Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Three: Comparisons between and reflections on the pilot sectors

January 25th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have started a series of posts on the concluding event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – the Final Review. In the first post I explained how we came to the idea to organise the event primarily at the Norddeutsches Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen ((NZNB) – North-German Centre for Ecological Construction Work in Verden, near Bremen).  I then gave a picture of the arrangements on site and on the special agenda of Review Meeting (with interactive exhibition spaces as addition to traditional presentations). In the second post I focused on the contributions of the Construction Pilot – on our topics and how we presented our message (with poster wall, exploitation tables and presentation session). In this third post I will focus on the comparisons between the Construction pilot and Healthcare pilot that I and Tamsin Treasure-Jones presented as tandem-presenters. (In the agenda this was labelled with the title “Future of Learning in digital transformation of SMEs” – led by Graham Attwell. Here I will focus on our reflections on the two sectoral pilots and on our conclusions from cross-sectoral comparison.)

Interests, obstacles and challenges for digital transformation in the pilot sectors

Looking back at the project start we presented the following interests, obstacles and challenges that had a role in promoting or preveing digital transformation in the pilot sectors:

In the Construction sector:

  • Productivity of workforce was emphasised by the representatives of the umbrella organisation of the construction industry (Bauindustrieverband) as a major source of innovation to be be explored.
  • Several pioneering enterprises had introduced earlier digital tools but made negative experiences with non-mature technologies and less user-friendly software solutions.
  • Most construction companies had very restrictive policies regarding the use of mobile devices at construction sites – partly to avoid hazards due to lack of concentration, partly to ensure data protection and data privacy.
  • Most apprentices were not familiar with domain-specific apps and had mainly used to digital tools and Internet for private hobbies and interests.

In the Healthcare sector:

  • The pilot contexts were overshadowed by high workloads and high stakes. Therefore, time for reflection and learning was limited. Readiness for innovations was available, if one could foresee quick wins. The management representatives and staff were wary of technology that is not yet robust or fit for purpose.
  • There was an increasing emphasis to have more collaboration (between teams and SMEs in healthcare) but this tended to create new demands on staff time, information overload and slow down decision making.
  • In  the SMEs usage of digital technology was limited due to lack of WiFi and reliance on traditional desktop computing.

Co-design, capacity-building and user engagement in the pilot sectors

Looking back at the activities in the two sectoral pilots, we can summarise the somewhat different developments in the following way:

In the construction sector:

  • Participative Research & Development dialogue was primarily promoted in one central application partner organisation (Bau-ABC). It involved users (trainers & apprentices) and technical partners but was kept together by a supporting accompanying research team.
  • The co-design process was based on preliminary idea that was revised in an iterative process that prepared the grounds for shaping an integrative and flexible mobile toolset. During this process the Multimedia training schemes had a bridging role in carrying the process to next phases and in promoting the users’ web competences for the piloting.
  • Wider stakeholder engagement served the purpose of promoting the idea of an integrative toolset and getting new impulses and feedback for the co-design.

Co-design, capacity-building and user-engagement in healthcare:

  • Co-design process was shaped with three parallel design teams – involving different sets of users, researchers and software developers from different countries and organisations.
  • In general the activities were based on Design-Based Research process model and on several iterations. At the final phase of the processes they were reaching the stage of partial integration of originally separate tools.
  • Training was built in into co-design and pilot activities but it couldn’t integrate the pilot groups and bridge the gaps.
  • Pilots were extended to wider groups when initial user groups (involved in the design teams) encountered difficulties in making actual use of the tools in the context of work. Wider stakeholder engagement served the purpose of opening the piloting beyond the original co-design teams.

