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In a recent article by Michelangelo Zaccarello, the author, right from the title, wonders if the next months will be dominated by the debate: classroom teaching vs. distance learning.

This kind of considerations was started by Carlo Ratti, architect and director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, according to whom the current universities are “dinosaurs” that would be extinguished due to the ways in which they provide the university courses.

Although the conflict arose in the university sphere, the interest immediately shifted to the world of school and there was an intense proliferation of ideas and theories. The risk, however, in these cases is that the discussion becomes only the ground for creating two opposing sides, but actually the head teachers and professors are not at all dogmatic.

A survey conducted and published by CENSIS entitled “Italy under strain. Diary of the transition” (literally translated from the Italian “Italia sotto sforzo. Diario della transizione”) provides with particularly interesting data to think about.

The situation of schools before the Covid-19 emergency

Over the years there have been various initiatives and projects that should have led to a structural digitalisation of the school. The most evident result of this policy was the widespread diffusion of the Interactive Multimedia Whiteboard, but the general scarcity of funds allowed only some schools to start a real digital transformation process.

In such a fragmented school landscape, individual schools or sometimes individual teachers made the difference very often. In May 2020, 1,139 educational institutions are experimenting with forms of educational innovation.

Of course, it is also important to take into account the Istat (the Italian Institute of Statistics) data 2018-29 according to which 33.8% of families do not have a computer or tablet. A vicious circle has been created in which schools do not have the funds to equip their students with adequate devices and the lack of tools does not allow teachers to experiment with forms of distance learning (DL).

Collaboration during an emergency

From the CENSIS survey, it is clear that there has been a common commitment to start fruitful distance learning courses. 98% of head teachers observed the strong spirit of adaptation of students and the willingness of teachers (99.1%) to take advantage of new technologies, although many of them have never used them. To these numbers must be added the support of families who, precisely due to the lockdown, participated most in the schooling of their children.

The future of elearning in schools

It is still too early to give a global report, but from the CENSIS survey 95.9% of the interviewees agreed that the Covid-19 emergency was an opportunity for true learning and reflection on the use of distance learning. According to 84% of head teachers, elearning will also be used in the future to integrate classroom activities.

In a very short time, the school had to put a lot of energy into action, creating an important mass experimentation. If the process of digitisation and development of innovative educational activities is well governed, interesting scenarios and new opportunities for a digital school can be opened.

Distance learning could be a driving force to tackle the problem of digital divide and Internet connection on a national and systematic scale.

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