New book published: Community action in the net

Book cover for Acción comunitaria en la Red

Some months ago, professor in Social Pedagogy Xavier Úcar approached Francesc Balagué and I and told us he was very worried: after many years working in the field of community action, the Internet had come and changed every definition we had on what a community was, and changed every definition we had on what interaction (or action) was too. He had just found out that community action might be lagging behind the pace of times. And he invited us to write a book on the new communities and how did they interact on the net, so that he and his colleagues could use it to catch up with new scenario after the digital revolution.

An appealing invitation as it was, we had grounded reasons not to accept it: one of us is a pedagogue specialised in instructional technology and the other one an economist specialised in the impact of ICTs and development. Thus, we knew almost nothing about community action, and only had a chaotic approach to new expressions of communities working together in the most different types of ways and goals. That is precisely the point, stated professor Úcar.

Hence the heterodoxy of the inner structure of the book that has just seen the light. Acción comunitaria en la red (Community action in the net) is neither a book on community action nor a book with very clear ideas. It is, but, a book that invites the reader to think, to elaborate their own conclusions, and to find out which and whether these conclusions can be applied and how to their own personal or professional cases.

The full book has been written by 15 authors and presents 8 case studies that depict and analyse how a specific community used the Internet and its different tools and platforms to share information, communicate amongst them, organize themselves and coordinate actions in order to achieve their particular goals. The structure of the chapters analysing the cases was totally free, but some relevant questions had to be answered somehow:

  • What were the history, motivations, goals of the community?
  • What led the community to use the Internet? How was the community articulated digitally? what provided the Internet that could not be found offline?
  • How was the process of adoption of digital technologies, what tools and why?
  • What happened to the sense of membership, identity, participation?
  • What was the role of the mediator, facilitator, leader and how does it compare with an offline leadership?
  • Is self-regulation possible? How was conflict handled?
  • How is digital knowledge, experiences and learning “brought back” to the offline daily life and put into practice?

The cases are preceded by two introductory chapters, a first one on the social web and virtual participation, and a second on digital skills, as we thought some common background would help the reader to better understand some digital practices (and jargon). The book closes with what we, both authors, learnt during the preparation of the book and from reading other people’s chapters. This concluding chapter can be used too as a guideline for the preceding cases.

Table of contents

From the official page of the book Acción comunitaria en la red at Editorial Graó.

  1. Introduction, Francesc Balagué, Ismael Peña-López.
  2. What is the Web 2.0? New forms of participation and interaction. Francesc Balagué.
  3. Brief introduction to digital skills. Ismael Peña-López.
  4. APTIC. A social networking site for relativos of boys and girls with chronic diseases and conditions. Manuel Armayones, Beni Gómez Zúñiga, Eulàlia Hernández, Noemí Guillamón.
  5. School building: new communities. Berta Baquer, Beatriu Busquets.
  6. Social networking sites in education. Gregorio Toribio.
  7. Networked creation and the Wikipedia community. Enric Senabre Hidalgo.
  8. Social networking sites in the Administration: the Compartim programme on collaborative work. Jesús Martínez Marín
  9. Local politics, organizations and community. Ricard Espelt
  10. Towards cyberactivism from social movements. Núria Alonso, Jordi Bonet.
  11. Mobile phones, virtual communities and cybercafes: technologicla uses of international immigrants. Isidro Maya Jariego
  12. Concluding remarks. Ismael Peña-López, Francesc Balagué


There is a lot of people to be thankful to for making the book possible.

The first one is Xavier Úcar. I have only seldom been granted such a degree of total confidence and trust, not only in my work but in myself as a professional. He was supportive and provided guidance to two ignorants in the field. He totally gave us a blank cheque and one of my deepest fears during the whole process was — and still is — to have been able to pay him back with a quality book. I really hope it has been so.

The authors of the case studies were just great. Some of us did not know each other and I can count up to three people which I still have to meet personally (i.e. offline). They also trusted in us and gave away a valuable knowledge and work that money won’t pay. Many of them won’t even make much use of adding a line on their CVs for having written a book chapter. I guess this is part of this sense of new communities that the whole book is talking about.

My gratitude (but also apologies) to Antoni Garcia Porta and Sara Cardona at Editorial Graó. I am fully aware that we made them suffer: we succeeded in transferring some of our chaotic lives to them when they had not asked to. Being an editor today must be both a thrilling and a difficult challenge. We all gave away time in the making of the book but the published they represent invested money too, and that is something that we quickly forget these days.

