villages and some have wells but most do not. Rice farming is seen in a smaller river delta.
Open, driftwood coloured landscapes are home to many an acacia (umbrella) tree under which the giraffe feel safe enough to nap.

At our camp it was revealed that the weaving trails of “mowed” grass around the camp were none other than the tell-tale signs of a huge male hippo called Luigi. Despite the elevated position of our camp, Luigi leaves the cooling waters of the Rufiji River every night and blazes a weaving trail of masterful horticultural pruning between the tents. We were all lucky enough to have seen him and his gnawings lulled us to sleep in the warm star-filled Tanzanian night

Day 3: Mloka
tz5The first village that we visit is Mloka. Mloka is located in the Selous area of Southern Tanzania, close to the Rufiji River. Thanks to Rashid at Tanzania Explorer, we are met by a local guide and school teacher who leads us around and who provides us an insight to life in rural Tanzania.
The second we step our feet onto the red, sandy, ground, dozens of children surround us- each one of them wanting our attention. We, mzungu, are as exotic to them as their lives are for us.
The first impression we have of the village is that it is very poor and undeveloped. tz6However, the guide tells us that this village is, in fact, quite developed compared to similar villages around the country. Mloka has a medical center, a large school and a food market which carries both imported and exported goods.
Mloka has an Airtel/Tigo shop. Airtel/Tigo? Why is that such a big deal you might ask yourself? Airtel/Tigo representatives are so important in Tanzania because mobile financial services are the backbone of Tanzanian economy. According to tradingeconomics.com the rural population of Tanzania was 69% in 2014. In a country tz7where according to the World Bank only 14% of the population have electricity (2010), mobile banking is even more important. That Mloka has an Airtel/Tigo rep is very important so that villagers can pay their bills. Bill paying in Tanzania is fascinating: ALL MOBILE. Not Swish or internet banking mind you, like Sweden. The visit to Mloka showed us the system: 1) Have cash from sale of goods. 2) Go to a shop that sells phone cards (which in this case is a very simple shop under the central mango that functions as the town center and under whose branches people gather and under which visitors park) 3) Hand over cash and provide representative with your phone number. 4) Wait 3-5 days to receive confirmation that the money has reached your account. Pay bills with code.tz8
We have so many questions after hearing about this. If the phone account is like a bank account does the money gather interest? When does the money go into the account-in the town or when it has reached the big city? What if the cash courier gets robbed? Do I have insurance if Airtel loses my money? Why don’t people use banks? Can one ever hope to have a financial reputation in order to get loans? How could I ever get a loan? Banks are needed in our opinion, but not theirs. This system seems to work. This leads to large amounts of cash floating around. Is this not dangerous we ask? Every day the cash gets picked up and taken to a safe place. But what if someone steals from the messenger we ask? Then everyone will know who that is we are told. And justice will be served.

tz9The Mloka food market provides the village its largest income as it exports its local goods to the whole country. Mloka’s local goods are mostly fish from the Rufiji River, but also from across the river where the village keeps its farms. The workers on this farm are the men and women who risk their lives everyday taking a narrow boat trip over the crocodile filled Rufiji River. This daily trip takes around 75 lives every year.

That all of the able-bodied men and women were away farming was tangible. At three
thousand inhabitants strong, Mloka seemed to be mostly young children on school holiday, older people-finely dressed and partaking in the village meeting about the distribution of electricity and women with newborns also finely dressed and patiently waiting for the health care official on the red earth beneath a large mango tree. The village has many mango and nut trees and there is a saying that the wealth of a village is somewhat deduced by its number of these trees as they will always provide nutrients. Many trees provide a cure for malaria when the branches are chopped, boiled, and the liquid drank as a tea. Nature in the bush is ever present in Mloka and there circulates the story of the sad lion with a toothache who ate five of the village children before being hunted by locals. There is a monument to their passing outside the Reserve gate. I saw a baboon run pell-mell through the village and in the house that we visited the room with a lock was to keep these cheeky beasts out.

When we were walking through the village, we met many children.tz11 They were happy and enthusiastic, a few of us would hand out pens, balloons and candy. It seemed like they really appreciated it. We were privileged enough to be able to walk through a family home. The walls are mud and sticks and there are no windows. This keeps the interior very cool and appropriate for the climate. Owing to the lack of electricity there is naturally no kitchen but there is an eating section of the house dominated by a fireplace and the pot with which water is boiled. We are beginning to understand that the heat and work tz12life also results in different meal times for people in Tanzania and whereas we are used to 5 meals a day they are only used to three and the first two are quite far apart. The house is home to one man and his usually three wives and children who live in harmony. If they have anything to complain about they let their kanga speak for them. Like the Impala the young men are thrown out and have their own pad at 18 years old.
Thank you ‪#‎Tanzania_Explorer for this amazing and eye opening experience.

