Let’s orient ourselves, a digital journey

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A digital journey

School is a microcosm: it reflects the changes that society experiences outside. In the last two years, the world has become an unpredictable scenario, where all certainties are shattered: meetings, programmes and schedules are skipped. The same happened in schools all over the world. A Coronavirus, one of the many viruses present on planet earth, made us realise how fragile and vulnerable human beings are. After an initial phase of disbelief, we responded to this event by developing new technologies and skills, capable of working in a new way. Everyone has benefited from this. Computers and new technologies are no longer an optional extra but have become a necessity, especially in activities such as orientation. For the school, they have been a bridge and an opportunity to engage with the outside world. For the students, it was an opportunity to enhance their personal skills.

The simulated experiences brought to the fore useful tools and opportunities to develop soft skills, now indispensable in any working field.

Organising orientation in times of pandemic

This is not a war bulletin or an armistice, but decisions dictated by the resilience and redemption inherent in mankind. An avalanche of DaD offers arrives at school, too many, the risk of being shipwrecked in this mare magnum is concrete.

Experience helps us, it is useful to involve the pupils in the choice to avoid a dormitory on the other side of a camera turned off ad hoc. More than ever, putting pupils at the centre of education and of strategic choices linked to their future appears to be a winning move. Various ideas are being proposed, some absurd and others more real. Several schools have decided to take advantage of the help of the Territorial Training Teams, of the Task Forces set up ad hoc by the USR and of the contribution of the universities.

This article reports on some of the experiences of the E. Fermi Institute in Alghero. This article reports on some of the experiences of the E. Fermi Institute in Alghero, which for years has been promoting STEM activities aimed at a future in the GREEN Economy. The activities presented were supported by the EFT Sardinia, then composed of four teachers: Alessia Cocco, Costantina Cossu, Simonetta Falchi and Caterina Ortu.

Coding and educational robotics – Innovating teaching through the use of digital technologies

Experimentation-Network project-Isc@la line B3

The activity aimed to educate students in computational thinking, which is the ability to solve problems – even complex ones – by applying logic, reasoning step by step on the best strategy to arrive at the solution, and orient them towards new, highly robotized professions.

Programming in pre-pandemic times was done strictly in presence, using tools such as m BOTs, sensors, arduino, and EMV3.

It was decided to overcome this with the use of simulators, programming and testing everything strictly online.

APP with Makeblock smartphone-mBot simulator Picture provided by the author (Attribution CC-BY)

Enhancing STEM PLS – Scientific Degrees Plan

Activities to deepen knowledge of biology, chemistry and earth sciences in the final classes. With the aim of providing an overview of the work of researchers in the STEM field and orienting students towards an informed choice of university faculties by improving pupils’ performance in university entrance tests.

At one time we would have thought it impossible to orient students to STEM without a “Real laboratory” but thanks to online laboratories with PHET Simulation https://phet.colorado.edu/it/, Go Labs https://www.golabz.eu/ and remote laboratories it was possible to make students test various options.

STEM simulations – PHET Simulation Home Page. Picture provided by the author (Attribution CC-BY)

RIALE project – Genome sequencing – Isc@la line B3

The students like to touch and feel, use test tubes and pipettes, to have a high laboratory experience to confirm their passion for biology, biotechnology and research in general.

It wasn’t easy to find a surrogate that mimicked the real thing and made them feel an active part of the process. The RIALE (Remote Intelligent Access to Lab Experiments) experimental project https://www.crs4.it/it/projectdetails/ac53e17e-572a-11eb-943c-506b8da9258c/ comes to the rescue.

The opportunity was seized. Pupils were able to have remote access to scientific experiments for science teaching via one of the largest and most productive New Generation Sequencing (NGS) platforms in Italy (operated by CRS4-Pula) used for large-scale projects in various fields, including complete human genome sequencing and exome sequencing. Students witnessed the remote sequencing of a stretch of DNA, interacted, asked questions. Used a bioengineering programme under the direct guidance of the researcher, dutifully at a distance.

Service learning – Makers Pro Sa Sardigna insieme

Service Learning is a pedagogical proposal that combines Service (citizenship, solidarity actions and volunteering for the community) and Learning (the acquisition of professional, methodological, social and especially didactic skills), so that learners can develop their knowledge and skills through solidarity service to the community. Problem: how to transfer these beautiful words to a distance?