Last, but absolutely not least, it has been a real pleasure working with Francesc. I think we only met once during the whole process: when Xavier invited us to coordinate the book. Francesc then packed and went around the world for 14 months. Luckily he took his laptop and would connect every now and then. Our e-mail archive and Google Documents can testify that almost everything is possible if there is the will to do it.

And it was fun too. Oh, yes it was!

EduDretTIC2012: Virtual platforms and learning assessment

Communications session on Virtual platforms and learning assessment. Chairs: Irene Rovira, School of Law and Political Science, UOC

Self-assessment, co-assessment and assessment of learnings
Esther Carrizosa Prieto, Universidad Pablo de Olavide; & José Ignacio Gallardo Ballestero, IES «V Centenario» de Sevilla.

Assessment is made by using rubrics. There are assignments and online debates. But there were some limits in this approach. To overcome these limits, self-assessment and co-assessment methods were set up to complement the traditional assessment performed by the teacher.

Google Forms were used to support these methodologies. Google Forms are free, easy, enables collaborative learning, can be linked or embedded anywhere or be sent through e-mail. A very interesting feature of Google Forms is that they produce, in real time, spreadsheets and reports that show the data that the form has been fed with.

Continuous assessment and grading: difficulties and a proposal for a strategy to overcome them.
Ignasi Beltran De Heredia, School of Law and Political Science, UOC.

The transition to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has, in general terms, increased the workload in what is related to grading. There is a triple problem to be solved: identifying the skill to be evaluated, designing an assignment that fits into the purpose of acquiring that skill, and assessing the level of acquisition of that skill. Indeed, maintaining coherence and consistency is increasingly difficult when what is assessed is not objective contents but somewhat more subjective levels of acquisition of a specific skill.

A first step to take is designing assignments that can be properly graded. This will depend on the skills and, of course, the number of students per classroom/subject/teacher.

Second, to elaborate a proposal for a solution. This serves a double purpose: provide guidance to the student once the assignment has been delivered, and to provide guidance to the teacher to be able to grade with more consistency, as the criteria of assessment are public and explicit.

In the case where there are many teachers for the same subject, it is interesting to compare the grading performance of the different teachers, so that everyone can situate themselves within the general trend of the group. Questionnaires can help in bringing objectivity to the issue of grading, but they also are very limited for assessing some specific skills (e.g. teamwork).

A proposal for the learning of legal terminology by online students: the use of Hot Potatoes
Antonio Bueno Armijo & Nuria Magaldi Mendaña, Universidad de Córdoba.

It is very important to distinguish between informal and formal/professional environments when talking about legal issues. In a professional environment, legal terminology does matter, thus why the stress in learning the proper technology to be used in each different case. How can this terminology be learnt and applied? Does this change depending on the learning environment (offline vs. oline)?

Reading legal documents and writing assignments are two methodologies that work for both scenarios. But oral presentations (e.g. lectures, presentations) are also ways to learn how a specific terminology can be applied and is not an option in online learning. What could a valid alternative be?

Hot potatoes is a popular tool used in the field of language teaching. It is an authorware that is really easy to use, featuring several templates for different exercises and the software builds five different kinds of exercise: crosswords, fill in the gaps, word pairing, word sorting, and short questionnaires.

Besides daily learning, the software is a perfect match for the last weeks of the course, to review past contents, to summarize or synthesise the most important subjects covered, etc.

Initially, the students have shown reluctance to use the software, but after a first trial, a high proportion uses the tool until they succeed in all the exercises. A drawback, tough, is that once all the exercises have been correctly solved, the students rarely come back to the tool to revisit or review again the same topics.

Learning in negotiation, mediation and arbitration techniques in the Practicum. Virtual Moot and mock trials in online dispute resolution (ODR) processes.

The goals of this subject is the acquisition of specific skills in the field of negotiation, mediation and arbitration.

The students participate in a competition in groups, each one representing a different role in the moot court. The competition is about performing an online dispute resolution. A virtual courthouse was created based on a wiki (Wikispaces). The process is split in different phases, in which the teachers provide the students (the groups) the documents of the simulation.

For the students to be able to discuss and work within the teams, two tools were also set up: a synchronous one, a chat; and an asynchronous one, based on “projects” in the space of the wiki. The synchronous one of course put some constraints to the students that have time issues, but the acceptance of the tool was very high. On the other hand, the asynchronous tool was less used, but much more intensively. Thus, a first conclusion is that the combination of chat+wiki was certainly a good one.

