Archive for the ‘changing environment’ Category

Thoughts on retirement and retreat – Part One: What consequences for blogging?

December 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog posts I have been closing my activities as a project-based researcher. In addition, I have made a brief review on different phases of my career with European research & development projects in the field of vocational education and training (VET). This has been part of my stepping out of active engagement in working life and transition to retirement. At the end of those posts I have indicated that I will continue writing blogs, but from a different perspective. However, as long as I have had something to report and review (in particular in the light of occasional anniversaries), I have not given much thoughts on what implications this new situation – landing to retirement – might have for my future blogging. Now it is time to share some thoughts on it – and to make it transparent, what kind of fundamental changes I am going through. Below I will mention some aspects of these changes.

Semi-retirement, full retirement and retreat from the ‘battle grounds’

For many active researchers the end of the career at their university job has not meant a complete departure from their former activities. Many of my old acquaintances have continued in some form of consultancy and private research activities. That is often called as semi-retirement (and the Germans top it up with their joking expression ‘(Un)Ruhestand’). I have had my taste of this during this year when I had a short part-time contract alongside my pension to finish my activities in my last project. But for me it was clear that when the project is over, there will be no such continuation.

For me the strong point was the need to move back to my home country Finland. For many years I had lived as an expatriate in Germany and visiting my home country and my beloved ones as often as I could (but not as often I would have wished). So, now it was the time to put an end to this shuttling and to get settled. During the year 2020 there was a longer period of working from the Finnish home office and that was a kind of ‘semi-retreat’ but it didn’t feel like the complete retreat. Now, once I have finished the project work and moved completely back to Finland. I start to understand, what difference it makes to leave the ‘battle grounds’.

Research & development work in action vs. observation from afar

During my active years my blogging on projects has been inspired by the fact that I have been in the middle of action – working closely with development-related challenges and action contexts and with European partners. This has given me food for thought and I have been digesting my experiences and our ideas with blogs posts. Also, these project contexts have given me the awareness of actual and potential audiences with whom I am in a dialogue. Now, in the process of retirement and retreat this feeling is fading away.

In this context I have to mention the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA) and its activities in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). Ever since the founding phase I have been active in different roles and become recognised as the historian of the network. My blogs  on the annual ECER conferences have given me the basis for writing a report on the evolution of the VETNET network by the year 2016 (when I had to stay away from the conference that celebrated the 20th anniversary due to illness). I then returned to the three following conferences and wrote further blogs but indicated that I will not continue participating in the future conferences. (I left open the option to complete the history report up to ECER 2019.)

Now, due to the corona crisis, the ECER 2020 was cancelled with rather short notice and the ECER 2021 will be organised as an online event. In this respect the VETNET network has been working with new solutions for proceedings publications to harvest the participants’ contributions for the ECER 2020 and to prepare the grounds for online participation. From this perspective, the VETNET is entering a new era with new challenges. I can at best wish good luck.

Staying as an expatriate in Germany – and being engaged with other Europeans

Alongside my project-related blogging I have sometimes taken up somewhat different themes. Mainly I have taken the role of a European expatriate living in Germany and interpreting some interesting themes from the German point to other Europeans. Many of these have been related to historical anniversaries – in particular to the processes of peaceful revolution in East Germany 1989 and to the German reunification in 1990. But I have also reported on the pro-European movement Pulse of Europe and its activities to promote positive engagement to promote European solidarity and commitment to work together for a better future. I was pleased to be able to join in the activities and give some inputs in the ‘open microphone’ sessions of the regular Sunday meetings.

Also, I have written some blogs with focus on the 100th anniversary of the Finnish independence. I felt the need to explain the particular history of our nation-building during the centuries of Swedish rule and the century of Russian rule (but with a considerable degree of autonomy). Then, I felt the need to explain the difficult process of gaining the independence (after the World War I), defending it (during the World War II) and consolidating the Finnish welfare state and the particular international position as western democracy and bridge-builder between East and West.

Looking back, I am pleased that I have been active on these fronts. BUT I am no longer there, among the Germans and working with other Europeans. So, I think that I have already completed the mission when it comes to blogging on these themes.

So, having shared these thoughts I am somewhat uncertain, how to continue my blogging from a different perspective. Obviously, I need to find a new role for myself and that takes time. Part of this process is to reconsider, what I want to discuss via blogging and what as a user of (other) social media. That is the topic for my next blog post.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving auf deutsch – in the Universität Bremen style

November 26th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

I need to start this post with a disclaimer. To be sure, Thanksgiving is the special holiday that takes place today in the USA. It is part of the American history and is celebrated due to specific tradition. This tradition has not crossed the Atlantic ocean. What has crossed, is the Black Friday shopping season – but that has nothing to do with my topic. So, let us get to the story that I wanted to share via my blog.

