02 December

VI International Seminar on Open Social Learning (VIII): UOC Session

OpenEd & OER

VI International Seminar of the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning

Notes from the Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on November 30th and December 1st 2009.

In search for pedagogical value of OSL: UOC experiment in progress. Gemma Aguado, eLearn Center and Carles Fernández, Learning Technologies

The experience aims to test an open learning model, understood as a virtual learning environment open to the Internet community, based on the use of open resources and on a methodology focused on the participation and collaboration of users in the construction of knowledge.

The subject of the course ‘Journeys 2.0′ lasted 5 weeks, was launched through Facebook and used a specifically designed open methodology. This methodology of the course is based on the creation of a learning community able to self-manage their learning process. For that a facilitator was needed and also a central activity was established for people to participate and contribute in the community.

The opinions of the users participating in this course show some interesting questions related with the openness:

  • The structure of the activity is still quite ‘facilitator-centered´
  • Five weeks is not enough time
  • Lack of commitment with free courses
  • Facebook and its rigid architecture
  • The trend to return to traditional ways to learn

The authors also pointed out some difficulties such as the fact that these experiences may need more than two months to start working efficiently, the limitations of Facebook as learning platform or the lack of commitment of many users.

The audience of the seminar debated issues like the strategies to engage teachers in the experience, the fact to carry out a deep reflection of the learning methodology taking pedagogical issues and not technology as starting point and the possibilities to propose courses with subjects probably less ‘engaging’ as statistics. FaceUOC slide

Report on Open Social Learning in Spain. Iolanda García, Director of Innovation at the eLearn Center

The purpose of this presentation has been to summarize the main points of a reflection document about the situation and the future of OSL in Spain, which title is: Open Social Learning and its potential to transform higher education contexts in Spain

The paper collects the contributions and discussions of 14 experts, academics and professionals from different Spanish educational institutions (to see the names of the participants, visit the link of the Working Session on OSL). The presenter clarified that it cannot be taken as an exhaustive report about the reality of OSL in Spain, but that is an open text that wants to stimulate debate and reflection a an exhaustive report about the reality of OSL in Spain.

The paper analyses the kind of experiences and projects that can be recognized in Spain around this field. It presents the main lines of work that can be identified and also some specific experiences as a set of examples. All those experiences, despite being so different apparently, have many common features like, for instance, the lack of standards, an open architecture and a decentralized structure, people active involvement, participation and collaboration; the intensive use of technology as a means for the empowerment of the community; the fact of being rooted in real local needs and based on the opportunities provided by the same context, etc.

Concerning the role of technology in OSL, the document reflects on the main trends and challenges around the technological dimension of OSL and its influence on the general e-learning landscape. In this sense, it describes the main characteristics of OSL technologies; it discusses the crisis of LMS as dominant e-learning platforms, the weak points of the social media use in formal education settings, like problems related with tracing and assessing the learning activity, etc.

The last section of the paper deals with the perspectives of OSL in the Spanish higher education system, focusing on the limitations or obstacles on the one hand, and on the opportunities and the benefits that OSL could bring to our universities, on the other.  Among the limitations, for instance, it is stressed the fact that the use of Internet in teaching and learning processes is not yet generalized in most of the Spanish universities. Another important limitation is the general lack of reflection about the pedagogical models behind the use and the design of technology and the use of mechanisms of control of the online activity, which is something alien to OSL.

Problems to follow and to assess student’s distributed learning activity are also treated.

Some of the mentioned opportunities are: personalization of the learning process; the construction of students and teachers digital identities to increase their social reputation and projection; possibilities for building learning communities and communities of practice based on expertise; the collective validation of content; opportunities for designing a new assessment approach more holistic and transversal, etc.

The presentation has finished with a concluding idea: the higher education system shouldn’t perceive the influence of OSL as a threat, but as an opportunity to evolve in order to fit the requirements and the needs of the knowledge society.


How is the UOC going to support and driven this change of the university towards the OSL model?

The line of work of the eLearn Center is engaging teachers in projects of innovation in order to activate this change that can be later generalised to other parts in the university. Of course there are many Departments and people involved that must to work together in order to make this change possible.