 Signs of transformative practice in the two sectoral pilots

Looking at the experiences in co-design, capacity building and using the tools in the two sectoral pilots, we can summarise the achievements as ‘signs of transformative learning’ in the following way:

In the construction sector

  • The Bau-ABC trainers’ work with their own domain-specific blogs and their project-specific stacks for Learning Toolbox helped them to create ownership of digital tools and confidence to use them. Likewise, the apprentices accepted the use of digital tools and web resources as welcomed enrichment of their learning practices.
  • Some Bau-ABC trainers used Learning Toolbox as an instrument to plan integrated training projects. In this way they could address working interfaces at construction. From the perspective of productivity and energy-efficiency these interfaces (e.g. in the work of bricklayers and carpenters) are of vital importance. Here the engagement of the two trades in joint projects (which require familiarisation in the other trade’s tasks) can be seen as a major step in  developing collaborative projects of different trades.
  • The presentation of Thomas Isselhard on Learning Toolbox in the coordination of work at a construction site (see Video 1 and Video 2) give a clear picture of the advantages of using Learning Toolbox by different parties.
  • Yet, the positive examples referred to need to be seen as ‘instances of change’ which require further support by management decisions and by engagement of further users (see the next point below).

In the healthcare sector

  • The workshops of the Healthcare pilots also managed to create ownership through co-design – such as the participants’ engagement with “our Bits & Pieces” applications.
  • The workshops facilitated moving from a culture of cooperative (externally coordinated) to collaborative (mutually coordinated) work – overcoming fears around change of own & others’ work.
  • The pilot activities enabled a wider group to act as developers of new ideas, not only as reviewers (of the usability of the tools).
  • Yet, the above mentioned  learning experiences in the project activities were not enough to overcome the hurdles in the organisational everyday life (see the next point below).

Lessons from the project work (altogether) in the two sectoral pilots

Lessons from construction pilot

  • Major part of the co-design, capacity-building and piloting activities took place in the training centre Bau-ABC. It was relatively easy to integrate the activities into the training projects. Also, given its various training activities Bau-ABC was in a position act as a multiplier-organisation in its various networks. This is also the case with the Verden-based Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen ((NNB) – Network for Ecological Construction Work).
  • In the pilot activities the Learning Toolbox proved to be a flexible toolset that could be easily customised to support trade-specific learning as well as coordination of construction work at construction site.
  • Concerning the roll-out to construction companies, it has been essential to demonstrate the Learning Toolbox at the stage of ‘working tool in action’ to get construction companies start their own pilots. These, however require a greater degree of customisation and integration of ‘learning’ with the optimisation company-specific work and business processes.

Lessons from healthcare pilot

  • Major part of the co-design, capacity-building and piloting took place in General Practice stations – in which there was less time and space for introducing new tools and practices in the middle of daily work. In the exploitation phase it became clear that organisations that are responsible for education/training of healthcare professionals are in a better position to start the initial piloting.
  • The pilot activities in Healthcare sector focused on tools that were designed for collaborative use (across the organisation or particular networks or teams). It appeared that in many cases there was a risk of ending up with parallel processes (for those using the tools and those not getting involved) and therefore the use of tools could not be established as a general practice. In this respect the use of Learning Toolbox has been less dependent on the number of users within the organisation.
  • Also in the exploitation activities in Healthcare sector it has been important to have examples from using the tools in real work settings to facilitate transfer of innovation beyond the original contexts (the organisations involved in co-design activities).

– – –

I believe that this is enough of the comparisons between the two sectors. In my next post I will give a picture on the questions raised by our presentations, on the related discussion and on the feedback from reviewers.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Two: Presentations on the Construction Pilot

January 24th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of posts on the concluding event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – the Final Review. I also explained how we came to the idea to organise the event primarily at the Norddeutsches Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen ((NZNB) – North-German Centre for Ecological Construction Work in Verden, near Bremen).  I then gave a picture of the arrangements and the agenda of Review Meeting and how we made use of the spaces provided by the NZNB to present our work in a more dynamic and dialogue-oriented way. In this post I focus on our reporting on the Construction Pilot – what we reported and how we presented our message (taking into account the different arrangements we had prepared before the review panel arrived.