A letter in a thick envelope

Yesterday I was surprised to find a thick brown envelope from the University of Bremen  in my mailbox here in Jyväskylä. I opened it and found a letter from our Kanzler (Head of administration). He thanked me for the work that I have done for the University of Bremen during my years of service. I was pleased to read that my work had been appreciated as a contribution to the success of the University of Bremen.

Normally, when researchers of the university have gone to retirement, they have been invited to a special event by the management of the university. This year, due to pandemic, such an event will not take place.

Instead, I (and others who have left the university service) have got this letter and two special gifts – as tokens of appreciation and as souvenirs from the years in Bremen. Firstly, there was a box of Bremen-based Hachez chocolate (with the logo of the University of Bremen and a picture of the Bremen Town Musicians). Secondly, there was a bag of coffee produced by the company ‘Utamtsi’ – founded by former students of the University of Bremen.

As I have mentioned above, this was a complete surprise. I appreciate the nice words with which the management of our university thanks the former employees who have gone to retirement. And it was nice to have such souvenirs from my years in Bremen transported to Central Finland – to keep the memories fresh.

So, I guess that this friendly gesture merits the characterisation as “Thanksgiving auf deutsch – in the Universität Bremen style”. At least this made my day.

More blogs to come (but from a different perspective) …

 

How are HR professionals coping?

June 12th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
elearning, hand, laptop

mohamed_hassan (CC0), Pixabay

As I expected there the flurry of reports on technology and learning in the lockdown is beginning to appear.

Fosway is a company operating in the corporate learning market.

In their report of a survey of HR professionals, among other things they find among other things:

  • Traditional eLearning shows signs of waning both in terms of adoption but also significantly in terms of perceived success. Video content is the highest rated in supporting organisations throughout the COVID-19 crisis so far, closely followed by curated content. Bespoke eLearning, off-the-shelf courses, and blended learning are all reported to be less successful.
  • Meanwhile, as people get used to working remotely and in virtual teams, collaboration is becoming a key priority. Eighty-four percent of L&D leaders think it is more important to integrate digital learning into other corporate platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Trello.
  • So-called learning experience platforms, as well as collaborative learning specialist platforms, are rated as the most successful systems after – predictably – virtual classrooms.

For what it is worth my not at all representative survey is finding that rapid (overnight) digitization has provided an immense challenge for many organisations. A particularly steep learning curve has been how to organise and manage distributed teams of employees. More on this to follow.

 

 

Will we miss academic conferences?

June 8th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
event, auditorium, conference

crystal710 (CC0), Pixabay

I liked Jess Cartner Morley’s article ‘The fashion show is over: what I have learned from twenty years of catwalks’ in the UK Guardian newspaper this morning.  The fashion editor says:

There are no real-life catwalks this season, with the first all-digital London fashion week kicking off on Friday, and online-only events scheduled for Paris and Milan next month. Most probably no physical shows for the rest of the year, with September’s fashion weeks looking unlikely. And after that, who knows? Will social distancing and recession kill the catwalk for ever?,…….

But I will really, really miss fashion shows. They have brought me so much joy. My entry to fashion week coincided with the moment the catwalk was evolving from its second half of the 20th-century form – a chic but rule-bound, elite, inward-focused parade that served a clique of editors and buyers – into a stadium-sized pop cultural carnival.

This seems a remarkable similarity to the academic conference. When some twenty five years ago I started going to such conferences, they were very serious. Even getting a paper accepted was a hard business. And then there were discussants also taking their role seriously. There was one Emeritus professor who used to turn up a particular conference every year and if he attended a session at which you were presenting you had to be worried. But the funding driven demand for ever more publications and the resulting plethora of new journals and conferences catering for this need has turned academic conferences if not into stadium sized cultural carnivals but certainly large arena sized. And although the social events are better than ever I am not convinced the quality of many conferences has improved. Neither does inclusion seem to have been a major consideration. Most participants in conferences at least at an international level are dependent on grant funding from their university and in many cases that has been in short supply in recent years especially for young and emerging researchers.

