Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Practical jokes with my blog – now back to the working mode

August 19th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

The readers of my blog may have been puzzled because of my two latest blog entries: “Why on earth has this author suddenly started to write in an unusual language?”

Well, partly it was due to the fact that I was very exhausted when going to my holidays in Finland. So I decided to write summer holiday greetings in my native language – Finnish – which I normally don’t use when blogging. And when I returned, I felt inclined to write some lines in Finnish (as bye-bye to the holiday mode) and in German (as getting acclimatized to my working environment).

But there was another tricky thought behind it. As the author of this blog I can view the spam-filter of this site and delete the spam comments that refer to my blog posts. I have been doing such gardening for quite some time. Some of these comments are seemingly serious compliments or questions (but then propose that I should follow their spam advertisement). Thinking of such spammers, I tested whether I get similar comments to these posts that have not at all been written in English. Indeed, that has been the case but to less extent. My earlier posts keep attracting more spam comments that these ones.

OK, this was the late summer joke and test. I got the results. Now it is time to get back to my usual themes and to writing in a working mode.

More blogs to come …

Takaisin sorvin ääreen – Zurück zu’ Drehbank

August 5th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Jäädessäni lomalle kesäkuussa toivotin kaikille lukijoilleni hyvää juhannusta ja hyvää kesää – suomeksi. Olinhan lähdössä Suomeen viettämään kesälomaa kotimaassani. Tulipa mieleen ajatus kirjoittaa kesätervehdys omalla äidinkielelläni. No, nyt ne lomat on pidetty ja olen palannut töiden ääreen. Vanhan suomalaisen sanonnan mukaisesti olen palannut “takaisin sorvin ääreen”. Tämä tässä vielä suomeksi, mutta nyt on aika palata taas käyttämään pääasiallista työkieltäni – englantia.

Wenn ich Ende Juni in Urlaub gegangen bin, habe ich meine Leser*innen auf Finnisch gegrüsst. Ich war doch dabei, ein Heimatsurlaub in Finnland anzufangen. Jetzt bin ich wieder zurück zu meinem Arbeitsplatz in Bremen gekommen. Laut einen alten finnischen Spruch “zurück zu’ Drehbank”. Also, das kann ich auch auf deutsch ausdrücken. Von nun an geht es aber weiter hauptsächlich auf englisch.

PS. This was the second part of my practical joke and a related test. I wrote my greetings when going on holidy in my native languag – in Finnish. And now I have announced my return to work in Finnish and in German (the local language). I am keen to observe whether this makes any difference to the amount of spam comments I get when using another language than English.

More blogs to come (on my usual topics and in English) …

Hyvää juhannusta ja hyvää kesää!

June 22nd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Tulipa mieleen kerrankin kirjoittaa blogiini suomeksi – äidinkielelläni. Tällä viestillä haluan toivottaa kaikille juhannusta viettäville hyvää juhannusta – ja kaikille lukijoilleni hyvää kesää!

Terveiset Suomen juhannuksen keskeltä!

More blogs to come … (and then in English)

Getting back to normal business …

March 26th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

The start of this year has been far from normal to me. At the end of January I had a complete computer crash. It took quite some time to get it repaired. I was working with a replacement computer (not with the same operating system, not with the same permissions to access Internet, not having my usual entries to password-protected websites, not with the usual e-mail program etc. etc.).

And when I got my repaired computer back, I had quite an effort catch up with the pending work. No time for blogging, not so easy to share thoughts via blogs, when the clock is ticking.

Now I hope that I have got myself over the worst. So, I will try to start using the blog as I have been using it during several years. I will share thoughts on the projects in/with which I am working. And I will put ‘work in progress’ into discussion. Final reports are matters of their own, discussion documents are there to be discussed.

And perhaps I will have a moment or two to look beyond the immediate contexts of work. After all – there is life outside the projects. And – to keep oneself fit for working and learning, you have to have capacity for life as a wider context of learning.

More blogs to come …

Breaking the long silence

February 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Firstly, my heavily belated Happy New Year greetings to all!

Then, I have to apologise for the quiet period. I really didn’t mean to have such a long winter break after the holiday period. It just happened that after some urgent reporting at the end of January I experienced a complete computer crash.

