Personal Learning Networks

This text is part of a chain of events. Just follow the link at the end of the blog post and you will find out more about the collaborative efforts of PBL5. PBL5 is a group of 8 professionals from Sweden and Finland. We belong to different universities, we have different professional, cultural backgrounds and interests. What we have in common is the thirst for knowledge and the passion for sharing what we learn and how we do it.

Some days ago, Alec Couros aroused my curiosity with his webinar about Personal Learning Networks (PLN). I’d not heard that word before but I’d already realized that I needed to get more contacts with other professionals sharing the same interests, having different expertise, I wanted to know about where and how to share ideas, resources, experiences. How to find, select and join a group of people that can help me. So I guess that I already knew about my personal learning networks in an intuitive way.

As Steve Johnson said in his book “Where good ideas come from” : A good idea is a network…

So, I was thinking about the networks that I will need to join in order to survive in my academic environment and came up with these:

1-Research (Breast cancer research)

2-Medical community (Breast cancer challenges and real problems to solve)

2-Funding (Grant writing, crow funding)

3-Entrepreneuship (Economy, implementation)

4-EdTECH (Technology applied to education)

5-Pedagogy (Learning theories and methods)

I am a researcher with interest in technology applied to education and pedagogical development. I need to fund my research and to fund myself in order to do what I like most. Therefore, I would like to have new ideas for my research and to discuss the feasibility of these ideas in a community with similar interests (Research Network). I need to identify the real problems within my field (Medical community), the influencers inside my field and the funding opportunities (Entrepreneurship, Funding network). Moreover, I would like to teach students in blended or online environments using the technology and digital tools available for education (EdTECH) and I would like to deliver with quality and seriousness (Pedagogy).

What tools can I use to build up my PLN?

I’ve neglected twitter for many years but Alec showed me this video, making me realize that my “Twitteracy” (term coined by Christine Greenhow, MSU) was very low. I had participated and enjoyed tweetchats, as good brainstorming opportunities. Sometimes I post in twitter or retweet things but what I am missing is using twitter actively to network and identify people with similar interest. To get new inputs and do research.

What do I need to start using twitter this way?

Check this site

First I had to know more about hashtags (keywords preceded by the pound symbol #keyword) and how to use them and which hashtags I need. I feel like I’m a novice to what everyone already knows: hashtags are useful to track and organize topics in social media.

Here I found this blog  that inspired me to do a twitter experiment 😉

Skärmklipp 2017-03-23 15.27.40

I asked a question in twitter:

I am waiting for answers now but if you know and can help please visit @Gizpe

More than twitter, what else can I use to build my PLN?

Visit some teacher blogs. Some of them have been awarded:

Or to subscribe to a new podcast as suggested by this article

Now continue PBL5 learning journey by following this link


Diversity: a curse or a blessing for online collaboration?

I did this Prezi for LiU pedagogical days. I wanted to share my experiences from the Open Networked Learning course, that I took last year. I believed that this course or a similar one could be an alternative for Linköping University where the teachers are more and more interested in developing their digital skills.

Specially at the Medical Faculty with the imminent decentralization and inter-professionalization of the medical program.

I did it also thinking about the PBL5 group that I am co-facilitating right now at the ONL171.

Skärmklipp 2017-03-17 12.19.46

Even though this is the experience from our PBL group 9, I think you can find it useful if you want to know more about:

-Group diversity. Is it a curse?

-Online facilitation

-What makes a group journey successful?

Behind this work are: Francisca Frenks (video), Sonja Sharp (Slides) Miriam, Åsa, Mohammed and Natalia.  We even intend to present our work at the EDEN 2017 conference and guess what? The EDEN is focusing this year on diversity!

Finally, to answer the question in the title: yes, diversity was a blessing for us. Thanks to the scaffolding presence of the facilitators, a positive group atmosphere and our drive to learn from each other.

