The DAD, feared and loved, has supported the Italian school in the most difficult moments of the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing teaching not to stop.
However, many experts point out the cracks that the DAD leaves behind, such as the clear disadvantages for those coming from a fragile socio-economic background and struggling to have the necessary means to participate in distance learning.
The lack of sociability and the difficulty for teachers to keep pupils' attention alive represent other problematic aspects.
But who better than those directly involved can tell us about the DAD? Acrimònia interviewed Mara Scaperrotta, a middle school teacher and two students, the university student Elisa Graziosi and the high school student Emanuele Meschini.
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Mara's point of view (professor).
How has your experience been with DAD so far?
Last year was very tiring, we had to try many different platforms and we also lacked a lot of physical contact. Then we finally found a fairly safe way to connect (yes, we also had problems with intrusion of strangers), but there remained the problem of some guys who were unreachable due to connection problems or lack of devices.
The bad thing was not always reaching everyone. As a result we have been more lenient with the grades and with the promotions, but I must say that both us, both the students and the families have really worked hard. This year we in the middle schools in Lazio spent only 10 days in DAD, for the rest we were always in attendance, thus living a relatively normal situation, always with the strain of restrictions but happy to be in school.
If you were to identify an advantage of the DAD to be maintained even under normal conditions, what would it be?
The fact of being able to use a tool, such as school e-mails, to share material both between teachers and with children. It is perfect because it is a direct but formal and official tool, without going through the intimacy of the mobile phone but still with immediate dialogue.
The best thing, however, is to be able to reach the most fragile children, for example, I have a student who suffers from pneumonia or in the event that a boy has positive parents and has to remain in isolation, we can reach them without problem.
On the other hand, what was the biggest disadvantage of distance learning?
We are used to look directly into the eyes of the students, to interest them, at times I have felt teased with "the camera does not work" or the microphone, "I do not get the connection" etc. However, the worst thing is to lose sociality.
How do you assess the attention that the government gave (or did not give) to the school during the pandemic?
At the beginning, certainly the choice to close the schools was painful but obligatory, and for us, despite many changes, the government has also invested a lot in terms of economic resources such as technological tools and disposable benches, has drawn up guidelines ...
Now they have realized that DAD is a uniquely extreme solution. Unfortunately, it took the pandemic to realize that school is important, that things need to be changed, such as reducing the number of pupils in the classroom.
There is a discussion about irreparable damage to the students of the DAD generation. What do you think?
To speak of irreparable damage is certainly exaggerated. Sociality will be lacking, the rules that we at school try to give, but these are things that can be recovered. Things have already changed a lot. I believe that each of us must find the strength to understand that it is a momentary period, which passes.
A year or two in a lifetime are not many. Of course, we will remember it as a sad period, without trips, without football matches or other contact games ... But it is up to us adults to make the children see the positive side.
If you could give advice on DAD to the government, what would it be? And on the imminent return in presence instead?
DAD should really be an extreme situation and above all we shouldn't miss any kids, much less those disadvantaged by more fragile socio-economic situations. For the return in attendance we are lucky, we were in DAD only ten days.
How does the preparation of lessons vary from DAD to presence?
I teach music so clearly it is a subject where there is a theoretical and a practical aspect. I had to stop playing the flute and singing, and limiting myself to theory and listening makes it more difficult to involve the kids. My material has suffered a lot, I miss hearing them play so much.
Is there a comparison between you and your colleagues also for the protection of the mental health of children who find themselves facing a situation never seen before?
We talk about it a lot, the government has sent funds for the psychological help desk. The psychologist makes interventions with children, teachers and parents and we pay a lot of attention.
Elisa's point of view (college student).
During the pandemic, college students were often sidelined and in a sense left to fend for themselves. You Elisa how did you live the situation?
It is true that we older students were left to ourselves for a while, perhaps they thought that the situation would not have hurt us so much. I still remember the day when everything changed from morning to night, and we believed it would last a couple of weeks at most.
But instead ... Personally, I tried not to think about it too much and go ahead, do mine and follow the lessons even without looking the professor in the face if not behind a camera.
What is your balance of the distance learning experience? More pros, or cons?
I don't find many pros, if not the convenience of waking up five minutes earlier and staying in the suit. I was glad I had to study during the pandemic because it kept me busy, but it's definitely a situation full of cons.
Many young people enroll in university for the chance to meet new people with similar interests and expand their network of contacts. How has DAD affected these aspects for you?
I consider myself lucky because it happened in my third year so I made my university life. Of course I was sorry to miss everyday life, from the coffee break to the chat with the professor. Compared to the first year boys, I feel lucky, because getting to know each other in these conditions is really difficult and a group on Whatsapp cannot replace real life.
Imminent return, what are the sensations?
I get used to it very quickly, but the idea of being back in attendance makes me a little anxious because it would be a new upheaval. Being out of office would be nice but also a real change of reality. Again.
If you could give advice on DAD to the government and universities, what would it be?
As for my faculty which is scientific, I would ask not to let us do computer labs but if distance teaching continues, organize small groups to allow children to see with their own eyes how to carry out what will become their job. Also for the first year students I would organize small groups to get to know each other and get to know the teachers.
Emanuele's point of view (high school student) .
At the end of high school we are subjected to a final exams. In addition to studying, this exam is a bit of the culmination of the transition from boy to young adult that occurs in the five years of high school. How did the DAD affect your maturity?
From a scholastic point of view, he had a negative influence on my path, unfortunately I also lost interest in school. From the point of view of personal growth, I would say both, on the one hand loneliness taught me to know myself better, on the other hand at certain times I just needed to exchange a smile or a joke in class with my friends.
Is it difficult to get in tune with classmates and professors in front of a screen, or have you managed to maintain "human" relationships?
Being able to maintain relationships in DAD especially in the first lockdown was difficult and disorienting, but then we managed to adapt and stay in touch with the whole class with afternoon video calls. With the professors it was more difficult, there were clashes because they often did not understand our problems.
In the second phase with 50% in DAD and 50% in attendance and above all without lockdown, we were able to meet again and it was all a bit easier.
From the point of view of learning, did the DAD create difficulties for you? Do you feel that you have learned less than you would under normal conditions?
In DAD I feel I have learned much less than I could have learned under normal conditions. Computer lessons after a while, as well as being tiring for the eyes, are even more boring.
If you could give advice on DAD to the government and your school, what would it be? Especially now that the return is imminent.
I don't feel like giving any advice to the government because DAD seemed to me the best way to reduce infections and continue school. However, I would recommend a reform of the school system which seems to me to be lagging behind both in content and in methods.
I would ask my school to propose more virtual projects to interest and involve the student. As for the return in presence on the one hand, I am happy because it returns to normal, but on the other I am hesitant, I would like 100% security before returning, avoiding inconvenience following an increase in infections, such as passing in DAD from a day to day and vice versa.
In DAD what did you miss and what not?
I miss being with my classmates, listening to the lesson with more interest, even exchanging a few words, or doing physical activity those two hours a week, the relationship with the teachers. On the other hand, I don't miss the long return journey by public transport at all!