Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Celebrating Klassiker-Blogger Wilfred Rubens – Reflections on knowledge sharing, networking and smart commentaries

October 24th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday I got the message from my Dutch blogger-colleague Wilfred Rubens that he has a special working anniversary: He wrote his first blog exactly sixteen years ago (here the link to Wilfred’s blog post announcing the anniversary). I immediately congratulated him on his Facebook account, where he had shared his blog post. But this incident also triggered quite a lot of thoughts about the sense of ‘history’ in blogging, on learning by logging, learning from others’ blogs and on networking via blogs and social media. Moreover, it triggered thoughts about my path to become a blogger and what role Wilfred (whom I have never met in person) has been an important reference person. This is related to my rocky road to learning more about technology-enhanced learning. And finally, it is the magic, how to become an internationally well-known blogger when using Dutch as the main communication language (quite fascinating for a native Finn, who has learned also Dutch). So, here we go with all these thoughts that can be brought together with the headings ‘searching’, ‘lurking’ and ‘working the way through’.

Searching: How it all started long ago (and before we had the blogs)

Here I need to go back to end of 1990s when I was working with a temporary contract as a project manager at Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) in Thessaloniki. At that time I was working closely with a number of European research cooperation projects in the field of vocational education and training (VET). I and my colleagues among the project promoters tried to develop patterns of ‘networking the networks’. This included joint seminars for parallel projects with common interests, joint symposia in European conferences and joint initiatives to promote knowledge sharing with the help of ICT resources. Here Graham Attwell and his friends in Wales played a pioneering role. There was a great enthusiasm of knowledge sharing, active interactivity and expectation to get powerful platforms to be used for community development and learning from each other. Indeed, something was reached, but it was ahead of its time and technically fragile. So, the enthusiasm started to fade away. Yet, already at that time I was trying to learn from ‘neighbouring’ intiiatives. So, I was also a subscriber of the weekly updates of the Dutch BVE-net (where Wilfred was working at that time) and of the German innovation programme “kolibri” (with a similar approach as the BVE-net).

However, very soon the winds of European policies changed. The European intergovernmental frameworks emerged as the main thrust of cooperation. Based on the model of the Bologna process (and the European mobility in Higher Education) a similar solution was sought for the field of VET with the Copenhagen process (and the European Qualification Framework). Also, there were expectations to find alternative educational initiatives with commercial eLearning providers and with the company-led “Career space” initiatives of ICT industries. And finally, the idea of ‘networking the networks’ was brought down to hosting ‘virtual communities’ that were supposed to be self-movers.

All this led to the phase in which my time in Cedefop was over and I had to look for a new start back in Finland. Now, after all these years, It is difficult to find traces of many of those initiatives and activities that I have mentioned. Some of them had their time. Some of them never really took off.

Lurking: Becoming aware of new ideas, networks and community-building processes

In the next phase I was back in Finland and had a temporary contract as a visiting researcher attached to the Vocational Teacher Education College of the Jyväskylä Polytechnic (latterly Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences). During that period I was trying to get my feet back on the ground in my home country and also trying to find new ways to contribute to European cooperation in VET research. It wasn’t a very easy period. The European cooperation was overshadowed by the new framework processes (EQF, ECVET, setting up new units for monitoring quality assurance …). Experienced researchers were allocated to evaluation projects rather than invited to promote new initiatives.

In the light of the above it was important that the theme ‘technology-enhanced learning’ provided a creative niche that soon generated creative spaces and provided the basis for genuine community-building processes. Here it is worthwhile to note that this creative movement was opposing the one-sided commercial eLearning approaches and the ICT industries’ efforts to monopolize technology-enhanced learning for their products. In this context the early applications of social media became important. Powerful bloggers and community blogs emerged and achieved high popularity. Critical studies on the use of ICT for learning in SMEs showed that the ready-made solutions are not taken up. New solutions were sought with Open Source software and OSS communities. To some extent this radiated to the field of VET with emphasis on new portfolio concepts in order to empower learners. Yet, the community processes were more looking to conferences like OEB, Alt-C and the events of JISC and SURF.

During this period I was clearly a lurker, trying to get a picture, what is going on and trying find my way to participate. My key informer was Graham Attwell, who was already fully engaged in these processes and debates. And thanks to Graham’s recommendation I started following Wilfred’s blogs on technology-enhanced learning as best I could. To Wilfred’s style in blogging was (and has always been) something special – he is carrying out mini-studies, presenting explorations, providing overviews on debates and making reflective commentaries. They are contributions to knowledge sharing and knowledge development – not primarily engagement in debates between opposite opinions. This was very valuable for me at that time and has been since then.

Working the way forward: The rocky road to become a blogger (who is working & learning via blogging)

The crucial turn for me was the new start as a project-based researcher at ITB, University of Bremen – the institute that I had known for many years (and with which I had mostly cooperated during my years in Cedefop). I was a team member in a major institute that was highly respected and a strong player in the European cooperation. Yet, it is worthwhile to note that many of the projects were overshadowed by pressure to provide a basis for standards or regulative frameworks, whilst the projects were more interested in promoting ‘learning from each other’. This was clearly the case with projects on teachers and trainers in VET, but also with projects on workplace learning partnerships and practice-based learning in higher education. We also had some ‘niche projects’ that were not so centrally involved in VET issues but provided opportunities to pilot with new platforms and with blogging.

Concerning my own development as a blogger, this phase was characterised by a strange contradiction. In some projects I managed to work with a project blog and contribute regularly. BUT this was all about working issues, progress and achievements of the said progress – without really reaching out to wider discussion. At the same time my efforts to start a personal blog never got further than sketching some general ideas for the European VET research community  – without providing a real perspective, how to work with those ideas. As a consequence, I had lengthy gaps in my personal blogging history. And my contributions to blogs on project websites tended to get lost in cyberspace once the domain names got outdated and were not renewed.

Gradually, the themes ‘digitization in education and training’  and ‘digital transformation’ in working life and through the society became central issues for all innovation programmes. For us in ITB the decisive step forward was the beginning of the Learning Layers project and our entry to the project consortium as late newcomers (with the construction sector partners). Our role was somewhat unspecific and we had to work ourselves into the project idea while working with the practitioners alongside us. For me this provided the critical challenge for using the blog as a creative space for working and learning (and for reflecting what has been achieved). Also, the Europe-wide project consortium was a clear audience to be addressed and the process dynamic brought into picture new issues to be shared. Once I had got the habit of blogging regularly, I understood that the blogs laid foundation for the reporting in the project and for my further conceptual work. And alongside this, I found it appropriate to blog on historical events or on other interesting themes (such as music) but yet keeping the main focus on innovations in vocational and workplace learning. And with the Learning Layers project we were there – with the challenge to work with shaping appropriate digital toolsets to support learning in the context of work. And with the Learning Toolbox we are now promoting an innovation that has been shaped for the practitioners, with the practitioners and by the practitioners.

I guess I have said enough of my rock yroad to become a blogger. During this latest intensive phase I couldn’t follow that closely the work of Wilfred Rubens. Yet, being a subscriber to his blog I have been bombarded with news feeds that inform, what he is up to. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed of his productivity and sad that I cannot follow all what I am getting from him. But even if my following is at a superficial level, I have some glimpses of that richness of knowledge that he is sharing. And therefore, with my background development that I have described above, I feel that I am in a position to congratulate Wilfred as a “Klassiker-Blogger” and celebrate his anniversary: Years and more, blogs an more – we are with you!

More blogs to come … (also on my side)

 

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 …