A comment on the upcoming PD conference on school

This comment was created to be published on the site http://natividigitali2012.blogspot.it/, run by the organizers of the upcoming PD conference on schools, where a debate was born. At the moment, unfortunately, the page with the old comments is no longer accessible and it is no longer possible to send new ones. I anticipate my observations here, hoping that the PD will reopen to public debate as soon as possible. In the meantime, I invite you to add your considerations at the bottom of this post.

Some friends of the States General of Innovation pointed out to me the debate that arose around your event at the end of May. I'm afraid I have to agree with most of the points that have been made.

The world of education – from primary schools to universities and continuing education – has undergone radical evolutions in recent years, some of which, I have no qualms about saying it, are absolutely exciting. I would like to start by pointing out the “edX” project http://www.edxonline.org/ sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. It is a distance learning platform with top-level content and based on strictly open source code.

Two of the most prestigious (and it must be said, most expensive) academic institutions make an extraordinary resource freely and openly available to the web community. Not because they have lost their mind, but because they understand the importance of education, and are intelligent enough to guess the possible returns, even in economic terms, of an initiative of this kind. More, of such an approach.

The comparison with the policies adopted by the main Italian publishing houses, which manage the school market in a system with little or very little competition, is frankly embarrassing.

Let me mention other initiatives related to knowledge sharing, such as Wikipedia: more than 250 languages, English alone contains almost four million articles (the equivalent of 952 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica), one of the top ten Internet sites in the world (we are now close to 6 billion users a year), used almost daily by eight out of ten students and with an extraordinary cost/benefit ratio: Wikipedia supports itself with about 20 million dollars a year, to better understand the system US librarian costs about $11 billion a year (550 times as much). http://open-site.org/wikipedia/

Unfortunately, I do not see the slightest trace of the resource used by 8 out of 10 students (of all levels) in your conference.

There are many other worthy initiatives that offer an innovative approach to knowledge and offer interesting tools, such as Map Tales http://maptal.es/, ThinkTag Smart http://www.thinktag.org/. Some of these are Italian such as the Oil project http://www.oilproject.org/ and in its small way also Liber Liber http://www.liberliber.it/.

I don't want to bore you with a list of sites, but I can't omit that new phenomena are also emerging, such as social reading, or shared reading that finally promises to bring young people closer to the world of books.

Again, I must point out that none of these tools are mentioned, nor do I think that any speakers have been invited to talk about these new and very interesting cultural phenomena.

As for the missteps committed by the "Italian system" in the field of education, they are so numerous, so large and so well known that frankly I have no desire (luckily for you) to stand here and list them. I limit myself only to reminding you of one of the most incredible and recent parts of the small group of people (politicians and entrepreneurs) who decide the fate of our school system: the infamous IWBs

A potentially valid idea, but implemented in complete disregard for common sense. Expensive, empty, completely incompatible devices with each other. A fair of proprietary formats, violation of standards, total inability to welcome and value the work of teachers and students. A deal for a few (seated at your table), a defeat for all of us.

I add a strictly personal consideration of mine, which I ask you not to consider linked to the positions of the States General of Innovation: as long as the political parties (which should be the tools through which civil society interacts with the institutions) organize conferences in which a space is foreseen for innovation, one of two things: either Italy falls apart, or it gets rid of this way of doing politics.

I clarify that I am sure that those who organized the conference are free people, independent of cliques and short-sighted interest groups. I note with pleasure that you take care to answer those who send you solicitations, a sign of open-mindedness. But if you really want a different, freer and more open Italy, start changing yourselves. Reset the conference program, rewrite it by paying more attention to the innovations that can really improve the school. The big publishing groups don't need the PD to advertise themselves. And please, let Bersani say goodbye for 2 minutes (not 30) and then sit down and listen.

Good luck.

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