Innovation in the classroom Innovation in the classroom

Innovation in the classroom

Tablet, e-book and new research software: how school is changing

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What does it mean to let technologies and new educational tools into the classroom?

It means making schools more interesting, more up-to-date and more in line with the everyday life of students/youngsters, but also more closely linked to the experience of teachers. This is the great challenge that the world of education faces today.

The goal is not to eliminate the traditional experience of using books but to integrate technology into the school curriculum in order to take full advantage of the added value it can bring.

Let’s start at the beginning: today’s youngsters are constantly surrounded by technology. They know and use the Web and social networks. Aware of this, we can start to develop a programme for training and education, using technology for teaching purposes.

Case study in Italy

In general, Italy is in line with the European average with regard to the digitalisation of schools. For instance, in the Lombardy region, 326 schools are digitalised.

But what does “digital learning” mean in practice?

Dianora Bardi – Vice-President of Centro Studi ImparaDigitale says the “the Centro Studi was established thanks to the digitalisation experience of a school”, however; it is now a project that involves many people including teachers, students, publishers and professionals. “Teachers must learn to revolutionise their teaching methods. They must leave their desk and interact with students in order to teach them how to become digital citizens”.

The role of teachers is changing. They must be prepared and trained.

What kind of training is involved?

Caterina Policaro – Permanent teacher who trains teachers to teach through digital media, “They don’t need to teach how to use technology but to use the value-added features that technology can bring to education”. Teachers must continue to do their work and impart knowledge to students, but they also have an added value to use: technology, and they must know how to fully exploit it. Furthermore, teachers do not need to be familiar with all new technologies but it is important that they know how to use the software required.

Another success story is told by Daniele Barca – School Principal, who describes the experience of his digitalised school, from the nursery school level (using interactive boards at the height of children), to the upper secondary school level (using tablets).

Technology in classrooms is a value-added feature, however, not only teachers but also parents need to be trained: it is necessary to explain that by purchasing a digital device (which becomes a personal tool, just as calculators were many years ago), the cost of buying books can be halved. The initial investment is high but funding and concessions are available. Many parents are afraid that their children may use tablets to surf social networks instead of “learning”, therefore “teachers must know how to convey to their students the concept that much useful information can be found on the Web”, says Daniele.

The Role of Publisher

Cooperation between students and teachers, as Dianora Bardi explains, leads to multimedia projects that can be shared on a cloud network, or self-produced contents (e.g. e-books) can be created.

How are publishers reacting to this digital revolution?

Maria Vittoria Alfieri - Head of Digital Teaching&Learning at RCS MediaGroup says that, in addition to e-books (namely, traditional books available in digital format), ad hoc projects exist for digital teaching: for example, Mosaico, a semantic search engine that allows students and teachers to search using key words, share animated contents, interactive infographics and videos. Through a virtual study environment, students and teachers can cooperate and interact even at a “distance”, thanks to the Web. Virtual classes can be created “personalising teaching and placing the student at the centre of everything”, says Maria Vittoria.

Telecom Italia and the digital school

Telecom Italia is also involved in implementing projects for the digital school, which are currently being experimented in several schools. For example, using educ@TIon software, which contains a series of useful apps for schools: the digitalisation of books for participatory use thanks to Internet connection, collaborative environments for the co-creation of multimedia contents and handouts, tools for sharing lessons on universal multimedia boards in the classroom and for distance learning, and much more.

To promote digital literacy among new generations, Olivetti has also designed an integrated solution of products and services for Italian schools, thus opening doors to innovation in the educational field by supplying tools and materials to "digitalise" learning: from real multimedia interactive boards to video projectors and Olipad3s for students to use for consulting texts in digital format.

Such "physical" tools are also new solutions for sharing information: for example, advanced software solutions, which include networking and cloud computing services that allow teachers, students and families to communicate more easily and quickly.

A cultural revolution

We cannot prevent students from using technology or prevent technology from entering schools. We just need to be prepared and trained in order to use, in the best possible way, all the value-added features that the Web has to offer.

Digital learning means making students active. It means that there is no longer unilateral communication between teachers and students but interaction between students and teachers, between students in the same class or in the same school and between students in different schools: the teacher must explain how to use the Web in a correct and useful manner.

Just as self-produced materials must not be considered replacements but supplements to materials produced by publishers, we must not forget that technology can support traditional teaching, which comprises books, notes and handouts, because, as Dianora pointed out, “we must not allow our students to forget the smell of paper!