And it was really scary. The first sign of relief was that all data was stored on an external hard disk. And I got a replacement computer for the time that mine was being repaired. But it took some time to find out what all needs to be repaired and to get the spare parts. Now, as of today afternoon, I am checking if everything works as usual. And as I see it, some things need to be reloaded. But this is a step-by-step process (and a story of its own).

At least I am back on the road to normality.

More blogs to come …

Quiet on the blog – Pekka on sick leave

September 25th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally after the annual ECER conference I am eager to step into the ongoing project work – catching up with reports to be finalised and moving on with fieldwork. This time I have had to pull the brakes. Shortly after publishing the blogs on #ECER2018 I was sent to an eye operation as an emergency case. Now, one week after the operation I have a good feeling about the recovery – but it takes quite some time. Therefore, no intensive reading or writing or anything else that may disturb the healing. I am on sick leave until the 15th of October and perhaps it needs to be extended. So, I am better off taking it easy and taking rest from blogging as well.

Funnily enough this blog post seems to be the 300th after I got myself into regular blogging at the beginning of the EU-funded Learning Layers project in November 2012. It seems ironical that I have to celebrate reaching this milestone by announcing a quiet period. But this is life – and blogging has to be adjusted to facts of life.

Mind you, I have very little to complain when I compare my sick leave and my sick note to the well-known case of the Irish Paddy on a construction site, reported by the Dubliners:

So, I am taking my time out and will be back when I am fit again.

More blogs to come (in due time) …

 

Summer is (almost) over – catching up with the work and the blog

September 1st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year my summer break (from blogging) was longer than I expected. Partly this was due to the fact that we had to do a lot of administrative backstage work in May and June. As a consequence, my preparation for my own conference contributions was delayed. When coming back from holiday, I had to catch up with the postponed conference preparation. And therefore, blogging had to wait.

Now, I am almost happy with what I have achieved and therefore I am getting back on the blog. Next week I and many of my colleagues are attending the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2018) in Bolzano/Bozen in Italy (South Tyrol). We are looking forward to the traditionally good VETNET program for research in vocational education and training (VET). And we are bringing new features to the conference work. But that is already a topic for another post.

More blogs to come …

Catching up with the blog – catching up with recent events and activities

June 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Once again it has happened – the whole May month has passed by without a single blog entry. Sometimes these things just happen. This time there was a lot of travelling to events in other countries. And at the same time there was a lot of preparatory work for proposals that need to be reviewed before they can be discussed. And then the the preparatory work before and after a European project meeting. Therefore, the blogging had to wait until I could find a moment to look back and catch up with the recent events and activities. So, now I try to prepare some short updates.

More blogs to come …

Bye bye “Pontydysgu Studio” – good luck Pontydysgu Ltd & Pontydysgu SL!

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Pontydysgu headquarters in Pontypridd, Wales and ‘Pontydysgu Studio’ as its filial in Bremen – that is how we have experienced it quite a long time. The name “Pontydysgu Studio” was used by Graham Attwell and Dirk Stieglitz when they worked with projects that had a radio program as its major contribution. Altogether, the years when that ‘studio’ was used, they were to a great extent characterised by multimedia, radio and video productions, e-learning … all this as a support for learning in the context of work. But then came the time for changes. Pontydysgu Ltd will continue as usual, but next to it there is the Valencia-based Pontydysgu SL. And alongside these changes the “Pontydysgu Studio” was closed. This week Graham and several friends have emptied it and closed that chapter of Pontydysgu history. Bye bye Pontydysgu Studio, good luck with Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL! I give the word to Paul McCartney to spell out his greetings:

Memories of the “Pontydysgu Studio” and of our joint activities of that era

My earliest memories on working in and with this Pontydysgu Studio go to the years 2004-2005 just before I started working in ITB and the University of Bremen (but had already got the status of Visiting Fellow). Graham had already become a renown blogger with his “Wales-Wide-Web” and he was promoting Open Source software in Education. We remember the pioneering project SIGOSSEE that brought several key actors together. And in the next phase the successor project Bazaar started to look at possibilities to spread out Open Educational Resources by different stalls under the common umbrella of the Bazaar. However, the greatest success story of this project was the radio program “Sounds of the Bazaar” that was continued in several successor projects. And it was then followed by other similar radio initiatives like the conference radio programs for Online Educa Berlin (OEB) or European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). During these years several radio interviews were also made with international guests visiting the Pontydysgu Studio – I still remember the interviews with Ji Li and Tien Je from Beijing, Nikitas from Athens, Lewis and Libby from Melbourne and several others.