Day 4-6: Stone Town and Zanzibar

We arrived in the late afternoon after a long journey from Selous via dirt roads, tz13extreme traffic and a ferry ride. It is terribly hot and an interesting transition from the calm, serene Selous to the hustle and bustle of a busy town. Once on Zanzibar, we walk to our hotel, which is not far from the port. It is located on one of the narrow streets of Stone Town near the harbor. Sounds of afternoon prayers, returning fisherman and many, many people take over as we settle in. We end our first evening with a traditional roof-top dinner.

The next morning we begin a walking tour with our local guides – Martin, Elvis and Ali.  In tz16small groups of 6, we tour historical sites including the first hospital in the region, culture centers and the original slave trade sites. It is a somber reality to visit where the slaves were kept prior to sale. We also visit the Anglican Church that is built on the site of the whipping post where slaves were whipped to show that they were strong enough to work. It is a sad place that shows the reality of the slave trade. On our way out, we see the monument erected by a Swedish artist to commemorate this important historical site.

In addition, we visit the famous spice market, fish market, meat market, as well as the fruits and vegetables market. We see many local craftsmen sharing their art – henna, banana leaf paper, recycled flip-flop art, fabrics and more. It is crowded, dirty, busy, tz15exciting, colorful, loud and different from our previous home in Selous. Hundreds of people, all selling their colorful product, crowd into a small area, making for an intense experience. In the evening, we walk to a local restaurant and visit the “park” where local people sell tapas from food stands.

tz17Zanzibar, and more specifically Stone Town, is full of history. As a former center of trade between Africa and the East, the city hums with influences from colonial times. European and Arabic cultural trademarks are evident everywhere. From the architecture to the street names, the doorways and animated haggling the walking tour was like a walk through time. One specific detail of the influences were the doors: heavy, large, ornate, decorated and different shaped doors tell of the period in which they were erected.

During our walking tour, we were also able to listen to an alternative perspectivetz18 regarding the question of cessation. While we understand that Tanzania is a country where different religions live in peace with each other, the question of the relationship between the mainland and Zanzibar remains unresolved. On the mainland, our guides expressed support for the new president and the importance of keeping the relationship intact. On Zanzibar, we are confronted with another perspective. Our guides believe that Zanzibar should be granted independence and have their own government. Clearly, this is a complicated question with many aspects worthy of consideration.

Our time in Stone Town seemed to be dominated by men. There were men everywhere. And, for the first time, the females in our group felt somewhat uncomfortable and insecure. Everyone was friendly, yet it seemed more of a challenge to connect with local people.

Day 7: Makunduchi

tz19Makunduchi is a village located near the south coast of Zanzibar. The coastal terrain provides the village of three thousand a sustainable income from the sale of ropes made out of coconut. This is one of the major businesses in the village and is mostly done by women. It is a long process with several steps. First the women have to place the coconuts in the water for six months to make the fiber soft. Then begins the process of twisting the fibers into ropes. This is one way that the women get money from.
In the village of M’zuri Kaja (Beautiful …..), located in the area of Makunduchi, there are two schools, one primary and one secondary school, both under the name of Kusini. The school has approximately 840 students ranging between the ages of 6-15 years old. There are 11 classes altogether and in tz21every class there is around 60 students. The school has about 29 teachers, we had the opportunity to meet with the head teacher Nathan Hodha who also was about to apply for the role as the headmaster. It was a different experience to visit a school in a very small and poor village and compare it to a Swedish school. We had the chance to look in their school books which were very similar to the ones we have in Sweden, this breaks a lot of the stereotypical thoughts that many might have had before the trip about people not being educated. One thing that is also important to acknowledge is that every single book in the Kusini school is donated by the USAID organisation. There is a new law passed with the accession of the new President, John Magufuli, (‪#‎whatwouldmagufulido), that school is free and obligatory for all and the school has been inundated with first-third graders. Where there are two sixth form classes all of a sudden there are five first grade classes.
tz22One experience that we had was learning about a traditional African piece of clothing named Kanga. Looking like just a piece of fabric but holding on to so much history. Kanga is a piece of fabric that the women wear in different ways to varied occasions. It is used as an everyday clothing such as a skirt and a top. In the lower middle of every Kanga there is a quote that women use to express different messages to each other. For example if two wives in the same house has a conflict they can, instead of fighting, tell each other things through their Kangas. It can also be worn in so many ways and to different occasions.
Makunduchi have in several ways managed to get water. tz23Other than gathering rainwater, which is effective during the raining season, but not otherwise, the village relies on a group of wells within the village for the vast majority of their water supply. Two of the three wells in the village were operated by hand, using coconut rope and containers made of anything available at hand, usually large plastic bottles. The third well was fitted with a crude electrical pump, making collection of water easier, however the pump was prone to breaking down, as the generator that supplied electricity was unreliable, especially during the rainy season, as the humidity and rain caused major problems.