Featured image was taken from Pixabay under CC0 licence

A tool for open education

At the LiU Medical Faculty we were discussing and planing some labs for medical students. As usually, the time spent was a concern and also the amount of people involved in every teaching moment. Nobody has time! I think that quality and the end result should also be a matter of concern and that we cannot rush the students through downsized lab moments and lectures just because of this lack of time.

However, in this context technology applied to education has something to say. We can help ourselves by blending some courses. For example, we could prime the students with some materials prior to labs and lectures. This will motivate them, engage them and make the actual meeting between teacher and student more fruitful.

Students will have the possibility to review in advance certain course materials and they will hopefully come up with deeper questions to the lectures and labs. Technology in this case will not replace the physical meeting between students and educators but it will pride our courses with flexibility and innovation. Moreover, the created material may not be restricted to LiU students allowing for more openness in the course.

For instance, the free Chrome extension Screencastify  will allow the teacher to record what’s going on in the computer screen. In this way the teacher can demonstrate how to use programs or webpages or to share drawings and presentations.  Screencastify allows you to record your own voice while browsing through the open tabs or to show your own talking-persona in some screen corner (I did that because I like personal engagement). This extension can be applied for bioinformatic lessons among other things.

In order to test this application I first watched this tutorial and wrote some notes using google drawings so I could read it while recording my screen. Then I recorded my screen several times and deleted the video whenever I didn’t like it. Finally, I recognized that I didn’t have much more time myself and shared this recording on youtube. My purpose here is to show you that if I did it you can also do it and have the same fun!

Good luck!

The feature image is from Pixabay

Cofacilitating ONL ine

I am so happy to resume my blog! I must confess that I never thought it would be so fun. At the beginning, I was afraid that I have to post super smart things and therefore it took me long time before I publish my first post. Later on, I realized that my blogging was like stumbling in the dark to find my own truth J. More than that, this is a space to learn and to interact with other people.

Now I am motivated to continue since I am taking a further step as co-facilitator in the Online Networked Learning course ONL171. This is a MOOC organized by several institutions and engaging participants from around the world.

We are divided in smaller working groups called PBL groups. PBL from Problem Based Learning, the pedagogical method we follow. Anyway, this week we had our first meeting in the smaller group. This time I am in PBL5 where we are 9 participants from South Africa, Finland and Sweden.

Still I’m not so sure of what to do. Luckily, I work together with Kenneth, from Lund University. Kenneth, is patient, experienced and transmit confidence.

As co-facilitator I try to motivate the group, answer their questions and provide support etc. For example, this video is a good example of what we could do to motivate a group.

The start of the course is confusing per se with a lot of new information, activities, everything happening so fast. At this stage, a good communication between participants is key. Therefore, we need to choose the best communication platform for everybody. We are using Adobe Connect (AC) and Blackboard Collaborate but some other groups are trying Zoom. A good thing to have is a good headset at hand, to test the connection speed (Cable connection is better for our meetings) and to run the audio wizard before meetings like in this example with AC.

Today I got my brand-new headset! (Creative ChatMax HS-720). This is the one that I choose for Mac. There are several sets. I tested it and it seems to work okay.

At this point in the course the participants need guidance and  clear instructions. I would recommend them to take a tour around the ONL homepage, to watch the intro video, to bookmark all the useful pages and to organize the google drive.

A check-list is good to have and to book all the activities in the calendar. Don’t forget to update the activity tracker (I was saving everything in word just in case it disappears). Comment on each others blogs!

Time concern is another issue. I know! Well…it takes time to learn about different tools, pedagogical theories and do some networking and reflecting. However, think that you are working in a team. You don’t actually have to do everything by yourself and the Webinars and other synchronous activities will be recorded allowing you to watch whenever you want.

Finally, I agree with R: there will be plenty of things to hang from the Christmas tree but we will make our tree beautiful and our Christmas very original ,-)

Image taken from Pixabay under CC0 licence

Dear Open Networked Learning community:

It has been a pleasure meeting you. Time passed too fast, as usual, when having fun. Not only did I have fun but I learned a lot during these weeks (watch this). I met wonderful people in my PBL9 group and experienced the true pleasure of a successful online team work.

