PortaleRagazzi.it (www.portaleragazzi.it) is a project concerned with young people and new technologies sponsored by the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. But that’s not all. Launched in the 2006-7 school year, it’s also a process conceived to stimulate dialogue between young people, schools and institutions through the languages of web 2.0. The initiative is designed to meet the major need felt by both families and schools for education and training in the correct and informed use of the new technologies and internet. The institutions are aware of this new challenge, but in Italy there is still a long way to go. The recent National Digital School Plan is intended to bring the Italian school system into line with the average of other European countries, bridging the gap which was highlighted by the latest OECD analysis, especially in terms of infrastructures and equipment. The path towards innovation is mapped out, but there is still a very large digital divide at both generational and territorial level.

PortaleRagazzi.it is conceived to foster safe and aware use of the web and knowledge of the new digital technologies employed. Within the overarching project, it consists of a set of sub-projects. Every year the initiative supports around 20 projects in elementary and middle schools in the Municipality of Florence using a range of multimedia tools (websites, blogs and communities) as well as educational workshops.

Around 3,000 schoolchildren every year are engaged in addressing a range of different topics including blogs, robotics, opera, reading, cyberbullying, archaeology and territory.

The Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, the Education Department of the Florence City Council and the University of Florence all share a strong commitment to the project objectives. This has fostered fruitful collaboration and ensured close links with the world of school for the implementation of educational activities, as well as the required phases of investigation, research and experimentation of the new languages and digital technologies at the service of innovation in the world of learning.

The explosion of the social networks and the problems of privacy and use deriving from them has sparked the creation of the “under 14” social network: WE:P (www.we-p.it). The use of this network is restricted to the youngsters taking part in the project, who can use it to communicate with each other and also for learning activities aligned with web 2.0. PortaleRagazzi.it has become a benchmark for the encounter between schools and the new technologies in the Florentine area through the learning activities of “Le Chiavi della città” of the Florence City Council. Objectives for the future are to strengthen institutional partnerships and to monitor the evolution of new web trends in order to maintain and boost the dialogue between schools and the new media in terms of innovation and awareness.