Construction Pilot: Exhibition space and presentation session

We started our contributions with a ‘guided tour’ round the Exhibition space of the Construction Pilot and the first station was the Poster Wall that presented the story of construction sector pilot activities (with focus on Bau-ABC Rostrup. The poster wall consisted of nine posters that presented the different phases of co-design processes, training measures and emerging impact (the vertical columns). However, when reading the horizontal rows, the story became an integrated picture on mutually supporting activities that paved the way for increasing involvement of the users (Bau-ABC trainers) and demonstrated how they became owners of their own multimedia learning and of the use of Learning Toolbox in vocational training (in their trades and in joint initiatives). Below the screenshots give an impression of the poster wall:

screenshot-2017-01-24-17-48-57

Screenshot 1: Posters on co-design processes, training and expectations at an early phase of the project

screenshot-2017-01-24-18-12-53

Screenshot 2: Posters on progress with co-design, training and using tools in the interim phases

screenshot-2017-01-24-18-14-54

Screenshot 3: Posters on co-design (by users), training results and getting feedback on tools in the advanced phase

At this stage two Bau-ABC trainers – Markus Pape of the carpenters and Stefan Wiedenstried of the road-builders – had joined us and could answer to questions concerning their role in the pilot and on their experiences on using their trainers’ blogs and the Learning Toolbox in their training activities. With an additional poster Melanie Campbell highlighted the impact of Learning Layers activities at the organisational level and the steps that Bau-ABC has taken towards shaping its own Digital Agenda. Also, on the follow-up activities she had a separate poster to present the DigiProB project in continuing vocational training as a successor activity.

The exploitation tables: Start-up initiatives and successor projects

The next station in the ‘guided tour’ were the two exploitation tables. The first one presented the start-up companies that take the work of Learning Layers further on commercial basis. Here, the most important for us is the Bremen-based “stack.services” that has been founded by the developers of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support the use of the tool. After the project it will be the main partner for the follow-up activities that will use LTB. In the second table the reviewers got an overview of different UK- and German-based follow-up projects in which LTB is being used. Also, they got information on current talks with companies that want to start using LTB independently of publicly funded projects.

The presentation session: Insights into changing practices in training/learning and into evaluation studies

In the presentation session Lars Heinemann emphasised that the capacity-building in multimedia and web competences needed to get integrated into the pedagogy based on action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). He pointed to the evidence already provided by the Bau-ABC trainers. In the subsequent presentation Markus Manhart provided insights into the findings of evaluation studies concerning the following aspects: a) Challenges and barriers, b) Changes in learning and working practices and c) Enhancement of pedagogy in training. Here, the two Bau-ABC trainers could give further examples on their own use of Learning Toolbox and on the impact on the learning behaviour and motivation of apprentices. In the final presentation Thomas Isselhard presented an example on the use of Learning Toolbox in the marketing of good quality construction work in the competition “Grüne Hausnummer” (Green label on the quality of ecological and energy-efficient construction work).

– – –

I think this is enough of the presentations on the construction pilot. Altogether, my impression was that we gave a coherent and genuine picture of serious efforts to achieve results. The contributions from the evaluation studies supported the picture that was given by the application partners and the accompanying researchers – the Learning Toolbox was becoming a tool that was appreciated by the users (alongside the trainers’ blogs that emerged as a result of the Multimedia training initiated by the project)- However, for further steps they needed further steps at the level of their own organisations and network partners. Yet, the interested partner organisations were taking initiatives to start their own pilots. Given this picture, we were in a good position to compare the results and learning experiences between the two sectoral pilots.

