The situation we experienced during the COVID-19 spread, the lockdown and the sudden close of schools, led teachers and students to have to revolutionize their habits, applying their skills in a completely new scenario and rethinking their approach to teaching and learning. The habits of many families have also changed profoundly, with an inevitable impact on the emotional experience of their members.
What emerges is a light and shade scenario, at a time of still great uncertainty about future school years and possible similar events to be faced. If, on the one hand, Distance Learning has undoubtedly been fundamental in guaranteeing continuity for pupils, contributing to a significant improvement in digital skills among students and also among teachers, on the other hand, it has also been a source of stress and fatigue for both categories, a sign of how the school should be first and foremost a place of physical teaching and learning, where digital is a tool that does not want to replace traditional teaching but to complement it for a more innovative, dynamic and transversal approach. However, this period of ‘digital’ transition has led to improvements in terms of technological and problem-solving skills.
In Italy, for example, according to a study by Microsoft, 70% of teachers stated that distance teaching had led to a significant improvement in their relationship with technology, generating considerable benefits in the performance of their profession: the use of digital tools had in fact made teachers more motivated (17%), more focused (9%) and more satisfied in general with their work (9%). Other strengths of distance learning were a general improvement in teaching planning (10%) and an optimization of time and costs (9%). However, it emerged among a minority of teachers – 14% – that it is difficult to engage students effectively during the lesson.
Moreover, this transition has also led to the development of digital skills in students as well as to greater autonomy in the learning phase. Indeed, remote courses have enabled students, from the oldest to the youngest, to acquire digital skills – from participating in a virtual meeting to creating and sharing online content – much more quickly, triggering a value-based process that will help them in their future.
Indeed, exposure to interactive tools stimulated the interactive and digital skills of many students who, in an increasingly digitalized world, needed a more innovative and advanced approach.
In fact, from their earliest years, children are exposed to technology and are increasingly attracted to these tools that are now considered of daily-use for everyone.
It is clear that distance learning has accelerated the process of learning digital skills by preparing youngsters but also teachers for the future needs of the digital age.
In this context the European Union is addressing the growing need for digital transition by supporting teachers, schools and students through a series of instruments directly funded through the Digital Education Action Plan (DEAP) 2021-2027, which envisages high quality, inclusive and accessible digital education, supported by enhanced cooperation and exchange at EU level.
In this regard, the Commission included investments dedicated to education, training and skills development, but also programmes to support social education, including InvestEU, Erasmus + which supported, for example, our D.R.E.A.M project providing distance learning materials to parents, schools and communities, European Social Fund Plus, Horizon Europe, Digital Europe and Connected Europe Facility. It also created a blog containing teaching resources and a platform for Ministries of Education to exchange good practices. In addition, it introduced the SELFIE self-assessment tool for teachers and platforms for student and teacher learning such as eTwinning and School education Gateaway.