6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
The main lines of the national strategy on media literacy are contained in the National Digital School Plan (PNSD), provided for by the 'La Buona Scuola' law (Law 107/2015), which focuses on innovation in the school system and the opportunities of digital education. The Plan is valid for several years and concretely directs the activities of the entire school administration, with already funded actions taken over by the individual Directorates of the Ministry of Education and Merit for its implementation; it helps to 'catalyse' the use of multiple resources in favour of digital innovation, starting with the resources of the European Structural Funds (PON Education 2014-2020) and the funds of Law 107/2015 itself. The Plan aims to create the conditions for all schools to access the information society, making the 'Right to the Internet' a reality and covering the entire chain of digital access in schools, to enable digital teaching. It envisages enhancing the presence of digital tools in schools and their connectivity through three actions, respectively, on the deployment of ultra-wideband fibre to the door of every school, the internal wiring of all school spaces, and the connectivity fee: the right to the Internet starts at school.
The National Digital School Plan includes that the school should have a Digital Animator, a teacher appointed by the school to support the head teacher in the planning and implementation of digital innovation projects. Their tasks include: Internal training: stimulating internal training within the school in the areas of the PNSD through the organisation of online or in-presence courses, as a trainer or as a training organiser, encouraging the participation of the school community both in internal workshops as well as those organised by the training hubs and areas; Involvement of the school community: 'encouraging the participation and stimulating the protagonism of students in the organisation of workshops and other activities, including structured ones, on PNSD issues, also through training moments open to families and other actors in the territory, for the creation of a shared digital culture'; the Creation of innovative solutions: 'identifying sustainable methodological and technological solutions to be disseminated within the school environments (e.g. use of particular teaching tools that the school has equipped itself with; the practice of a common methodology; information on existing innovations in other schools; a coding workshop for all students), consistent with the analysis of the school's needs, also in synergy with technical assistance activities carried out by other figures'.
An important component for the dissemination of actions linked to the Digital School Plan as well as the promotion of actions to train teaching staff and enhance students' skills on innovative teaching methodologies are the territorial training teams, established by Law No. 145 of 30 December 2018. The Regional School Offices coordinate and monitor at a territorial level the training teams for the reference region. The regional innovative training poles ('Future Labs' programme) have the task of linking and supporting the activities of the teams in synergy with the respective USRs.
The schools to which the team members belong play an active role in facilitating and providing technical and organisational support. The team teachers were selected on the basis of a comparative procedure. Among the actions that the teams offer to the schools are:
support and accompaniment within local educational institutions for the development and dissemination of solutions for the creation of digital environments with innovative and sustainable methodologies;
promotion and support for experimentation with new organisational models, aimed at achieving methodological and teaching innovation, and for the development of projects on digital didactics, digital citizenship, digital economy, and media education;
support and accompaniment for the design and implementation of workshop training courses for teachers on didactic and digital innovation in local educational institutions, also in order to encourage the animation and participation of the school community, through the organisation of workshops and/or training laboratories;
documentation of the experiments underway in the educational institutions, in the field of innovative teaching methods, monitoring and evaluation of the training actions adopted.
In the PNRR, the action 4 “Environments for integrated digital didactic” of the PNSD, wants to promote the realization of lab spaces and the provision of digital tools suitable for the sustainment of school learning and for the teaching of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in schools.
The strengthening of STEM teaching constitutes a priority of the educational systems at global level, for educating students to the wider comprehension of the present challenges and the control over scientific and technological tools needed to exercise citizenship rights but also to improve and increase the competences required by the economy and by the work field.
The innovation in learning and teaching methodologies for STEM in schools represents a fundamental challenge for the improvement of school efficiency and for the acquisition of technical, creative, digital, communicational, collaborative competences, together with problem solving, flexibility, adaptability to change and critical thinking. The final aim is the creation of an ecosystem for digital competences able to accelerate the digital transformation of school organization and of teaching and learning processes, consistent with the European framework for digital competences DigComp 2.1 (for students) and DigCompEdu (for teachers).
The action call for the creation of a multidimensional system for the continuous education of teachers and school operators for the digital transition, articulated in a coordination centre on digital education promoted by the Ministry of Education and Merit, to strengthen digital didactic and to spread the teaching of STEM and multilingualism, both in schools and universities. At the same time important investments have been foreseen for infrastructures, both for the digitalization of learning spaces and for compensating the weaknesses of school buildings in terms of safety and energetic efficiency.
