School, no to smartphones, yes to synthetic grades

THEn these days we are talking about two important measures that concern the world of schools, announced by the Minister of Education Giuseppe Valditara. The first is the restrictions on the use of smartphones and tablets in nursery, elementary and middle schools, also for educational purposes. The second is the return to the traditional and synthetic evaluation systemwith a scale of gradations that goes from insufficient, perhaps seriously insufficient, to excellent. But what do principals, teachers and pedagogists think?

Save the Children raises the alarm about online addiction for the youngest: smartphones from 6 years old

School, Valditara: No to smartphones in class

The minister anticipated during an interview with Sheet the imminent issuing of new “guidelines on citizenship education”. As reported by UNESCO, Electronic devices are a growing source of distractionand which affects academic performance, negatively affects memory, concentration and educational activity. Not only that: the improper use of smartphones and tablets becomes frequent cause of tension between students and teachers, sometimes even resulting in acts of aggression towards school staff.

It is therefore worth banning them, or rather “advising against their use”. The wording will be: “It is advisable to avoid using smartphones in nursery, primary and lower secondary schools. Instead, only educational use of the tablet is recommended for primary schools.”

But Valditara’s point doesn’t just concern cell phones in the strict sense but also the teacher-family relationship and respect for authority: stop being your children’s trade unionists, is his appeal.

Improper use and use aimed at teaching

The warning no cell phones in the classroom had been issued by Valditara already in 2022. In a circular from December of that year the use of electronic devices in the classroom was permitted «as compensatory tools as well as, in accordance with the institute regulations, with the consent of the teacher, for inclusive, educational and training purposesalso within the framework of the National Digital School Plan and the objectives of the so-called digital citizenship”.

The principals: no to steps backwards on digital at school

The topic is controversial especially given that the presence of cell phones in the lives of young people is constant, and endorsed by families. «The appeal to responsibility and respect for authority also passes through prohibitions and obligations, when the educational pact between school and family is unfortunately in crisis», explains the School Managers union. Who, while sharing the idea of ​​«protecting children from online bullying and above all from raise the level of attention and quality of behavior in class», he asks don’t take steps backwards on digital in the classroom.

«The real danger is leaving digital out of school. We must distinguish: the improper use of technology is one thing, the conscious choice of technology is another”, observed the union.

The use of technology already favors instant access to information and educational apps improving organisation, productivity, communication. Furthermore, investments in the Pnrr at school go in this direction.

The return to synthetic grades, from excellent to seriously insufficient

The other theme is that of report cards for primary school children: from the 2024/2025 school year, they will return to using the traditional evaluation system, which is more immediately clear on the child’s academic performance than the formulas introduced with the 2020 reform.

It’s a question of clarity

The evaluation system currently in force is based on descriptive judgments related to the level of learning achieved. “How does a parent or child understand that ‘in the process of first acquisition’ means insufficient?”, motivated Minister Valditara. “It’s a question of clarity.” Also alluding to the possibility of “also adding the ‘seriously insufficient’ rating from the next school year”, the last level of a gradation system: excellent, good, fair, sufficient, insufficient.

Pedagogists, teachers and actors against “the coup”

The issue has provoked an uprising among educators and teachers, but not only. The appeal launched by the pedagogist Daniele Novara and the maestro Alex Corlazzoli was signed, among others, by Silvia Vegetti Finzi, Alberto Pellai, Alex Zanotelli, Carlotta Natoli, Moni Ovadia, Pierfrancesco Favino, Luca Zingaretti, Sonia Bergamasco, Claudia Pandolfi and Stefano Accorsi. We ask to “stop the coup” to put “the pupils and the narrative of their learning back at the centre”.

School, because descriptive judgments are necessary

«Evaluating means giving value, evaluation has the broader purpose of give value to the learning path of each individual student. Which must take into account the context from which it comes, the starting state, the difficulties encountered (the lack of teaching continuity, for example, due to precarious employment) due to the School itself. Evaluating is not certifying, attesting, reporting but “describe” the human and pedagogical journey of a student».

Not even the descriptive judgments currently used completely satisfy pedagogists, «but they are a positive achievement compared to the past when they prevailed numbers that crystallized the judgment». If the amendment goes through, it would be, among other things, the fourth change starting from 2008: until that year, judgments were used, then we moved on to votes, descriptive judgments were introduced in 2020 and starting from 2024 synthetic judgments will be used. In short, we will go back.