It is not only the university that has to manage this change, but the way the students approach their own way of learning. On the other hand, the Vice-presidency of Innovation has designed some axis for the evolution of the educational model of the UOC and is working together with other Vice-presidencies in order to support the development of this model.

Have you thought (in the paper) about ways to create channels between studies in different universities to make possible students distributed learning?

No we didn’t, since the paper only analyses the picture of the situation but it doesn’t propose ways to overcome limitations/problems. This would be the next step.

01 December

VI International Seminar on Open Social Learning (II): Facebook project, an embodiment of edupunk at a public university

OpenEd & OER

VI International Seminar of the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning

The Facebook Project. Edupunk and the redesign of power/knowledge relations in a public university setting. Alejandro Piscitelli, Former CEO of Educ.ar, education portal of Argentina. Professor at the School of Communication. University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Notes from the the Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on November 30th and December 1st 2009.

We would like to build something like “the fun theory” within the class. We don’t want to use just textbooks for teaching communication. We want to use new media, especially video. But what is the difference between showing text and showing videos? We need to let learners “do” by themselves.

Learning literacy cannot be just a private, isolated activity.

Different generations: baby boom (50’s), X generation (60’s), Einstein generation (80’s). The latter are faster, smarter, more sociable; they will get into the job market in a few years. They are digital natives. They have an identity their parents don’t understand. Everything what we knew is changing.

Digital ink, iphones, e-books, etc. Augmented reality, new ways of processing information, new interfaces for experimentation, multi-touch devices, etc.

At the beginning some students were reluctant to use Facebook for taking a course. Now Facebook has 350000000 people, is one of the biggest “countries” in the world. Facebook has demolished established limits, making web 2.0 mainstream. It’s a way to “structure” Internet. It converts users into publishers.

Connectivity + contents + group production = Edupunk

There are six dimensions of analysis: participation, media convergence, virtual communities, architecture, identity construction, economy and sustainability.


What about identities built upon different dimensions? How can you mix professional and personal dimensions?

You can separate identities, but this was not the point of our project, as it was not our concern. We are interested in providing learners with a different platform to do different things.

How did you build the bridge between learners and the new methodology, especially at the beginning?

In fact we had more problems with teachers. Older teachers didn’t want to get involved into the project. They prefer to talk to the mass, which is not allowed in Facebook. So we had to invite external teachers to fill the gap. On the other hand, students are “fluid”, they go with the flow.

In my opinion, four things must happen for a successful experience:

- it must be engaging

- they must be able to show they are the best

- they must be allowed to be with their friends

-         they must feel part of something bigger.

What were the limits you saw in Facebook?

Facebook is not a learning tool. We noticed that young teachers become tired of Facebook, they need something newer, so we plan to move to videogames or similar platforms.

What about illiterate learners? How can you include them in such experience?

In fact most of them were illiterates to some extent. But Facebook is a simple technology. Anyway, we want to test new tools.

Will teachers get used to this new methodology? Or they will relay on others to?

Students get so much committed that they demand constant supervision, so teachers cannot “hide” from them.

What are we using technology for? Just for fun or to see what happens?

Not really. Suppose students don’t want to use a tool. It didn’t happen but it could be possible. Using Facebook is not a goal in itself. Our main goal was to think with images, information visualization and so. We want students to develop visual metaphors and put them in a short video. We want them to do that but we don’t want to teach them how to do it, they need to discover it by themselves. We want to create an environment that nurtures them.

19 April

Comunidades virtuales para estudiantes

Learning Technologies

Aprovecho la referencia que hicimos ayer a las comunidades virtuales de estudiantes para explayarme en este asunto. Leo en Wired un interesante artículo sobre el tema cuyo titular y entradilla merece la pena reproducir:

No se lo digas a tus padres: las escuelas abrazan MySpace
Robert Andrews 04.19.07

Algunas escuelas prohiben las redes sociales por suponer una pérdida del tiempo de clase o para proteger a los estudiantes de los tipos raros. Pero, como parte de una tendencia mas amplia hacia una enseñanza menos ‘top-down’, otras instituciones colocan herramientas como MySpace, Bebo o Facebook en el currículum. Y los profesores dicen: Gracias por el ‘add’.

