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TIM4Coding, a project to teach students computational thinking - Case Study

01/24/2017 - 00:15 PM

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TIM4Coding is one of the activities of the “Programma il Futuro" (Coding the future project), a project intended to bring coding into the school system. The project has been made possible through MIUR in collaboration with CINI (National Inter-University Consortium for Informatics), of which TIM is the "Benefactor" level partner. We asked Michele Mancaniello, TIM Project Manager, to give us the run down on this project.

Which requirement gave rise to the TIM 4coding project?
In today's world, everyone needs a baseline of ability in IT. That means not only being able to use email and editing tools, but also the ability to install software and applications.
Yet according to statistics from the 2016 European Commission (*), 45% of European citizens lacks basic digital skills.
It is estimated that by 2020, this know-how will be required in 90% of all available jobs, and that professions in the ICT field will grow seven times as fast as those in other fields.
Developing digital skills that keep pace with this acceleration becomes an indispensable priority for the growth of every nation. Companies must do their part, by making specialised expertise and energy available to promote change, and to support the national school system.

Which working group did you create for this project?
TIM4coding was the brainchild of the Corporate Shared Value Department, responsible for developing projects ranging from training courses to environmental sustainability, from social innovation to digital culture - projects that aim to create shared value for the community.
HR’s support was invaluable in running a recruitment campaign. 400 volunteer staff members took on the role of instructor for a day.
Since this project involved coding specifically and programming generally, we drew from that portion of our personnel who have solid experience in the fields of Information & Communication Technology. 
What proposal did you develop to meet the requirements and achieve the set objectives?
In the previous cycle - that is, during the 2015/2016 school year - we were grateful for the assistance of a large number of volunteer staff members who, with solid experience in the digital field, took their place at the teacher’s desk - literally. They guided students (mainly at the primary-school level) in their first hour of coding.  During the current school year, on the other hand, we have focused our efforts on secondary-school pupils. We created four specially designed events for them, and invited them to our business acceleration centres at the TIM, #WCAP “campuses” in Milan, Turin, Catania, and Rome.

interview with michele mancaniello, project manager

michele-mancaniello-300x300
What response did you get from the schools and teachers?
Total enthusiasm.  Schools and students began enrolling immediately, and feedback at the end of activities was 100% positive.
We are constantly fielding requests from school administrators interested in hosting a coding seminar in their schools. Our staff members - many of whom are parents with school-age children - are consistently volunteering to bring an IT mindset into our nation's schools.
In your opinion, what are the strengths of this project?
By some estimates, in 2020 we could find ourselves with countless jobs that can't be filled because of a lack of technological know-how.
TIM4Coding’s biggest strength lies in the fact that it is tackling an extremely important issue: training those who must work in a constantly changing world. A world increasingly tied to new digital tools.
Computational thinking offers countless creative possibilities, whether for solving a simple problem, or designing an extremely complicated industrial process.
Moreover, the educational programme used by TIM4Coding is particularly effective because it unfolds as a series of video games, made available by the US-based website code.org. The result is a programme that is simple, intuitive, and engaging for students.
What was the most critical issue you faced during this project?
Honestly? Not being able to have more days for our volunteers to go into the schools.   There were so many participation requests from schools. For obvious reasons, we weren't able to satisfy them all.
Did participation in the TIM4Coding project help to expand your professional skills? How?
Absolutely.  From the design stage to the operational phases, the project has been rather complex. It has demanded a great deal of effort, both in terms of conceptualization and in terms of approach.
Working with schools is an educational experience in and of itself. I was lucky to take part first-hand in a number of the classroom sessions. The mutual exchange of knowledge that happens when different generations come together - it blew me away.
Illustrate the main results obtained with TIM4Coding
We obtained truly remarkable results.
The numbers from both cycles (2015/2016 and 2016/2017) are exciting: overall, the project involved over 47,000 students in approximately 436 schools, reaching into 197 Italian municipalities.

THE MOST CRITICAL ISSUE 

not being able to satisfy all the requests coming from the schools

Working with schools is an educational experience in and of itself.

Michele Mancaniello

THE RESULTS

over 47,000 students involved
in 436 schools
in 197 Italian municipalities

* The Digital Economy & Society Index (DESI), European Commission, 2016