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Category Archives: learning

ICT and learning are a trending topic. There’s no need to make a deep search to find many conferences, meetings, workshops… In many occasions, technology and innovative practices in teaching and learning seems to come together. Obviously, one cannot generalize and reduce all initiatives to such a simplistic approach. However, at some point it is also interesting to forget a bit about technology and new media – despite all the enthusiasm and expectations, at the end we are talking about tools – and have a look to what’s the final goal. Certainly tools condition what we can actually do, and what’s more, how we think and what we can imagine. But, again, I insist what do we really want?

Are we encouraging techno enthusiasts with no autonomy if there’s a blackout?

Do we foster collaboration?

Are we promoting knowledge building?


Problem solving?

Active citizens, or to say it differently, “prosumers”?

Critical thinking?

All these can be achieved through technology. But without it as well. That’s why I consider that, now more than ever, is crucial to develop a critical approach towards what can we get by using new media in teaching and learning.

I don’t have the answer. Hopefully, the 3rd European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight will be a good meeting point to hear interesting points of view, as well as exchange doubts and impressions. The conference will be held in Barcelona, next February 1st, 2nd and 3rd 2012. For those interested in presenting a communication, the call for papers is open until September 30th, 2011.

Somehow it managed to take quite some time to write this post. However if, after so long, I’m still interested in writing about the activities organized by the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona Lab (CCCB Lab) and Citilab, concretely its project named Expolab, about cultural institutions and 2.0 practices, it’s a sign I’ve found many interesting ideas and reflections in them.

Using same title for talking about two activities isn’t very precise. In short, I can say that I’m referring to 2 activities: a talk about museums 2.0 and a workshop about practices 2.0 in cultural institutions. Although the 2.0  atribute was the leit motiv of the sessions, there was a big difference in the understanding of this concept.

The talk “Cultural institutions 2.0?” consisted of a round table discussion where representatives of several museums and cultural institutions explained and reflected about projects involving web 2.0 tools, lead by their institutions.  My personal impression is that, despite there are some interesting projects that really make an effort to give users a voice and promote participation, mostly web 2.0 tools are merely used as another channel of communication to attract more visitors, or simply strengthen the links with the existing visitors. The institution has the control and users are only allowed to participate in very specific ways.

The choice of technology in and of itself seems to explain and justify why these institutions identify themselves with the 2.0 label. Other usual 2.0 qualities such as transparency policies rewarding users for their contribution weren’t seen as relevant.

On the other hand, the workshop consisted in developing an understanding of the meanings underlying 2.0 practices, in other words 2.0 philosophy. The key aspect was the approach. Technology was a secondary element to take into account.

The purpose of the workshop was to share and put in practice new approaches towards creation, colaboration and continuity of the activities started in centers of creation and cultural divulgation. Communication with the public is important, but participation is an strategy that forces us to think carefully about interaction styles, shared creation, collaboration and broadcasting.

The workshop was conducted under a participatory design approach. Groups were made according to participants’ interests. After this, each group developed a project and built a 3D model (amazing how people enjoyed using plasticine – me included ;). Time was very limited, but was still time for quick  peer to peer revisions,  as well as a public presentation of each group’s projects. During the afternoon session, groups were asked to think about specific questions related to their project definition.

Obviously, the intention of the workshop was to generate questions and to open spaces for reflecting about 2.0 practices and participation, rather than offer answers. Maybe this is the reason why I’ve taken so much time for writing about it. Certainly I’ll need to read, think and learn more before I can stop thinking in participatory approaches (this means there will be more posts about this 😉


Since March until mid-April, the Advisory Board (AB) of the Horizon Report: iberoamerican edition has been working collaboratively, first through a wiki and later in a face-to-face meeting in Puebla, México, to select and identify those technologies, challenges and trends with a greater potencial throughout next 5 years in iberoamerican Higher Education.