An important key to success was engagement, both from students and teachers. A second one, being familiar with the use of certain technologies. In this sense, scheduling some days/weeks of tech training before the beginning of the activity is a must.

Strategies to provide feedback in continuous assessment
Ana María Delgado García, School of Law and Political Science, UOC; Rafael Oliver Cuello, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; & Irene Rovira Ferrer, School of Law and Political Science, UOC.

The goal of the project is to provide valuable feedback to the students once their assignments have been graded. Feedback helps to detect needs of the students and provides guidance to them in order to improve their performance.

Characteristics of good feedback:

  • Frequent or regular.
  • Immediate.
  • Thorough, detailed, clear.
  • Practical.
  • Generalized.

Feedback can be provided either individually — personalized — or grupally — generic, pointing at the global issues.

The students evaluated very positively the experience with feedback. It was also tested that academic performance was increased due to feedback.

3rd Conference on Law Education and Information and Communication Technologies (2012)

EduDretTIC2012: Tools for collaborative work

Communications session on Tools for collaborative work. Chairs: Ignasi Beltran de Heredia, School of Law and Political Science, UOC

Microblogging in the classroom. From information to participation
Ismael Peña-López & Agustí Cerrillo-Martínez, School of Law and Political Science, UOC

For further details on this communication, please see Microblogging in the classroom. From information to participation.

The blog and the wiki as tools to train teamworking skills
Patricia Escribano Tortajada, Manuel Vial Dumas & Ana María Roncal Oloriz, School of Law and Political Science, UOC.

This is an experience that took place in the subject of Negotiation and Argumentation Techniques during two courses.

A first experience was done by using a blog (WordPress), in which a real case (i.e. strike of air controllers) was simulated. During a first phase, in the blog, the students worked in three groups: the government, customers and the air controllers union. All comments and propositions were written on the blog. The blog was used both for discussion purposes among students and to write the final text of their respective proposals for the further negotiation.

Another experience was done by using a wiki (Wikispaces). This experience used the feature of the wiki to create projects to which students can be allocated. The students then can edit the wiki page of their corresponding group, and where they would write the document that the assignment required. The good thing of the wiki is that the history and the discussion page features that allow the teacher to follow or review the whole process of creation of a specific wiki page.

The grading of the collaborative work was done in two steps: 50% corresponding to the final text, and the same note for every member of the group; and 50% corresponding to the discussion process and different for every individual.

One of the problems of this kind of collaborative work is that it demands a higher level of interaction between students and, thus, even if it is an asynchronous methodology, it is “more synchronous” than a different methodology where anyone can set their own pace of learning.

e-Teaching tools. The use of social networking sites in the subject “Human Rights and democratic values”
Isabel Victoria Lucena Cid, Universidad Pablo de Olavide.

The use of social networking sites has been applied to the subject:

  • To improve the sense of an academic community and to promote collaborative work.
  • Benefit from the possibilities that offer these tools and introduce them in the learning environment to make the relations among students and among students and teachers more collaborative, more informal, more comfortable especially for the students.

Social networking sites have been used to enrich the syllabus with third parties’ resources that anyone could share, and to discuss and debate on the topics of the subject. In this particular experience, the teacher created a group on Facebook and the students would share videos and news on the “wall” of the Facebook group.

On the other hand, social networking sites themselves became a matter of discussion, as some pages used by the Spanish indignants were analysed during the course.

The students state that this practice helped them in finding and sharing supporting materials for the subject. Also, the exposure of having the debates fully publicly also provided valuable experience to the students, that received plenty of comments, no only from their classmates but also by people not belonging to the course.

The online forum tool phpBB. Initial assessment of the experience at UOC
Marc Vilalta Reixach, School of Law and Political Science, UOC.

Main strengths of the phpBB:

  • A single space can be used for several purposes and multiple discussion threads.
  • The RSS feed enables subscription and, thus, being noticed without the need to access the forum to check for updates.
  • Possibility to evaluate the students’ contributions by any user.
  • The tag-cloud helps to identify the main topics dealt with in the forum.
  • Possibility to link and embed third parties’ resources inside the forum, which enables the inclusion of further learning material beyond what was initially planned in the syllabus.

