Italy Cycle 1 – PD 1

Date and Time: 15.02.2011, 14.30 – 17.30

Participants: Three teachers: 1 primary school teacher (she teaches all subjects to 6-11 years old students), 1 junior secondary school teacher (he teaches Italian to 11-14 years old students), 1 senior secondary school teacher (he teaches Math and Physics to 14-19 years old students).

Researchers / Designers: Laura (Pedagogical NC), Leonardo (NC), Tania

Scenarios discussed: Practising research skills, Recognizing informal learning, Outdoor study projects

1. Practising research skills

• Teachers agree this is a scenario that fits all school levels and doesn’t introduce any particular technical difficulty.

• They point out that there is no librarian in the majority of Italian schools. When a librarian is present, he/she seldom is a person that can teach research skills with digital technology. Anyway they think that, at least for the scenario, the most ICT skilled teachers in the school can replace the librarian.

• Since research skills are not clearly defined within the curriculum, this kind of activities tend to be considered an extracurricular work that teachers may or may not decide to perform according to their attitude and their own level of digital competence.

• The junior secondary school teacher likes the idea of research skills as a cross-curricular competence, but he also suggests that teachers should work a lot on shared criteria to link the evaluation of digital skills with the curriculum.

• The primary school teacher thinks that, generally speaking, her colleagues consider ICT as a topic of Computer Science or at least of Math. They may not see the point of assessing digital competence while they teach other subjects.

• The primary teacher suggests that this scenario requires tools and services that not all the schools or families may be able to provide to kids. In her school, for instance, there are many immigrant families that do not own a computer or an internet connection at home. The majority of schools, in her opinion, are not equipped to provide alternatives to disadvantaged kids. One of teachers agrees with her, while the other suggests that more resources could be available involving parents and the city council.

• All teachers think that the project based approach in this scenario is still not very common among their colleagues. A very rigid time schedule is one the main constraint to the adoption of this methodology.

• Since many classrooms are not equipped with computers, teachers would need to plan this activity according to the computer lab availability. This is also perceived as a constraint.

• The primary school teacher suggests that this kind of activities requires to develop cooperation skills among kids. If performed only occasionally, teachers may face some classroom management issues.

• This kind of activity requires also a strong support from the school management. All teachers agree that this doesn’t happen very often. For this reason they think that the scenario, though a very possible one, may not become a common practice very quickly.

2. Recognizing informal learning

• All teachers think the scenario is very interesting. They agree this is a “possible” scenario as it doesn’t introduce any particular technical difficulty. Anyway, they think the approach and the objectives may result quite uncommon for the average Italian teachers. The senior secondary teacher points out that this scenario may hardly become a common practice.

• They all appreciate the idea to make a stronger connection between school and students’ life out of school.

• All teachers point out that portfolios are not very popular in Italian schools. In 2004 the Ministry of Education tried to introduce this tool but it never really entered the ordinary teaching practice. They also point out that, where used, portfolios are still mainly on paper.

• The primary school teacher thinks that this kind of activity would be very important in Italian schools. Teachers should start to appreciate skills and talents that are not directly connected to the curriculum, especially to motivate underachieving students.

• The scenario requires teachers to learn about a lot of new topics (in this case, skateboarding, but it could be hip hop music or anything else ). They should also to be aware of trends in youth culture. Teachers find this quite challenging, as it may become a very time consuming task. They all agree, however, that this task is very interesting.

• According to the teachers, this scenario requires students to be skilled with ICT as they have to document their activity with digital tools. Teachers point out again that the “digital divide” among students could be an issue.

• The junior secondary school teacher suggests that this activity may have a positive impact on self-expression, motivation and self-esteem. Portfolios may also help to start a social network among students, supporting the creation of interest based groups. The online school learning environment should be designed to favour this process.

• It’s not clear from the scenario if all teachers share a common set of criteria to give a credit for an informal activity. The recognition of informal learning seems to be too subjective.

• One teacher suggests that a kid may develop a skill that cannot be included in any subject, but may still be very valuable (he mentions cross-curricular skills). How are teachers supposed to deal with these cases? Who is going to decide if the activity is worth a credit?

• The primary school teachers would like to put the scenario in practice, since she has a very low performing student who happens to be very good at horse riding. Anyway, she thinks that recognizing informal learning in the early years of primary school may be very difficult. This scenario would require a strong commitment from parents.

• The senior secondary school teacher points out that this activity may help teachers to see students in a different perspective and to understand their personality. He is experiencing something similar reading his students’ papers from Literature classes. These readings are helping him to design better learning experiences in Math and Science.

3. Outdoor study projects

• All teacher agree that the scenario represents a common practice for them and for many of their colleagues. This approach is very common especially in primary and junior secondary schools. One of the teacher describes thescenario as “normal”.

• One of the teacher says that mobile technology is helping him to perform this kind of activities as often as possible.

• In primary schools, not all teachers use digital technologies for outdoor study projects. A lot of them require pupils to create paper posters after the experience “on the field”. The three teachers agree that to change this habit we should work more on teachers’ digital competence.

• For one teacher this kind of scenario is very suitable even for activities on cultural heritage.

• As for the first scenario, all teachers point out that this kind of activities requires to develop cooperation skills among students. The senior secondary school teacher suggests that even parents should be more informed on cooperative learning, especially those with high performing children. They often question this methodology because they tend to be very competitive.

• The scenario is so familiar that none of the teachers would change a thing.

• The senior secondary school teacher suggests that different “on the field” activities may require different technologies. It would be interesting to map them according to the subject and the students’ age. For instance, a science activity in secondary school may require sensors, an art project in primary school may require a tablet pc and a very intuitive drawing software…

• Another teacher states that Iphone and Ipad may be good resources for all kind of activities as they provide a growing choice of learning applications.

• The primary school teacher thinks that is very important to perform these activities as they preserve concrete learning. They also help teachers modeling an “healthy” relationship with digital technology. Sometimes, she states,teachers tend to think that iconic representations and simulations can substitute “on the field” experience. In her opinion, this is a strong misconception.

Teachers’ assumptions on what we are doing in iTEC

• A safe social media and networking environments for all European students

• A repository of selected learning resources with reviews. This is perceived as highly desirable, as the research of resources is very time consuming. A push technology is considered a precious add on.

• A management system to maintain and update school computers from a remote server. Many teachers are not able to manage utilities and applications, they cannot deal with very simple functioning problems and many Italian schools do not have a technician: a remote application would help a lot.

• Easily manageable school learning environments

• Deployment of one-to-one computing

• New models of school buildings

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