When there they say that the school never changes or that the school cannot change, you tell him that on May 20, 2009 the teaching staff of a school then in the suburbs started a revolution.
That day at the Majorana in Brindisi the profs approved the project Book in Progress. A few years later hundreds of schools throughout Italy had joined the network. The idea was that the textbook could evolve, not have to stay the same forever, but be the result of a collective work between teachers, even from different schools, and students. But the real idea behind that choice was that the school could and should change and evolve. All time. And in fact since then she has never stopped doing it.
Il Majorana di Brindisi is in some ways a wonderful school and detestable. Detestable because his success, his ability to always improve, undermines the alibi of all those who say that it cannot be done, that resources are lacking, laws and permits are lacking. The will is lacking, almost always. Only that.
The engine of this permanent revolution that has led Majorana to be in recent years one of the first schools with the ultra-broadband, with tablets integrated into the teaching, with benches with wheels, but functional and functional to the way of teaching, with the lessons upside down, with the laboratory classrooms so advanced that you can shoot a film or dive into the metaverse; the engine is a head teacher, the principal Salvatore Giuliano. I know him well and love him. When I asked him what his secret was, on the stage of the Italian Innovation Day in Brussels, in 2014, he replied with his theatrical and light-hearted way: “Three P’s: passion, passion, and more passion”.
In a small book that I made then I dedicated to him a chapter where I briefly tell the biography. Starting right from the birth of Book in Progress: “If we really have to indicate a day after which the school began to change and a place where the future arrived earlier, that day is a morning in February 2009 and the place is ‘Ettore Majorana Industrial Technical Institute of Brindisi. Headmaster Salvatore Giuliano had just returned from one institutional mission to Boston: he was one of the two Italians chosen by the multinational Intel microprocessors to participate in the Teacher of the Future project. In the conference room of a large hotel where the meetings had taken place and then in the final days spent in the classrooms of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Giuliano was not so impressed by the technology, in many cases still rudimentary compared to today’s technology (Nicholas Negroponte’s green One Laptop per Child laptop had been launched in those parts a few years earlier), but by the collaborative spirit between teachers and students that technology enables. Giuliano realized that a computer connected to the network was enough to bring down the wall that often rises between the desk of those who teach and the desks of those who learn: another way of teaching and learning was possible “.
“And so when he returned to his office as headmaster, a gray building on the outskirts of Brindisi, the young principal thought about it for a while, then he summoned some professors, the most influential, and asked them: What if Would we write the textbooks from next school year? Now one cannot understand the cheerful madness of this question without first knowing Salvatore Giuliano. He was born in Latiano, a small town in the Brindisi area which has recently risen to the rank of city. The grandfather was called Salvatore and was not of course the famous Sicilian bandit killed by the carabinieri in a firefight in 1950. He was a shoemaker. The father had done a thousand jobs to support the family and had even finished primary in radiotherapy. Mom always had the passion for theater and this explains a certain theatricality of his son, who in fact for a long period, in his spare time, was an actor beating the Apulian theaters and still today introduces himself saying that he is “an escape from the Basaglia law”, the one that closed the asylums.
“He is a declared madman, in short, but as Steve Jobs understood it: insane and hungry for innovation. A Commodore 64 received as a gift when he was a boy ignited the programmer’s spark. Then a degree in economics, competitions for professorships and (in 2007) the appointment as dean. The youngest in Italy. In the winter of 2009 Giuliano was 40 years old, he could be content and enjoy the rapid career, and instead placing to colleagues the certainly provocative question If we were to write the books from next year?the young headmaster was gambling on his reputation and therefore his professional future as well “.
“That question openly challenges one of the cornerstones of the educational institution: the textbook. That paper object signed by a recognized expert on the subject, endorsed by a real publisher, adopted by the teachers after a careful choice, bought by the families of the students and then studied step by step by the children for the whole school year. The textbook is school as we know it. But the headmaster Giuliano evidently had another school in mind: he aimed first of all to urge the teachers to take a more active role in regards to school texts, much more active. By writing them directly: not alone, of course, but together with other colleagues, one piece each and then the rest even with the students themselves during the school year, according to a collaborative method that draws heavily on the culture of the network and the way in which every day it is fed the largest encyclopedia in the world, Wikipedia. Of course, Wikipedia is not always as reliable as the Encyclopaedia Britannica or the Treccani and this is not a negligible aspect for a school: as even web enthusiasts say, such as the director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepeneurship Dan Gillmor, Wikipedia is probably the best place to start a search and the worst place to end it. But it was precisely this focus on collective research that Salvatore Giuliano liked: education no longer had to be a dogma descended from above but a process to be carried out together.
“In addition to this, the principal of Brindisi aimed to immediately find the resources to have suitable equipment for a school that wants to keep up with history: he wanted to finally be able to give a computer to every student. Come on, let’s do it !, he answered himself that morning overcoming the understandable embarrassment of those present and explained his plan to change the school at no cost. This: if the teachers write the textbooks together which are then printed and bound by equipping a small copy shop next to the presidency, the books cost a total of 35 euros a year instead of 350 for families, and with the money saved parents can buy a laptop for the children. Having a computer for each desk is not a habit or a technological trend: it is the tool to take the school into the future, allowing a more interactive, participatory, personalized teaching. Speaking also at school the digital language of children who today instead experience every morning the feeling of a journey back in time. The school they enter when the bell rings is still in every sense the school of erasers of their parents. Only in the meantime she has aged: wrinkles on a face can give charm, cracks on walls cannot. They are an unequivocal sign of abandonment, proven proof of how little education is considered important in this country”.