Day 8: Barbro Johansson Model Girls School

tz24Leaving Zanzibar at 0400 we were once again thrust into the hustle and bustle of the ferry terminal in Dar: a veritable hive of activity at 0730. We are met by Ms. Susan from The Barbro Johansson Model Girl’s School and she whisks us through customs and luggage and stops someone taking one of our bags and who receives a smack from the baton of the customs official. On the way out we see and hear boxes of baby chickens that are being sent to Zanzibar.

The day is hot, and the sun is high in the sky by the time we arrive. Male students are tz25ushered quickly into the visitor’s dorm while the rest have our luggage transported further on to the student dorms in which we will stay the night. We are given a quick tour of the campus, with its dorms, canteen, classrooms, labs and art centre, and which ends with us introducing ourselves to the students during the daily assembly. School was not quite in session as the girls had only just returned from their vacation the day before. Teachers were in meetings and the students were often found in classrooms managing their own studies and subjects. Just about everyone was working earnestly.

tz27We visited a class of 11-13 year olds where we went around and asked them to fill in our questionnaire about IT, social media, family life, long term goals, dreams and aspirations and general things. Two things struck us. 1) that the girls were studying rather advanced accounting and 2) that most of the answers on the questionnaire are similar to what we would have answered. Our economics students were flabbergasted that the 11-13 year olds were doing accounting as a part of their Civics course. That they were doing corporate budgeting in pen and with impeccable aesthetic clarity served to illustrate an earlier discussion with Ms. Susan. Ms. Susan elucidated that despite the students being exceptionally well educated after graduating from Barbro Johansson the employment market did not have the diversity of employment opportunities that their education deemed them ready for. Many of the graduates became accountants.

Despite the school’s already large size, it was to explained to us that there are future plans to expand the school, as soon as funding was acquired. It was explained to us that the original plans for the school were created under the assumption that the money that was being received from the Swedish SIDA organisation would continue to come in, but after a reevaluation done by the Tanzanian government the SIDA funds had been redirected to other schools. We are not so sure about this. The school was started by a Swedish woman, Barbro Johansson, who fell in love with Tanzania and who decided to stay. She eventually became a member of Parliament and a champion for the rights of women and girls in the country. Her passion and drive to educate young girls in Tanzania and to elevate their status led to a strong relationship with Prime Minister Olof Palme and Lisbeth Palme has been the chairman of the Swedish based foundation for the school for years.tz28

The school is very different compared to Swedish schools. There are many more rules, and they are more strictly and effectively enforced than at home. Many of these rules are designed to minimise bullying. For example the girls are not allowed to have hair: all students have to have shaved hair except for the seniors. Having long hair is a sign of wealth. The girls are not allowed to wear makeup or use mobile phones during weekdays. Rules like these would be incredibly difficult to enforce in Sweden. The campus was patrolled by at least ten armed guards and the girls believed that if they left campus then they would be eaten by pythons. The most important thing for the parents of the Barbro Johansson students is to make sure that their daughters have a top-notch education, that their access to temptation is restricted and that they are safe. For this they are willing to pay..
The girls have study hall until 11pm and come and pick us up. We stay up most of the night in the dorm talking and braiding hair. Every Sunday the girls are allowed to let out their hair but it must be tightly braided again come Monday morning. Needless to say they are amazing at braiding. The girls at the school had very different expectations and opinions regarding relationships, abortion and religion. When we talked to the girls about relationships they explained that some of them had boyfriends but keep it secret from their family because they fear disapproval.

