Communication and Civil Society (I). Politics in the Internet age (I)

Notes from the Civil Society and Politics transformation in the Internet Age, organized by the Communication and Civil Society seminar of the IN3 in in Barcelona, Spain, in October 26-27, 2011. More notes on this event: comsc.

Presentation by Joan Coscubiela, co-director of the Seminar

The IN3 has made up this year a research seminar called Communication and Civil Society to debate around the new role of communications in politics, especially when the tools to broadcast a message have become of personal use.

In this framework or communication revolution also come political revolutions like the Arab Spring, the Spanish Indignants Movement (or 15M movement) and the Occupy Wall Street Movement. To analyse these movements we need not only to approach them from the ivory tower, but from the inside, with an activist and participatory approach.

The goal of the seminar is, thus, to find out what the social impact is of this crossroads between communication and politics.

Panel: Politics in the Internet age (I)
Manuel Castells, Joana Conill, Amalia Cardenas

Manuel Castells

Politics is the exercise of power to accomplish common goals within the established institutions; while social movements aim at changing values of the society, at transforming people’s minds. And the problem comes when common goals and social values are disconnected. Then comes revolution, which is the occupation of the institutions by non-established means to impose the new values and transform or rewrite the rules according to them.

We live in specific communication frameworks, with which we communicate with our peers, build communities… and build our own minds in the process. It is not exactly that technology determines the way we are, but it certainly has a major role on how we build our societies. When the communication framework changes, society changes: we are shifting towards communicative autonomy, that leads towards social autonomy.

When there is oppression, there is resistance. Thus, the new communication tools that provide autonomy have had two consequences: on the one hand, the explosion of resistance; on the other hand, the attempt to control such tools to avoid resistance.

The Tunisian Revolution is a clear case of this increase of resistance to impose, through social activism, the change of a system. In Tunisia, the feeling of humiliation is worst than exploitation, as it is portrayed by the immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi.

Fear is one of the strongest feelings and one of the main barriers for revolutions. Fear is a mechanism of survival of the species. Fear paralyses and stops us from self-destruction. But once fear is overridden, the sense of community provides a feeling of security and then comes enthusiasm. That is what happens after the Tunisian Revolution, that spreads enthusiastically to Egypt, and then to Spain.

But what is the spark that helps overriding fear? In the Tunisian case that is Internet. The first call for a revolution in Egypt comes through the Internet in January 25th, 2011, when Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video of her calling out for a protest.

After that, movements like the April 6 Youth Movement join the call and activate their networks to raise the population up. And the activation is very fast because of the flat structures of the networks.

When the government tries to stop the revolution by cutting down communications, the international community comes to the rescue with several solutions. This international community is partly made up by for-profit firms (e.g. Google, Twitter, Facebook) that are interested in the success of the movement: they are in the business of selling freedom and, thus, that is their business, to provide freedom to communicate. As Lotan, Graeff, Ananny, Gaffney, Pearce and boyd demonstrated, The revolutions were tweeted.

Indeed, the total blackout of communications is nearly impossible. If the international community of hackers — like Anonymous and Telecomix in Egypt — is committed to restablishing a way of being connected, a government can make it more difficult, but not impossible.

When there is communication, a movement is strong. When communication fails, the movement gets waek and normally ends up violently, as it is the ultimate lasting resource.

Main characteristics of these movements

  • Instantly generated, sparked by indignation.
  • Multimodal, images impacting people thanks to distributed by networks.
  • Horizontal, and based on trust.
  • Disintermediation of the formal political representation.
  • Viral, expansive.
  • Have no centre, they cannot be controlled, they reconfigure their architectures all the time.
  • Both local and global.
  • Self reflective, on a continuous process of deliberation.
  • Both online and offline.
  • Leaderless, with no strong affinities.
  • Do not aim at political projects, but at specific goals.
  • Deeply transforming, deeply political, without being programmatic.
  • Express feelings, generate debates, but do not support political parties or governments.
  • Aim at rebuilding democracy, more base on direct and/or deliberative democracy. They generate utopias not as unreachable things, but as drivers of change.

Joana Conill, Amalia Cardenas

After all these revolutions, especially in Spain, what has been achieved?

It is important to note that not all achievements necessarily mean taking the (political) power.

