Tuesday, June 18 2024

Today’s kids, the so-called millenials, have less and less
in common with previous generations. One thing in particular differentiates
them: the cell phone. Teenagers are no longer used to taking even just a
step without a cell phone, which has now become their most trusted friend.
Do they need to find a hotel or a soul mate? A road or a shop? No problem!
Technology, obviously always of the latest generation, is always there to
run to their aid.

And, under the weight of progress, the last remaining fortress also falls:
school. In the structures dedicated to the education and formation of the
citizens of tomorrow, the idea of bringing and using cell phones at school
desks begins to make its way into more countries. And immediately, just
like in the stadium, we are divided into two parties: traditionalists and
progressives.

The old world, that of traditionalists, shouts at the scandal rebuking
authorities and institutions to endorse absurd and uneducated behavior and
continuing to argue that young people are less and less sociable and unable
to deal with their peers and adults.

Progressives rejoice, arguing that it is unthinkable to close the doors of
schools to digital media that can instead act as essential resources.


The use of cell phones in school in varies countries around the world

As always, the truth is never absolute. If it is true that cell phones have
opened the doors to other worlds at the expense of the physical one, it is
also true that one cannot take into consideration an instrument that offers
endless possibilities, even from the educational point of view.

The truth is that perhaps we are not yet ready for digital evolution and
that, without any rules and without any method, the risk of undermining the
authoritativeness and the role of teachers is very strong.

Meanwhile, in the United States, education and rules are
adapting to the proliferation of devices with experimental “digital
education” programs that come by means of apps and through specialized
programs. In England, “protectionist” programs have made
it possible to recover the carelessness generated by cell phones. In German schools the use of cell phones is governed by the
regulations adopted by the various institutes, with differences also
depending on the regional state. In France, on the other
hand, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer introduced a ban on using
smartphones at school.

In conclusion, every country has its own customs.

And in Italy?

In Italy, a handbook was recently promoted by the Ministry of Education
for the correct use of digital technology at school: rules certainly of
common sense. It is a pity that all management is left to the discretion of
individual teachers: “The use of devices in the classroom, be they analog
or digital, is promoted by the faculty, in the ways and times they consider
most appropriate,” stated the Minister Valeria Fedeli, presenting the
handbook. And this is probably the part that creates more fear of the
handbook.


The 10 Italian rules for smart digital usage at school

1 Every innovation involves changes.
Every change must work to improve the learning and well being of students –
and more generally of the entire school community.


2 Changes should not be refused, but understood and utilized to achieve
their goals.

We need to teach how to properly use and integrate devices in everyday
teaching, also through their regulation. Prohibiting the use of devices at
school is not the solution. In this regard, each school adopts an Acceptable Use Policy (PUA) of digital technologies.


3 The school promotes the structural conditions for the use of digital
technologies.

It provides, as far as possible, the necessary services and the
indispensable connectivity, favoring a responsible use of personal devices
(BYOD). Digital technologies are one of the ways to promote school
modernization.


4 The school welcomes and promotes digital development in teaching.

The presence of digital technologies is a challenge and an opportunity for
education and for educational culture. Executives and teachers active in
these fields are the engine of innovation. The whole school community must
also be involved through training and professional development.

5 Devices must be a means, not an end.
It is the education that guides the competent and responsible use of the
devices. It is not enough to develop technical skills, but we must support
the development of a critical and creative capacity.

6 The use of devices promotes students’ autonomy.
There is a gradual transition to learning situations that enhance the
spirit of students’ initiative and responsibility. We need to support a
conscious digital approach as well as the critical use of information
sources, also with the idea of lifelong learning in mind.


7 Technology in teaching is a choice: it is up to teachers to introduce
it and use it in the classroom.

The use of the devices in the classroom, be they analog or digital, is
fostered by the faculty, in the ways and times that they consider most
appropriate.

8 Technology transforms learning environments.
The possibilities to learn are amplified, whether it be for the attendance
of digital and shared environments, or for access to information, and
finally thanks to the continuous connection with the class. It is necessary
to regulate the ways and times of use and non-use, and also to learn how to
recognize and keep the private and public dimensions separate.


9 Reinforce the school community and the educational alliance with
families.

It is necessary that the educational alliance between school and family
extends to issues related to the use of personal devices. Digital
technologies must be a practical part of this collaboration. The shared aim
is to promote the growth of autonomous and responsible citizens.


10 Educating for digital citizenship is a must-do of the school.

To form the future citizens of society means to educate them about
responsible participation, of the critical use of technologies, of the
awareness and construction of their skills in an increasingly connected
world.


The Handbook: between fear and expectations

The document of the Ministry frightens and reassures, depending on the
point of view, but what leaves us baffled is that it leaves everything to
the discretion of individual teachers, both in terms of ways and time.


The main problem remains the teaching and motivation of the faculty

, which today has many difficulties in communicating with its students, for
having had totally different experiences than those of the new generation.

Many teachers will completely ignore the innovations of today, confusing
the media with the result and discrediting new technologies, without fully
comprehending their potential. Others will probably leave the kids to the
mercy of the waves of technology, failing to gain any sort of improvement
in understanding technology.

Today it is unimaginable to exclude innovations from schools; they are part
of us and have affected our lives positively and negatively. These
processes, however , cannot be managed by the teacher in charge, but must be
supervised, studied, investigated. We need a common and shared digital
culture. We need specialized teacher training on topics such as
cyberbullying, grooming, and the addiction to technology. You cannot leave
everything to the improvisation and critical sensitivity of the individual
teacher. We need real and tangible educational models to reference.

And above all, a monitoring of good and bad practices is needed, through an
Observatory that filters, tests and evaluate experiences and promotes good practices. Otherwise, we need “teaching teachers,” update
them. There is no mention of this purpose and aim in the enunciation of
general principles, although some of them are of very good sense, and this
we must take note of. In Italy there are training credits for modernizing
and training faculty on this front. Why not invest on this front?

An excellent example of a modern teacher who is able to dialogue with young
people is Italian. We are talking about Professor 2.0, Alessandro D’Avenia, a young passionate teacher, capable
of interpreting and involving young people and explaining them prose and
poems by Leopardi, Ovidio or Dostoevskij.

We had recently talked about Alessandro D’Avenia in his motivation for
Dostoevsky’s reading.

So is it really so impossible to talk about a new way of education? Is it
really so unthinkable to find a balance between traditional and innovative
educational models? Let’s see in the meantime what will be the first fruits
of this Handbook of the Italian Ministry og Public Education.

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