Media literacy and online safety through formal education
Italy has accepted the EU definition contained in the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens - DigComp 2.0, which places digital competence among the key competences for lifelong learning, launching a series of initiatives and proposals to improve the safe and responsible use of digital technologies for learning, work and participation in social life. The Italian situation sees the presence of digital inequalities that accentuate situations of educational poverty and are fuelled by both a difficulty in accessing the Internet and a low capacity to use it. About 3 out of 4 families in Italy have internet access at home. This proportion grows when isolating younger families, such as those with at least one underage child (96.3% of these have a home connection). At the same time, the gaps between the various Italian regions are still wide. With a national average of 76.1% of households connected, Calabria (67.3%, almost 9% below the national average), Molise and Basilicata (69%), Sicily (69.4%) and Puglia (69.6%) lag behind. According to Eurostat's indicator for monitoring citizens' digital skills, which assesses the ability to use common software, communicate via the internet through email or video calls, install applications or transfer files, Italy has a low share of 16-19 year olds with an adequate command of digital tools. According to the latest data (2019), 83% of European girls and boys were found to have basic or higher skills. In Italy, this percentage drops to 64%, almost 20% lower than the EU average, and more than 20% behind the UK, Germany and Spain. However, the effects of technology enhancement policies in schools should be analysed.
The National Plan for the Digital School (PNSD) puts the acquisition and enhancement of students' digital skills at the centre of improvement actions, making digital technology a fundamental teaching tool for enhancing students' curriculum. Many schools have taken steps to promote the acquisition of digital skills by experimenting with and implementing Digital Curricula in formal educational institutions, encouraging participatory planning experiences in order to create, test and make available to all schools new innovative, structured, open educational curricula, capable of putting the student at the centre and involving the wider school community.
Beyond the Digital Curricula, it’s possible to mention Scuola Futura, the platform for the education of school operators (teachers, ATA, DSGA, DS) within the Educational Mission of the PNRR.
Contents and modules of training are articulated in 3 thematic areas (Digital Education, STEM and multilingualism, National Divide), that reproduce the 3 investment lines for competences defined by the PNRR: integrated digital education and training of school operators for the digital transition, new competences and new languages, extraordinary interventions on national divide and contrasting school dropouts.
It’s possible to refer to the piattaforma Elisa 2021/2023 in cooperation with the Training, Languages, Intercultural, Literature and Psychology Department (FORLILPSI) of the University of Florence. A project for the training of school operators on the themes of bullying and cyberbullying and on the responsible use of the internet by students and alumni.
The Italian node of the international network European Pedagogical ICT licence (EPCIT) carries out the Certification of Digital Competences through the Department of Computer Science, Bioengineering, Robotics and Systems Engineering of the University of Genoa. EPICT Certifications attest the competence of teachers and trainers in the pedagogical use of digital technologies, i.e. the competence to design innovative learning scenarios to train students both in disciplinary contents and in the competences required by the world of work. The EPICT Italia Association collaborates with two projects on Digital Competences at School: the 'Scuola Digitale Liguria' project and the 'Curricolo verticale digitale' project of the USR Umbria. The interventions are focused on the digital competences of the teacher as well as those that the teacher forms in the students. One of the many existing projects is the E-LikeSchool project, the result of a partnership between Facebook, eTutorweb and Imprese di Talento, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Merit, which focuses on investing in training the digital skills of teachers, pupils and parents.
During the first phase of the Covid-19 health emergency that hit Italy between February and May 2020, with the consequent suspension of classroom activities, teaching activities were carried out at a distance (DAD). This was a period in which the students' own digital skills were practised better. European Structural Funds - National Operational Programme 'For Schools, Skills and Learning Environments' 2014-2020 - were made available for the PON Smart Class project, which was also extended to the second cycle of education. The aim was to enable schools in the second cycle of education to set up digital learning centres that will ensure the improvement of students' skills through new learning methodologies, also in line with the need to adapt spaces to reduce the risk of contagion from the Coronavirus.
The Ministry of Education and Merit, within the Decree Law No. 18 of 17 March 2020, has allocated €85 million to address the health emergency of the coronavirus and allows state educational institutions to continue teaching through the dissemination of digital tools for distance learning. This includes allocating funding to immediately equip them with digital tools or to encourage the use of e-learning platforms; to make individual digital devices available to less well-off students on a free loan basis; and to provide online teacher training on distance learning methodologies and techniques.
Promoting media literacy and online safety through non-formal and informal learning
Informal and non-formal learning contexts can play an important role in developing and enhancing media literacy, along with the creativity and innovation potential of all the members of society, especially children and young people, who can play an important role by transferring these skills to their families and vice versa. Non-formal and informal media literacy is linked to the possibility of developing skills in extracurricular experiences where information and communication technology is used for work, pleasure and communication. The initiatives present on the Italian national scene are mostly supported by non-profit civil society organisations specialised in media literacy, which work to create networks among municipalities, associations of municipalities or public bodies sharing good practices, sometimes also in a European perspective. These include the activities in Italy of the European Association for Viewers Interests (Eavi), and the Italian Digital Revolution, a social promotion association that wants to promote a digital economy starting from the development of young people, and Cuore Digitale, an association that aims to disseminate Digital Culture and to leverage social responsibility generating social impact throughout the country.
