Innovative practice - High-tech all the way

11th May 2012 at 01:00
Student-led, collaborative learning that gets results by incorporating the use of technology into every lesson

The background

Orestad Gymnasium school opened in Denmark in 2007 with a vision to drive forward student-led, collaborative education. Technology is used in every lesson. Students work on laptops and a pilot scheme is currently under way with tablets.

The vast, open-plan design of the school reflects its mission to encourage a more communal learning environment. There is a huge circular staircase at the centre of the building reaching up to the fifth floor, surrounded by cushioned learning zones on different levels. Most of the school's students can have a lesson at the same time in this sprawling room.

The project

Nearly everything that happens in the school, from lesson plans to homework assignments, is done online. Technology - whether smartphones, interactive whiteboards or cameras - is used across the curriculum to make learning more exciting. Students have their own video channel, OEG Primetime, where they stream the school's activities live from their homepage.

Technology is used creatively beyond the more obvious subjects like media and communications. For example, apps are used in biology to show virtual dissection of animals, and in chemistry students make annotated films of experiments. In maths classes, students submit podcasts of themselves solving algebraic problems as part of their homework.

However, head of education Anders Pors says technology is only used when it is relevant. "In every learning situation, you have to consider what the best method of learning is. Sometimes it is important to discuss or listen without taking notes and then the technology does not need to be used," he says.

The teaching process also takes place in the "fifth room" - what teachers call the school's virtual world. Teachers can set assignments online and then monitor pupils' progress by talking to them on instant chat messenger services. Students take some exams online, including modern foreign languages, in which they can use online dictionaries rather than hard-copy versions. Headteacher Allan Kjaer Andersen says that the school will be "book free" by the end of the year.

Tips from the scheme

Technology does not suddenly improve teaching. You need to have a modern pedagogy to complement the new equipment.

Be sure that you have a clearly planned strategy for using technology - if not, it can become a distraction in the classroom that disturbs concentration.

"You should be very critical and ask yourself all the time, 'In which situations does technology improve learning and what should digital enlightenment be?'" Pors says.

Evidence that it works?

For the fourth year running, the school is the most sought after in the area for primary school-leavers. Despite nearly half of Orestad students coming from families with no history of further education, it achieves results comparable to the national average. "We see that teaching with technology motivates the students to achieve and gives them an opportunity to learn more in their own style and at different levels," Pors says.

This project was highlighted by the Innovation Unit in its report 10 Schools for the 21st Century. Read the report at http:bit.lyx9y41w

THE PROJECT

Approach: Using technology creatively in every lesson to motivate students

Started: 2007

Collaborators: Danish Design School and the University of Copenhagen

THE SCHOOL

Name: Orestad Gymnasium

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Pupils: 1,200

Architect: 3XN.

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