the school lacks tools, bandwidth and skills

Three things are needed to ensure a correct (or at least “minimum”) digitization of the school system, three minimum ingredients without which it is not possible to talk about the digitization of teaching processes nor is it possible to imagine the transmission of digital skills to children:

  1. availability of long band at the school complex:
    “lconnection speed therefore represents one of the main characteristics for the creation of a digital society and, therefore, also of a digital school; the availability of “high” speeds (connection at least 30 Mbps), in fact, widens and diversifies the range of activities that can be carried out and, above all, allows to minimize the saturation problems typical of ecosystems, such as schools, in such as the available bandwidth is very often shared between several stations at the same time“;
  2. availability of one internal network able to distribute access in all teaching spaces:
    in addition to the particularly high costs, in fact, aspects of a technical nature should not be underestimated, since the underlying complexity of the architecture of a school’s telematic network is considerable“;
  3. the possibility of doing instrumentation maintenance, otherwise subject to rapid deterioration:
    it is good to remember that a telematic network is a dynamic communication system which, as mentioned, is constantly evolving and which, therefore, requires updating and maintenance activities with significant additional costs“.

With the report “Educate Digital“, l’AGCOM has drawn up a report on the state of digitization in Italian schools that goes to photograph a problematic situation. In relation to the three essential points, in particular, not only serious shortcomings emerge, but also serious disparities linked to the territory, grade and size of the institutions.

[…] the analysis conducted by the Authority proposes a methodological approach through which to monitor the digitization process of schools and at the same time, thanks to the declination of objectives and tools, use the results to effectively address the necessary interventions, in order to guarantee an effective, concrete digitization process capable of allowing the school system to keep pace with what is happening in other countries.

Educate Digital

The AGCOM report starts from the assumption that, based on the DESI index (Digital Economy and Society Index) used by the European Commission to measure the level of implementation of the Digital Agenda, our country ranks 25th out of 28: not exactly a prestigious result. If the work in progress at the PA is in the hands of the Digital Transformation Team, in the school the plans seem less coordinated and more complex, also having to clash with the lack of infrastructures and funds for the necessary investments.

The goodness of the report lies in the profound integration that is made of the school system within the country system: the school is not photographed as an element in its own right, but is analyzed as a piece of a broader picture of the Public Administration.

Specifically, the introduction of digital technology within the educational processes of today’s school system, the problems identified are first of all of a dual nature: there is a theme of costs (from the purchase of devices to that of connectivity) and there is a theme of skills, two equally complex areas but whose resolution implies completely different reasoning.

At a macroscopic level, it emerges first of all that access to broadband does nothing but reflect the situation of Italian broadband, where speed is on average poor and where some areas are poorly served. The statistics also say that the computers available are usually few, with an average that is on average equal to 1/3 compared to the European framework. However, studying the digitalization of schools, and above all finding terms of comparison with other European realities, is complex. However, there are some elements that help to better understand the weaknesses of the Italian system:

  • major schools size they have greater organizational problems, but at the same time they can enjoy economies of scale that make it easier for the classes to approach digital; small schools in provincial Italy therefore have greater difficulties and are those that suffer more than others from this type of problem;
  • there are different situations according to the different geographical location of the school complex: this, in addition to cultural elements, can also be linked to the procurement of funding which in many cases are linked more to local administrations than to the centralized share held by MIUR;
  • there are varying degrees of digitization, and major differences in how it is integrated into educational processes, according to school level: between primary and secondary, in short, there is a very different approach and linked in many ways to the digital literacy rate already achieved by the student.

What is meant by digitization? In fact, it is necessary to divide what is the offer of digital services to pupils and families and what is the integration of digital in the pedagogical process. These are two parallel channels and not dependent on each other, therefore requiring specific attention and specific strategies:

As for other PA entities, even for schools it is reasonable to believe that the automation of some processes – such as payment ones – requires longer implementation times, taking into account both the complex procedures, often integrated into the wider system of the entire PA, and the need for huge infrastructural and economic resources. The situation is different for school organization processes, such as staff and pupil management, where the software used is often proprietary and, therefore, can be inserted into the school environment with greater flexibility and according to the ability managerial manager who makes choices based both on the resources (human and economic) available, and on his own digital sensitivity.

AGCOM report

AGCOM conclusions

Following its own analysis, AGCOM has outlined what is a hypothetical action plan based on a series of intervention priorities:

  • Infrastructure objectives: top priority investments are needed both in connectivity and in the availability of digital tools;
  • Didactic objectives: it is necessary to develop adequate ITC competence among teachers in parallel with the development of pedagogical methods capable of accommodating the digital tool in daily operations;
  • Management and organizational objectives: the greatest lack is identified in managerial skills, where digital must be placed among the most important aspects for the years to come.

Initiatives in support of the development of skills and digital culture are placed at the first place in this scale of intervention, partly confirming what is now an atavistic and chronic problem: the lack of the right sensitivity towards innovation, with digitization too often subordinated to other skills, other approaches, other ambitions.

It would be wrong not to solve the connectivity problem, but above all it would be wrong to attribute all the problems of the Italian school to the lack of connectivity. The lack of skills and the absence of managerial skills capable of stimulating the implementation of digital in teaching processes seem to be something much more serious and rooted. And since each region seems to have a situation of its own, the interventions in this regard could not only have a barycentric approach on Rome, but could also enjoy the stimuli of decentralized initiatives: this AGCOM does not underline it, but the report clearly explains how much the local interventions can be fundamental and how much each area has its own peculiarities on which to be able (to?) act.

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