But our cooperation was not only about multimedia, there were many research & development projects and initiatives in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Here it is worthwhile to mention that Graham had been recognised as a life-time Visiting Fellow (Gastwissenschaftler) of ITB. So, research in VET had a high priority. However, thanks to Graham and Dirk, the web and multimedia components started to play a greater role in these projects – one after another. And when these components started to become increasingly important, the projects became ‘learning laboratories’ for the research partners as well. Here I try to give a more or less comprehensive overview of projects or initiatives in which we (me and my ITB colleagues) have worked together with Pontydysgu during those years. After the acronym of the project and a nutshell description I have added in brackets the work with multimedia and web resources:

  • WLP – Workplace Learning Partnerships (Project website that was enriched with project blog, project wiki and a gallery of video interviews and external video clips);
  • TTplus – Framework for training of trainers (Conceptual and field-oriented project, summarised in a project wiki);
  • iKoopNet – Initiative for a networked project to introduce e-portfolios and digital tools to vocational learning (was given up because the leading industrial partner was hit severely by the economic crisis);
  • “Trainers in Europe” (EuroTrainer 2) – A network activity based on a Europe-wide consortium to promote networking among workplace trainers and trainers of training centres (Creation of a network platform with many communication and sharing functions);
  • “Consultation seminars” – Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars (for different stakeholders) to discuss the role of common frameworks for promoting professional development of trainers (Web platform to bring together the results of different regional workshops; enriched with video material from the latest workshops);
  • Euronet-PBL – promoting practice-based learning as a work-related learning component in higher education with focus on three domains – engineering, business management, vocational teacher education (Web platform enriched with project blog and a number of video interviews with partners and students);
  • Politics – promoting learning about politics by means of storytelling, media commentaries and informal learning (Creation of a single platform with sections using multiple languages and with different kinds of ‘educational resources’, ‘competitions’ and storytelling components);
  • Coop-PBL in VET – transnational project for sharing knowledge on problem- and project-based learning in VET with support of specific learning software and ‘virtual community’ section (Pontydysgu was not a partner but supported me in producing a large section of video interviews into the ‘virtual community’);
  • Learning Layers – Major European research, technology and development (RTD) project funded from EU FP7 with a several technical, research-oriented and intermediate partners as well as application partners from two pilot sectors (construction and healthcare); the aim was to support learning and knowledge processes in SMEs with the help of widely usable digital tools (that networked web resources and were available as mobile apps). (Pontydsygu was leading the work package in which the digital toolset “Learning Toolbox (LTB” was initiated, developed and piloted in a highly participative and interactive process).

I guess this is enough of the memories and of the project history. A lot of working and learning was involved in those activities that in many respects were linked to this famous “Pontydysgu Studio” (and to its extension, the “Pontydysgu Meeting Room” further down at Horner Strasse). Those were the days, but times – they are a-cha-anging as the old song tells us. So, we say goodbye to the Pontydysgu Studio with good memories in our minds and wish all the best to Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL in the new situation.

More blogs to come …

 

Ten years blogging – five years active blogging

November 12th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today (11.11.2017)  I noticed by chance that I had started my career as a Pontydysgu blogger exactly ten years ago. The start was not great and there were periods of hibernation. Although I renamed my blog I didn’t quite get the swing immediately. But then, about exactly five years ago (16.11.2012) I started blogging on the Learning Layers (LL) project – and became a regular blogger. Now, almost one year after completing LL project I have kept myself busy with reporting on the follow-up activities. And indeed – during these active years – I have also learned to write on other topics alongside the work-related blogs. These anniversaries call for a brief reflection on my ideas during the earlier phases and during the active project-related blogging and in the follow-up phase.

