The town of Ishøj, which lies in the southwest suburbs of Greater Copenhagen, is too often in the news for problems with its local youths, but the forward-thinking special education establishment Ishøj Ungdomsskole is trying to reach the youngsters where they spend most of their time: online.
The Ishøj school, which is part of a greater network of established organisations that aim to make productive use of teenagers’ free time, has just kicked off a new semester with a broad range of activities that have an online focus.
“The goal of the school is to provide activities for the kids in the local community and provide them with skills they can utilise later in life,” explained the activities leader Ray Andrews, who is a teacher at the school. “Involving the kids in youth organisations like this helps them become active citizens in their communities.”
The internet generation
Many of today’s youths spend most of their waking hours surfing the web, but according to Andrews, they often don’t understand the technology they are using.
“We have a new course called Web 2.0 in which we try to teach the kids how to be active users, rather than passive consumers,” he said. “We teach them how to create their own graphics, use Photoshop and understand what social media really is.”
According to Andrews, the aim of making the school more digital is twofold. Firstly, it aims to get kids thinking about the internet on a deeper level. And secondly, it aims to make it easier for the kids, their parents and other institutions to know what the school is doing.
“The general idea is to get the school into the modern world and into a modern way of thinking,” he said. “Ishøj is also a very ethnically mixed neighbourhood and that makes it especially important to reach kids in a way that they are used to.”
Understanding social media
An important aspect of the more web-based focus of the school is teaching kids to be responsible while using social media.
“Most kids don’t know the consequences of their actions online,” he said. “Now everyone has become their own publisher, but people don’t really know what that means, or how to use it.”