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Guest Blog: Our Visit to Microsoft’s Danish Headquarters

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by Mette Hauch’s English Class
Hellerup Skole, Denmark

It all started a little over a month ago, after an ordinary English class when our English teacher, Mette, approached us saying something like, “Can I speak to you for a minute?” which, of course set off an alarm clock in at least half our heads. However it turned out to be something quite harmless, in fact even a little interesting. Mette wanted our help, for a translating project during English class. From then on we’d be working with some learning skills, translating them to “student language”, obviously an upgrade from the Lets Do It book- a far more motivational work alternative. By the end of the process, what we then thought would be about 2 weeks; we should’ve produced a film explaining the six skills at eye level with other students.

The start was a bit slow; after all we had 44 pages of vast text in “adult” language to get through. As a side note, we’d started making our own examples, in the same format as they were shown in the text; just to clarify our understanding of the skills- it definitely wasn’t anything we’d expected to be all that important. Mostly, we focused on collaboration, (the skill we’re most well adapted at using at Hellerup Skole), up until our call with Maria Langworthy. It turned out that we became so engaged and interested, on either side of the Skype call, to even get halfway through our list of questions. Maria had lots and lots of fascinating stories to tell us, about all the different ways students across the world had already used the skills to better their learning. After our call, we all felt very inspired to continue creating our own examples, and lucky for us that was exactly what we were asked to do, the following morning.

At our first visit the Danish Microsoft Headquarters, we were greeted by Kresten Thorndahl, and David Garde Tschertoks, the  enthusiastic assistant who brought us to one of the building’s lounge rooms, the one known as the Xbox lounge, made sure we were comfortable (with lots of cocoa!) and then, asked us to explain what’d we’d done so far, what our thoughts on the skills were and how we worked with them on a day to day basis previously, at Hellerup Skole. It didn’t take long for our rehearsed presentation to turn into more of a discussion with lots of inputs and ideas from every corner of the couch. Afterwards Kresten shared several new programs with us that we’d never even heard of before that day, including OneNote and PowerPoint Mix, so we could judge for ourselves whether they’d be compatible with the skills. Sure, some grown-up can sit in their office and decide that what they’ve designed is perfect for student use, but you can never know for sure before it’s been tested. Once we’d agreed that they must certainly were compatible, we immediately started working on various different presentations. Today, just after our third day, at Microsoft, there’s still worked to be done, hopefully we’ll finish them at out next visit, next Wednesday.

The earlier mentioned short film, that was meant to be our final project, turned out to be cast aside pretty quickly by other projects popping up. Right now there’s talk of a conference we could join, with our own little booth explaining just as we did to Kresten on our first visit, what exactly we’re working with and what we’ll be working with later. Aside from that we’re planning on continuing writing examples, producing an app, and maybe even getting started on that originally planned film, sometime. All of which we look forward to a lot more than ordinary school projects. The way we work with Microsoft is far much more rewarding than the usual projects we complete in school, given the huge increase in motivation and simply the nice, calm and quiet environment we experience at the Danish Microsoft Headquarters. As much as we love our school, it certainly can get a little noisy!

Microsoft’s Danish Headquarters

Hellerup Skole, a Microsoft World Tour School

Hellerup Skole, a Microsoft World Tour School

1 Comment

  1. Frank McGilliray Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, parent of four ceirdlhn 11 , 13 , 15 and 18. The two older ceirdlhn are fairly proficient in the basic academics however the two younger ceirdlhn are not. For example my daughter can’t cursive write nor do long division and my son barely understands the basic concepts of simple math, this I blame on the curriculum.Not only is the over all curriculum distorted but the methods of instruction also.The curriculum appears to be geared more toward behavior modification and character development rather than the imparting of knowledge and the mastery of skills in grammar, cursive hand writing and arithmetic. However as important as this issue is the methods of instruction concern me even more. Group Learning is now being applied to all elementary grades and dominates over independent learning. Recommendations by Educational psychologists state group learning should only occupy a portion of the school day but is in fact now being used all the time. This in essence deeply affects an individuals ability to perform tasks independently and robs the individual of independence and thus creates independence toward others for his or his success. Group learning is more customary to countries like China, Japan or Taiwan who function under a social system of collectivism whereas the western parts of the world such the USA , Canada and Briton function under a social system of individualism. These two contrasts between these two systems are like oil and water. Collectivism in the classroom plays a significant role in the overall problems Canadian culture will have to endure in the future. The curriculum developers are those individuals who are responsible for this mess and a re-evaluation of this process needs to be addressed before the day comes when the culture of Canada is significantly altered from its current constitutional status found within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and civil bill of rights, which in essence acknowledges the individual to be an autonomous entity rather which is not the case found under collectivism.Education is the key to the preservation of the virtue of liberty, democracy and freedom that at one time was important in this country. An ignorant civilian population cannot possibly understand these principles and therefore threatens the very lives and culture of all Canadians.[Hi Frank, your thoughts are much appreciated. WISE Math currently focusses our energies primarily on matters of curriculum and teacher training but, in today’s educational climate where certain strong ideologies and fads hold sway it is nearly impossible to separate these from pedagogical issues such as you raise. We may articulate the issues you raise in slightly different terms, but your thoughts as read resonate with many parents from whom we hear. The matter of group learning is of concern, partly for the reasons you state but also because of the social dynamics. Many ceirdlhn simply do not cope well with group work. In particular, you’ll find most strong students resent being put into groups, and most weak students are intimidated by the prospect of appearing clueless in a jury of peers. Many others simply have social handicaps or difficulty communicating, and this approach merely magnifies the degree to which they are disadvantaged. Further, in classes where group learning is the main paradigm, far less material can be covered, less consistently, and in less depth. The value of a lesson depends far too much of the luck of the draw: whose group one lands in. This is just large-scale social experimentation, and I personally get angry when I think about it. You are right that there are cultural differences with the Asian systems, and while your distinction between “collectivism” and “individualism” is not wrong, it is probably an oversimplification. In fact, the Asian approach to mathematical education places a very strong onus on the individual, and his/her responsibility to family and community (another oversimplification). It is common for apologists of the current educational fads to cherry-pick some aspect of some Asian system — such as group work, or starting lessons with an open-ended problem — that happens to resemble some approach they are promoting, and magnify and distort it to the point that any intrinsic wisdom one might glean is obscured. And, as you observe, cultural differences alone ought to counsel caution in making inferences for Western classrooms based upon social relationships observed in those of Asia. –WISE Math (RC)]

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