Daniela Cuccurullo, English teacher and digital coordinator, Giordani Striano Technical and Technological Secondary School, Naples, Italy
Daniela works at a large school in a residential area of Naples. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds and there are also a substantial number of learners with special needs, for whom the school has a centre for inclusion. The school is well-resourced with laboratories and facilities for learning including tablets, digital cameras and a 3D printer. Daniela and her team had already introduced a learning management system. All students were already enrolled on it and some teachers were already using blended learning and teaching in virtual classrooms. In addition, the school is a training centre responsible for training teachers from other schools in the region.
The challenge and response
School closures were introduced nationwide in Italy on March 9. The immediate challenge was to make sure all students could access learning and then Daniela had to find ways to support students learning online and develop new learning activities. She also had to look after the students’ well-being during a challenging time.
As many families lacked appropriate digital equipment, the school technicians worked quickly to install the latest version of the learning management system so students could access it on their smart phones. Daniela then made video tutorials to help prepare learners and teachers on how to navigate the system. Students with dyslexia were able to use assistive technologies and Daniela gave advice on how to adapt materials to be more accessible.
In terms of classroom activities, Daniela focused on providing a stimulating, creative learning environment for the learners, with fun activities such as quizzes and online debates. She also used apps the students liked for learning purposes, for example listening to English podcasts on different topics. In place of the traditional end of year school trip, Daniela even found free online virtual trips to cities and museums for classes to visit together. She also asked her students to do something creative offline and some students created a wonderful video collection of recipes for her.
Facing an emergency encouraged community engagement and collaboration between teachers. Daniela set up a virtual space so that all the teachers shared the online classroom together, so they could see what other teachers were doing and could see each other’s resources. Teachers then shared online the quizzes and tests and resources they created.
Daniela found that students responded well to aspects of remote learning. For example, online quizzes tapped into students’ competitive natures and she found that students would repeat the quizzes she set them until they could achieve 100%. Daniela’s school has also been officially recognized as a best practice school and feedback from learners and parents was really positive. Daniela and her team are now exploring different schooling models for the start of the next academic year, in case they need to start remote teaching again. It’s unusual in Italy for a teacher to be in school at the end of July, but Daniela is still going to school, researching how technology can help with the start of the new school year and how to keep everyone safe and learning.