More blogs to come …

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part One: The Event and the Arrangements

January 21st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week we had in our program the concluding event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – the Final Review. Normally such an event is organised at the premises of the respective Directorate General of the European Commission – in our case the DG Research which is located in Luxembourg. However, after our Year 2 Review Meeting the said building has been demolished and the DG Research has moved to temporary building. Therefore, also the review meetings have bee organised  in such a building or elsewhere. This gave us the rise to propose that our final review would be organised at the premises of one of our application partner organisations – to give the Project Officer and the review panel a chance to get a more lively picture of the impact of our work. This proposal was accepted and we had a brief discussion on the remaining options. In general, the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup would have liked to host such an event, but it was not possible, because in January their meeting rooms are fully booked for continuing vocational training courses. Therefore, our best option was to organise the event primarily at the Norddeutsches Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen ((NZNB) – North-German Centre for Ecological Construction Work in Verden, near Bremen). Below I try to give a picture of the arrangements and the agenda of Review Meeting and how we made use of the spaces provided by the NZNB to present our work in a more dynamic and dialogue-oriented way.

Making appropriate use of the spaces of the NZNB

We came to the conclusion that we should organise the first day of the review meeting around two ‘exhibition spaces’ that portray our two sectoral pilots. In addition, we would present the work of the host organisation. Therefore, we located our activities into a workshop hall (“Panzerhalle”) and into the meeting rooms above the clay and strawbale construction hall. There we had a large meeting room, part of which we then used for the two exhibition spaces. Having structured the main part of the agenda for these internal exhibitions and supporting presentations, we arranged that during the lunch break the review panel could have a chance to visit briefly the permanent exhibition of NZNB on ecological construction work in their main building. Also, we wanted to give them a brief presentation on the clay and strawbale building techniques and the courses organised in the workshop building.

Presenting our work with visual images, tool demonstrations and coniverations

For the exhibition spaces of the two sectoral pilots we had some common content and then somewhat different settings:

a) As the common content we had a Mini-Poster Wall that presented all the Learning Toolbox (LTB) stacks that had been prepared for piloting or demonstration purposes.

b) For the Healthcare exhibition space we had following contents and activities that were offered for free explorations:

  • Posters that had been used at Online Educa Berlin (2015) to present the tools piloted in the Healthcare sector;
  • Posters that had been used at AMEE 2015 conference to demonstrate the usability of Learning Toolbox in Healthcare Education and in related conferences;
  • Games table to demonstrate further uses of the tools of the Healthcare sector in their original and spin-off contexts.

c) For the Construction exhibition space we had the following contents and spots that were offered as ‘guided tour’:

  • Poster wall that portrayed the mutual realations of Learning Layers pilots activities with 9+1 posters (and an additional poster for the spin-off project DigiProB in Continuing Vocational Training.
  • Spin-out table to present the (emerging) start-up companies that will take over the responsibility of some LL tools after the funding period (Learning Toolbox, AchSo, ZoP-tool).
  • Exploitation table for presenting follow-up projects (including LTB-pilots in Germany, Estonia, Spain, UK).

Giving visibility to our application partners and to the use of LTB

One of our major points was to engage our application partners in the ‘exhibition spaces’ and in the supporting presentation sessions. For this purpose we had made arrangements to Thomas Isselhard from the network for ecological construction worj (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen) to present his ways for using Learning Toolbox in construction work. Likewise, we had invites two full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) from Bau-ABC to present their initiatives for using LTB and their experiences on using it in apprentice training.

During the two preparatory days we inserted most of the content to the Learning Toolbox to make the two ‘exhibition areas accessible via LTB-stacks.

– – –

I think this is enough of the advance planning and of the preparatory measures that we took during the two preparatory days (Monday and Tuesday) this week. It is worthwhile to note that we had arranged the accommodation of our guests in Bremen (and transports between Verden and Bremen) so that the guests could also explore Bremen in the evenings. On the final day of the event we had relocated the meeting to Bremen to make the travel arrangements easier. So, this was a brief overview on our preparations. In my three following blogs I will give more information on our presentations and on the discussions.

