Book. Personal Learning Environments: keys for the networked educational ecosystem

Book cover for Entornos personales de aprendizaje: claves para el ecosistema educativo en red

Professors Linda Castañeda and Jordi Adell have just published the book Entornos personales de aprendizaje: claves para el ecosistema educativo en red (Personal Learning Environments: keys for the networked educational ecosystem), the most comprehensive work to date on Personal Learning Environments in Spanish language and, arguably, one of the most comprehensive too in any language.

This book is a tremendous (and, in my acknowledgedly biased opinion, succeeded) effort to produce a definition, a compilation of research approaches (pedagogical, technological, sociological…), framework of application and applied examples of what we understand by personal learning environments or PLEs.

The editors of the book asked me to contribute with a chapter — The research-teaching PLE: learning as teaching — which aimed at reflecting the use of the PLE in the intersection of research and teaching. In other words, how most scholars and teachers of all kinds could understand the PLE (a) beyond a tool for their students (i.e. for themselves), and (b) beyond the classroom. If I was to summarize my chapter in just one short sentence I’d say that the PLE becomes meaningful for the teacher when we understand the teacher as a learner too.

Part of the content of my chapter overlaps with what I dealt with in Heavy switchers in translearning: From formal teaching to ubiquitous learning. But, as I have pointed at, the book chapter (which was written first) has a more practical, hands-on, do-it-yourself approach, while the article definitely has a more academic flavour. And, of course, the former is in Spanish and the later in English.

The presentation of the book is terrific with a very cool website. Besides the printed edition, the book can be downloaded (as a whole, by sections and by chapters) and can be reused thanks to its BY-NC-ND 3.0 Creative Commons license.

My gratitude to Linda and Jordi goes “beyond usual” as they really encouraged me in putting together all my stuff on this topic, which ended up in the chapter and the aforementioned article. Many thanks for that!


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Chapter 6:
Peña-López, I. (2013). El PLE de investigación-docencia: el aprendizaje como enseñanza. In Castañeda, L. & Adell, J. (Eds.) (2013). Entornos Personales de Aprendizaje: claves para el ecosistema educativo en red. Capítulo 6, 93-110. Alcoy: Marfil.
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Full book:
Castañeda, L. & Adell, J. (Eds.) (2013). Entornos Personales de Aprendizaje: claves para el ecosistema educativo en red. Alcoy: Marfil.


Book. Citizenry and Nonprofits

Cover for book Ciudadanía y ONG

After a long collaborative process of several months, the book Ciudadania y ONG (Citizenry and Nonprofits) has just seen the light. This has been a very interesting exercise of co-coordination along with Imanol Zubero, Carlos Giménez and Enrique Arnanz.

For the making of the book, the website was used in two steps:

  1. A delimited survey open to everyone, to copse the main topics around the three axes that we had predefined:
    intergenerational relationships, transforming participation, and digital citizenry.
  2. An open forum, where the main conclusions of the survey were discussed and complemented with many insights.

In each step documents were produced to provide the appropriate context for the coming reflection.

Besides being part of the whole process, I concentrated in the third axis, that is, digital citizenry, and what did it mean for participation, volunteering and nonprofits in general entering the new era of the Information Society.

I am deeply grateful to the promoters of the book, Fundación Esplai, and, of course, to the rest of the coordinators. Scholars have fewer occasions to collaborate with people outside the Academia and higher pressure not to: being part of the book was keeping a wire attached to the power that boosts citizen movements. Besides the later, some of the many people that helped in making the book a reality are Carles Barba, María Jesús, José Maria Pérez, Maria Jesús Manovel, Elvira Aliaga, Virginia Pareja, Cesk Gasulla, Josechu Ferreras, Jorge Hermida, Carles Campuzano, Luis M. López Aranguren, Consuelo Crespo and Rafael Rodríguez.

The book has been published in Spanish and translated into Catalan.