 I am a researcher who loves teaching and mentoring. When I started this course I didn’t feel so happy with my offline professional life. I belong to a research group struggling for money to survive the academic world. However, the Open Networked Learning course motivated me to work with happiness again. Now I know why: it gave me autonomy, mastery and purpose (watch this video and read this interesting post).

 So what I want to do here is to dissect what made my journey so fascinating.

 First, I discovered that my “carrot” consists in having a challenge and in the excitement of doing something new. In this course, like in a game, I was given topics every two weeks.  A new topic and a new problem were there to be solved. For this I got hints and sometimes more extensive instructions but the important thing is that I was free to innovate and look for creative solutions.

In doing this, I was not alone. I was part of an online PBL group which became an online team over time. In our little online space, we backed up each other, laughed together and discussed strategy as if preparing for a battle. We had two facilitators (Mohammed and Francisca)  who watched over the group process, encouraged us and asked clever questions from time to time. That was wonderful! See what Francisca wrote in her blog.

What else? Well, I was surrounded by passionate, ambitious people, most of them doing this for the pleasure of learning and creating new knowledge. People, picking up the challenges without fear of non-performing. People with the same carrots as me.

Finally, we had clear deadlines, just enough pressure to accomplish a task and the same chance to excel. All group members were group leaders at least twice and therefore responsible for delivering the group presentations on time and with quality. The course was designed so everyone felt involved and occupied doing things all the time. Webinars, blogs, tweets. Many things going on at the same time.

The dynamics of the course was great and despite the high tempo and life spinning outside the computer, I didn’t feel stressed at all in the ONL162. In fact I wish I had more of this offline.


Now that I got the taste, I know more about what I am looking for in my professional life. In the future I would like to engage more in pedagogical development, help to increase digital literacy, use more of the available technology in online education, create pedagogical materials and to design a whole course together with a wonderful team.

Meanwhile I cannot wait for the ONL171 and a new experience as co-facilitator!

Thanks to Maria Kvarnström for introducing me to this course and Tina Persson for introducing me to the term MOOC

Other things I did and learned:

  • Used the FISH model for the first time

  • Practiced PBL online for the first time

  • Became aware of my digital identity

  • Learned about digital literacy

  • Realized what a MOOC is

  • Started to learn about MOOC design

  • Realized the importance of online openness and sharing

  • Took advantage of the CC licenses and learned how to look for this

  • Became aware of the filter bubble

  • Wikipedia is a wonderful educational project

  • Learned a lot about useful tools used in education

  • Participated in a tweetchat and organized my tweetdeck

  • Tweetchats go fast  

  • Webinars goes really fast, especially when you have to present

  • Technical problems can take over in online meetings. IT support is needed!

  • The importance of a good headset

  • To plug the headset in the right hole

  • Online collaboration is amazing

  • Groups develop over time and go through stages. Don’t rush it!

  • Human dynamics

  • Think about conflicts as something good

  • Learning theories and learning models.

  • How to create a blog and even enjoy writing in it

  • It is allow to be wrong and show lack of knowledge

  • Generosity and kindness are vital

  • Helped to start a homepage for a virtual course (link)

  • The role of the facilitator is key in motivating and creating group cohesion

  • Suddenly realized that the ONL162 posts on google+ were more interesting than my Facebook page! 



The like cloud was inspired by our last webinar and created with

Firework picture taken from Pixabay under CC license

Topic 4 Design for online and blended learning

PBL, is a pedagogical idea and method where students are divided in small base groups composed by 6-9 students and a base group leader. PBL was implemented at Linköping University in 1986 and is a good mix of self learning and reflection about the learning process. The word ”teacher” is banned from the PBL word list and instead there is a base group leader who overlooks the PBL process and make sure the students stay on track.

For students coming from a traditional classrum, where a teacher instruct the students about what to learn, it might be little difficult to fully understand what PBL presuposes. In terms of group work, self discipline, self responsability, contribution, social skills, etc.

