By Maria Luisa Meo, English Professor Editing: Caroline Lechaux
Quarantine, Day 18, March 27, 2020
Italy recorded a shocking spike in coronavirus deaths Friday with 969 new victims, the worst daily record for any country since the pandemic began.
Città Della Pieve
COVID-19 Confirmed Cases – 15
COVID-19 Confirmed Deaths – 1
COVID-19 Confirmed Cases – 86,498
COVID-19 Confirmed Deaths – 9,134
COVID-19 Recoveries – 10,950
A TEACHERS PERSPECTIVE: EDUCATION DURING QUARANTINE
By Maria Luisa Meo, English Professor
Editing: Caroline Lechaux
I am a teacher at the secondary school (high school), Liceo ‘Italo Calvino’ in Città Della Pieve. The disruption started on the fourth of March when the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, announced all schools throughout Italy would be closed until the 15Th of March. Later the closure was extended until the 3rd of April 2020. Today, it is uncertain when, or if, they will reopen for the remainder of the term.
Immediately, under the guidance of our school directors, we teachers confronted this state of emergency and tried to find appropriate solutions within our means and the means of the students. As such, we started using technological devices ensure the functioning of the school’s educational systems throughout the crisis. We had already been training and practicing new technological systems, but they represented just a fraction of our daily activities. In that moment of need, we understood technology would be the only way we had to keep connected to students and to ensure the learning processes. Since then, we haven’t hesitated for a moment. We have digital meetings with colleagues to assess the best methods, we study the best practices, we experiment, and we are constantly seeking different forms of didactic and educational activities that are available through the web and other technologies.
Today, our life is centred on online, digital work. Every day, I meet my students, virtually through video link: teaching is conducted in a virtual workshop. I try to guide them through a learning process by uploading short clips and other resources. I write or search for texts to share with them. I invite them to watch online videos. I upload their homework and projects. Lastly, I engage them in online discussions. It is a complex process, but I think the output of this technologically, new-fangled, “new age” work will provide a permanent base from which to draw upon in the future. It has proven a bountiful experience to put in our arsenal of teaching methods for the future.
Nevertheless, I have become increasingly aware that technology is an important tool, but it can’t substitute the real teaching and learning experience. I can’t see my students s we do not have two-way cameras. Even worse, I can’t see their eyes, their reactions, their mood and, paradoxically, their interaction with their classmates. I can’t observe their body language from which I draw conclusions on their interpretations of what I teach and judge their reactions. I can’t assess how well or poorly they work; what kind of strategies they adopt for the tasks that I demand of them. Throughout the experience, I have learned that I miss the daily, sometimes trying, effort of an interactive relationship with students. I also think that pedagogy founded on technology is less inclusive because good students with a strong motivation and an ability to plan independently can easily proceed, but students with difficulties may be fall behind. Then there is the problem of what kind of evaluation is right in this kind of process. So many problems need to be ironed out.
And the future? In these days it’s quite difficult to think about the future. Some observations are possible: In stressful and distressing times like these, one is forced to innovate. Nothing will be the same as it was afterwards. This state of necessity forces us to follow experimental, creative directions. We won’t go back. Certainly, technological devices will be a constant part of our job and the way we us them as teaching aids will be improved and perfected. Smart work will become more and more common. However, I think that the human dimension of a job like teaching can’t be replaced by a machine and that a balance must be found.
This recalls a passage from Dickens’s Hard Times in which the author criticizes the educational view of Utilitarianism that reduces students to vases to be filled up with notions and data. I fear that teaching deprived of the human aspect will evolve into dehumanisation and result in a scarcity of critical and individual thought. The goal instead is to help build up human, independent personalities able to work together, to discuss, to share ideas, and visions. Only in this way we can confront the future.