The initiatives present on the Italian national scene are mostly supported by non-profit civil society organisations specialised in media literacy, which work to create networks among municipalities, associations of municipalities or public bodies sharing good practices, sometimes also in a European perspective.
These include the activities in Italy of:
- the European Association for Viewers Interests (Eavi);
- Italian Digital Revolution, a social promotion association that wants to promote a digital economy starting from the development of young people;
- Cuore Digitale, an association that aims to disseminate Digital Culture and to leverage social responsibility generating social impact throughout the country.
- “Creative Peripheries”, that aims at the creation of innovative educational and laboratorial spaces, through the application of digital technologies, open to the local realities and favoring public schools and educational institutions, located in the suburbs of metropolitan cities (Bari, Bologna, Cagliari, Catania, Firenze, Genova, Messina, Milano, Napoli, Palermo, Reggio Calabria, Roma, Torino, Venezia) that are characterized by high levels of school dropout.
In terms of recognition of te competences, it’s important to highlight that the European Commission is considering developing a European e-skills certificate (EDSC) so that, for instance, employers and training providers can quickly and easily recognise the digital skills acquired by European citizens.
The European e-skills certificate will have an agreed set of quality requirements. It will also be based on the European e-skills framework (DigComp), which provides a common understanding of what e-skills are and is continuously updated according to current digital developments.
Raising awareness of the risks of new media
Public authorities raise awareness of the risks posed by new media through legislative measures and initiatives. A number of public and private sector projects have been launched on the subject of the conscious use of the web. These include ‘Generazioni Connesse', a project co-funded by the European Commission as part of the 'Connecting Europe Facility' (CEF) program, which promotes strategies aimed at making the Internet a safer place for younger users, by promoting its positive and aware use; 'Vivi Internet, al meglio' is a course drawn up by Telefono Azzurro and Google to help provide students with suggestions and good practices for surfing the net consciously.
Following the entry into force of Law 71/2017 and the issuance of the Guidelines for preventing and combating cyberbullying (MIUR note prot. n. 5515 of 27-10-2017), the Ministry of Education and Merit is implementing a national training plan for teachers responsible for combating bullying and cyberbullying.
Among the relevant initiatives, it’s important to mention:
- The ELISA Project (E-Learning Training of Teachers on Anti-bullying Strategies) was created thanks to a collaboration between the Ministry and the General Directorate for Students and the Department of Education, Languages, Interculture, Literature and Psychology of the University of Florence.
- Regarding the aggressive use of the web, the social project 'Parole ostili' was launched, an initiative to raise awareness against the use of violent words. It provides for the signing of a charter listing ten style principles useful for improving the style and behaviour of those on the Net so that it becomes a welcoming and safe place for everyone.
- The National Plan for the prevention of bullying and cyberbullying at school 2016/2017 (MIUR-DG Studente 2017);
- The UNICEF Programme for preventing and combating bullying Non perdiamoci di vist@ (Comitato italiano per l'UNICEF ONLUS 2018);
- The Parliamentary Inquiry into bullying and cyberbullying (Parliamentary Committee on Childhood and Adolescence 2019).
In terms of regulatory references, on the subject of cyberbullying, i.e. aggressive, intentional behaviour, which is carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend himself, Law no. 71 of 29 May 2017 'Provisions for the protection of minors for the prevention and contrast of the phenomenon of cyberbullying' defines the concept of cyberbullying and aims to protect minors (both victims and aggressors), providing them with the tools for understanding and defending themselves. In addition to providing measures for victims, the aim is to create the necessary awareness, so that the aggressors themselves do not carry out the phenomenon. In the area of 'solicitation of minors', the offence has taken on criminal relevance with Law no. 172 of 2012, which ratified the Lanzarote Convention on the 'protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse' by introducing Article 609 of the Criminal Code, which punishes any act aimed at 'soliciting' a minor in any form or channel it is proposed.
As part of the activities to educate and raise awareness on the safe use of the web, as well as to combat and prevent cyber-bullying, the eighth edition of the educational campaign Una vita da social (A life with social) was launched. The initiative is promoted by the Postal Police and Ministry of Education and Merit and by the Ministry of University and Research (formerly together in MIUR) as part of the Safer Internet Centre - Generazioni Connesse project, and every year involves primary, lower and upper secondary schools in many Italian cities.