The World’s Most Innovative Schools: Hyper Island

March 16, 2011 at 9:00 am 5 comments

by Alec Patton

[video: ‘Hyper Island in a Nutshell’]

In an abandoned military prison on the remote Swedish island of Stumholmen, strange things happening: people are coming from across the globe to collaborate on projects and deliver them to clients. The ‘students’ stay for days, weeks, or months at a time, during which they have no teachers and no ‘tests’, and they leave with no formal qualifications, but design firms snatch them up.

This is Hyper Island, and I want to go there. To get ‘Hyper Island in a nutshell’, watch the video at the top of the post (it’s only 3 minutes and 31 seconds long). And fear not if a remote island in Sweden sounds like too much of a trek, because Hyper Island is coming to the UK

If you want to know what a five-day Hyper Island project looks like, and you can spare about six minutes, watch this video:

Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Asher Jacobsberg  |  March 16, 2011 at 10:01 am

    A very interesting model, but it’s ‘school’ in the American sense, i.e. not ‘school’ but ‘college’ or ‘university’.

    I wonder if/how this model could be translated into primary and secondary education? I could definitely see it as part of the mix of what goes on in a school.

    • 2. alecpatton  |  March 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

      You’re quite right about that. Since I started writing the series I’ve been unashamedly loose about the definition of ‘school’ (hence why I included hole-in-the-wall!) but I did wonder whether departing from school-aged children was a step too far.

      I’ve decided I’m cool with it, because learning is a lifelong endeavor, and I’m not sure the division of life into ‘the time of learning’ and ‘the time of work’ is an entirely helpful one (obviously, child labour laws are a good thing, but you know what I mean!)

      Having said that, yeah, it’s still a bit of a stretch to include a university-level institution! But when I read about a design school on a remote prison island, I couldn’t resist writing it up! And I can tell you exactly what it would look like applied to a primary and secondary context, because I’m typing this in a hotel room in San Diego, where I’ve been visiting High Tech High for the past three days!

      • 3. Asher Jacobsberg  |  March 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

        Yes, I’ve been following the tweets with interest.

        I see how the project-based stuff would work, it’s more the real commissioning of real projects that interests me. I think that’s the best type of learning, but what would people commission primary-age students to do? Product design and marketing maybe?

        Actually I recall now that we did something similar in my sixth form: local orgs commissioned groups of us to carry out real projects. I had to do something for the Young Farmers. It was a pretty unmitigated disaster as a schem, but that was probably largely to do with the fact that everyone was forced to do it in groups they did not choose. It was also a very academically-focussed school and this was presented in such a way that it was clear it wasn’t part of that.

  • 4. Jo  |  March 16, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I find the first video rather alarming – what if I don’t want “all the learning” to be “based upon industry needs”?

    But the second video shows it’s quite a familiar model. You could be putting on a musical at the end of the week or coding an online application.

    • 5. alecpatton  |  March 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Good point Jo – you kept a cool head while I was seduced by the amusing animation! Having said that, I hope Asher’s point that it’s aimed at ‘people who want to get hired by design firms as soon as they finish’ rather than kids might assuage some of your concerns.

      I guess the best way to understand it is as a way of doing vocational learning – for which being driven by industry needs seems appropriate (though personally, I’d want any learning institution to put ‘what the world needs’ above ‘what the industry needs’.


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