Main Menu

A Story about a Passion

Gaetano Manzulli al Global Junior Challenge 2019

A Story about a Passion

A Story about a Passion

Ital.IA Lab: interview with Gaetano Manzulli, a teacher for life.

At the 2019 edition of the Global Junior Challenge, besides the long-standing awards, awards were presented to teachers who stood out for their contribution of innovative educational programmes. Gaetano Manzulli, a professor at IIS Pacinotti in Taranto, received an award as part of Project Ambizione Italia for School promoted with Microsoft Italia for the passion and energy with which he involved professors and students in the project. A true AI hub developed by an excellent and forward-thinking scholastic community in a sometimes-difficult context.

Although he has retired, Gaetano Manzulli, who has a degree in electronic engineering with a specialization in computer science, has continued collaborating with the Fondazione Mondo Digitale on various occasion, including as a coach for Project Ital.IA Lab, developed in collaboration with Microsoft Italia, to create an national infrastructure of GenAI hubs and train a network of coaches for local communities.

This year, Prof. Gaetano has brought his experience to two schools in Puglia (Istituto Tecnico Pacinotti in Taranto and Liceo Lentini Einstein in Mottola). At first, Gaetano participated in the training sessions himself to share the methods and tools necessary to prepare the students (aged 13-17) and professors. The course started with a teacher training course, who then acted as tutors for the classes that participated.

“The reaction of the professors in both schools was significant,” points out Gaetano. “There was a lot of curiosity on this topic. No one knew exactly what AI was, what it’s potential was, or how it could be used for learning and teaching. There was a lot of satisfaction when the teachers finally understood how to exploit these tools and their potential.”

What were the biggest challenges in teaching AI to the professors?

“One has to fight against a long-standing idiosyncrasy by schools with regard to new technology. There is diffidence about AI. However, when education leads to understanding what AI can and cannot do, they understand that it is a very useful tool. Think, for example, about the benefits that it could have on custom-tailored learning and speeding up processes. When one knows what it is about, diffidence vanishes, and everything becomes simpler.”

Is this understanding sufficiently widespread?

“As coaches we work to improve the situation, but few teachers actually understand AI. I hope to continue, also because it was exciting to see teachers fall in love with AI and learn how to use it to enrich the experience of their students.”

What was some of the most significant feedback you received from participants?

“The reaction of the students to the opportunities provided by AI were stupor and admiration. The ability to guide AI in creating content turned them into active protagonists of the learning process.”

During meetings with students, Gaetano also addressed ethical issues and opportunities related to AI with practical demonstrations on the use of GenAI platforms. The students thus had the opportunity to generate content with AI, and experience that will help them in producing their projects.

What is the greatest opportunity provided by AI? What about the risks?

Gaetano believes that the greatest opportunity provide by AI is increased productivity, while the risk is related to relying on it completely, forgetting that it cannot substitute humans. “AI can amplify our abilities, but it must never replace our role as creative, thinking creatures.”

The training sessions also provided an opportunity for introducing the classes to the use of an innovative tool conceived by Alfonso Molina, Scientific Director of the Fondazione Mondo Digitale and Personal Chair in Technology Strategy at the University of Edinburgh: the Personal Ecosystem Canvas (PEC). The PEC allows students to self-evaluate themselves, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and define personal and professional growth objectives. “The PEC is a compass for youth in this complex world. It helps them focus on their ambitions and navigate towards the future,” explains Gaetano. 


Other news that might interest you

Get updated on our latest activities, news and events