The 14th, 15th and 16th of April, Puebla became the scenario where took place the final vote of the emergent technologies. Collaborative Environments and Social Media are the ones considered to have a greater impact in less than a year. According to the results of the vote, Open Content and Mobiles will be adopted in a time horizon of 2-3 years. Finally, in a long term (5 years), Augmented Reality and Semanteic Web are forseen as the main promises for education.

After the meeting in Puebla, a report with the list of selected technologies, examples of use, as well as main challenges and trends of High Education in Iberoamerica will be written. The final document is expected to be presented in the Summer Conference of the New Media Consortium that will take place at the beginning of June 2010.

The Horizon Report Ib. follows the same methodology as main Horizon Report editions. The process is structured according to Delphi Technique. It’s a very oriented technique in which participants have to answer a set of questions in order to identify those emergent technologies with more impact on learning, teaching and creative inquiry. Through a two round votations, the general list of emergent technologies is reduced to 12, and later to a short list of 6 technologies.

The Horizon report: Iberoamerican edition is an initiative of the eLearn Center, UOC and The New Media Consortium.

Some impressions

  • Despite the technological approach of Horizon Reports, discussions in the iberoamerican edition tend to focus attention on issues related with pedagogy and methodology of use. Personally, I was happy to hear those reflections. Probably, it’s impossible to develop a pedagogy before adopting a technology. However, institutions (and nobody in general) can fall in the trend of adopting new technologies just because “they’re cool”.
  • Process is important. Something I’ve learn from the Horizon Report: Iberoamerican edition is that questions not only guide but can also determine answers. What do we ask and why? The way the vote was organized had an important effect on the final selection of technologies. Delphi technique is interesting, but at some point it would be important to be more flexible. The same questions and methods doesn’t work for everyone.
  • Too much diversity in a single report. Talking about Iberoamerica is the same as referring to a huge diversity impossible to include in “the same box”. Personally, I feel it’s very difficult to take a picture that captures the implementation of emerging technologies in Higher Education in Iberoamerica in a single report. Giving voice to all parts is certainly a challenge.
  • The notion of digital natives is starting to loose strength. Mark Bullen would be happy, finally young people are not seen as a group of geeks who create fear among older generations. Possibly they’re more used to technology, but it doesn’t mean they’re more efficient in searching for information, collaborating, filtering information… in one word, learning.
  • Technology, alone doesn’t change anything. On the contrary, it can easily generate new dependencies. I don’t want to mean we shouldn’t adopt technology. Currently is part of our lives, so it’s necessary to develop competencies and a digital literacy. However, I wonder if emphasis shouldn’t be put on critical thinking rather than on the tools we use.
  • Some of the selected technologies imply values and ways of being completely opposite to the logic of capitalism. The idea of promoting collaboration and content exchange (through open content) is really exciting and promising. However, a mainstream adoption requires something else than simple access to technology. Are we ready for this?
  • Despite the final product being a report, there are very interesting materials, opinions and exchanges in the wiki of the project. Of course it can take some time to read it, but… it’s the best way to acquire a deeper insight of the project.

The balance of the meeting in Puebla was positive. It is true that many things need more discussion and reflection, but in general participants of the Advisory Board left the room feeling they had learned something. It has also been a starting point for the creation of a community of experts, from Iberoamerica, focused on the educational applications of emerging technologies in Higher Education.

Let’s see what happens, but at least right now future looks promising.

The appearance of new mobile, portable, wireless and always connected devices seems to radically transform the way we communicate, work and learn. These new products are labeled under the expression “ubiquitous computing” and they are also considered as the result of an era in which mobility plays an increasingly significant role in the computational experience.

As it has been stated in several editions of the Horizon Report1, Mobile Media is seen as an emerging trend full of possibilities in very diferent fields, specially in education. Currently, digital Mobile Media devices are incorporating many new technologies which allow the introduction of Augmented Reality applications, the use of geopositioning systems as well as other actions such as mapping and geotagging. As far as location is considered a key aspect because it adds a layer of meaning, we should distinguish a subcategory of Mobile Media: Locative Media. Locative Media fosters the importance of place as well as the social interactions that happen there. Despite the use of mobile technologies, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), laptop computers and mobile phones, in locative media projects the focus is kept on the meaning and social impact that these technologies may have on the space in where they’re used.

