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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology for a future mission

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in IT for SIS students?

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

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

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

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

From installation to integration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary resource for fun learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EDUCATION

‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”

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At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.” 

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