The best part of the visit to Barbro Johansson was seeing our friends that we have hosted in Sweden: they were so incredibly different-relaxed and completely open and cheerful. In Sweden they were reserved and on best behaviour. Many of our group conclude that perception’s binary oppositions are what makes vrg4tz so incredible and this seeing the girls so incredibly happy and normal was one of these-a total binary opposite.

Day 9: Dar es Salaam – Scania, Sweco & Swedish Embassy

tz29So far the trip has been one of the most interesting and meaningful things that I have done in my entire life. Today the academic focus of the trip reached the same level.

Early in the morning we left Barbro Johansson School to do some study trips at Swedish-based companies located in Dar es-Salaam. First we arrived at Scania. Scania is one of the world’s leading companies in its field: trucks, and they have been operating in Tanzania since 1982. This means that they are well adapted to the Tanzanian way of working and know what it means to be operating a full scale business in a frontier market and the challenges that come along with it. It was therefore interesting to learn about the big differences between tz30operating a company in a country like Sweden, where society is well developed and laws are followed, and Tanzania, where the state of justice is dysfunctional, due to large issues pertaining a high rate of corruption. It was also interesting to hear about their predictions regarding Tanzania as a country, since it is a frontier market, with a large economic potential in its future. We learned about the challenges lying ahead, for example tackling corruption, infrastructure and the people’s faith in the state and the government. Perhaps the most interesting subject discussed was the status role Scania had after their extended establishment in the country. From what the manager at Scania told us Scania’s market position in Tanzania was now so strong it could be, in some ways, compared with IKEA’s market position internationally. It will therefore be interesting to see Scania’s future development in Tanzania and the countries around.

After the study trip, representatives from the Swedish embassy came and talked to us about what their function is in Tanzania and what they do. We then developed a further understanding for the international development projects that are being done in Tanzania and what their main focus areas are to develop. These were education and infrastructure, specifically regarding the development of the electrical network, internet, roads and railways in Tanzania.

tz31The last study visit of the day was at Sweco. Swecos job in Tanzania was to, in cooperation with the stately owned electrical company Tanesco, develop the network of powerlines in Tanzania. The main objective was to provide small villages in the countryside with electricity, in total 25 000 household were going to be provided with electricity. At Sweco we received a further deeper understanding about the infrastructure problems in Tanzania, and other poor countries, and the measurements that had to be done, giving us further perspectives into the challenges that the country faces in the near future.

I believe that this day was the one on which I learned the most. Probably because I had been gaining impressions and had learnt a lot throughout the trip which I then could apply on the things we learned at the study trips at Sweco, Scania and the embassy.

After the field trips we were in the area of Dar Es Salaam where we would probably live if we were to live there-lots of expat families in the markets and the polar extremes of our experiences diminished somewhat. At 1230 am we headed back to the airport and our journey home began.


Two weeks back now and all of the impressions are beginning to settle. Writing this diary together has helped. This common Facebook page/travel diary has physically put our amazing experience together but our hearts are forever filled with Selous starry nights and hippos chomping, the hoops of overjoyed children, the discussions with friends so different and so same and with the hope of more of Tanzania in our futures. We hope that you have enjoyed it!



Students’ personal reflections …

“The best part of the trip was the Scania visit. It was so valuable, so rewarding. It’s very hard to gain insight on what it’s like to work and run a business in another country just by reading about it. Very little information is available online, and it’s usually quite formal and limited. Listening to Anders truly gave a huge – invaluable – insight on how it’s to operate a venture in Tanzania, and the greatest challenges that one may encounter; challenges that might be less obvious than one first might expect. It made it clear that one must stay open-minded to succeed and find and solve the unconventional obstacles that one might face.” – Jakob

I also enjoyed meeting the different companies and the young students from Sweden who worked at the ambassador. Seeing all the different parts of Tanzania and the problems that existed really made you curious on how to fix them. All you wanted was to take a wand and solve everything but unfortunately there is a long way to go for a country like Tanzania. Corruption, poverty and lack of welfare affects everything and it was interesting to see the challenges that Scania, as a big European company, faces. Cultural clashes are almost inevitable and I was surprised to hear how much they affect the everyday working life. I never thought that selling trucks could be so different in Tanzania compared to selling trucks in Europe and it was so inspiring to see how a company like Scania were able to adapt and develop so much. ” – Anna

