“I want to educate the next generation of Nobel Prize winners.” – Mikael Bondestam, Sweden

With the 10th anniversary of Partners in Learning, we had a lot to celebrate on September 10th. Mostly, though, it was a great opportunity to recognize the many educators who have helped to build the Partners in Learning Network over the past decade. But for teacher Mikael Bondestam, it was also an occasion to celebrate being named Sweden’s Innovative Teacher of the Year.

As part of a special awards ceremony attended by key government officials and in conjunction with Sweden’s National Teacher Union, the high school math teacher was recognized for his work in getting students to read more books, especially in English. The work, done in collaboration with an English teacher, focused on Swedish boys, who tend to be slower readers. Importantly, his students are also taught programming, a critical component of 21st century literacy. Bondestam not only received a SurfaceRT, but he was widely covered by Swedish media (http://www.skolvarlden.se/artiklar/de-vinner-innovativa-lararpriset, http://arbetarbladet.se/nyheter/gavle/1.6264252-polhemslarare-bast-pa-att-tanka-nytt, http://www.nvp.se/Nacka/Nacka/Nackalarare-var-innovativ/).

Bondestam didn’t start out in education, but after facing a tough job market upon graduation, the engineering student decided to give teaching a try. And this turned out to be a fortuitous change of direction for both Bondestam and his students.

Taking advantage of the technology his students were comfortable with, Bondestam began implementing a flipped classroom approach. His videos – unusual because they are done in Swedish, rather than English – are now among the most viewed by Swedish students.

Bondestam embraces technology as a way to enhance learning. His blog explores the flipped classroom concept, and serves as a resource to his fellow educators. He also looks to other teachers for ideas and insights. “When I started the autumn term of 2009 there were not many teachers who made videos and put them on YouTube,” Bondestam notes. “As of 2013, there are plenty of good teachers in Sweden who do. Looking at their math videos is a perfect way for me to learn from other teachers’ way of teaching.”

In today’s Daily Edventure, Bondestam talks about his experience developing a Windows 8 app as part of Microsoft’s London app-a-thon. He also shows us his YouTube channel, which is helping Swedish teachers and students by explaining complex math concepts in an easy-to-follow format. Congratulations to this innovative teacher! We look forward to seeing how his teaching approach evolves, and how other teachers take his ideas forward.

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

I trained as a mechanical engineer, but just when I left school, it was hard to get a job. I thought that I must preserve my skills so I started to substitute as a teacher. It was wonderful to teach young people new things. After working as a substitute a few years, I decided to educate myself as a teacher.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education or inspired you the most?

My favorite teacher was Thomas Erlandsson, a mathematics teacher I had at Uppsala University in a geometry course. He made me really like mathematics by asking the right questions. Can a triangle have more than 180 degrees? What if the universe is shaped like a horse saddle, what would it mean?

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?

In spring 2009, I bought a whole salmon. When I got home and wanted to fillet the salmon it occurred to me that I had no idea how I would do it. So I did as my students and was looking a bit on YouTube and found an instructional video on how to fillet a whole salmon. Wonderful, I thought, I wonder what exists in Swedish on the first mathematics course in high school? I found movies in English, but not much in Swedish. I started to create movies for the first mathematics courses in high school. In the beginning, just my own students were watching, but then I discovered that many others did also. I can´t compare myself with Khan Academy, but if you look at YouTube channels in Swedish for education, I have the most followers and among the most views.

I have received so many kind comments from thousands of people that I blush. Pupils who I never met in reality can write things like: “Thank you very much, I understand so much more by checking out this 5-minute clip than what we have gone through for almost half a year! I do not understand why teachers are so trapped in their own ways so that everything must look overly complicated. Consider how much more you could learn with this method in a semester. Thank you very much for your help. ”

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

I use my videos I uploaded on YouTube in my teaching, both in mathematics lessons and my programming lessons. I use a model which we call “flip the classroom.” I have recently started using Ted-Ed, which allows me to relate my movies to exercises and discussions. Students receive my movies and exercises for homework before the lesson and we save time, because I don’t need to go through the basics, and we can use this time to dive deeper into the subject.

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?

The opportunity to explore different countries’ teaching and pick the best from each country’s education.

Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?

If you ask people who received the Nobel price what has driven them, they answer “curiosity and the ability to ask the right questions.” I think curiosity and an ability to think differently are important factors for success. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs saw the possibilities with technology that no one else saw in the 1970s. Bill realized that he could sell operating systems, and Jobs found Wozniak, who could make computers, and he convinced him to assemble computers in Jobs’ garage. Now see what we have today: Microsoft and Apple.

Entrepreneurship [is the ability] to see a product in new technology, in combination with the other skills I have talked about is a perfect combination. I want to educate the next generation of Nobel Prize winners.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

A pair of Internet glasses. So the students could run out of the classroom, out of school and outside where they could solve real problems in the world around them with all the knowledge there is to find on the Internet in the corner of their eyes.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

To give everyone a chance and encourage students to think independently.

How must education change to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?

To encourage students to believe in themselves and the ability to create their own future.

About Mikael Bondestam

  • Birthplace: Kiel, Germany
  • Current residence: Gävle, Sweden
  • Education: Degree of Master of Education for Teaching in Upper Secondary School and Compulsory School – Later Years, Uppsala University and Dalarna University
  • How many years have you been in education? 13
  • Website I check every day: www.youtube.com
  • Favorite childhood memory: Out fishing with my grandfather.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Finland as a guest at my cousin’s wedding.
  • Favorite book: The Bible
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? All things that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.
  • What are your personal interests or hobbies outside of education? Good food and wines with Argentine tango as a dessert.
  • What’s one piece of technology in your classroom that you can’t live without? My laptop.


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