Cuatro líneas son suficientes para plantear una dicotomía que se nos antoja eterna: ¿apoyar o censurar el uso de redes sociales como parte de la enseñanza? No seré yo quién decida por ustedes, por supuesto, pero quizá pueda echarles una mano a la hora de tomar la decisión. Ahí va un poco de información al respecto.

Desde luego, el caso de MySpace pasa por ser el más polémico de todos. Tremendamente popular entre un ranto de edad de entre 16 y 28 años, el éxito de MySpace reside en su capacidad de conectar jóvenes con intereses similares entre sí. En principio es una red social donde impera el ocio, las ganas de conocer gente, el humor, la música… Como dice un famoso slogan entre los usuarios: “parecías más guapo en MySpace“. Es decir, para los que estamos registrados en esta red, MySpace es una forma de proyectar lo que nos gustaría ser, cómo nos gustaría que nos vieran desde fuera, y lo que nos gustaría conocer.

Hasta aquí el universo casi inabarcable de posibilidades ociosas que ofrece MySpace. Pero claro, siempre hay quien le saca partido a todo. Como parte fundamental de la vida de los jóvenes, la Universidad tiene cierta presencia en esta red en la medida en que algunos usuarios se esfuerzan en crear perfiles para aglutinar a sus compañeros de clase, de centro universitario, etc. Poco más que decir del aspecto educativo de esta red, es prácticamente nulo.

En cambio, el resto de redes sociales ha aprendido mucho de MySpace. De acuerdo, no nos ha enseñado nada en cuestión de educación, pero es cierto que del éxito de MySpace muchos hemos aprendido cómo gestionar comunidades de usuarios, dónde están las claves del éxito, qué funciona y qué no funciona para los jóvenes, etcétera.



Fruto de ese aprendizaje nacen otras redes sociales que, ahora sí, enarbolan las funcionalidades educativas como bandera insignia del buque. Me refiero a Elgg, una plataforma de código abierto que está orientada al trabajo en grupo y que ha sido desarrollada por la Universidad de Brighton. La idea es ofrecer al estudiante una serie de herramientas para favorecer la discusión y el trabajo en grupo: además del típico perfil, los usuarios de Elgg pueden publicar un blog, compartir imágenes, crear listas de amigos y crear/gestionar comunidades de discusión en línea. En definitiva, Elgg representa uno de esos entornos personales de aprendizaje que combina varias tecnologías de gran utilidad para que el estudiante documente, consuma o comunique lo aprendido en sus disciplinas.



La idea se está expandiendo con bastante éxito, y para evitar que Elgg vea salpicadas sus intenciones educativas con tentadores usos ociosos de la herramienta, sus responsables que acaban de lanzar al mercado Explode, un subproducto de Elgg que está orientado a las necesidades de ocio y entretenimiento de los usuarios.



Si cruzamos el charco, el nombre de referencia absoluto a la hora de hablar de comunidades virtuales de estudiantes universitarios es, desde 2004, Facebook. Claro, que antes de hablar de este tipo de redes en EE.UU. es necesario hacer un gran paréntesis para explicar cómo el sentimiento de pertenencia a una comunidad universitaria está históricamente más desarrollado en un país con un número de universidades (en proporción) mucho mayor al de cualquier país europeo.

Partiendo de ese hecho, el éxito de una comunidad como Facebook es mucho más fácil de explicar (y de conseguir) que el de cualquier equivalente en Europa. Así, Facebook cuenta con más de 18 millones de usuarios y alguna de sus funcionalidades (el servicio de almacenaje de fotografías, por ejemplo) supera a sitios específicamente construidos para tal fin (a Flickr, por ejemplo).



Volviendo de nuevo al caso que nos queda más cerca, y centrándolo en nuestro páis, hemos encontrado un serio representante del modelo de Facebook en España. Se trata de Unilocus, una nueva comunidad virtual que, siguiendo el modelo norteamericano y con sólo unos meses de vida, sigue un buen camino hacia el éxito. De momento cuenta con alianzas con once universidades y sigue en su propósito de establecer acuerdos con todos los centros universitarios de nuestro país. Habrá que echarle un ojo de cerca para ver qué tal evoluciona.

Hasta aquí la descripción de servicios de comunidades virtuales para estudiantes universitarios. El uso o no de los mismos depende de cada profesional. Y es que, nunca mejor dicho, cada maestrillo tiene su librillo.