Background to the Project
Against the backdrop of the successful national agreement between the Italian Ministry of Education and the Italian Computer Society (AICA), the ‘Gallarate Higher Institute’ (L’Istituto Superiore G. Falcone Gallarate) became an ECDL Accredited Test Centre in 2002.
The institute is a type of Italian secondary school that is orientated towards practical subjects. This concept aims to prepare students to enter the workforce immediately after completing their studies. The institute specialises in courses in graphic design, photography, hotel and catering, and tourism. As well as serving a student body of around 1,600 students, the institute plays an important role in adult education across the wider community.
Why ECDL was the Choice for the Gallarate Higher Institute
The institute has evolved to become a state-of-the-art facility with significant investment in technology. Technological infrastructure developments include:
- The installation of a fibre optic network
- Video streaming systems in all classrooms
- Smart boards and video conferencing capability in 35 classrooms
- Equipment and software facilitating real-time streaming of classes
- Institute-wide wireless network coverage
Having invested heavily in physical IT resources, the management and academic staff realised that they needed a solution to develop the digital skill set of end users – the students and school staff. Rather than developing their own curriculum for ICT learning or availing of ad-hoc training from a private training centre, the institute sought a recognised certification that could be structured like other course modules. ECDL’s established status - being positioned as the national standard (it has been the official standard for evaluating computer skills in the Italian education system since 1999), as well as being a Europe-wide and international certification - was a major influencing factor for the institute’s decision to choose ECDL.
Aims and Objectives
AICA worked closely with the institute to put in place a plan that was in sync with the objectives of the national agreement between the Ministry for Education and AICA. As well as serving the need of students and teachers to advance their digital literacy, the ability to do the same for adults living in the institute’s catchment area was identified. The specialised nature of the institute’s course offerings, coupled with the flexibility of ECDL, presented an opportunity to match subject stream (e.g. graphic design) needs with relevant ECDL modules.
Three main groups were identified for ECDL training and certification: school staff, students, and adult learners in the wider community. At first the focus of the project was ECDL training for school staff (especially teachers), and students. Subsequently the ECDL 2D CAD, Image Editing, and Web Editing modules have been offered to students studying related courses. The institute also partnered with the City of Gallarate to offer e-Citizen and ECDL to adults in the local community interested in the respective programmes.
School Staff and Teachers
School staff, including teachers, received free training and only had to pay the cost of the ECDL Skills Card and tests. It is a requirement for teachers to pass the ECDL Advanced certification in at least one ECDL Advanced module.
ECDL certification is offered to students as a subject alongside other classes. The students gain a credit towards their final year examinations by achieving the certification. Specific modules, such as ECDL Image Editing are mapped to subjects within related courses – in this example, photography - and the ECDL module test score is part of the overall course evaluation.
The Wider Community: Project SCI – ‘Spazio Costruzioni Informatiche’ (‘Give Space to IT’)
In partnership with the City of Gallarate, the school sought to address the digital skills gap in the wider community using ECDL. Specifically, the project targeted those that dropped out of school, parents and relatives of the students, ex-students, and City of Gallarate employees.
The institute’s engagement with ECDL has been a very positive experience. Staff and the general student body now have a complete set of basic skills in the use of software like word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation. This new skill-set complements the institute’s investment in ICT infrastructure. Now, staff and students are empowered to embrace the technology that surrounds them.
The role of the institute as a vehicle of social inclusion has been enhanced. Those living in the community around the institute have been offered the opportunity to engage in ICT education. Acquiring ECDL certification has promoted their integration into the labour market. Furthermore, their newly-acquired skills facilitate lifelong learning, for example, they now can access online distance learning courses (e-learning).
To date, 1,100 Skills Cards have been issued by the institute. It is regarded as one of the best performing ECDL test centres in the stream-specific school sector. The success at the institute has played a key role in the expected introduction of ECDL and ECDL Image Editing in the ‘Graphics Programme’, an initiative of the national project, ‘Cl@sse 2.0.’