On the one hand, a huge achievement has been transforming the processes. The processes to share information and opinion, or the process of deliberation. Within these processes, some achievements have been the acknowledgement that being wrong can be right, or that errors can be discussed and their solutions be fed back onto the deliberation process.

Meetings are facilitated so that everyone can speak despite of their gender, status, shyness. And conflict resolution mechanisms are put into practice so that participation does not only come smoothly, but conflicts are solved and actually provide good input into what is being discussed.

Feelings are put into the equation. There is a shift from the I think towards the I feel, including I believe, I guess, in my opinion, from my point of view, etc.

The ultimate goal is more and better participation.

And it is not only about more and better participation of people, about not excluding people from the process, but also about not excluding some values from the process.

The relationships amongst people determine the quality of the interchange, of the communication. If communication determines society and politics, it is crucial that we care about the quality of personal relationships.


Q: Why people do not have (enough) fear in Spain? Why do all people agree with the Indignants but so few people participate? Why is there so much resignation? Castells: there is fear, and a lot of it: there is fear of losing one’s job or fear of breaking the rules or fear of being hit by the police. All these fears are stopping many people from participating. Nowadays, institutions are not sustained by legitimacy, but by resignation.

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Civil Society and Politics transformation in the Internet Age (2011) 8th anniversary

Time to celebrate again, and stop even for a little while to recap the activity for the last twelve months: since last time I checked, became one year older. And, thus, my personal research portal, my personal learning environment — is now eight years old.

As usual, some figures first, then some comments:

This year, the “other” blog SociedadRed became quite important: international politics, in general, and Spanish politics, in particular, caught my attention powerfully and I thus spent a lot of time thinking out loud on topics like the Spanish Indignants Movement.

On the other hand, Twitter established itself as an essential way to get information, to communicate and to share with others. That was especially true during events and for discussing issues on real time, like the aforementioned politics.

Indeed, most traffic comes now from Google searches and Twitter conversations, and you visitors come looking for three different things: resources on ICT4D, my rants in Spanish on the Information Society and related issues, and personal/professional information about me, like who I am, what do I do, or what have I done.

That, and the increasing amount of content gathered behind these virtual walls, made me think that a thorough redesign of the project was definitely due. And we are working on it. More information about that, hopefully soon.

By the way, for those who do not know yet and care about it, I became a father on September 4th of a beautiful Muriel. That is a project and, as we say in Spanish, the rest is nonsense.


Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles (XII). Julià Minguillón: Conclusions of the UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VIII International Seminar

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles, held in Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2011. More notes on this event: eLChair11.

Julià Minguillón, Academic Director, UNESCO Chair in e-Learning, UOC, Spain
Conclusions of the UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VIII International Seminar


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Some selected statements made during the seminar:

  • Teaching is about inspiring people. It is not only about transferring knowledge, or building skills.
  • Ask yourself what your passion is, then learn.
  • You can ask your learners what their passion is, then teach. Share part of the control on the teaching process.

  • Playfulness is within every child and adult.
  • We can all be part of the “net generation”.
  • No distinction between teachers and learners, especially because of age.
  • Break the teacher-student hierarchy.
  • Everybody can teach and learn and enjoy it! And at the same time.
  • But teachers are not entertainers.
  • But students are not only consumers or costumers.
  • Don’t preach facts, stimulate acts.
  • Promoting collaboration.
  • Promoting self-directed learning.
  • Promoting sharing.
  • Social networks and web 2.0 tools can be a powerful tools.
  • There are new opportunities brought by mobile technologies, PLEs, OERs, video…
  • New literacies are needed: information seeking and filtering, content creation and curation, sharing and organizing, working in teams. And literacy is no only skills but attitudes.
  • Old barriers need to be overcome: school/university structure and bureaucracy, assessment (or just scoring?), coping with fast endemic change, knowledge comes in standardized and isolated silos, low transfer from educational research into practice.
  • Promote creativity in class.
  • Take risks, you also learn from failure.
  • Adopt perspectives from other disciplines.
  • Create communities of practice.

Don’t let this seminar be another “ivory tower”: spread the word.


UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers' Roles (2011)

Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles (XI). Teresa Guash & Guillermo Bautista: Training new teachers for Secondary Education: trying out changes and improvements

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles, held in Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2011. More notes on this event: eLChair11.