More blogs to come …

Eine folgenreiche Reise – Martin Luther King in Deutschland

January 17th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

On Monday 16.01.2017 the Americans celebrated once again Martin Luther King Day as a national holida. With this blog entry I join with my belated congratulations the ones who respect his legacy by sharing my experiences as a radio-listener in Germany. On Sunday morning – the day before – I happened to listen to the radio program “Am Sonntag morgen” (on Sunday morning) – this time provided by the German Lutheran church. And it was a special program about the travels of Marin Luther King Sr and Jr in Germany. Inspired by the program I started a blog entry but had to stop just after the introduction and only share the link to the audio recording. But I made a commitment that I will continue writing the blog and give more information, why the travel of Martin Luther King Jr to Germany and Berlin in 1964 was a travel with consequences.  Here the link:

Eine folgenreiche Reise. Martin Luther King in Deutschland

Now, after several busy days at work (I will report) I have found time to keep my promise. So, let me give some clues why the travel(s) of Martin Luther King(s) can be characterised as trips with consequences.

Let us start with the father – Martin Luther King Sr. He was originally called Michael – and so was his son. But in the year 1935 he and some other baptist preachers attended an international baptist conference in Berlin. The Nazis were already in power and tried to make an image as tolerant rulers allowing such events to happen. But this was not the point of this story. King Sr (still called Michael) took the opportunity to visit the home places of the reformer Martin Luther (Wittenberg and Eisenach). There he got very much impressed of the spirit of Martin Luther – civil courage and self-determination – and he wanted to convey this spirit to the American civil rights movement where he was already involved. So, after returning home he renamed himself and his son as Martin Luther King – Senior and Junior.

The son – Martin Luther King Jr – follows in the footsteps of the father and continues his work as a preacher, intellectual and activist in the civil rights movement. By the year 1963 he had become world famous as the leader of the non-violent civil rights movement of black Americans – the man who gave the speech “I have a dream …” in the largest demonstration for civil rights. One year after – in 1964 (nearly 30 years after his father) he travels to Europe to participate in the international conference of baptists (this time in Amsterdam). And just like his father, he has his own extension program to explore Germany – but his target is the divided Berlin.

Little is known of this part of the travel of Martin Luther King – and mostly we thank for our knowledge a Berlin school pupils’ documentation project “King Code”. What this project has found out by interviewing witnesses and tracing documents makes us clear, why the details of this visit were kept secret.

On 13.09.1964 a well-known person from the German Democratic Republic (DDR) tries to escape to West-Berlin and is shot at just before he reaches the other side. An American sergeant risks a lot by dragging the wounded person to the Western side and takes him to the hospital. Martin Luther King gets to know of the incident, visits the place of shooting and visits the victim at the hospital. In his famous speech at the Waldbühne he predicts that the wall- the symbol of inhumanity for him – will fall down. But he wants to do more – he insists to visit East Berlin as well. The American authorities wanted to prevent this and confiscate his passport but he manages to get through the border control with his credit card as a travel document.

Thanks to the above mentioned school project we can listen to witnesses and an audio recording of the speech of Martin Luther King in the crowded Marienkirche (and memories of another speech in the nearby Sophienkirche). King presents his audience greetings from America and from all over the world. He then emphasises that people on both sides of the Berlin Wall ar e children of God and thus alike as human beings – and therefore, no regime can take that quality away from them. He speaks of justice, equality and civil rights – determined that that the path leads to freedom. Three months later he receives the Nobel Price for Peace and continues his work in the civil right movement.  Sadly, King was murdered some years later but his life work became know everywhere. And so, for the civil rights movement in DDR his message was present when they demonstrated for freedom and justice with the message for non-violence: “Keine Gewalt!” And in November 1989 the Berlin Wall and the borders of DDR were opened – another dream to come true.

In 2013 the activists of the school project “King Code” had the pleasure to witness the visit of the first black president of the USA to Berlin and to listen to his speech. Barack Obama spoke for open-mindedness between different religions as well as between residents and migrants. And in the spirit of Martin Luther King he emphasised that injustice at one place on earth is a threat to other places as well. In this respect he passed the message further to the young generation.