For instance, I observed this in a course called HEL1 from Health, Ethics and Learning. Some of the participants came directly from high school and never heard a word about PBL. After some PBL sessions the students believed they’d engaged the HELL course instead…the reason? They felt unsure about how to handle their own individual and group learning while meeting the goals of the program.

This experience gave me the idea of designing a PBL course for dummies aimed to show to these type of students what is PBL and also that PBL is actually fun and useful for the future.

I must say that this course idea materialized thanks to the ONL that push me into Topic 4 and thanks to my awesome PBL9 group that shared the same experiences and interests.

To meet the requirements of Topic 4, the most challenging topic to date, we were introduced to two models: the ADDIE model and the Five Step model.

Soon after our first group meeting we decided to go for the Five Steps because it was develop with online learning in mind.

So we were heading now, not only toward PBL but toward PBL online.

The Five Step model was designed by Gilly Salmon and is widely used in higher education for learning and teaching online. Here, the role of the e-moderator or e-facilitator is key.

Participants progress through 5 steps and the role of the e-moderator is to support the student engagement and online learning using online activities (e-tivities).

Briefly, step 1 is access and motivation. Here, the students become familiar with the online environment, the platforms for communication and participate in social networking and group games. Step 2 is about online socialization or meeting the actual working group and e-moderators. Step 3 is dedicated to information exchange and it is when the students start to work on a group task together. Step 4 or knowledge construction, is to finalize the group task, to present results together and finally Step 5 is for development or reflection.Step 5 is a metacognitive moment where students reflect not only about what they learned but also how they learned it.

To align our PBL course for dummies to this five step model was NOT easy, I remember sitting until 12 am struggling with ideas but luckily someone in the course made clearer instructions and things started to move again.

Yes, clear instructions are important also in course design!  Also to identify the overall purpose and goals of the course and the target audience. So someone in our group proposed to start by the end and that made things a lot easier: What is the intended output?

I must say that our own group meetings have become very effective by now. In one of these meetings the idea of creating a home page just popped out and I embraced it with enthusiasm. So we took this challenge and we created a whole home page for a whole course! Figure it!

The platform that we used is called openlearning but there are also google sites and Wix. Both provides great flexibility, allows collaboration (google sites at least) and are quite intuitive. Openlearning was not that intuitive but we make it work together and it was fantastic what we did in the group.

If you register as a student into our home page you will find a welcome message, clear instructions and functioning links under HOME, you will also find the course purpose and who is the target. Under Learning outcomes you will find what skills you will acquire after passing this course

And then under Learning activities/module 1/Introduction, the students are encouraged to socialize in the big group, get familiar with Adobe Connect and a padlet is proposed to write about themselves. Taken together these pages make for the Step 1.

Further on under Learning activities/module 1 you will find several scheduled meetings corresponding to steps 2-4 where the students are encouraged to perform different e-tivities. And finally the last meeting  (Step 5) is for reflection.

In addition, there are group spaces where students post their findings and suggested learning materials and tools. However, we didn’t have time to make an intro video, the assessment is missing as well as the feedback after the course.

I must also mention that the five step model have been criticized for excluding other learning ideas, for being rigid in its implementation, for failing into taking account individual learning styles and because access and motivation, for example, cannot only be restricted to step 1 when those are ongoing issues throughout the entire course see Pam Moule’s article.

Now after implementing this model,  I found that we would need more time to test it but a model implementation very much depend on the person who implement it right?

During this topic we also developed two supporting materials in form of videos.

The first video was intended for students from a high school in Tranås. These students were visiting Linköping University to get inspiration about higher education and of course we have to explain for them what PBL was.

What I liked most about this video is the fact that my coleagues, being PBLers themselves, didn’t need so much instructions to solve the cogwheels problem using a problem based learning approach.

The second video is an interview with our co-facilitator and entrepreneur Francisca Frenks. She owns a company called, organizing online courses and working with online teams. I liked this interview because it gives a perspective for a future, outside academia and helps to understand the advantages of being responsible for our own learning and stresses the importance of collaborative work.