Teresa Guasch, Associate Professor, Psychology and Educational Sciences Department, UOC, Spain
Guillermo Bautista, Director of the Master Degree in Teacher Training – Secondary Education, Language Teaching and Vocational Training, UOC, Spain
Training new teachers for Secondary Education: trying out changes and improvements

How is teacher training understood in Spain, how should it evolve or what will be the new approach like, and what would be the main challenges for this evolution to take place.

Traditionally, teachers’ training in Spain was a compulsory short training course, focused in what to teach instead on how to teach. And it was a poorly legitimated course, mainly conceived as a formality.

So, there has been a long discussion around the topic and it was not until 2010 that a legal change was made: now, teacher training consists in a 60 EC master programme, with a common structure for all disciplines and students, and a specific part depending on each one’s original discipline. The common part is made up by several subjects related to learning and personality development; principles and models of educational intervention; society, family and education; and processes and contexts of education; curriculum counselling, educationa intervention for an inclusive education, innovation and research. A third module consists on a supervised practicum + supervised internship. At last, a master thesis is required.

Unlike the previous system, there is now a focus on the pedagogical and social aptitudes of the soon-to-be teacher.

The actual reflection now is about:

  • Both in action and about action.
  • Teachers’ collaboration.
  • Have a global approach.
  • How ICTs can be embedded into teachers’ development process.
  • Ways of introducing an innovative teaching practice. Which most times means preaching by the example.

Main challenges:

  • The design and structure of this programme is not enough flexible to contribute to the development of professional knowledge (different from academic knowledge).
  • To develop a closer relationship between “teacher educator” and teaching practices.
  • To contribute to the integration of ICT uses into everyday teaching-learning.


Julià Minguillón: is there any community of practice for this course where people can share their knowledge and experiences? Guasch: That is certainly a very important observation, and this is definitely one of the next steps forward.

Edem Adubra: is this programme official / is there any authority that gives credit for this programme? Guasch: the general design for the programme comes from the Spanish Ministry of Education, so it is official and it is assessed itself. Afterwards, UOC provides its own approach, and it is this approach that can be changed, and being evolved.

Q: how are the schools that offer places for practices and internships chosen? Guasch: schools are part of the Spanish educational system and so it is quite easy to offer places, get in touch with the schools, work with them and coordinate the internships, etc. Indeed, collaboration with schools is very interesting to be able to reflect not only about internships, but about how the new student-teachers implement what they learnt and how the training programme provides answers and tools for them to be able to become real teachers.

More information


UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers' Roles (2011)

Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles (X). Jordi Blanch i Hughet, Jordi Moral i Ajado & Diego Haro Nieto: IOC: an Experience in Changing Roles of Teachers and Students

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles, held in Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2011. More notes on this event: eLChair11.

Jordi Blanch i Huguet, E-learning Coordinator, Ministry of Education of Catalonia, Spain
Jordi Moral i Ajado, Manager of Technological Resources, Open Institute of Catalonia (IOC), Spain
Diego Haro Nieto, Teacher Trainer for Preschool Education, IOC, Spain
IOC: an Experience in Changing Roles of Teachers and Students

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The IOC is the Catalan Open High School, and have set up an online modality for 26,000 students — usually adults — to follow their courses online, many of them vocational training.

As many students have low educational profiles and are not proficient with technology, instructional technology is very transparent and is only aimed at facilitating the learning process. Thus, platforms the students are familiar with (e.g. Vimeo) are both used by IOC to upload learning materials or by the students to share their work.

A new software has been developed to monitor students’ practices in businesses that have partnered with IOC.

The tutor has great importance in the learning methodology of the IOC online edition.

On the other hand, remote access to “real” research and simulation infrastructures (e.g. labs in universities) are common so that the students can practice, from home, with the same infrastructures they are likely to use once out of high school.

The roles of the student and teacher have radically changed:

  • The teacher proposes a work study plan.
  • Students are the actors of their learning.
  • The teacher stimulates the student, they are their guide, a travel companion.
  • Students work in autonomous ways.
  • The teacher is “who knows”, the expert, but they are learning too, even from the students.


Q: who decides the content of videos? how are their made? Haro: content is decided by the teachers, as it is part of the assignment. Moral: students have to have the skills to tape, edit and publish video, as it is a very important tool. These skills are taught to the students in specific courses at the earliest stages of their learning.