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Peña-López, I., Zubero, I., Giménez, C. & Arnanz, E. (Coords.) (2013). Ciudadanía y ONG. El nuevo papel del Tercer Sector ante el cambio de época..
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Peña-López, I., Zubero, I., Giménez, C. & Arnanz, E. (Coords.) (2013). Ciutadania i ONG. El nou paper del Tercer Sector davant el canvi d’època..


The importance of the context and the human factor. A reply to ‘The OLPC Correlation With MOOCs’

Óscar Becerra has just written The One Laptop Per Child Correlation With Massive Open Online Courses where he compares the OLPC project with MOOC initiatives.

In a nutshell, the Becerra argues that MOOC should not be compared to other higher education initiatives or institutions, but to what MOOCs can bring to “non-users” of education, as the OLPC should be judged not in comparison to schools, but in comparison to “non-schools”, that is, no educational institutions at all.

I mostly agree with the author, but there are some omissions that are very worth being mentioned… as they may place us, at least, in a more sceptic point of view. Or, in other words, nor may MOOCs might be compared with a comprehensive and affordable educational system and neither should the OLPC be compared with the total lack of alternatives.

First of all, it just happens that education is not about the apprehension of content, but about transforming information into knowledge. Or, in other words, education is about empowerment. Quite often forgotten, there are two kinds of MOOCs: connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCs) and non-connectivist MOOCs (xMOOCs). While I find the former empowering, the latter I find them not: just an interesting but mere channel of content distribution. Unfortunately, cMOOCs are rarely dealt with and only xMOOCs are the ones being discussed. Like the article in question. Thus, comparing a non-empowering tool like xMOOCs to a supposedly empowering tool, like the OLPC, is a difficult exercise to do.

Education, empowerment, or development, on the other hand, do not happen in the void, but in a given context. A personal context. A personal starting point. And there is increasing evidence that one’s starting point will tell whether one will improve or worsen one’s situation with a given tool, e.g. laptops or MOOCs. We call this the knowledge gap hypothesis and there are many examples on how public libraries, access to newspapers and information, or laptops in the classroom have a multiplier effect: if you’re in a good position, you’ll do better; if you’re in a bad position, you’re very likely to do worse. So, what is the position of these “non-users” that have now access to the OLPC device or to a (c)MOOC?

Last — and very related with the previous point —, development or empowerment is not only about the existence of individual resources and the possibility to use them, but the personal will or emancipative value to want to use them. Welzel, Inglehart & Klingemann called this the having the objective and the subjective choice of development (to which we have to add effective choice, of course).

Indeed, our last point summarizes the first point (access to MOOCs seen as objective choice) and the second one (the knowledge gap hypothesis as subjective choice).

And there are two common issues in our three points: context and the human factor. Context of the user, both the exogenous context (the socio-economic status, their community, etc.) and the endogenous context (level of education, mental and physical health, etc.), both of them determining what will happen with the objective choice. And the human factor as the facilitator or enabler, which will guide the objective choice through subjective choice into effective choice — again determined by the context provided by legal and cultural framework.

So, MOOCs can be compared to the OLPC in the sense that they both provide good tools to “non-users” of education, but I would refrain myself to say that they both, by themselves, provide rough alternatives to the educational system. Not by themselves.


Ana Rivoir: National Strategies for the Information Society in Latin America, 2000-2010. The case of Uruguay

Notes from the PhD Dissertation defence by Ana Rivoir entitled Estrategias Nacionales para la Solciedad de la Información y el Conocimiento en América Latina, 2000-2010. El caso de Uruguay (National Strategies for the Information and Knowledge Society in Latin America, 2000-2010. The case of Uruguay), directed by Mila Gascó.

Defence of the thesis: National Strategies for the Information and Knowledge Society in Latin America, 2000-2010. The case of Uruguay.

Despite the revolution of the Information Society, its impact is meagre in Latin America, due to the digital divide, to meaningful use, to social appropriation, etc. How have public policies responded to that?

