Working Session on Open Social Learning (III). Dolors Reig: Open Social Learning in Spain. Clarifying Concepts

Notes from the Working Session on Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on June 30th, 2009. More notes on this event: uocunescoosl.

Open Social Learning in Spain. Clarifying Concepts
Dolors Reig

Photo of Dolors Reig

Dolors Reig. Photo by Carlos Albaladejo

Traditional e-Learning: everything preset, all paths settled. The evolution has then been, from the web to the social web, and from the social web to the personal web (Nova Spivack).

New ideas that shape the social web:

  • Intercreativity
  • Collective intelligence
  • Smart mobs
  • Wisdom of the crowds
  • Architecture of participation
  • Sharism

Open Social Learning

  • Digital natives: It’s problable, though, that the so-called digital natives they actually are “hanging out” online (danah boyd). Thus, the digital knowledge might not be that high within digital natives as we should expect.
  • Connectivism: the Internet is so shaped to learning because it works as we do, we learn as networks, learning happens when connections are created, the ability to learn is more important than knowing, etc.
  • Social learning: if markets are conversations (Cluetrain Manifesto), education and learning are also conversations, the prosumers and active students being the main characters of this era and peer-to-peer being the best way to acquire information and knowledge. From the “I think therefore I am” to the “we participate, therefore we are” (Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0).
  • Informal Learning: Jay Cross states that 70-90% of corporate learning is informal. We have to enable this informal learning so that it can happen.
  • e-Learning 2.0
  • Generative Learning
  • Communities of Learning
  • Constructivism
  • Edupunk

Creativity: We should be focusing in what motivates people (à la Maslow): that’s why social networking sites are so successful.

Autonomous learning: what really drives knowledge is the process, not the output.

Universal, free and democratic learning (Soumitra Dutta).

Minimally invasive education, taking the example of Sugata Mitra.

Lifelong learning, immersive learning, non-stop learning, ubiquitous learning.

An active role that is required to remix. At its turn, remixing asks for multiliteracies.

Metaverses: Augmented reality, lifelogging, etc.

Changes of roles: the student is not passive, but a participant. The teacher is a facilitator, a curator. And the information becomes a perpetual beta.

Technology becomes too a very important part of the equation: open APIs or all technologies that enable sindication (XML/RSS, Atom, etc.) are true drivers of this change.

Main conclusions

  • A web simple to use
  • People, collectives, interests, tags, twines, groups
  • Real time web
  • “If we know the exact cost, the exact agenda of a project, it is probable that it is based on an obsolete technology” (Joseph Gavin, Jr.)

In all this landscape, the e-Portfolio is very relevant, as it perfectly fits with and represents the digital persona. And, complementing to this, e-competences are the necessary tools to get on with digital life.


Begoña Gros: We have to make an effort to link the newest technologies and applications with learning or education, and not separating them as if they belonged to different spheres. A: Agreed. Indeed, as we increasingly happen to know more and more uses of the Internet, people shift from “bad” practices (online gambling, porn, etc.) towards “good” practices (learning, communicating with peers, etc.).

Jesús Martínez: Teachers need to learn so that they keep being up-to-date and can keep on teaching. We should accelerate the process of change, of adaptation, or re-learning. A: One of the direst problems is not only that people don’t know, but that people (e.g. teachers) do not know that they do not know.

Working Session on Open Social Learning (2009)

Working Session on Open Social Learning (II). Rubén Díaz: Diagnosis and Perspective

Notes from the Working Session on Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on June 30th, 2009. More notes on this event: uocunescoosl.

Open Social Learning en España: Diagnosis and Perspective
Rubén Díaz

Photo of Rubén Díaz

Rubén Díaz. Photo by Carlos Albaladejo

Expanded education: Search for new ways of education that embed and adapt social and communicational processes that the Internet made possible.

Education can take place at every moment, in every place. Inside and outside the walls of the academic institution.

We can virtually access all the information that the whole World generates (and has generated), but: Will we have the need for that much information? (Nam June Paik, 1977). And we need to take control over the technologies that make possible the access to all that information and apply them to, for instance, Education (Noam Chomsky, 1998). Education is not, is being (Paulo Freire). Nobody knows it all, everyone knows something, all the knowledge lays on the whole humankind (Pierre Lévy). Today, the voice you speak with could not be your own voice (DJ Spooky).