[…] Visiting villages and schools was definitely one of the best parts of the trip. I have never seen that kind of poverty or met people who lived so differently from me and it is hard to explain how it felt. One part of me was shocked about how they lived and how their lives were, while another part of me was fascinated by how happy they were and all the similarities I could find. Meeting the kids and talking to young adults was very much like talking to kids and young adults in Sweden. I know that so much is different but it was amazing to see how fast we could connect. I especially experienced this while visiting Barbro Johansson School where we got to meet many young girls. Talking about boyfriends, the future, school and everyday life I really felt that in the end, we aren’t that different. It was so interesting to hear about their dreams and to see their reactions when I told them about mine.” – Anna

The best part of the trip was being able to experience so much of a completely different culture. We met ordinary people working in Dar Es Salaam, children from the more primitive villages of Mloko and Makunduchi, schoolgirls at Barbro Johansson’s school for girls and most notably Alan the Masai-warrior whom we shared a breakfast with. Dressed in ordinary clothes and talking about finding a job after university, he was not trying to capitalize on his culture, but rather find a way to further it and help others. ” – Cecilia A.


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An investment in our teachers is an investment in student learning

We believe that our teachers are the #1 key to helping our students succeed.
Therefore, cycle profedevViktor Rydberg Schools have made a purposeful choice to invest in the professional development of all of our teachers using a three-year cycle.
In addition to weekly conferences where professional development is embedded in our ongoing work and our annual VR Workshops where teachers from all 5 schools share their best practices with each other.  We use a three-year plan to ensure continual pedagogical development within our organization.
With this approach, we hope to encourage our individual teachers, our teacher teams and our staff as a whole to challenge themselves to find inspiration, improve their craft and study important trends and best practices in education – all with the end goal of improving student learning. Each year, we as a staff develop annual goals.  Important aspects of our school culture and learning environments that we want to focus on.  Then, based on these goals, each teacher, together with their supervisor, identify personal goals.
Everyone accepts the responsibility to actively learn what they can and generously share with others.
We divide our professional development into three levels.  Based on the VR values and competence profile of what we believe a good teacher should be able to do, all staff members participate in a self-reflection process that leads them to identify areas for further development.  vr value and comp
In year 1 of the cycle, teachers are encouraged to focus on their individual development areas.   In year 2 of the cycle, teacher teams are encouraged to diagnose what aspects of student learning within their subject need further attention. Then, together they decide what they would like to study and improve to better align student results with our annual goals.  In year 3 of the cycle, we, as a whole staff, focus on our school-wide goals together.
We believe that by building in choice as to “what” our teachers want to focus on, as well as “how” they wish to accomplish their goals offers an efficient and effective approach to professional development.  
Right now, we are in year 2 of our current cycle.  Here is a brief example about one part of the English team’s professional development work last week:
FullSizeRender (27)We have just returned from a really good team-building trip to London and we are all full of Shakespearian inspiration after having seen a fantastic performance of
A Winter´s Tale at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which is the indoor theatre that forms part of Shakespeare´s Globe.  We were all in agreement that this was one of the best Shakespeare performances any of us have ever seen, and that our trip to London would have been worthwhile for that alone.
However, we were also able to link up with a teacher from the Connaught School in Leytonstone to discuss samples of written work from our students at the English 6 and 7 levels. It was really good to get another perspective on the samples taken from VRG and to discuss similarities and differences in our pedagogical approaches within two such different working environments.IMG_0835
It was also good to have time to talk in a more relaxed setting about activities in the classroom, and to build on ideas that each of us had.
Our trip was a lovely mixture of cultural input, work-related discussions and socializing, finishing up with a walk in Kensington Gardens earlier today …
A rewarding time was had by all and we have returned with renewed energy that I believe will propel our already strong department forward. Thanks to VRG for making this possible!
Other examples of professional development this year:  cross-curricular study of motivation in the classroom – comparing Swedish and Mathematics, participation in national conferences to both present and learn from colleagues around Sweden, leadership training, 3D printing as an assessment tool, building a learning platform for teachers to share resources, group dynamics, relational pedagogy,  blended learning, visiting schools in New York, London, Belgrad and more.  It is inspiring to hear of the teams’ projects.
Each team presents their ideas for the other teams. The discussions after the presentations are often the best ROI (return on investment).
I am confident that this is a great investment for our students.
Kristy Lundström,
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Våga Visa observation shows VRG’s strengths

vagavisaDuring week 6 and 7, VRG welcomed a Våga Visa inspection team.  During 5 days, this team of inspectors interviewed our students and staff, observed more than 40 lessons and reviewed many of our school documents.  