“Locative media is many things: A new site for old discussions about the relationship of consciousness to place and other people. A framework within which to actively engage with, critique, and shape a rapid set of technological developments. A context within which to explore new and old models of communication, community and exchange. A name for the ambiguous shape of a rapidly deploying surveillance and control infrastructure.” (Ben Russell, 2004)

How does mobile communication affect the notion of place? Shall we talk about informational territories as André Lemos suggests due to the amount of informational flows that resizes the physical place by adding new informational layers? Is the digital space replacing the physical one as the first becomes a place for meeting and participate? How can/do Mobile technologies affect learning? Should schools and universities embrace these new technologies in order to incorporate them in formal educational systems? If so, how and why? What’s the criteria for deciding when to use Mobile Technologies for Learning purposes?

As it happens each time an emerging technology is detected, myths and promises about the potential benefits these technologies may have for education start to appear. For instance, Mobile Learning seems to encourage participation and collaboration. Despite the need of a deeper research in order to analyse how and why Mobile Learning Technologies can become collaborative tools, it’s necessary to determine what kind of skills and competencies users should acquire in order to be able to use these technologies efficiently.

The introduction and use of New Technologies doesn’t make us more critical, responsible and “reflexive” As users, we also need to reflect about the implications of the use of any technology, in this case Mobile Technologies. What is supposed to be learnt through these technologies and for who is the benefit of that learning?

1 The Horizon Report is one of New Media Consortium (NMC) best known publications about global emerging trends and technologies in education. The NMC  is a non-profit international consortium lead organizations specialized in learning and dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and technologies.

The idea that the school isn’t the only place where we learn isn’t new. In fact, in many of seminars I’ve attended lately, one of key ideas was the need of rethinking school and the type of learnings that students are supposed to achieve there.

Among critical voices towards how is organized formal education, the notion of informal learning seems to be something to pay attention to, or at least to give it a more carefull look. Briefly, informal learning can be defined as:

Informal learning is never organised, has no set objective in terms of learning outcomes and is never intentional from the learner’s standpoint. Often it is referred to as learning by experience or just as experience.

We are constantly learning, even if, at first, we don’t value the amount of time and effort invested in a certain activity, that’s to say, even all that learning remains invisible. Sadly, so many times it seems necessary to have a certification coming from a renowed center or institution in order to get some recognition. Now, some institutions, teachers and researchers are starting to question the validity of formal education as the only channel to manage learning, specially the one required in Knowledge Society.

At this point, the project headed by Cristóbal Cobo, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales en México (FLACSO-México), and John Moravec editor of is proposed as an initiative to identify and recognize the value of all this informal learning that is kept invisible.

Invisible Learning is collaborative book (in English and Spanish) and an online repository of bold ideas for designing cultures of sustainable innovation.

In case you want to take part in this project, just have a look at

Finding the right title for noting down some of the ideas arisen during any seminar is difficult. Finding an unique title for summarizing some of the key aspects of George Siemens’ and Alejandro Piscitelli’s presentations during the VI International Seminar of the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning about Open Social Learning seems me impossible, specially when my intention is to collect some personal ideas and relations their speaches have suggested me rather than writting a proper report about the event. In short, this is the reason why I’ve decided to name the posts about the seminar under the label “Open Social Learning Bits”.

Anyway, despite these initial words, titles matter and can/should be helpful. So, is fair that, despite my subjective approach, I include the titles of the presentations I’m referring to:

George Siemens:

Connectivism: Socializing Open Learning.