– – –

I think this is enough of this radio program. Please note that the content was provided by Andrea Schneider for Deutschlandfunk as a contribution of the Evangelic Lutheran church, whilst the translations above were my private efforts to convey the message in English. I hope that I did justice to the program and to the legacy of Martin Luther King. Please find more information on the program here:

http://rundfunk.evangelisch.de/kirche-im-radio/am-sonntagmorgen/eine-folgenreiche-reise-8611

I was pleased to do my bit to give some insights into it and to the message tha has even more actuality now. But from now on I will get beck to my ‘working and learning’ themes.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Finnish children’s favourite TV program “Pikku Kakkonen” – 40 years and more

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

On my blog I have not dealt so much with my home country Finland – given that I have worked since 1994 most of the time elsewhere in Europe. During our EU-funded Learning Layers project I found several occasions to address some developments in Finland as impulses for the project work (e.g. developments in apprentice training and the ‘sustainability commitments’  in education, training and economy). Last December I felt the need to write about the Finnish independence, now that Finland is celebrating its 100th independence day in the coming December. In this respect I will picking more Finnish issues to celebrate during this year.

And just now I have a perfect case – the 40th anniversary of the most popular and sustainable children’s TV program – Pikku Kakkonen (Tiny 2-er). Today I watched the special TV program “Postilokero 347” (P.O. Box 347) in its full length and was amazed what all this program could report on the history, characters, contributors, feedback etc. Here I give the link to the program (made in Finnish for Finnish children) and then try to describe what all I learned.

Postilokero 347 – 40-vuotiaan Pikku Kakkosen tarina

The song “Pikku Kakkosen posti”: The TV-program invited children to send drawings and other post and the postal address was presented as a song that was performed by children. And this special program was started with this very song  – performed by several groups of children at different times. (And they all enjoyed it.)

The initial start of the program: Some of the founders had already been involved in making an earlier children’s program for the Finnish TV 2 but it had been based on a British format and was scripted in the UK. In this context they came to the conclusion that they could develop a program with their own format and with Finnish content and Finnish-initiated characters. Of course, they were also looking for contents and impulses from other countries. But on the whole Pikku Kakkonen was a Finnish design (from TV 2 and Tampere).

Some key characters and program elements: The program was composed of short elements glued together by the moderators. A special feature was to bring hand puppet animals as partners of the moderators. The most popular was Ransu the dog and his two mates Riku and Eno-Elmeri (together known as Karvakuonot – Furry Noses). Sometimes they were also making special outdoor visits (e.g. boat trips on the nearby lake or visiting police stations or fire brigade stations). From Poland the program borrowed Teddy Hangor (Nalle Luppakorva) and his animal friends. From DDR the program got its Sandman to start and to conclude the sleepy time tale (that was told by a famous Finnish actor – male or female). One of the most popular slots was that of the Circus clown Hermanni – announced either as Hermanni’s clown school (Hermannin pellekoulu) or as Hermanni’s hotline (Hermannin hätäapu). And all kinds of children’s concerns could be dealt by the sympathetic, shy and clumsy clown who was speaking directly to (fictive) kids somewhere in Finland and commenting their (fictive) answers.

Special excursions: The very special initiatives were to send a moderator with Ransu the dog to visit Leningrad in the 1980s – just to give insights into everyday life of children in Soviet Union (avoiding all kinds of ideological ornaments). Later on the same moderator and Ransu visited Berlin – and wondered why the people had got into such bad terms with each other that some got the idea to build the wall. Ransu made the point that they should learn to get along with each other so that no such walls would be needed. This was in the autumn 1989 – and by chance: the wall was opened next week (and the moderator and Ransu could add this delightful news as a PS to their travel report. Later on another moderator went with Ransu to interview the presidents of republic about their childhood memories or relations to their pet animals.