The asynchronous nature of the forum (vs. a chat) has helped the students to better support their interventions, but without a sense of interruption within the discussion. The possibility to evaluate the posts or having one’s own posts evaluated has of course been an incentive to work harder on them, as quantitative feedback was immediate and public for everyone.


Ignasi Beltran de Heredia: how can one assess +300 tweet or +150 editions on a wiki? Ismael Peña-López, Manuel Vial: it certainly requires a higher degree of implication of the teacher, that now has to follow more closely what is happening in the classroom. Thus, assessment is not done at the end of the course, but almost on a daily basis.

3rd Conference on Law Education and Information and Communication Technologies (2012)

EduDretTIC2012: Planning teaching through ICTs

Communications session on Planning teaching through ICTs. Chairs: Patricia Escribano, School of Law and Political Science, UOC

Teaching methodologies to stimulate the interest in a subject with the help of ICTs
Antoni Carreras Casanovas, Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

This is an experience with undergrad (Labour Law, Journalism) students of Constitutional Law, that has been running for 4 years.

There is a mix of theory and practice. The practical part requires writing collaboratively an essay/dossier and presenting it in public, normally taped in video. Another practice consists in online debates on current issues that appear in the news. Last, a final test is performed on the topics that have appeared in each online debate.

Results: the assessment of the experience has been valued by the students with 8/10 for all the experiences (presentations, debates, news). The final marks have also increased in circa 15%.

More information

A proposal for teaching Law Philosophy with technology: interdependence knowledge-learning in thinking skills
Nuria Belloso Martín & Helena Nadal Sánchez, Universidad de Burgos.

We support the idea that ICTs should be used to enrich the traditional lecture, instead of substitute it. The problem of the traditional lecture is that the knowledge that is transmitted cannot be examined, the student cannot have a bound with that knowledge. Thus, the goal of this experience is to enhance participation.

During the first part of the lecture, the lecture is done as usual but a document is handled to the student with references and further reading. Then, a second document is handled with assignments that the student has to complete — normally assignments that require some browsing on the Internet.

Methodology and electronic resources to design and develop a subject in the area of Financial and Tributary Law in offline and online mode
Amable Corcuera Torres, Universidad de Burgos.

Use of Moodle not to make a difference between students that choose to attend classes and students that choose not to or just cannot attend classes.

Traditional lectures are also taped on video and then uploaded to the University repository, and linked from the class space on Moodle.

More information


Ismael Peña-López: where is the line that separates engagement and overwhelming the student with workload? Antoni Carreras: a first thing to take into account is that the topics have to be attractive and useful to the student. Having the news as a source of topics is usually a good idea to find out attractive and interesting topics. On the other hand, what the students have to do is just keep with the pace of the schedule. Assignments always deal with the most recent lecture, so that they are about reinforcing, with a little bit of effort, what has just been covered in the class. So, it is not a lot of burden, but what the student should otherwise do to review and study the latest lesson of the subject.

Q: should the use of ICTs be fostered on an cost-savings basis? Corcuera, Nadal: of course knowledge should be open and free, but the use of ICTs should be pedagogy-led and not economy-led.

Q: does taping conditions in any sense the way the lecture is imparted? Amable Corcuera: no, it does not.

Q: how does the syllabus change or is adapted to a different way of assessing the students? Antoni Carreras: there is no problem in adapting the syllabus to the new platforms or whatever.

3rd Conference on Law Education and Information and Communication Technologies (2012)

EduDretTIC2012: Paul Anthony Maharg: Assessing legal professionalism in simulations: The case of SIMPLE

Keynote speech Paul Anthony Maharg, Law professor at Northumbria Law School.

Assessing legal professionalism in simulations: The case of SIMPLE
Paul Anthony Maharg, Law professor at Northumbria Law School

In a course for professionals, a collection of outcomes must be reached. To measure how much the outcomes have been reached, both positive and negative indicators have been designed for performance assessment. Thus, not only professionalism but also unprofessional behaviour is also measured.

The SIMPLE platform is specially designed for professional learning:

  • Personalized learning in a professional environment.
  • Collaborative learning.
  • Use of simulation spaces.
  • Use of rich media.
  • Authenticity.

The whole system is based on transactions — transactional learning — where the students have an active learning by performing authentic transactions. The platform is used at three levels: as a workspace, as a learning space and as an assessment space.

