Educational Technologies and migrant integration: interview with Giovanni Fulantelli, CNR researcher

Digital technologies are gaining in importance in the field of training at all levels. For the fifth interview in the Migration column, we asked some questions to Giovanni Fulantelli, researcher at the Institute for Educational Technologies of the CNR, to get a more precise idea of the contribution made by new technologies to the teaching of migrants.

Giovanni-Fulantelli
Giovanni Fulantelli, CNR researcher

How has your CNR staff been involved in learning projects for migrants and refugees?

For about 10 years, the Institute for Educational Technologies, based in Palermo, has been carrying out research aimed at improving the integration paths of migrants through education supported by New Technologies.

The sensitivity towards these issues stems from the social characteristics of Sicily, which has always been at the center of migration processes for its location in the Mediterranean.

The first projects concerned the City of Mazara del Vallo (TP), the largest Italian fishing port that hosts one of the oldest Tunisian communities of settlement in Italy, already in its third generation (CNR managers: Giovanni Fulantelli and Vito Pipitone – projects carried out in collaboration with the Consulate General of Tunisia in Palermo, the Tunisian School of Mazara del Vallo, the USR Sicily and the IC Borsellino of Mazara del Vallo).

In 2009, the Institute joined the Migration Project, a research program of the CNR, funded within the framework of the CNR-MIUR agreement for the South and focused on the analysis of migration phenomena according to a strongly interdisciplinary approach, as desired by the creator of the program Prof. Andrea Di Porto, which involved researchers, technologists and technicians from 13 different institutes of the CNR.

Following the migration emergency of 2015 and 2016, the focus was on the socio-educational problems of forced migrants and, in 2017, the research group of the CNR edited a special issue of the Italian Journal of Educational Technology on the subject (Giovanni Fulantelli, Vito Pipitone. Rethinking education in a context of forced migration. Italian Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 25, N. 1, 2017).

Finally, in 2017 the Institute started a collaboration with UNICEF Geneve and the School of Italian for Foreigners of the University of Palermo to create an online learning environment for unaccompanied foreign minors called Studiare Migrando (MSNA) (Fulantelli et al. Le Tecnologie Digitali per Rispondere ai Bisogni Formativi dei Migranti Forzati. Proceedings of the didactic conference 2018. Cesena, 19-20 April 2018).

What were the results obtained by your projects?

In general, the projects carried out by the Institute in this field aim to promote the integration and social inclusion of migrants. Sometimes, the use of technological solutions is marginal with respect to the real objective that is set, as in the case of the projects of Mazara del Vallo, where technologies have been used as a pretext to bring together two communities: that of the teachers of a Comprehensive Institute and those of the Tunisian school (one of the two schools of the Tunisian State in Europe).

Even though they work in two complexes a few dozen metres away, the teachers of the two schools had never met, except on sporadic occasions, with enormous difficulties for Tunisian learners; in fact, at the end of their studies at the Tunisian school, these children continue their studies at the Italian school, facing not only linguistic difficulties, but above all a different teaching method from the one they have experimented until now.

The rapprochement between the two communities, also through the shared use of computer equipment in the Comprehensive Institute, has favoured the school and social integration of Tunisian children when they enter the Italian school.

Some projects have instead produced results with a much more technological imprint: for example, the case of the learning platform Studiare Migrando, accessible from PC and Android and iOS mobile devices, created by the CNR following collaboration with UNICEF and the School of Italian for Foreigners of the University of Palermo, and sponsored by the USR Sicily.

The app provides MSNAs with highly interactive materials for the preparation for the final exams of the first cycle of education. At the moment, the platform is being tested with MSNAs hosted in Sicily, but will soon be made available to the public.

What do you think should be the institutional effort in the “migration” sector with regard to educational methodologies in order to improve the level of integration and social inclusion of migrants in the labour market?

There are many critical issues that prevent the effective social inclusion of migrants and their integration into the labour market. Among all, it is now evident that the systems for assessing the skills of migrants arriving in Italy, and therefore in Europe, are completely inadequate to assess their actual knowledge and skills. In the absence of international agreements between Italy and the countries of origin of the migrants, which do not allow the recognition of the qualifications and/or professional qualifications they possess, it becomes essential to develop assessment methods that can enhance the skills of migrants regardless of language barriers, which should not constitute an element of assessment of professional skills (if anything, they should be evaluated as an element of enrichment for the host country).

A second aspect that should not be underestimated is closely related to the economic potential for Europe of migration processes: the movement of people in Europe, including migrants arriving in countries bordering the Mediterranean, is not only a natural process and therefore unstoppable, but is an indispensable factor for the growth of the various European countries. Therefore, at an institutional level, it is becoming increasingly urgent to think not only of the recognition of the certifications issued by the individual countries, but above all of shared training paths at a European level on the basis of an analysis of training needs on a transnational scale.

Finally, information technologies supporting education and training can not only stimulate and favour the learning processes of Educational Technologies, but in this specific case they can accelerate the resumption of studies by migrants coming to Europe, and accompany them when they move (or are moved) from one city to another, or from one country to another.

Interview by Francesca Garreffa

For more information about Educational Technologies, contact us