Schools as Driver of Social Innovation and Territorial Development: A Systemic and Design based Approach

Schools as Driver of Social Innovation and Territorial Development: A Systemic and Design based Approach

Carlo Giovannella (Department of History, Cultural Heritage, Education and Society, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy & Creative Industries Division, Consorzio Roma Ricerche, Rome, Italy)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IJDLDC.2015100105
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This contribution is intended to describe the rationale of a project, in progress, that aims at recovering the centrality of the school through a systemic approach adopting the Design Based Learning as an operative framework of reference capable to foster: (a) the acquisition of an adequate level of LIFE skills by all actors of the learning process (students, teachers, etc.); (b) meaningful collaboration and participation, aimed at achieving social and territorial development; (c) an increase of the social capital. Key issues related to the implementation of the framework and to the training of the teachers expected to manage the process are discussed and recommendation given.
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A Short Introduction To A Complex Setting

Whether you consider the school as an educational agency or as a socialization hub, its relevance with respect to the expectations of the stakeholders of the local community is continuously decreasing. Schools have undergone a “de-facto” progressive process of marginalization, accompanied by the deterioration of the relationships among the three main educational agencies: school, family and regional context. The most evident consequence of all this is the unavoidable reduction in the capability of the communities to produce social capital.

Families and schools, since quite a long, have almost ceased to produce an integrated educative effort and their relationship assumed the characteristics typical of a client-service provider interaction. The parents, in fact, nowadays tend to delegate the educational function almost entirely to schools, unless give rise to tedious conflicts when the initial expectations, sometimes oversized with respect to the real possibilities of their daughters/sons, are not met.

The relationship between schools and local context is even more evanescent and, often, is limited to cultural tours aimed at stimulating a first contact with the cultural heritage of the region and, sometime, with productive environments.

Due to the rapid transformation of the society:

  • 1.

    In many countries the capability of the school to stimulate the growth of students’ civil consciousness and a participatory attitude has weakened quite a lot; this also because very often their families tend to consider the “public sphere” not as a common good but, rather, as an ownership of “others”, whose interests are not coincident, and sometimes even in conflict, with their own interests;

  • 2.

    Enterprises and other productive realities, although acknowledge the potential relevance of the school, do not consider it capable to train effectively and efficiently human resources and transfer them the technical skills required by the market; even less recognized is the capability to foster the acquisition of the so called horizontal skills, nowadays considered compelling for whatever professional context.

The landscape is further complicated by the unavoidable activation of a natural and gradual process of replacement of all realities that are not capable to respond promptly and flexibly to the target’ needs (in our case the learners). Indeed it is rather clear to everyone how the web is progressively replacing the formal learning systems (like schools) and contents (books) as far as the transmission of the knowledge (transmissive approach). As a consequence schools are struggling to redesign and achieve an attractive repositioning on the methodological and critical sides. These latter are the veritable battlegrounds!

Methods and critical approach, in fact, are what young generations - not always aware of that - needs to transform knowledge into abilities and finally in skills/competencies. At the top of such transformative chain, in our opinion, is positioned the acquisition of an adequate design literacy. This latter, in fact, is at the same time the mother and the container of all horizontal skills. With time and practice, could even transform in meta-design skill [Giovannella, 2010], i.e. the skill that is at the basis of the design of your own life trajectory and self-regulation. The way toward the school repositioning, however, is made not so easy due to the scarce diffusion of the design literacy among the teachers and their scarce propensity to work with continuity, and in a systematic manner, on their professional growth. Not helpful is the lack of systematic governmental action in many countries and of shared and meaningful policies at transnational level, e.g. at European levels.

In any case, even an adequate diffusion of meta-design skills by itself would not be enough to stem a collapse of the social capital production. As well known, in fact, this latter is strictly connected with the ability to develop meaningful relationships, i.e. trusted relationships aimed at satisfying common interests and to solve common problem in a participatory manner [Pulkkinen et al., 2002].

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