Margaret Meads (Culture and Compromise) stresses the fact of the non-linearity of knowledge and how we are stuck to the books. Jesús Martín Barbero states the importance of oral and visual culture nowadays (i.e. cyberculture) in opposition with the traditional written culture of education during the last centuries.

Knowledge is delocalized. Everyone’s interested in education, and everyone’s capable of learning.

Learning takes place when solving problems by going through them using creativity. But how and why are people creative? And how can the environment negatively affect the learning environment? Is the actual educational system a learning environment that fosters creativity?

The learning environment is the source of knowledge. Active and collaborative learning environments enable learning by doing. We need to disclose communication channels so that motivation happens. We need to develop a pedagogy of the question. We are used to a pedagogy of the answer, where the teacher answers questions that the students never put (Paulo Freire).

We have to move towards the educommunication, avoiding the education of silence. Oriented self-education, expanded education. Expanded education is the communicative link between memory and remix to build the self from the world we speak from.

An adult assimilates:

  • 20% of information heard
  • 30% of observed
  • 50% of observed and listened
  • 70% of expressed by oneself
  • 90% of elaborated by oneself

Experience: Platoniq‘s Bank of Common Knowledge in the 3000 viviendas de Sevilla.


Enric Senabre: What about expanded assessment? A: The problem is not only assessment, but the whole system. And we should begin with youngsters and schools, and later on with the University.

Q: what about beyond formal education? A: At Zemos98 we schedule a yearly Festival, where different people can meet different kinds of knowledge.

Silvia Bravo: If all these approaches and technologies are so evidently good, why aren’t they more pervasive? Where are we failing? A: The blame is maybe on the moral majority of the mainstream, the socioeconomic system where education is business. A second aspect is contextualization: how to use technology to work locally.

Working Session on Open Social Learning (2009)

Working Session on Open Social Learning (I). Marc Alier: Open Social Learning?

Notes from the Working Session on Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on June 30th, 2009. More notes on this event: uocunescoosl.

Open Social Learning?
Marc Alier

Open Learning: We use to define problems so that some structured learning outcomes happen, but problems do not usually have unique solutions, as life. If we open education, we have to be aware that problems and solutions have to be open too.

Social Learning: If we do not do nothing as a society, we do not learn as a group. The interesting thing is to participate and be engaged within the community. Social Learning is learning as a group. But it is also about learning how to be social, is about education training people to socialize and, at the same time, to define the society as is: education shapes society.

Learn in Community: Moodle as the flagship of community learning. Related with hacker ethics: passion for what you do; freedom; value and social recognition; information and knowledge accessibility; activism; social commitment.

Photo of Marc Alier

Marc Alier. Photo by Enric Senabre Hidalgo

Open, social and hacker ethics lead us to Learning in community by doing and sharing openly.

When students are given control begin to feel confident on what they do. And things happen. People self-organize; new “solutions” or “answers” to pre-established problems/questions arise; and new knowledge emerges.

Some examples:

  • Work on specific subjects but without constraints, being the output a collaborative text on a wiki + a presentation. Students take divergent directions from what one would expect, but with high quality output and high engagement.
  • Collaborative (massive: circa 30 students) project management subject where the whole classroom defines a single project. Rules? Only traceability of work. Students would use all kind of web 2.0 applications to distribute roles and tasks, to schedule milestones, to distribute workload, etc. The teacher then becomes a mentor whose “sole” work is to monitor and guide the autonomous work of the students.

To be able to perform such a monitoring activity, the software needs to be prepared to do that monitoring. Tracing is a must and interoperability between applications another need so that different tools can be integrated and used during the learning (and teaching) process.


Ismael Peña-López: what competences need teachers to become “open social learning monitors or mentors”? A: First step is accepting that the outcomes of open collaborative work is an open and unexpected outcome. And this is not a competence but an attitude. Once the teacher gives control away, they will bring in technology: the teacher does not need the technology to give it to the students, but to follow (and catch up with) them. The attitude is the key: what outcomes are you renouncing to in exchange of implication and satisfaction?

Dolors Reig: How to monitor? How to evaluate? How to make quantify performance? A: The important thing in technology is how you are going to evaluate, and then design the software. If the evaluation model is clear, technology should not be an issue… provided it is free software and you can edit its code and add new features.

Ismael Peña-López: Can we really always renounce to part of our syllabus, of our planned content? A: Are exams a real way to assess learning? Or are we teaching students to pass exams? If we want to transform the society we don’t need knowledge, we need abilities and competences. We need not to teach knowledge but to teach how to acquire new knowledge and to have a critical attitude towards the knowledge we reach.