Q: is there peer-evaluation? do students learn from each other? Haro: Students take traditional (face-to-face) exams at the end of the semester, and they are evaluated by teachers. But teachers do not usually share experiences, at least not within the framework of the courses.

Sigi Jakob: How is Mahara used for e-portfolios? Moral: Mahara is integrated with Moodle, which is the LMS of IOC, and each student is provided their own e-portfolio in Mahara.


UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers' Roles (2011)

Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles (IX). Ferran Ruiz Tarragó: The Usual Suspects? Teachers, Their Challenges and Development

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers’ Roles, held in Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2011. More notes on this event: eLChair11.

Ferran Ruiz Tarragó, Expert in and author of books on ICT and Education, President of the Education Council of Catalonia, Spain
The Usual Suspects? Teachers, Their Challenges and Development


Are there any “usual suspects” that are responsible of the ills of education?

Usually, teachers are suspects of:

  • School failure, low employability and youth poor cultural level.
  • Countries’ por results in comparative studies (e.g. PISA).
  • Incivic and violent behaviour of some youth.
  • The feeble success of reform and innovation policies.

  • Not working hard enough while looking to meet their convenience.

But, what are the hard facts about education?

Teachers belong to a professional bureaucracy:

  • Rules and regulations.
  • Knowledge-based division of labour.
  • Standarization of the activity.
  • Professional autonomy.
  • Almost flat authority structure.
  • formal access to the profession.

And this bureaucracy is set to provide a public service in great demand: education. But this bureaucracy system is very inflexible when it comes to adapting to new times and innovating. Change comes slowly and painfully Henry Mintzberg.

In 1893, Charles Eliot and his team made up the US secondary school curriculum subjects, which, with minor changes, still applied today in most places in the world. But the world has certainly changed in the last 120 years. So, does this curriculum makes sense any more?

Peter Senge in Schools That Learn (2000) fragmented academic subjects transform us in master reductionists, instead of going to school and being able to develop ourselves by working in the things that matter to us.

Andreas Shcleicher, in the Lisbon Council Policy Brief (2006) states that education is no more a place to share and build knowledge: Education is far from being a knowledge industry as it doesn’t transform according to knowledge of its practices.

And the worst part of it is that private sector interests are redefining what we understand by education, by performance, by excellence, by efficiency. A redefinition where “measuring” becomes of greatest importance. Measuring that inevitably leads towards standardization and goal setting based on those standards. Raising the scores becomes the total priority. And, according to Campbell (Campbell’s Law, 1976), The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

If a business reflects its manager (Ohmae, THe mind of the strategist, 1982), then the usual suspects of the educational system might not be their teachers, but their managers and administrators, and the policy-makers that put them there. The business models based on XXIth century ‘managerial capitalism’ have reached the limits of their adaptive range, Shoshana Zuboff (Creating value in the age of distributed capitalism, 2010). And the same is happening in education, that has been managed as a firm and cannot adapt to new times any more. A new logic based on the individual is now needed.

Onora O’Neill The real focus is on performance indicators for ease of measurement and control (A question of trust, 2002).


  1. Teachers should be aware that they are requested to be excellent in an outdated system. Must be highly committed in spite of conditions that preclude excellence. Managers & decision-makers should make deep change possible. We have to confront the myth of the extraordinary teacher.
  2. Teachers should widen the scope of their professional mission regarding students. Centre on youth development, community and sense of purpose, not just subject-matter instruction. Have to prepare students for the future, not for the past. Engage in deep and massive research and development.
  3. Teachers should fight for intelligent accountability. Confront publicly the illusion that numbers never lie. Engage collectively on improving compete3ncy-base assessment of student learning. Put forward proposals for comprehensive and equilibrated accountability of their own work.


Edem Adubra: is there a role for planning education while not interfering with teachers’ independence? Ruiz Tarragó: it surely is about being humble and willing to work together. If policy-makers aim at imposing their points of view, then there is no way on both planning and keeping independence. But it the processes are co-built by different stakeholders of the educational system, and bases on what is really an effective possibility, then changes can be made, the system can evolve and notwithstanding disruptions can be avoided and consensus reached.

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UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VIII International Seminar: Teacher Training: Reconsidering Teachers' Roles (2011)