This comprehensive inspection is focused on five areas taken from our national curriculum:

  • norms and values
  • knowledge
  • student responsibility and student influence
  • assessment and grades 
  • leadership responsibility

The summary of the report stated:sammanfattning

After our observation, we can conclude that Viktor Rydberg Gymnasium in Djursholm is a well-functioning school that offers a high-quality service.  

The school is characterized by a high level of ambition, in the leadership, staff and students.  

The students are highly motivated, take a great responsibility for their learning and reach very good results.  The teachers are competent and engaged, both in their teaching and their students.  Both teachers and students are happy and very proud of their school. 


forbattringIn addition, areas of development were identified:

  • Boys and girls have somewhat different roles in the classroom
  • Cross-curricular learning is not systematic
  • Formal forum for student democracy should be further developed

We will now work with the full, comprehensive report to further develop our school. We will share this report with all stakeholders and then discuss fully to find the right actions to take in the next phase of our school’s development.

To read the report in full, click on the link below:

Rapport Våga visa observation Viktor Rydberg gymnasium Djursholm VT 16 (2)




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One student inspires and challenges others


VRG is so proud of our senior science student, Julia Reinius.  She recently represented our school in the national competition for best young researcher.  Julia won the Gösta Lindners scholarship for Technical Chemistry applications.

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This is how she described her experience:

“It was the best week of my life.  It was fantastic to not only meet people as interested in science as I am but also meet some of Sweden’s leading scientists.  Everyone had unbelievable projects.  I participated in fantastic lectures and met fantastic people with whom I will maintain contact with for a long time.  I really encourage all younger VRG students to put a bit of extra energy into their senior project.  And, then apply for this opportunity. / Det var en av de bästa veckorna i mitt liv. Det var fantastiskt att få inte bara möta människor som är lika intresserade av naturvetenskap som jag är men som dessutom är några av Sveriges främsta inom naturvetenskap. Alla hade otroliga projekt som får en att ifrågasätta sin plats där. Har fått se fantastiska föreläsningar och träffat fantastisk människor som jag kommer ha kontakt med resten av mitt liv. Skulle verkligen uppmana alla att lägga lite extra energi på gymnasiearbetet och söka.”

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Haiku translates into international friendships

During the Easter holiday, Hannes, Lydia, and Sue (two Spets students together with our Spets coordinator) traveled to Budapest to meet and share poetry with students from Hungary and Slovenia.  It was a Haiku competition where students from the three countries competed to find the “best” Haiku.
The students were challenged to learn and share in a setting outside the classroom. In addition to the awards ceremony, VRG students stayed with our Hungarian hosts. The Hungarian students were very good hosts and Budapest was at its finest with warm sunny weather.
Back at VRG, Hannes and Lydia showed pictures from the visit during mentor time, as well as shared booklets  with the haiku poetry from the three countries involved (including several from other students in our Spets 1 class as well). After responding to questions from other students, Hannes summed things up really well when he observed that “despite the fact that we have been in an IMG_6761environment  where the language and food were completely different the students there were really not so different from us regarding their interests and were in fact just normal teenagers”.
The real learning for Hannes and Lydia went on when they were being shown around Budapest by Hungarian students and when they were socializing and visiting homes. Even the teachers met and exchanged ideas.  Sue reported that “it was really good to meet teachers from both of these countries to talk about their approach to pedagogics, to be inspired by their enthusiasm and to confirm that what we do at VRG is absolutely on the right track!”
The winning Haikus from VRG:
A tree, now so tall
outgrew the flower beneath
leaving it alone.                                                      
Lydia Filks
Eastbound train approach,
low ground unpleasant scramble,
engine to thousand
The obnoxiousness.
Unbearable in daylight.
Relations of love.
Hannes Hovmöller

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VRG creates Blended Learning Envrionments

Originally published here>>


#UnleashPotential with a blended learning environment

Kristy Lundström, rektor (head of school): We are always trying to find ways to create the “perfect” learning environment for our students. The challenge is that the “perfect” environment can look different from student to student, from course to course, and from time to time. I want us to stop thinking “class” and think “student”. With this in mind, the question shifts from trying to find the perfect solution to trying to find a flexible framework where teachers are empowered to make the strategic instructional decisions that would work for just their group of students. At our school, we have designated an instructional designer to explore possible methods for how this could work. We call it our BLE (Blended Learning Environment) project. Meet Hanna.