Echo from kids and families with kids: This special program presents several episodes in which city kids and rural kids rush to watch Pikku Kakkonen when the program starts – and the parents can count that the kids will focus entirely on the program the next half an hour. And in many cases this had gone from one generation to another. BUT even more striking was that in the 1980s Pikku Kakkonen had been the ‘window to west’ for the Soviet Estonian children and their families. And for Estonian children of that time it was easy to learn Finnish just watching the program.

Echo from other viewers: It was fascinating to hear a special fan – a severely disabled and blind man who had suffered from his disease from his childhood on – to tell that he had been able to follow the program very well in spite of his blindness – the program was sufficiently conversational and had a lot of music. But it appeared that the program is also popular in elderly people’s homes – it brings the children to the inhabitants of these homes (even if they may not have grandchildren of their own). And – what was striking to me – Pikku Kakkonen has become popular among the refugee families in Finland and a key facilitator of the language learning of their children at pre-school or school age. This became apparent in the talks with a Syrian family (in Arabic) and their children (in Finnish).

And finally, at the end of the celebration program “Postilokero 347” I was inspired to hear the current bedtime storyteller of Pikku Kakkonen present the Grimm brothers’ story of Bremen town musicians (Bremer Stadtmusikanten). That made me happy in my present location – in Bremen.

– – –

I guess this is enough to give a picture of Pikku Kakkonen, its history, key characters and impact. If you want to learn more, just click the link and make your own observations! I was overwhelmed by memories of the childhood of my kids (that we shared with Pikku Kakkonen in the 1980s). And I was surprised to learn what all came after those years (when we grew out of Pikku Kakkonen but the program moved on). Congratulations, Pikku Kakkonen – years and more!

More blogs to come (but on other topics)

The end of the Obama era – the great Obama moments

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I wrote from a personal point of view on the coming of a new era. But, of course from a global point of view I have a stronger reason to use the expression ‘change of era’ when referring to the end of the Obama presidency in the USA. It is not my habit to comment the politics of other countries on my blog. Therefore, I will not make comments on Obama’s successor and what to expect of his presidency. What I want to do at this point is to celebrate the outgoing statesman and the special Obama moments during his years of service as the president. Much of this has been written and will be written elsewhere. So I limit my remarks to personal experiences and to observations on recent events.

Barack Obama gets elected and re-elected

Strangely enough, I find it difficult to retrieve my memories from the time when Obama was elected for the first time in 2008. Somehow there were too many things going on that I didn’t quite pick the momentum. Of course, Obama had impressed me with the “Yes we can” but yet I was waiting for him and his popular movement to show where this enthusiasm brings him and his administration. Yet, I do remember the politically correct gesture of the good loser, senator McCain when he announced that he had had the honour to congratulate Obama as the next president. (And already at that time the republicans showed that they are poor losers by greeting McCain with angry boo-shouts.)

Far more strongly I experienced the re-election of Obama in 2012. I was on other duties in Berlin and then continuing from there to Barcelona to attend the Learning Layers kick-off meeting. The elections in the USA took place on the very night that I spent in a hotel in Berlin before my morning flight to Barcelona. At this time there was much at stake and the result of the elections was not clear before the critical day. So, I just couldn’t get sleep and turned the TV on to follow the program of the German TV-channel ZDF. So the night passed, there were moments that I was nodding away and then getting wake. The race was tight and at the end there were the famous ‘swing states’ of which one was never so sure which side takes the votes.

And then – in between – came the announcement of the moderator Christian Sievers: “And the next president of the USA is – Barack Obama!” Indeed, Obama had won in Ohio and that already ensured the result. Then, with similar results from the remaining states the victory of Obama was clear. And I felt so relieved. At the airport I met some older American tourists who were heading to Barcelona. They were very disappointed and made it clear. I didn’t feel a temptation to enter a debate with them – after all, it was up to the US citizens to elect their president.