I-Europe – The difficult beginning

I first named my blog as “I-Europe”. This needs an explanation. In the ECER conference in 2003 in Hamburg there was a special session of the VETNET network under the heading “Open meeting”. Alan Brown had initiated it to discuss different options for European cooperation (independently of EU-funding). He was at that time working part time as a programme director for a national research programme and had the opportunity create networking among similar research councils. Alan presented a preliminary framework “Learning in Knowledge Society (LinKS)”. I came up with a parallel initiative “I-Europe” – to promote knowledge development on international, innovative, integrative and inclusive developments in European vocational education and training cultures. Obviously, I didn’t have institutional backing or resources for supporting any practical measures based on such framework (I had just recently ceased to work as Cedefop project manager). However, my initiative had some positive feedback, but there was very little that we could have done.

Four years later I thought that I could start a new round of discussions. I had got settled to ITB in Bremen and started working on transnational projects that included fieldwork. At that time the European policy processes were geared to the framework processes – the Bologna process promoting the European Higher Education Area and the Copenhagen process pushing forward the European Qualification Framework (EQF). A working group in ITB had prepared a critical discussion paper on the EQF. I wanted to take the discussion further – to positive ideas on thematic knowledge development at the European level. But once again I had to observe that I was floating high up – and couldn’t get my ideas properly grounded.

Working & Learning – a new start (but shaky)

After some time and some self-critical reflections I decided to try a new start with a renamed blog. “Working & Learning” seemed to me an appropriate title because it referred to my research context and to the way I wanted get my blogging grounded. I was hoping that I could rely strongly on the projects of that time – Consultation seminars (on teachers and trainers in VET) and the network ‘Trainers in Europe”. However, the blogs for the Consultation seminars had to published exclusively on the project website, whilst the Trainers in Europe network allowed publishing on multiple websites. That already caused a split in the project landscape and made it difficult to reflect on the work in parallel activities. Two further projects of that time – the Politics project and Coop-PBL in VET – required content creation on the respective project websites. At that time I didn’t see any added value in posting on multiple websites. Therefore, I ended up with another period of hibernation with my blog.

Working & Learning gets a new swing with the Learning Layers project

The start of our major EU-funded research & development project Learning Layers (LL) changed the situation radically. We (ITB) had joined in the consortium at the late phase of preparations and we had the responsibility to coordinate the work with application partners in the Construction pilot in Germany. So, we had to work ourselves in and position ourselves as a research partner with genuine research contribution. And the project schedules pushed us into a rapid start (the initial interviews, the Application Partner Days, the preparation of the User Stories, the Helsinki Design Conference …). All this brought me back to blogging – and I got accustomed of regular blogging.

In the beginning this was just quick documentation on activities and events. But gradually there was more in it – reflection on lessons learned in the fieldwork, discussion on working issues, reorientation in the co-design work, introduction of training activities … In addition to this we redefined some aspects of the work as ‘development projects’, had a consortium-wide “Theory Camp” and prepared sustainability plans. The ‘hot’ phases of the work started when the idea of Learning Tool started to take shape, when the multimedia training was expanded to the “Theme Room” campaign and when the Learning Toolbox was piloted in the field. Furthermore, much of the discussion on the final reporting was supported by numerous blogs posts. At the end of the day, the annual logbooks of LL-related blogs were rather massive documents.

Working & Learning continues with follow-up activities of the Learning Layers project

When the Learning Layers project had reached the stage of final review and completed the final-final reporting duties, this could have been the end of the story – both for the project and for the project-related blogging. But it was not the case. Instead, the main actors in the Construction pilot – ITB, the application partners and the developers of the Learning Toolbox were keen to move on to follow-up activities. Although it was not easy to find appropriate ways to continue the development work and to find suitable funding opportunities, several smaller follow-up initiatives emerged. In this way the work with Learning Toolbox was linked to shaping of new ecosystems for coordinating work processes and/or supporting integrative training and learning arrangements. Moreover, the challenge to support the multimedia training for trainers and instructors has become actual time and again. All this makes me confident that there is work to be done in the follow-up activities.

– – –

I guess this is enough as a quick review and reflection on lessons learned. I may not have achieved a record number of blog posts during the ten years (and definitely not during the first five years). But that doesn’t matter to me. I have gone through quite a learning journey and found my way of blogging during the last five years. And with that I can be happy to continue.

More blogs to come …

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    News Bites

    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information


    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.”


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