The innovative element of this proposal lies in the fact that we have managed to closely link the service to learning with a river of innovation and ideas that have swept Sardinia thanks to the Makers and Fab Labs, and all strictly at a distance.

The school (IIS E Fermi di Alghero), together with other schools in Sardinia, has collaborated with the “Makers Pro Sa Sardigna” working group, a group of Sardinian makers: Abinsula, FabLab Uniss, the University of Sassari, Accademia di Belle Arti “Mario Sironi” (ArtLab), AILUN/Simannu – Fab Lab Make in Nuoro, Eikon, FabLab Cagliari, FabLAB Sulcis, Laboratorio K, FabLab Sassari, Sardegna 2050, Centro Servizi Computer (for details see article Bricks n 1-2021).

Thanks to the contribution of Makers, the students collaborated in the online production, 3D printing (printers at the school) and delivery of prototypes of Facial Screens to hospitals, care institutions and nursing homes in the city.

They acquired skills in the use of graphics and 3D printing programmes and above all awareness and collaboration.

Prototype mask printing – Liceo Scientifico E Fermi Alghero – Picture provided by the author (Attribution CC-BY)

University orientation

We did not hear the phrases: “they are always out of class”, “they cannot go to visit the university when they have a scheduled test”, “I do not accompany them”, … all resolved. In one morning they travelled from Sassari to Milan, via Bologna, at no cost, without suitcases. They saw educational offers ranging from Biotechnology to NAB, the Academy of Fine Arts and Medicine.

What can I say: an overdose of training offers that risked disorienting rather than orienting them. When we have so much, we teachers and pupils become voracious and throw ourselves into it.

It was better with UNISCO, which was excellent in presence and also excellent at a distance, despite the absence of practical laboratory activities. Excellent organisation and quality of online activities.

The UNISCO Project (Uniss+School) stems from the desire to create an instrument to strengthen and institutionalise the relationship between School and University, favouring an integration between school training activities and the basic training activities of the first years of university degree courses.

The aim of the project is to guide students in their choice of a degree course, to help them understand the fundamental aspects of a specific discipline and to guide them towards university study (by providing food for thought on how to study, how to attend lessons and how to sit exams).

https://www.uniss.it/didattica/servizi-agli-studenti/progetto-unisco

Meetings with private bodies and companies

These meetings were positive for two fundamental reasons. Ease of connection with

technological means and to become aware that the local area and companies are innovating and that the school

that the school cannot be left behind. The professional profiles required are different

depending on the sector, but they all have a common denominator, which is DIGITAL, INNOVATION, ROBOTICS and Artificial Intelligence. We would like to mention, among many others, two local companies that are close by but far away in the covid period,

Nobento, a leader in high-tech windows and doors, Abinsula, one of the main Italian players in embedded

 in embedded, IoT, web and mobile solutions.

https://www.nobento.it/mappa-nobentostore/nobento-store-alghero/

https://abinsula.com/it/la-nostra-storia/

Conclusion

Orienting pupils digitally is no longer a stretch, something for insiders or enthusiasts, nor is it an emergency solution, but a necessary condition in a technology-enhanced reality. A return to the past would be impossible. The activities presented here bear witness to this.

Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to take advantage of this opportunity. In the Italian school system, there are still two speeds: those who have been able to seize the moment and the substantial funding provided to schools, revolutionising the organisation and improving teaching innovation, and those who still remain in limbo, either because of inadequate teaching and administrative training or because of inherent fears, not taking the opportunity to develop the school in line with the world around it.

The examples presented show how it has become relatively easy to provide guidance thanks to digital technology, impossible trips to meet with business leaders have become feasible, job interviews at no cost, and bringing together in a single “Round Table” presidents of companies and innovators who believe in future generations.

Many students in these 18 months of pandemics have understood this. We are racing towards the future, there is no turning back.

About the author:

Costantina Cossu is a Scientix Ambassador, she has worked for years in the scientific high school teaching science and chemistry. She is interested in real and virtual laboratories, robots, AR, VR. At the moment she is part of the special group in Italy EFT (Territorial Training Team) has the function of training and supporting schools in the National Plan of digital schools.

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One Response to “Let’s orient ourselves, a digital journey”

  1. Mariapia Borghesan says:

    Congrats Costantina! Very great and amazing work in a very difficult moment for italian schools. I’m impressed by the REAL project.

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