Hanna Forsberg, lektor Biologi / Kemi  (PhD teacher Biology / Chemistry): It continues to be a debate of should we or should we not include ICT in our teaching. At our school, this is not our debate. Our debate is how can we best use the tools we have to offer students the most effective learning environment. We have come to a conclusion, we need a ‘blended learning environment’. I use both digital and analog learning activities, and I want to continue. I want my students to read books, brainstorm at the whiteboard, build DNA models and do investigations both in and outside the classroom. However, I understand that it would be very efficient if the instructions, learning results, reflection, feedback, discussions and other details associated with their tasks, is available and can be handled in a digital environment.

By structuring the learning materials on a cloud-based digital platform, I can organise the learning in a way that I could not do otherwise. Students have access to all course material before and after the lesson. It is available wherever they are; on their mobile on the bus, at home, at school or at a library.

Our learning platform opens the class up for interactivity and a variety of modalities that are hard to get to in an analog classroom environment. By mixing, collecting and referring to different types of resources in a learning management system, I can offer students a varied and flexible learning environment. Some students may need more support when we start a new concept while others need to have more challenge. Some students learn best by reading individually while others learn best by discussing cases.

With a clear structure, students can see their learning in context. They see the path, and they can see their progress. Students are not stressed by always trying to find the course materials or understand “what is coming next”. If they want to go back and review a topic or move forward to explore an aspect that really interests them, they are empowered to do that. They can better control the tempo of their progress.

With different types of discussion forums and feedback tools, I am able to increase the communication between me and my students, and between students. I can listen to each student, perhaps through an audio recording on the platform’s built-in video tool.

Seeing every student explaining replication in separate 45-second videos gives me valuable information about students’ knowledge and their understanding of the course concepts. I can also respond with a media recording if I want to. With effective and efficient communication channels I can pursue ongoing formative assessment in (and outside) the classroom. Other tools, such as self-correcting examinations, group chats and peer assessment, are also built into the system. With a clear structure and easily accessible materials, we do not spend as much time in the classroom going through instructions and distributing materials. Digital tools also help to organise groups of students and assess assignments easily and quickly. Feedback to students, via peer feedback or from their teachers, goes faster. Better information about where the students are in their learning make the teaching more cohesive and effective. Our digital feedback system allows reflections and exit tickets to be collected and surveyed easily, which allows me to spend less time on teaching the wrong things.

To develop and implement a BLE

At the start of our BLE project, we have investigated a range of digital platforms on the market, and we are now piloting one in the “free-for-teachers” version.

I am employed as an ICT project coordinator (30% of my position) and my title is instructional designer. The very concept of instructional design can be defined as follows:

We understand there is a need to structure and develop resources and methods to optimise student learning. Educators, researchers, developers, authorities and politicians must work together to create the best possible conditions for learning, and we believe instructional design is a necessary part of this work.

At our school, we are currently working with a core group of four teachers and a shadow group (five people, the growing crowd) to add educational materials and develop secondary courses on our learning management system. This digital structure makes it easy to share courses and learning activities between teachers and schools, which will lighten the preparation workload in many different ways in the future. Instead, we hope to spend more of our time on student contact, peer learning and further pedagogical development.

In a blended learning environment, the class can be divided into different activities. With the clear structure and support the digital platform provides, a part of the class can engage in group work, reading, problem-solving, while the teacher has a discussion with the rest of the students. The teacher can easily move between the groups as needed. Teachers have reported that they have more time to communicate with each individual student in this structure. In most courses, it is necessary for students to not only demonstrate an understanding of concepts but also be able to articulate the connection between them. To be able to move around the room to listen to each student share and discuss is invaluable.

Benefits: How many is too many?

The issue of group size is no longer about “big or small classes”, but rather how we can adjust the group size (and staffing ratio) for the learning activity. Reading and lecture can work in larger groups while discussions and team problem solving is much more successful in small groups.

Benefits: Reduced administration …

If we could use less time on the administration of a class, then we could focus on what is really important – the students. Of course, more time to plan meaningful lessons and communicate with students for feedback and formative assessment is optimal.

Benefits: More “face-time” with the students …

All in all, the use of ICT in teaching allows us to have more time for dialogue and direct contact with students exactly when and where they need it.

Kristy: As a school leader, I have decided to stop looking for the “perfect” learning environment. Instead, I am focused on how can I support my teachers to make the best instructional decisions. One concrete idea is to build blended learning environments and integrate an instructional designer into every teacher team. I truly believe that teachers are the key to our students success. And, this is how we can #unleashpotential!