Jesús Martínez: How do we cope with competition (in education and in society at large)? With inertias? A: The educational system is at stake, so inertias can be broken down in pieces if this is the general will or the general trend.

Working Session on Open Social Learning (2009), or the pros and cons of video-lecturing

The possibility to tape a lecture — e.g. an academic lecture from a professor and belonging to an undergrad course — and upload it to a web server is not new. But as a lecture is not only a speech, but a lot more — questions and answers, teamwork, a blackboard or a beamer with complementary materials and/or further explanations, etc. — we have usually been seeing lecture recording like a by-product of master-classes in the best of scenarios.

But the fact that the web is increasingly (a) providing best connectivity, access, searchability/findability, ease of use and capabilities of storage, and (b) more social tools so that people can collaborate, has made the debate around video-lectures worth revisiting.

A simple search provides a good bunch of articles worth giving them a look:

The results from the previous papers can be summarized as follows:

  • If the recorded lecture is just a substitute for the live thing, it might not make a difference or, in other words, the impact might be null.
  • But the recorded lecture can be more engaging than the live lecture, as it allows for stops and fast-forwards, pauses to check other information, etc.
  • The video-lecture can also enable people to attend lectures they would or could not attend, and even make them more efficient in their attendance (see previous point)
  • The taped lecture can also be a trigger for teamwork, collaboration and other social learning methodologies, methodologies that, indeed, are normally not used in live lectures because of their (a) unidirectionality (b) time constraints and (c) crowded classrooms — let alone shyness from some attendees that just cannot speak/interact in public
  • If students are more engaged, comfortable and willing to collaborate, the impact of having recorded lectures either as supporting materials or as a substitute for the “real thing” can end up having a positive impact and increasing academic performance in relationship with students not using taped lectures but attending classes

With this in mind, I happened to meet online the founders of and had the chance to have a guest access to the site — while they invited me too to write this little piece about is a collection of academic lectures […] helping students that do not have ready access to great education because of geographic location or socioeconomic status. Educator’s instructors are all experienced college professors and guide students through an innovative two video interface that simulates a one-to-one learning environment. In other words, people at have put together good professors in front of the camera and taped their lectures, including their slides, whiteboard notes, syllabuses, readings, etc.

At first glance — which sticks at second and further “glances” — the quality of the materials is impressive (see, for instance, what’s being prepared to learn chemistry or Calculus BC), treated with most taste and sensitivity: content is good and is meticulously presented. Most materials include a video of the professor plus his slides and/or whiteboard, while keeping navigation very easy along the syllabus which features subtitles and time codes. Videos add up some quick notes and the possibility to comment them.

That said, and going back to what we stated before about video lectures, makes a very good companion to either reinforce or to (maybe) substitute traditional lectures, and I see a lot of potentials in models like’s.

Cons of video-lectures?

In my opinion, the cons — necessarily — go in the same line as the “accompanying measures” that the afore mentioned researchers already stated in their papers: while content can constitute a core and a good one, it is context and enablers what will make of a video-lecture a (potential) success — besides the incontestable fact of being able to reach a content you wouldn’t otherwise if not being able to attend live lectures, of course.

A first aspect is exercises, so that oneself can test a specific level of knowledge acquisition. This is something that’s already planned (though not still implemented) in and that just seldom is seen in other academic lectures’ repositories.

Related to this, possibility of feedback or guidance should naturally follow. Being myself a professor teaching online, once content is made available, our added value is, simply stated, (a) guidance through path setting and (b) provision of specific feedback.

Which leads me to the third aspect: in distance learning, syllabuses, learning paths, etc. are a must. Much is done in this sense at and much more is likely to be found there would their project work, reach a critical mass and enable them to put as many courses as possible.

Of course, it is not only a matter of setting up a learning path, but also help in blueprinting one’s own curriculum. Being able to create one’s own “playlists” (something that other content — not lectures — repositories allow) or be able to go offline by feeding your mp4 player would be interesting add ons to the project and to the freedom of the student.

In the end, sites like should enable the student to create their own e-portfolios or, to follow the actual trend, their own personal learning environments.

These personal learning environments would, of course, interact with other students so that a learning community can emerge, be it to share hints, materials, doubts or, in the best scenario, to build together their own learning.

