Volume index - Journal index - Article index - Map ---- Back

Comunicar Journal 66: Public schools for educational transformation in the Knowledge Society (Vol. 29 - 2021)

Educational practices to transform and connect schools and communities


Ola Erstad

Raquel Miño

Pablo Rivera-Vargas


The current social and educational challenges force us to rethink the role of educational institutions and digital technologies in the 21st century, which requires a deeper understanding of learning activities in schools. In this article we analyze bottom-up initiatives for educational transformation implemented in public lower secondary schools from Norway, Chile and Spain that involved 230 students and 14 teachers. Three ethnographic case studies were carried out, using individual interviews, focus groups, participant observations and document analysis in six schools. The main goal was to deeply understand how bottom-up school initiatives, with a comprehensive use of digital technologies, are contributing to generate connected practices and to involve teachers, learners and communities in the discussion about what kind of society they want in their future. The results of the analysis indicate that fostering a transformative agency in secondary schools has the potential of engaging students in the exploration of contemporary social issues and that digital connectedness can contribute to connect schools with youth life trajectories and communities. This study on transformative agency and digital connectedness reveals a new path for educational transformation that may interest everybody who, in one way or another, are involved in education systems all around the world.


Transformation, agency, school, community, digital technologies, learning

PDF file in Spanish

PDF file in English


Bajaj, M. (2009). ‘I have big things planned for my future’: the limits and possibilities of transformative agency in Zambian schools. Compare, 39(4), 551-568. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057920701844503

Barbour, R.S. (2013). Los grupos de discusión en Investigación Cualitativa. Morata.

Bender, S., & Peppler, K. (2019). Connected learning ecologies as an emerging opportunity through Cosplay. [Los entornos de aprendizaje conectado como oportunidad emergente mediante el Cosplay]. Comunicar, 58, 31-40. https://doi.org/10.3916/C58-2019-03

Biesta, G., & Tedder, M. (2007). Agency and learning in the lifecourse: Towards an ecological perspective. Studies in the Education of Adults, 39(2), 132-149. https://doi.org/10.1080/02660830.2007.11661545

Biesta, G.J. (2006). Beyond learning: Democratic education for a human future. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315635811

Bolívar-Botía, A., & Bolívar-Ruano, R. (2011). School principals in Spain: From manager to leader. International Journal of Education, 3(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.5296/ije.v3i1.463

Buckingham, D. (2006). Defining digital literacy: What do young people need to know about digital media? Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 10, 21-35. https://bit.ly/2XdnqXq

Chayko, M. (2014). Techno?social life: The Internet, digital technology, and social connectedness. Sociology Compass, 8(7), 976-991. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12190

Claxton, G. (2008). What’s the point of school? Rediscovering the heart of education. OneWorld.

Denzin, N.K. (2003). Performance Ethnography. Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture. Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412985390

Edwards, A., & Mackenzie, L. (2006). Steps towards participation: The social support of learning trajectories. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 24(4), 287-302. https://doi.org/10.1080/02601370500169178

Engeström, Y. (2016). Studies in expansive learning: Learning what is not yet there. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9781316225363

Erstad, O., Gilje, O., & Arnseth, H.C. (2013). Learning lives connected: Digital youth across school and community space. [Vidas de aprendizaje conectadas: Jóvenes digitales en espacios escolares y comunitarios]. Comunicar, 40, 89-98. https://doi.org/10.3916/C40-2013-02-09

Eynon, R. (2018). Into the mainstream: Where next for Critical Ed Tech research? Learning, Media and Technology, 43(3), 217-218. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2018.1506976

Giroux, H.A. (2020). On critical pedagogy. Bloomsbury. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350145016

Green, J.L., Dixon, C.N., & Zaharlick, A. (2005). Ethnography as a logic of inquiry. In J. Flood, D. Lapp, J. Squire, & J. Jensen (Eds.), Methods of research on teaching the English language arts (pp. 155-204). Routledge. https://bit.ly/2ZEw826

Herrington, J., Reeves, T.C., & Oliver, R. (2014). Authentic learning environments. In J.M. Spector, M.D. Merrill., J. Elen, & M.J. Bishop (Eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 401-412). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5

Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Harvard University Press. https://bit.ly/2WxcKlQ

Holstein, J.A., & Gubrium, J.F. (2016). Narrative practice and the active interview. Sage.

Hull, G.A., & Katz, M.L. (2006). Crafting an agentive self: Case studies of digital storytelling. Research in the Teaching of English, 41(1), 43-81. https://bit.ly/2B8vP5W

Imsen G., & Volckmar N. (2013). The Norwegian school for all: Historical Emergence and Neoliberal Confrontation. In U. Blossing, G. Imsen, & L. Moos (Eds.), The Nordic Education Model. ‘A School for All’ Encounters Neo-Liberal Policy (pp. 35-55). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7125-3_3

Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., Shor, J., Sefton-Green, J., & Watkins, S.C. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design. Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. https://bit.ly/2XFZATt

Kajamaa, A., & Kumpulainen, K. (2019). Agency in the making: Analyzing students’ transformative agency in a school-based makerspace. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 26(3), 266-281, https://doi.org/10.1080/10749039.2019.1647547

Lipman, P. (2011). The new political economy of urban education: Neoliberalism, race, and the right to the city. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203821800

Mezirow, J. (2012). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformative learning theory. In E. Taylor, & P. Cranton (Eds.), Handbook of transformative learning: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 73-96). Jonn Wiley & Sons. https://bit.ly/3he1WBa

Miño-Puigcercós, R., Rivera-Vargas, P., & Cobo, C. (2019). Virtual Communities as Safe Spaces Created by Young Feminists: Identity, Mobility and Sense of Belonging. In S. Habib, & M. Ward (Eds.), Identities, youth and belonging (pp. 123-140). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-96113-2_8

Rajala, A., Hilppö, J., Lipponen, L., & Kumpulainen, K. (2012). Expanding the chronotopes of schooling for the promotion of students’ agency. In O. Erstad, & J. Sefton-Green (Eds.), Identity, community, and learning lives in the digital age (pp. 107-125). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139026239.009

Rasmussen, I. (2005). Project work and ICT. Studying learning as participation trajectories. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Oslo]. https://bit.ly/2ODRJBP

Rule, A.C. (2006). Editorial: The components of authentic learning. Journal of Authentic Learning, 3(1), 1-10. https://bit.ly/3dgXDDn

Sancho-Gil, J.M., Rivera-Vargas, P., & Miño-Puigcercós, R. (2020). Moving beyond the predictable failure of Ed-Tech initiatives, Learning, Media and Technology, 45(1), 61-75 https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2019.1666873

Selwyn, N. (2016). Is technology good for education? John Wiley & Sons. https://bit.ly/2ZDab3z

Shah, A. (2017). Ethnography? Participant observation, a potentially revolutionary praxis. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 7(1), 45-59. https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.1.008

Stetsenko, A. (2019). Radical-transformative agency: continuities and contrasts with relational agency and implications for education. Frontiers in Education, 4, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2019.00148

Stornaiuolo, A., Smith, A., & Phillips, N.C. (2017). Developing a transliteracies framework for a connected world. Journal of Literacy Research, 49(1), 68-91. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086296X16683419

Thomas, D., & Brown, J.S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. CreateSpace. https://bit.ly/30rjQcP

Virkkunen, J. (2006). Dilemmas in building shared transformative agency. Activités, 3, 43-66. https://doi.org/10.4000/activites.1850

Yin, R.K. (2014). Case study research: sign and methods. Sage.