The farewell speech of Barack Obama – spelling out his legacy

Then time passed – and I had my attention mainly on the project work with the Learning Layers – and before long there was the time for the next US elections. And now it was about the successor of Barack Obama. Well, the results was what it was – the citizens had spoken (popular vote) and the election system had spoken (the result in terms of electors). One may speculate just as much one can – but the result remains. The Obama presidency will come to an end with a hand-over to a completely different presidency.

At this moment I prefer to focus on the farewell speech of President Barack Obama and how he has explained his legacy to his voters and supporters . To my great pleasure I found that the report of the leading German TV channel ARD on this event provides a link to Obama’s speech in full length (and not dubbed into German). So, let us give our full attention to Barack Obama making clear what has been achieved during his presidency and how to face the challenges of the American democracy in the coming times:

Other kinds of Obama moments to be remembered

But when speaking of Obama moments to be remembered, it is not only about Barack Obama as the president that we are thinking. Clearly, Michelle Obama has made something special of here role as the First Lady – by staying with the ordinary people and keeping her feet on the ground. And that has been appreciated – she has given the people their own Obama moments. When a popular TV show invited people to express their thanks to the outgoing First Lady, there were many volunteers with deep thoughts and deep feelings. And the TV-program and Michelle Obama had their special way to return the compliments to them. Let us enjoy these Obama moments as well:

Michelle Obama Surprises People Recording Goodbye Messages to Her.

I think this is enough of the Obama moments to be kept in memory. I will not continue with comments on American politics on my blog. But I am pleased to express my thankfulness and respect to the Obama couple now that they take the most important office in a democracy – that of a citizen.

More blogs to come … 

A new year – a new era: Let’s see what’s coming up!

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

The new year 2017 is already two weeks old and I returned back to work already one week ago. During the last few years I always new, how to start my blogging after the holiday period. I just started to report, what is on the agenda in the EU-funded Learning Layers project. And there was no time to waste because there was always something moving. But now the project has come to an end and we only have the Final Review Meeting ahead us (next week, to be precise). So, in principle this year is to me stepping to a new era – to the period after the major European project. I had prepared myself mentally for a quick transition to follow-up activities but it appears that this transition is slower and the follow-up needs to be shaped carefully. Luckily enough I have now got an unlimited contract with the University of Bremen that makes my life easier and my participation in research activities more flexible.

Yet, it is not only the closure of the Learning Layers that gives me reason to speak of a new era. In the middle of last year I was hit heavily by health issues and the second half of 2016 was no longer like the first one. In June-July I was on holiday in Finland and had to go to a medical doctor because of problems in my lungs. Then I had a series of medical examinations and at the end I got the diagnosis: Prostate cancer with metastasis in lungs. I returned quickly back to Germany (where I am insured) and got the treatment started – firstly with medication and from November on with chemotherapy. So, I had to skip the conferences that took place in the autumn season and to limit my field visits and participation in project meetings to minimum. Yet, I was able give full contribution to the writing of the final reports of the Learning Layers.

Now that I am writing this down I can pass the message that my condition has greatly improved and I have all the reason to be optimistic – although I need keep my optimism in limits. The chemotherapy will be continued to the middle of February and then there will be control examinations and a new situation assessment. So, in the light of the above I am preparing proposals for some conferences in the coming year. Of course these have to pass through the review process, no question. But even more I have to add a personal question mark – “ready to participate provided that my health allows it”. And with possible changes in my health I have to be cautious and humble – to live with my disease day by day.

So, I am looking forward to keep myself in the picture and to face new challenges in the new year. The next milestone is the final review of the Learning Layers (I will get back to it) and then I will start shaping my post-LL activities. There we have a legacy of project work with using Learning Toolbox to support workplace learning – in particular in vocational education and training for construction sector. But before I get to these topics I would like to make somewhat different personal remarks on ‘change of era’ and ‘remarkable moments’ in other contexts. Then I will get back to topics on ‘working and learning’.

More blogs to come …

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


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