Summing up: initiatives like take the best of technology to capture live lectures and make them available to a very broad public. I don’t think just taped lectures are “education”, but:

  • They can be complemented with more content, context, guidance, classmates, etc. so that the resulting mix is a real and richest learning experience
  • They definitely stress the weaknesses of the traditional lecturing style, challenging the suitability of such methods, and asking them for an urgent update… maybe a blended model were lectures can be supplied by someone like and leave live meetings for debates, seminars or something were face-to-face makes more sense and ads real value.

Social network analysis: new forms of knowledge visualization

Live notes at the eResearch seminar by Tíscar Lara, Mariluz Congosto and José Luis Molina entitled Análisis de redes sociales: nuevas formas de visualización del conocimiento (Social network analysis: new forms of knowledge visualization). Citilab, Cornellà de Llobregat (Barcelona), Spain, June 17th, 2009.

See also e-research tag.

A collaborative experience to visualize social networks
Tíscar Lara, Mariluz Congosto

Blog analysis based on journalists that have a blog, as a middle ground between pro and personal. Of special interest how is the identity built: Identity building: domain name, about section, personal photography, affiliation, etc.

The network of blogs gets complicated with other Web 2.0 services. There’s a need to manage the increasing data with a model: Barriblog.

The model is based on two axes — content affinity and intensiveness of relationship — and measures links, conversations/comments and citations, adding them up in a relationship index.

Improvements on the model: time series, how have other web 2.0 applications (e.g. Twitter) impacted on blog usage and blog networking, etc.

[click here to enlarge]

How to visualize?

  • Content
  • Time
  • Maps
  • Relationships

(see also: Gathering of visualization tools)

Visualizing Transnationality
José Luis Molina

How can we map transnationality? Focusing on flows; focusing on active contacts with people with the same origin; focusing in the geographical distribution of all active contacts.

For instance, a visualization of Chinese immigration in the Barcelona metropolitan area shows that there’s more relationship with the country of origin (China) or the US, than within immigrants; that immigrants mainly settle in Barcelona and have poor relationship with Catalan rural areas; and that within Barcelona, they move around relatively few places. Visualization allows immediate glance to these facts while raw data does not.

Many ethical issues arise in an ether that covers all, where everything we do is registered/tracked.

Use visualization to make better research questions, to get qualitative observations after quantitative data.

NOTE: difficult session where to take notes, as everything was so… visual.

e-Research: opportunities and challenges for social sciences (2009)

Darwin at the Information Society: adaptation (and benefits) or extinction

On Wednesday 10th June 2009, I’m giving a conference at the Centre d’Estudis Jurídics i Formació Especialitzada, Justice Department of the Government of Catalonia (Spain). It is framed in the Web Sessions series to debate about the changes and impacts of the Information Society. My conference is called Darwin a la societat de la informació: adaptació (i beneficis) o extinció (Darwin at the Information Society: adaptation (and benefits) or extinction).

[click here to enlarge]
[cliqueu aquí per a una versió en català]

As the presentation shows, the speech is made up of four parts or general ideas:

  1. The industrial era — or the industrial economy — is based (among many other things) on two main issues: scarcity and transaction costs. These two limitations have shaped the world as we know it, especially institutions: schools, parties and governments, firms, civic associations… When shifting towards a knowledge based economy, both issues of scarcity and transaction costs fall down into pieces. Will institutions, and intermediation in general, follow?
  2. Second part is an overview on some of these institutions, and how their models and, sometimes, their sheer survival is threatened by these radical changes on costs and scarcity. Some will violently disappear, some will just fade, some will suffer adaptations along the following years. All in all, it’s about the risk of exclusion from society — not digital exclusion —, the risk of becoming worthless.
  3. Thus, there might be a need for new (digital) competences to face the present and the nearest future. These competences (to be acquired both by individuals and institutions) will be necessary to interact with each other and rebuild how we learn, work, or engage in politics or everyday life.
  4. To foster the acquisition of these competences some policies to foster the Information Society will have to be put to work, and the role of the government seems to be a crucial one

I will conclude that it all is a matter of bringing on changes while making sense of them.

More information

I want to heartily thank Jordi Graells for giving me the excuse — actually, to push me — to sit down and put together some ideas that had been rambling on my mind for some time. The title is his and it was great inspiration that helped me in weaving those ideas together. Not surprisingly, his work with the Catalan e-Justice Community (Compartim) is a most inspiring one too.