Liceo Scientifico Statale “Nicolò Copernico”
Address: via Duca degli Abruzzi, 17 - 25124 Brescia
Project: Make the Web a better place
Working language during the project:
- English / Italian
Themes of the Council of Europe campaign “FREE to SPEAK, SAFE to LEARN - Democratic Schools for All” covered:
- Preventing violence and bullying
- Dealing with propaganda, misinformation and fake news
Competences from the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (CDC) addressed and where / how they were integrated:
- Valuing human dignity and human rights
This value underlies the whole project but is especially related to the theme Preventing violence and bullying, which are clearly both violations of human rights.
- Autonomous learning skills
These skills are connected with the theme Dealing with propaganda, misinformation and fake news, whose main aim in our project is to test the reliability of the various sources of information and to assess them for possible distortion or bias.
- Civic mindedness
This attitude of civic duty stems from both the themes selected in our project, in which the students are educated to have an interest in the affairs and concerns of the community
Target group age range:
Level of education:
- Upper secondary education
Short description of the project:
This project is centred on two of the six themes of the” Free to Speak, Safe to Learn - Democratic Schools for All” project, i.e. ‘Preventing violence and bullying’ and ‘Dealing with propaganda, misinformation and fake news’, which appear to be complementary to the initiatives developed at our school following national guidelines and recommendations.
Before going into details, it may be useful to know that the five-year curriculum of Italian upper-secondary school is divided into three levels (‘primo + secondo biennio’ + ‘quinto anno’), depending on the students’ age: 15-16, 17-18 and 19-year-olds.
In our project, the theme of ‘Preventing violence and bullying’ is mainly aimed at the younger students of the first level, whereas the theme ‘Misinformation, propaganda and fake news’ is intended for older students.
This division is due to the outcomes of a seminar organised in October 2018 in Milan by the Catholic University CREMIT (Research Centre on Education for Media and IT), whose title in English would be “Cyber-adolescents: risks and opportunities for young Internet users”.
The experts of the seminar painted the issue as the fearful picture of young teenagers being victims of the dark sides of the Net, including violence and cyberbullying. In parallel, they stressed the importance of teachers’ professional intervention to counteract these risks.
On the 5th February 2019 our school joined the celebrations of international “Safer Internet Day”, devoting some English classes to analysing the materials featured on the sites selected by the Ministry of Education for the purpose. Several follow-up activities, such as questionnaires and personal comments on the materials displayed by the above-mentioned sites, were assigned to the students as homework.
To integrate this institutional phase, leaflets of the “Free to Speak, Safe to Learn” project were distributed in the classes and the students were given the task of discussing them in teams.
As regards the older students, “Safer Internet Day” was the occasion to make them familiar with the CDC model of 20 competences, to let them appreciate the conceptual work behind the practice aimed at spreading a democratic culture.
Some weeks later, special meetings with police officers in charge of cybercrime were organised for younger students during the curricular classes; on these occasions, teachers were requested to leave and allow the pupils to interact freely with the police about the issue.
Another important activity for the younger students consisted in joining the national competition ‘The Olympics of videogames - Games@School’ launched by the Ministry of Education; in the final phase, a special prize was awarded to our school team of 15-year-old boys, who designed a videogame entitled “Un’avventura parallela per combattere il bullismo” (‘A parallel adventure for fighting bullying’).
The second theme of the “Free to Speak, Safe to Learn” project in our project - Dealing with propaganda, misinformation and fake news - is addressed to 17-19-year-old students, who by that age are likely to possess some of the competences necessary for dealing with the issue of information.
This phase consisted in several initiatives at school, carried out mainly in mid-February 2019 during the “Copernicus’ days” (after the school name) - a period when regular classes are replaced by seminars, courses and meetings to discuss cultural and up-to-date topics. The whole school community contributed, including students, parents and experts from outside the school.
Among others, a conference entitled ‘FAQ the fakes’ was delivered by two external experts.
In addition, a 10-hour course on fake news has been organised for the students on a voluntary basis during extra-curricular time. The focus was on making the students aware of the different features of fake and reliable news, by teaching them how to interpret the language of mass media and face the issues connected with the manipulation of news. The course included a final test, consisting in the assessment of two homepages, two statements and the excerpt of an article.
Our final objective is to form students who ideally, in the long run, will become active citizens capable of holding up the values of a democratic society.
This ambitious aim is only possible if students use critical thinking, an attitude they can be endowed with through education. As a natural consequence, they are expected to reject any form of violence, including online violence, along with being capable of judging the quality of information and of detecting propaganda and misinformation.
Students are expected to become more and more involved in the activities of the project and to regard them as an important part of their educational experience. The project will hopefully represent one of the pillars of next school years’ mandatory new subject ‘Citizenship and constitutional law’.
Moreover, as English has been the working language on many occasions, a tangible increase in the foreign language competence is expected.
The students are genuinely eager to explore a topic which is central to their interests, and which enables them to show their competence. As a result of the activities connected with the project, they are progressively becoming aware of the benefits of adopting an active attitude when using the Internet.
Overall, the younger students have proactively taken part in the activities revolving around the theme Preventing violence and bullying. It is clear also that they enjoy having the guidance and support of their teachers as far as a safe use of the web is concerned.
As regards the theme Dealing with misinformation, propaganda and fake news, although the process appears slow, some students are inclined to adopt a new critical attitude, which is one of the main aims of our project.
Challenges you faced
So far it has been easier to deal with the theme Preventing violence and bullying than with the second one - Dealing with propaganda, misinformation and fake news.
The reason is likely to be found in the students’ awareness of the potential menace of online bullying. Indeed, they are less alert to the arguably disruptive effects of relying on the Internet as their only source of information. Although it may sound surprising, when confronted with an audience of teenager students it often proves pointless to argue in favour of the importance of multiple and varied sources for reliable information.
For this reason, the Masterclass on ‘Old and new media and fake news’, offered by the CoE for its 70th anniversary, is a valuable opportunity that has been taken up by the project coordinator to cope with the issue.
Time-frame of the project:
The project has been running since the end of 2018, throughout the 2019 school year.
At the moment there is no definite deadline, as the themes of the project will have more importance in Italian secondary schools as a result of recent guidelines by the Ministry of Education.
From next September onwards, a new cross-curricular subject – known as “Citizenship and constitutional law” – will become compulsory, after having been tested during this year’s final exams.
Secondary schools are consequently on the lookout for new content to be able to teach this subject and undoubtedly the themes and materials of the present project are appropriate for this aim.
Council of Europe materials on citizenship and human rights education used while preparing or implementing your practice:
- Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture