Distance learning has landed on us: students, teachers, families. As if some alien, the internet, had colonised the everyday lives of young people. Catching everyone unawares. And yet, Italy’s National Digital School Plan has already been in place for several years as a cornerstone of its La Buona Scuola (Law 107/2015), an operational blueprint for the most ambitious innovation challenges facing the public school system: The centrepiece of this vision is the innovation of the school system and the possibilities of digital education. However, merely talking about digitisation is no longer sufficient, because the technological dimension must go hand in hand with the epistemological and cultural dimensions. The Plan responds to the call for building a new concept of Education in the digital age, through a process which, for schools, ties in with the challenges of society as a whole in interpreting and supporting lifelong learning in all walks of life, formal and non-formal alike (life-wide). So why should the internet at school terrify us?
Interview with Matteo Lancini, president of Minotauro in Milan, professor of psychology at the Milano-Bicocca University.
Professor, where does all this reticence about the digital school come from?
From the frailty of adults who themselves have been promoting an extraordinary proliferation of the Internet in their private and professional lives over recent years. This led to unconscious affective movements that made, in their imagination, the Internet the enemy that would capture their children. Yet the Internet did not proliferate because of some ‘revolution’ wrought by children and teenagers, but rather a social and cultural change. The Internet became widespread when adults, faced with the demise of an educational community, were afraid of what might happen to children outside the walls of their homes. Over the years, children have been overprotected and their lives impounded.
Internet did not proliferate because of some ‘revolution’ wrought by children and teenagers, but rather a social and cultural change.
“Are the adults to blame?
They became paranoid about the outside world, causing their children to perceive it as dangerous place. The Internet thus became their only space for playing and socialising allowed outside the control of adults. And when growing up, the chance to experience spaces outside the control of adults is a fundamental step for children.
Meanwhile, as the Internet penetrated every context of our private and working lives, schools were left out. Why?
Schools too fell for the trap, and declared the Internet to be the enemy. Shortly before March last year in Italy, educational intervention meant turning off mobile phones at school, because they were distracting, and making little use of video games in the afternoon. Yet this is absurd: the internet is blamed for distracting children and yet, at the same time, everything happens on the internet: from politics to culture. Why should children be the only ones to use it less?
Why and how should the Internet be integrated into the school curriculum?
Schools should be open 24 hours a day and always connected. They must also be connected at Christmas and New Year, just like every home. Children grow up through the Internet, and schools should understand this. Educational poverty also means not being connected to the internet. Internet connection itself is a child’s right because, today, being disconnected from the Internet means being disconnected from life. Internet is the future of schools.
Children grow up through the Internet, and schools should understand this.
Should they also be permitted to use it during tests and examinations?
Especially during tests and exams. Some European countries have already developed a system whereby assessment is made on the basis of the student’s ability to use the Internet for an assignment. What is the purpose of school? To educate our children about life. What are the labour market prospects for a young person who is unable to use the Internet and navigate the web properly? More than ever before, the role of schools is to educate on skills and not on knowledge. The Internet is not an object, but an environment. And our kids grow up in this environment. Education can be done with the internet, especially using the internet. Not by searching children at the school entrance to seize their mobile phones. This is particularly true for secondary schools and colleges. The children of today are not the children of yesterday, and a school that does not keep up to date condemns its children to failure. It is essential to understand that the Internet, which once seemed to be the enemy of Italian schools, can instead become their best ally.