Teaching with the SIMPLE platform, based on simulations, is very feasible, and the impact is big while the cost is relative low. Provided there is experience enough to write the simulations — which there usually is — the cost is reduced, as producing learning materials is usually more expensive than designing simulations and putting them into practice.

A next step could be the “appification” of the course, just like BarMax did with the US Bar exam.

The combination of simulations with other advancements of education like PLEs, aggregation of content (learning as aggregation). Think of aggregation as the social media of our student’s nested lives, a genealogy of knowledge, an ethical practice community.

Lee Shulman’s signature pedagogies:

  • Surface structure: observable, behavioural structures.
  • Tacit structure: values and dispositions that the behaviour implicitly models.
  • Deep structure: underlying intentions, rationale or theory that the behaviour models.
  • Shadow structure: The absent pedagogy that is, or is only weakly, engaged.


Ismael Peña-López: has assessment been done through e-Portfolios? Maharg: no, but this is definitely the way to go. Moodle+Mahara could be an option in the nearest future, but definitely an e-Portfolio would help in straightening the bounds between students and firms.

More information

3rd Conference on Law Education and Information and Communication Technologies (2012)

Microblogging in the classroom. From information to participation

On June 8h, 2012, my colleague Agustí Cerrillo-Martínez and I are presenting a communication at the 3rd Conference on Law Education and Information and Communication Technologies.

For the last two years we have been using microblogging (StatusNet) in the virtual classroom of the graduate studies on e-Government. The first year, during the pilot phase of the project, the experience went quite well: it helped the students to feel less alone in their online learning process, and there was some interesting sharing of external resources too. This year the experience has been a total success.

There are two main differences from last year’s edition to this year’s:

  • A greater uptake of nanoblogging and web 2.0 tools in general both by students and professors.
  • A much more commitment of the professors that gave a much greater sense of purpose to the tool.

In fact, we believe that this last reason (which actually is a double one) is the main reason for success. And it might sound obvious to most readers (of course teacher engagement is important, of course thinking about the goals and not the tool is important), but there still is some feeling of “build it and they will come” in the field of instructional technology.

In our case, we did have our problems/goals and we did come up with the microblog as a solution to our problems when the initial team met and designed the project (for further information, please see Microblogging in a Virtual Classroom and Herramientas colaborativas en las aulas. Microblogging). But we definitely needed a pilot phase to learn how to realize the potential of the tool and make the best of it. And teacher involvement and expertise in the tool was much more important that what we initially thought.

As per the outcomes part, we are happy that the microblog opened a breach in the “walls” of the virtual campus. The microblog acted as a trojan horse that enabled feeding the virtual classroom with information from “the outside”. This has double importance for us: on the one hand, it breaks the lecture-like structure of the learning process; on the other hand, it implicitly tells that there is no inside-outside learning, that there is no formal-informal learning: learning just is, and it just happens in different ways depending on the people with whom you learn and the place where you just happen to be.

This last statement has always been true. But the need to make the learning process efficient and effective end up with it being bound within the school and the university, and limited in a given period of time (during the day, during one’s life). It is just now, that we have learning and knowledge technologies, that we can recover a learning that happens in the continuum, and not discretionary.

A second outcome, and one that strengthens the previous one, is that the classroom has become a more participative one. If in the first edition some students would randomly share resources, the second edition has been rich with interaction. Information has still been the currency upon which interaction has been built, but the greater engagement has turned the microblog a meeting place, not an information posting place. We believe that, even if just slightly, the microblog contributed to turn a classroom into a community of learning and practice.

Here follow the materials for this communication. The slides of the presentation are available in English and Spanish. The full text of the communication is only available in Spanish.


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Slides as PDF:
Peña-López, I. & Cerrillo-Martínez, A. (2012). Microblogging in the classroom. From information to participation. III Conference on Law teaching and Information and Communication Technologies. 8 June 2012. Barcelona.


logo of PDF file
Presentación como PDF:
Peña-López, I. & Cerrillo-Martínez, A. (2012). Microblogging en el aula. De la información a la participación. III Jornada sobre docencia del Derecho y Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación . 8 de Junio de 2012. Barcelona.
logo of PDF file
Texto de la comunicación:
Peña-López, I. & Cerrillo-Martínez, A. (2012). Microblogging en el aula. De la información a la participación. III Jornada sobre docencia del Derecho y Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación . 8 de Junio de 2012. Barcelona.

3rd Conference on Law Education and Information and Communication Technologies (2012)