After year 2000 we see the flourishing of the so-called “digital agendas” in several countries in Latin America. Initially, they are criticised for too much focusing on infrastructures. Besides the technological approach, there is, though, a more complex approach where ICTs are seen as a driver of development, having a role in social change, and where policies have a more comprehensive approach focusing on inclusion, and articulated with other public policies. In the complex approach, indeed, the issue at stake is not the “telecommunication market” but many other actors converge in the arena.

This research deals with the transition from one (technological) approach to another (complex) one in Uruguay during the decade 2000-2010. Specifically, it is stated that Uruguay did that transition because it adopted, in 2005, a more human development-centred approach.

There is a powerful international context, with several summits in the region (Latin America and the Caribbean) either directly related with the Information Society or with Human Development (e.g. Millennium Goals).

The first agenda, Uruguay En Red (UER), is not achieved due to contradictory design, lack of leadership, an environment of economic crisis. The strategy for the Information Society in Uruguay 2005-2010 or Agenda Digital Uruguay is very different to the former one. There is a deep influence of the Millennium goals; goals are simpler, though more focused on technology; difficult to measure; new bias towards a “complex approach”. That is, despite the agenda being simplified and seemingly technological, its development is of the complex kind.

In general, the new strategy goes in line with the rest of the region and the international context, with technological goals but complex achievements. These achievements especially relevant in the field of e-Government but partly leaving aside participation and empowerment.

The complex approach, though not in the design, is effectively achieved in the implementation of the different policies. This is due to the different design from the former UER to the later ADU, which makes it easier to execute digital policies. An important observation to be made is that the complex approach is fostered by broad participation of actors, but it is not a necessary pre-requisite.

It is evidenced by this research that two models (technological, complex) do exist and it would be advisable that international organisms (e.g. ECLAC) made it explicit in their handbooks and reports on how to design and assess Information Society policies.


Tamyko Ysa: are we using a policy-network approach or a issue-network approach in this research? are we seeing two approaches of public policies, or the difficulties to carry on a given policy, are we measuring policy designs or are we measuring outcomes? how are outputs and outcomes related? How do we know that policies in Uruguay were affected by the regional or the international arena, and not the other way round?

Jacint Jordana: Despite the thesis having a multidisciplinary approach, it maybe lacked a “core” theoretical framework. Some statements should have been put in context in relationship with other macro indicators (changes of government, GNP, etc.). More “dialogue” between the many indicators gathered in the thesis would have been a rich improvement.

Joan Subirats: The thesis is initiated in 2000 where we used to speak about “strategies” to foster the Information Society, but do we need such strategies 13 years after? Is there a real capability to design such a comprehensive policy that can span all the related issues of the (immense) Information Society? What kind of debate nurtured or accompanied the design of policies and strategies to foster the Information Society? Would it be possible to replace technological/complex with instrumental/systemic? Another analysis that could have been made is not only the degree of change in Uruguay, but also in neighbour countries, and to compare the different degrees of change and the reason for these differences (if any). Why, for instance, is human development so absent in e.g. Europe, especially in comparison with Latin America.

Ana Rivoir: The always changing topic of analysis made the theoretical framework also a changing issue. That is one of the reasons why a solid framework was very difficult to weave. Notwithstanding, it is very likely that a multidisciplinary approach should be replaced by a disciplinary one, to avoid the continuous changes of the matter of analysis.

About the possibility that the concept “strategy for the Information Society” might be outdated, we are just now witnessing the debate around “broadband agendas”, which is but the same thing with a different name. Thus, it still makes a lot of sense to speak about policies or strategies to foster the Information Society, with this name or with another one.

Concerning the different authors, it can be stated that at the beginning of the period 2000-2010, there was not much acknowledgement or even awareness about the relationship between Information Society and Human Development. This changed later, and even a good amount of literature is written to explain not only that there is such a relationship but also how it does happen.


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