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Höjdpunkter från skolforskningskonferens researchED Scandinavia 2016

Hannas skolblogg

ReseachED Scand.png

I helgen besökte jag och min kollega, Markus Andersson, konferensen researchED Scandinavia i Göteborg. Det var en givande konferens med en en god blandning av forskning, pedagogik och inspirerande möten. Här finns länkar till program och en sammanställning över talare.

Jag har sammanfattat följande föreläsningar, följ länk till blogginlägg:

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Senior projects offer students a chance to explore their interests and show their skills

thatsdoneCongratulations to the Class of 2016 on finishing their senior projects!  

In the Swedish school system, one of the most important graduation requirements is that every student complete a senior project (gymnasiearbete).   The senior project shows that the student is ready for university level work within their own program of study. This final task is a comprehensive research project written in a scientific manner complete with an English abstract and a critical review of sources.  In addition to the written work, students also read and oppose classmates’ work.  This peer feedback system offers students the chance to practice critical thinking as they encourage each other to reach their fullest potential.

We begin each school year with an inspiration session to spur students on to think of what topics really interest them within their program. Every year students choose unique, challenging, and, sometimes, even uncommon topics to pursue.

Some of our topics this year have included:

Sustainability of cord as a three-dimensional structure/ Hållbarhet hos tågvirke utifrån tredimensionell struktur

Music and its neurological effects on the brain/Musik och dess neurokemiska påverkan på hjärnan

Sudden heart failure in sports – causes and how can it be avoided? / Plötslig hjärtdöd inom idrotten – Vilka är orsakerna och hur kan de förhindras?

Bee pollination/Bipollination – Vilka effekter har minskad bipollination?

GMO – What possibilities does genetically modified rice give for meeting the demand for additional food for China’s growing population?/ GMO – Vilka möjligheter ger genmodifierat ris för att förse Kinas växande befolkning med föda?

Capacity for Learning – Are chidren capable of starting a more advanced education at an earlier age?/ Kapacitet för inlärning – Förändras barns förmåga att motta information från och med att de börjar förskolan i Sverige tills de inträder mellanstadiet? Är barn kapabla att börja en mer avancerad utbildning i tidigare ålder?

Gender equality in the “nerd” culture of gaming

Why do we laugh?/ Varför skrattar vi?

Here are a few projects showing the outstanding work of some of our senior students: (please note:  all student papers are in Swedish)



To read this work in its entirety, click here>> Amplio Gymnasiearbete


juliagaTo read this work in its entirety, click here>>Gymnasiearbete-Reningavlysozym





To read this work in its entirety, click here>> Gymnasiearbete2016-GeniusorCrazy


To read this work in its entirety, click here>> Gymnasiearbete 2016 – Stimulis påverkan på individens smärttröske


insidan ut



To read this work in its entirety, click here>> GA-Insidanut





We are now in the process of archiving these works for future students to be able to search, read, admire and draw inspiration . . .

Thanks, Class of 2016 and all of our senior project faculty advisors for sharing your outstanding projects with us!

Read more about senior projects, here>>

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Digitalized feedback system gives more time for teacher-student dialogue

IMG_5756On a recent walk-through visit, I was impressed to see how one teacher had solved the challenge of answering every student’s question at the same time.

In our Programming course, Gustav Bonds has found a way for students to get feedback “automatically” while training their skills.  He has created an application where students read lines of code, answer questions and solve problems based on their comprehension of the code. This application generates random lines of code according to meaningful patterns.  It is the task of the student to understand the function of each line and figure out the final output value of the program. Once the students IMG_5750feel they have solved the task, they can submit their answer and get automated feedback – correct or incorrect.  If the student got the task incorrect, the system generates an automated response specific to the line of code and the type of error the student has made.  In addition, the application offers suggestions of what the student can do to improve this aspect of their learning.  The application is a timed exercise that also keeps tracks of “stars” spurring the students on in a friendly, gaming approach.

IMG_5754And, meanwhile … the students in the class who are not working with this application can spend time writing code and talking one-on-one with Gustav to get helpful feedback.

So, in what seemed to be a crowded classroom, students were training both reading comprehension of code, as well as writing code themselves.  All students were engaged at the same time.  Students could move at their own pace and their own ability level.  All students were getting formative feedback to improve their work.  And, with the help of this home-built application, the teacher was able to answer everyone’s questions at the same time.

08 Gustav Bonds    Well done, Gustav!

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UF winners – 2016

This gallery contains 13 photos.

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