The Premio Escuelas para la Sociedad Digital 2015 (Prize for Schools in the Digital Society 2015) assumes a new wager for Fundación Telefónica to strengthen the transformation of the educational environment in Spain in light of a society which is becoming more and more digitalized. After receiving and evaluating hundreds of projects presented to the contest, twelve finalists were awarded with 1.000 euros each. In November they will have to present their proposals before the Board of Experts, and the awards will be granted in February 2016. Javier Gónzález Casado, representative for Educational Innovation in Fundación Telefónica, tells us more about the award.
How was the idea of granting this new prize born?
We live in a society in which the new generations should be well informed in order to adapt to a digital world. However, paradoxically, we can see that the educational sector is not making the appropriate changes. All of the productive sectors are making efforts to adapt to this digital society (the hospital-medical professions, businesses, the production of goods and services, SMEs…), but the schools continue to use old habits and undertakings, which do not attend to the new digital requirements. They should move up a gear, meaning that they should organize themselves differently, put in place new and distinct didactic methodologies, academic objectives, and different curriculums, in order to work these capacities in new ways…
Does the Prize recognize these good practices?
We can see that there are schools that are already integrating new ways of training and organization, effective teaching dynamics, which are achieving a successful interaction with society, and as such, are creating well-equipped students. But the Prize is not merely centred on good practices, but assumes an all-encompassing vision in view of the teachers, infrastructure, methodology, and technology, and how these aspects link-up successfully. We look at the educational institute as a whole, not in view of how well it functions, but instead, understanding how well it adapts itself in lieu of the digital society.
What are the phases involved in the Prize?
The Prize consists of two phases. In the first, out of the hundred and fifty schools that present themselves, the twelve most outstanding ones are recognized. However, we do not mix the public colleges with the combined and private ones, and thus instate three different categories. In the final phase there will be three encounters, in which these categories will be re-evaluated to establish the order of the prizes. We work as such in order for the schools to re-work their projects and to strengthen them. That is to say, we reward the potential for growth and future replicability that the project can hold.
So what is rewarded is the the project rather than the functioning of the school?
Presenting the college as such is very difficult to award, but a project in practice is much more effective to evaluate. In any case, to award the Prize, we look at the whole context: how the centre is organized, the teachers’ training, how the centre interacts with the scholastic community, how they practice innovation in education… all of these aspects are highly valued, but reflected in light of a specific project, for example, three teachers that work on robotics. However, we do not believe that nowadays, in order to adapt themselves to digital society, that the only means is through using technology and digital environments. Instead, the schools should encompass everything that, in one way or another, is digital like online learning environments, platforms, or social networks. All of these elements combine in the making of the teachers and where the students and parents are all involved. In the end, that which we award is this entire digital ecosystem that enables the college to be constantly evolving with the digital society.
How do the schools present themselves for the Prize?
The call for entries, in which one hundred and fifty schools applied, closed in July. It is important to recognize that the prerequisits for the application were very demanding, in the sense that the schools were required to analyze their maturity as a centre in the digital environment and their capacity for innovation, and that in the presentation of the project, they were also required to conform to the stipulations of innovation in education. We believed that these requirements were necessary for the ultimate aim of the project, which was to observe the best of the practices in these centres being adapting to society. It surfaces that in the end, what interests us, is where the future is headed. Guidelines and recommendations are given in order for this diffusion to take place in society.
Does it mean that the final objective is actually a message to the educative Administration.
To the Administration, and to society, because, for example the parents will also realize that this is what they will have to understand in order to serve their children. On top of that, many conclusions will be reached by the teachers and Administration.