Presented By: Stefano Federici
On March 2020 the Italian Minister for School (followed by other countries) decided not to reopen Italian schools for the school year. All remaining educational activities had to be carried out by means of Distance Education tools. But Italian School teachers had never been thoroughly taught on the usage of Distance Education tools and techniques. So, for the most part, Distance Education tools have been then mainly used for streaming lessons and to share and collect written documents and essays.
Given the unprecedented and sudden difficulty that has not left time to organize something closer to the usual school standards, this strategy -may be acceptable for older students, grades k-6 to k-12, and for university students- has been really tough for grades k-1 to k-5. Given the young age of these students, most of their teachers decided not to live stream lessons, but to use videos collected on the web to look at. This was a too passive way to engage them. The explanation in videos must be used “as-is”, without simple ways of tailoring it to the need of the class and to make it interactive.
In order to alleviate these difficulties, the Communication Science department of the University of Cagliari and the Istituto Comprensivo Statale n.2 school in Sinnai have started a collaboration that allowed the students of the department to exploit the skills they acquired in their Computer Science courses -in the development of interactive and multimedia educational projects by using Snap!- to develop new educational projects on specific topics required by the teachers of the school at all levels. By using the Snap! website, teachers can upload their projects and to organize them in meaningful collections by school grades and subjects, so that their students can access them online without any need to download or install specific apps.
The projects are based on five step standard template (introduction, explanation, instructions, test, feedback) that has been carefully set up and revised from 2014 to 2020 for all projects developed in the Computer Science courses of the degree. So, every project:
• has the simplest possible set of scripts, so that non-expert users can update or reuse them easily
• is fully explained by both speech bubbles and audio (required for students with learning disorders)
• is heavily based on images and animations, so to be engaging and easy to learn
• use vector graphics images, so that they can be easily reused
• has a full feedback, so that the test phase can reinforce the correct knowledge
Each teacher that proposes a topic for this collaboration is in charge to give feedback about the project content, structure and graphics, so that developers can remove all the weaknesses before the project is submitted to the students.
The educational projects form a base of open source projects, freely available to all teachers.
Preliminary results showing how much teachers and students appreciated educational projects developed in this collaboration, with respect to other distance education tools and strategies, are reported.