Briefly, the aspects in which I want to focus of George Siemens’ presentation are sensemaking and the idea that “the social” is understood as something continuosly build. According to Siemens, sensemaking is defined as the ability to participate in the place we live meaningfully. Taking into account the strenght paid to connections (rather than networks) in connectivism, it seems that connections are a key issue of sensemaking. Here there is educators’ power as “the way they design the course determines the kind of connections that are build”. However as it has been also mentioned, educators don’t have the last word as learners adapt their own connections to what they feel meaningful for their context. After this, Open Social Learning should be:

-Responsive to needs of individuals.

– Adaptative.

– Fluid, variable and contextualized.

Up to here there’s a very short summary of his presentation. From here, there are some questions I haven’t manage to answer. First, I’ve some doubts about sensemaking definition. Can sensemaking be defined as just building connections? What’s the difference between learning and sensemaking? How can an educator promote a critical attitude that affects sensemaking processes? Sometimes I have the feeling that too much attention is focused on technology, but not in questionning it (why we use a certain tool, what it implies, but overall what are we – as learners – supposed to learn and why) by using that technology.

On the other hand, there are some questions dealing with the practical implementation of this connectivist approach of Open Social Learning. What should be the role of educators? How could encourage students building connections? Are all connections equally valid in a specific learning context? How this approach woul affect big institutions such as universities?

Alejandro Piscitelli:

The Facebook Project. Edupunk and the redesign of power/knowledge relations in a public university setting.

Trying to keep brief, Piscitelli’s presentation narrates the use of Facebook as a way to break traditional teaching paradigm (teacher’s monologue with low or nule students’ participation). Inspiration for this educational approach can be found in edupunks’ ideas, connectivism as well as the idea of fun applied to education and learning (please, visit, it’s worth – at least to have a good time). Main key issues for the use of facebook in class have been listed as the following:

–         Participation.

–         Media conversion.

–         Virtual communication.

–         Arquitecture.

–         Construction of identity.

–         Economy.

From a point of view of changing class dynamics and engage students to actively participate, the course was, according to Piscitelli, successful. Anyway, the idea isn’t to spread the benefits of Facebook as a learning tool but to arise collaborative knowledge production, that’s why he mentioned that, most probably, next course they would try another tool/platform. Piscitelli’s presentation was engaging and from an edupunk point of view, it seems that using Facebook suited their intention of changing a certain way of teaching. However, personally I lacked a more reflective attitude towards the limits of the tool, at least from an educational point of view. At some point during the speech, Piscitelly commented that what was really important was information visualization, how to think with images and use visual metaphors. Personally, I consider there are many different fields under these words. However, if the idea is to develop a visual literacy among students, I consider crucial to, first, learn to interpret visual discourses in order to fully understand the implications of visual metaphors… Producing nice and enganging videos, graphics… can be valuable, but in a learning environment I would expect that among the necessary skills, students develop a critical attitude towards visual narratives than invade our everyday life.

Digital learnersThe title of this speech it’s a clear allusion to Prensky’s definition of digital natives and digital inmigrants. Obviously Prensky isn’t the only one who has approached this issue, but have been really constated that those persons named as the net generation (that’s to say, those ones born after 1982) are experts in multitasking, needing fast feedback, prefering teamwork and collaboration, experienced learners, social, ambitious, career-oriented, willing fro freedom and customization?

Rather than making strong strong statements, what Mark Bullen faced during his talk was the lack of rigor of many studies in the academic world. What methodology have they followed to arise that conclusions, was the sample really significative or just by studying 100 students who already use technology are they making assumptions for a hole generation? Who is financing the study? These were some of the questions that he introduced before taking any position.

Really, I must confess how, step by step, he build a devastating and well-sustained criticism about studies and research in the academic field. I couldn’t avoid smiling when he mentioned the name of the blog in which they publish the results of their research about digital learners: netgenskeptic.

In relation with the dilemma already raised in the title, mainly what he said was that there hadn’t been proper research to define what students need. The assumption that immersion in digital technology is making net generation fundamentally different has to be reviewed. The use of technology isn’t just a generation issue. It affects all age groups as the use of technology is growing. Therefore, it can be considered that educational institutions are facing the consequences of a social change rather than a generation one.