ODS is taking teenage education to the next level
Since the industrial revolution, education systems have remained pretty static, despite all the research and attempts to introduce new methods, schools still rely on assessments and exams – failure is frowned upon… but, it is from failure that we learn. An experiment goes wrong and you want to find out why? That’s good suggests Christopher Pommerening, Founder and CEO of Our Dream School. “There’s a technological revolution that’s changing our lives almost daily, like it or not it’s happening, yet our education systems are struggling to keep pace. We have to change with the times.”
Many parents in Barcelona are talking about Our Dream School. What is it exactly?
OurDream.School (ODS) is a long-term project that seeks to create future-focused learning communities for all ages and stages of life. With OurDream.School we are on the mission to change world wide out-dated education systems. 95% of our children want their schools to change. In the digital age where AI and robotics push for mass-automation, our standardised school systems have built the biggest dead-end for humanity.
We are in the process of building a new multi modular learning model alongside existing education systems that will ultimately lead to the creation of an universal life long learning credential enabling the longer-term changes needed in education (imagine creating Montessori or IB for 2018 and beyond).
What is Barcelona Learning Innovation Community (BLIC) and who is it for?
BLIC was founded as an element of the wider vision. BLIC is a ground-breaking space that offers new learning methodologies, creative environments and innovative technologies to provide young people with a learning model that meets their needs and aspirations. It is a hybrid maker, studio and co-learning space, designed to enable young people to explore and discover their latent talents of which they may have been unaware. At BLIC, learners can participate in a Full-time Learning Program and in different afternoon activities, ranging from Science, Arts, Robotics, and Acting.
Who would be your ideal students?
Many young people finish school or university with little real understanding of their strengths or how they might draw purpose from their passions and interests in order to find meaningful vocations. The ideal student would be someone who has a high motivation to learn more about themselves and how they might impact the world. They would be keen to extend their thinking about the possibilities of their own future.
Why did you choose Barcelona as your base?
There is an obvious need for a learning community such as BLIC in virtually every city across the world – such is the extent of the increasing failure of traditional schooling to prepare students for their futures. Barcelona was a common base for many people in the team – and so presented a great opportunity as the first expression of part of the wider ODS model.
When was the School founded and by whom?
The project was initiated in 2016/2017 and has grown into full momentum very quickly. ODS was founded by Christopher Pommerening, a husband and father of two boys aged 5 and 7. He is a Venturepreneur, a serial entrepreneur and venture investor. He founded 10 companies and organisations, has invested in more than 30 start-ups and raised more than $85 million for his venture funds and has exited from portfolio companies with an aggregated value of more than $400 million. Christopher dedicates his professional and personal time to his life mission to change, innovate and re-create the worldwide education systems to empower the next generation to be happy life long learners, grow, innovate, become more successful and increase their positive impact in the world.
Why do you call it “the school of the future”?
Everything connected to the learning model at ODS has an understanding of the rapidly changing world that our young people are entering. The ODS learning model designs learning experiences that encourage the learners to have an ongoing appreciation for the opportunities and challenges of the future. It is also based firmly on the notion that by immersing a learner in a wider community shaped around learning, their opportunities to accelerate their growth and develop fresh passions in life will be enhanced. Strong communities are our future. The model is not based on a solo teacher delivering or pushing a mandated curriculum (which in many situations is irrelevant), rather it uses the strength of multiple educators guiding the learners through a series of quests. Inherent in those quests are a range of relevant concepts and skills that will help them acquire the competencies they will need in the changing workplace.
How do you choose your teaching staff?
The teaching staff at ODS are called Learning Guides. That is because that is their key role – to guide a younger learner along a pathway of discovery and learning. Learning Guides are selected from a wide variety of backgrounds and nationalities. A key element of selection is a person’s capacity to develop strong and positive relationships with both learner and co-learning guides. The learning model is based on the notion that learning will only occur if the learner feels safe and secure, experiencing strong and positive relationships within their community. Learning Guides must have a high level of emotional intuition.
Do you teach traditional subjects such as Maths, History and Sciences?
A learning experience (designed as a Quest) will cover multiple traditional discipline areas. As such, all subjects can be relevant. There is an additional emphasis on core concepts (typically literacy or numeracy based) if that is necessary. The wider studio/maker and co-learning focus does mean that the broader goal utilises that which the learner has already learnt, but applies it to areas that most likely have not been in their experience to this point of time.
What languages are spoken at the school?
The program are offered in English. The multi-national background of the team mean that many other languages are understood, including Spanish, Catalan, French and German. All learners are expected to become proficient in English, if not already.
What age are the children at the school?
The studio/maker and co-learning spaces have been developed around learners aged 16 and older. There has been an additional evident demand for programs that cater for younger learners (typically 12-15), so this has become part of the program.
Are children with learning difficulties and special needs welcome at the school?
BLIC is open to all learners. If a learner applies to become a member of the community, every effort will be considered in order to accommodate that learner’s needs. Given the strong emphasis on relationships and the more agile learning environment, the program caters well for all students.
Do you hold Open House days where families can visit the school?
Yes – there is a regular sequence of Open House days and people can book an appointment to have a tour of the learning community on most days as well. Visit our website for more details.
Do you see The Dream School as pioneering and the start of a new educational trend?
ODS and the Barcelona Learning Innovation Center are fairly unique in the cross combination of opportunities that are offered. These involve the studio spaces (multimedia and music), the maker spaces and co-learning spaces. There are other schools or learning institutions that have elements of the ODS learning model, but perhaps have not brought them all together in a cohesive context that is based on strong and positive relationships. ODS intends to develop a worldwide alliance of learning innovators in order to spearhead the necessary global movement of change.
Describe Our Dream School in 3 words.
Passionate, learning, community