Daily Archives: February 13, 2013

Ørestad Gymnasium: School without Classrooms (Part 2)_A case for ‘Educational Urbanism’

What makes Ørestad Gymnasium even more interesting is the larger rationale behind it. It has to be seen within the context of the socio-economic transformation that Denmark is undergoing and also within the urban context of Ørestad, a showpiece of Nordic urban innovation.  Education plays a central role on this urban arena.

The idea behind the new large-scale urban development in Copenhagen, is to catalyse the transformation of the Danish economy from industry-based to knowledge-based economy (will write later more about the so called “knowledge-based urban development”). It’s part of the bi-national economic zone created with Malmö in Sweden. The cities are  connected with the fabulous Øresund Bridge.

On a strip of 600m x 5 km, and an area of 310 ha, Ørestad will have three million indoor square metres; house 20 000 inhabit­ants; provide 60 000 jobs and offer education to 20,000 students. The strong presence of education in Ørestad is deliberate . The Ørestad Gymnasium, the IT-University, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DBC, an beautiful student’s hostel, the University of Copenhagen, Apple and others work together in close cooperation in the development process (‘Triple Helix’).

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There is intense spatial closeness between the media industry, education and business organizations on the strip – not to forget cool housing! The awesome IT-University specializing in multimedia is just one stop away from the Ørestad Gymnasium (with the driverless sky-train). And hardly three walking minutes away from the IT-University is another awesome building – the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DBC  built by Jean Nouvel. The students of the IT-University get job offers at the DBC while still at school … also, some companies have their seats at the top floor of the university. This is where students can make their first encounter with the professional world, easing the school to employment transition.

The DBC building comprises four large buildings and a public concert house (build by Jean Nouvel), which houses a world-class recording studio in its basement. Together with the film-cluster mushrooming around the Danish film director Lars van Trier, Copenhagen is ambitiously positioning itself as a world ‘Media-City’ – much to the joy of the students.

All of this makes it a case for my argument on educational urbanism’ – urban development where educational planning converges with urban planning…

Lots of info on its official website:

http://www.orestad.dk/da-DK.aspx?sc_lang=en

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ørestad

Website of the IT University:

http://www.itu.dk/en/Om-IT-Universitetet/Grundprincipper

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Ørestad Gymnasium: School without Classrooms (Part 1)

After walking through the Ørestad Gymnasium in Copenhagen, my old notion of how a school should look like crumbled and disappeared forever.

The school was built in 2005, right after the Danish school reform, by a young group of architects called 3xN (Three times Nielsens). It exemplified the broad pedagogic reorientation in Denmark.

The building is like a huge box with a large central void where a large staircase winds up spreading out to the areas which are ‘appropriated’ by the students for learning – or hanging around, or at least that’s what it looked like to me. For the 1000 students between 16 and 19, there are literally no traditional classrooms – except for those rooms that are solely used for delivery of new information. There is a gym and several multifunctional spaces, which are used as individual zones, group zones, plenary zones and meeting points.

The spaces allow a very high degree of flexibility. Students work individually or in groups in the various work and study areas. If the weather permits, they can also work on the roof or in the open public spaces around the school area – which has a nice waterfront.

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The school specializes in multi-media, communication and culture. The curriculum is oriented towards developing ‘modern knowledge’ which focuses on 1) qualifications, 2) competencies, 3) creativity and 4) culture. Teaching and learning refers strongly to a real-world setting, where students are seen as learners – investigating, collaborating, producing and expressing. And teachers are seen as facilitators and mentors working in small groups with students – doing a lot of project work. They are greatly encouraged to develop their own innovations in pedagogy.

The backbone of the school is the ‘Virtual Room’ where a lot of teaching, learning and communication takes place. Students write blogs, produce podcasts and uses different medias of expression through texts, images and sounds. The creative use of media and communications technology is part of the schools pedagogic model. Indeed, there are lots of computers around. Macs. Their stress on local and global connectedness, have led locals to nickname the school the ‘Virtual School’.

Learning in Ørestad Gymnasium is mostly self-organized. It is seen as a creative and collaborative experience. There are no fixed timetables. Only defined outcomes. Our guide told us, private companies often go to visit the school, to see how students create and manage their knowledge, and how they innovate in such an environment – things that the new creative sector is also interested in. As we know, workplaces and schools somewhat influence each other. Think of how the schools of 19th century looked like. How they resembled factories (‘Factory Schools’) and the conveyor belts of the industrial age. In fact, the bells at these schools were modeled on the shift-time sounds in factories (see Re-thinking Education, Part 1). Not much has changed for most schools around the world. But, thankfully, those social imaginaries are now shifting very quickly and along with them the power relations in schools. Ørestad Gymnasium is surely a beacon for the next generation of schools.

Watching those students lying around sunk in huge beanbags, or stooped over their laptops or engaged in heated discussions in small groups, made me feel like going back to school… and starting all over again…

Links

Website of the school: http://www.oerestadgym.dk/

Here you’ll find a short but very well written account of the school, its pedagogy and curriculum:

http://www.virtualcampuses.eu/index.php/Ørestad_Gymnasium

…also the Innovation Unit has written something about it:

http://www.innovationunit.org/sites/default/files/10%20Schools%20for%20the%2021st%20Century_0.pdf

…and here is (not a very good presentation) by the director of the school Allan Kjær Andersen, but you’ll find some images. www.itismajo.it/scuola2.0/…/presentation%20oeg_rome.ppt

The architects website: http://www.3xn.com/#/

Rethinking education, Part 1: Why our school system is broken

http://www.geopolitics.us/?p=511