So in summary, in Topic 4 I learned the following:




The initial picture was taken from Pixabay under CC rights

Topic 3 Learning in communities


Learning together

is a great experience. I am rediscovering this in the ONL162 course. However, being part of a group presupposes a delicate balance between individuality and togetherness. It is like going from being a solo dancer to participate in a “Rueda de casino”. Normally you dance salsa in duos, occasionally you take some solo steps and you excel at it but a Rueda consists in many of these duos dancing together in a synchronized way. There’s still little space for improvisation but you have to watch your step otherwise the “Rueda” will be ruined…

Now, seriously, Marcus Lithander from our ONL162 community posted this documentary about collaboration, which I really liked because it says what I knew intuitively it’s just that I couldn’t find better words to say it.

Douglas Thomas, Ass. Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, said: collaboration is people being the best that they can be in the context that matters the most to them rather being what other people need them to be or everybody being perceived as being equal. There’s something powerful and beautiful about the idea of collaboration that’s collective that is about the group succeeding not the individual”

 I couldn’t agree more: sometimes you have to forget about the idea of being the star of the show…often…most of the time…if you want to collaborate.

Collaboration is about creating trust, being gentle and nice to each other, listening and respecting each other’s opinions. Knowing when to step back but also when to step forward. Collaboration is also about being critical, honest and clear in exposing ideas. It is about receiving and giving as well. A silent person, or a person who always follows the flow may not be the better collaborator but neither will be the person who believes  is the owner of the absolute true.

This topic 3 made me reflect about what it is to learn in a community and specially to follow my own group process and to watch myself in it.

Our group had been little unstable with some members showing up and working more than others. We just had a meeting and exposed most of these issues. We talked a lot about our feelings and expectations in this group work. It turned out that some people felt unsure due to the language barrier, other people didn’t want to do mistakes while other person knew a lot and wanted to move forward very fast. All of us wanting and expecting different things. Some of us frustrated. Then in the middle of this stage I was responsible for the group presentation and suddenly I realized that I didn’t know very well how to handle this collaboration online. For example, our FISH document for topic 3 was filled with learning theories and nice references and I was drowning in all this, thinking what to choose for the presentation?  Should I take the decisions by myself or should I wait for my leader partner in this topic? Should I follow what group member X. wants or should I go for the presentation approach that I want?

Then my co-facilitator F. asked me -What is important to you? I noticed that I didn’t need so much more to start rolling. Sometimes a question will do it. And then I saw it immediately: how does a group collaborate? what is catalyzing and what is hindering the process?

As a result we made this Cartoon using Pixton. This way of presenting was very natural to me since it allowed me to play down the frustrations in my group at the same time that we could summarize theoretical content, build knowledge and reflect. What I realized afterward was that I could have invited all group members to create their own characters and speak through them. We could have made this cartoon together in a much funnier way.

Here is the cartoon


Other cool Cartoon maker tools for teachers are a click away, here

Finally I will be brave and give

 10+1 tips for a successful collaboration

  1. Be aware of places or people that want to shape you so you become the same as everybody else.
  2. We are all different and master different skills. Take advantage of this!
  3. It is about learning from our experiences and not only from what you read in books or watch on TV.
  4. Everyone brings something to a group!
  5.  Silent people may need more time to participate or participate in a different way…but hey! be aware that the group will miss your contribution silent people.
  6.  Extroverts populate the earth and are natural stars but hey, let other people contribute as well
  7.  Do not avoid conflicts! Face them and solve them in a wise way!
  8.  Groups develop over time like people do (check our cartoon for the stages of group development according to Susan A. Wheelan)
  9.  If you want to go faster, stop and reflect.
  10. Be patient: if we can argue and then laugh together we will trust more each other.
  11. Don’t be afraid of taking decisions: decision making is itself a learning process  (Siemens 2005)


Oleo painting “El baile” from Ismael Garcia Pozo CC – by-nd.