Will social distancing and recession kill the academic conference for ever. I don’t think so. But they are under yet more pressure in terms of the cost both in terms of money but also the environment. True: some conference organizers don’t have the knowledge and experience to run online conferences, True too that some online conferences – trying to copy the face to face event have failed perhaps to present such a compelling vision of what an online conference could be like. But others – for instance Alt-C who already have a great deal of experience of organizing online events – have nee superb (Alt-C even managed a fine Karaoke social online). As we become more experienced I am sure we can find new (and better ways) of ‘doing’ conferences. This might include looking at what period of time they take place over, it might include moving away for just paper presentations (basically lecturing) to a real discussion over the key ideas and findings being presented.

This summer I am taking part in two online conferences. For both I could not justify paying the full face to face fee plus flights and accomodation, neither would I have been enthusiastic at yet more travel. So to paraphrase Jess Cartner Morley: I’ll be binge-watching the next season of academic onferences from here, at home on my laptop. And I can’t wait.

Hybrid Learning Spaces

February 4th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

Its never boring with Yishay Mor. Here he is inviting you to send us videos, pictures or presentations which express your perception of a “hybrid learning space”.

Circular Economy for Youth

November 13th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

school-strike-4-climate-4057783_1920Tomorrow is the kick off day for our new project on the Circular Economy for Youth (CEYOU). Below is a short description of the project. As always we welcome participation from non project partners: just email me or leave a message if you would like to know more.

In 2019, young people and students from Europe and all over the world have taken to the streets to demand action to halt environmental and climate change. On a day of action in March organizers said there were more than 2,000 protests in 125 countries. The student movement was inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, now nominated for a Nobel Prize, who kicked off a global movement after she sat outside Swedish parliament every Friday beginning last August. Young people have included the need for the environment to be included in the school curriculum.

The development of the circular economy is seen as central to reducing damage to the environment and developing positive chance. In 2015 the European Commission adopted an action plan to help accelerate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy, boost global competitiveness, promote sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs.

The action plan sets out 54 measures to “close the loop” of product lifecycles: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. It also identifies five priority sectors to speed up the transition along their value chain (plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, biomass and bio-based materials). It puts a strong emphasis on building a strong foundation on which investments and innovation can thrive. DG Environment has also published a recent report showing the impact of circular economy policies will lead to a reduction of the negative impacts on the environment while increasing the employment levels at the same time. In particular, more than 700000 jobs are expected to be created in comparison to Cedefop baseline scenarios. These will be stemming from the additional demand for recycling plants, repair services and savings from collaborative actions.

A seminar at the European Parliament in 2019 organised by ACR + through the Erasmus Plus CYCLE project and focused on adult education brought together experts on the circular economy and educational leaders. One of the key conclusions was the need for dialogue and exchange between these two communities of professionals.

This context and background frames the objectives of the Circular Economy for Youth project:

  1. To develop guidelines for the establishment of permanent forums for dialogue between youth organisations and local authorities to promote circular economy practices.
  2. To develop and implement training programmes and activities for young people in the field of the circular economy/
  3. To promote a dialogue through bringing together organisations in the field of the Circular economy and youth organisations on a European, national and regional basis and to promote an exchange of information and best practice. To develop initiatives and projects (including the promotion of entrepreneurial enterprises) for young people in the field of the circular economy and to produce a interactive map of projects and activities in this field.
  1. To develop and exchange Open Educational Resources (OERs) for young people to support the occupational profile of a circular economy facilitator and to certufy it through Open Badges.
  2. To develop a mobile application to guide young people in setting up initiatives around the Circular Economy.

Central to the project design is the bringing together of youth organisation and networks, together with Circular Economy associations at European, regional and municipal levels including local governments. The aim is not only to exchange initiatives and best practice but to establish a permanent forum for dialogue including around policy and practice. Such goals will develop the capacities of all participant organisations and build the foundation for longer term collaboration in this area.

The training programmes (including both formal and informal learning) and OERs to support the development of Circular economy facilitators are further intended to develop capacity in both youth organisations and in local governments.

The CEYOU project will involve representatives of: youth associations, students associations, NGOs and civil society organizations, Local Authorities and youth councils, social entrepreneurs.

The needs have been identified separately by Circular Economy organisations wishing to turn towards youth for support and by young people themselves wishing for more education around environmental concerns. The challenge of environmental and climate change has been recognised as an issue for Europe as a whole; the development of transnational responses, actions, cooperation and exchange of best practices is a strength for Europe in responding to such a pressing challenge. In this respect, it is important that the participating organisations are all active at a European level and have extensive networks. These networks will not only be used for dissemination, but network members will be invited to become active participants as Associate Partners.

 

 

More Circularity, Less Carbon

November 12th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

acrIn just one week, ACR+ will unveil its new campaign “More circularity, less carbon”. Participating cities and regions are committing to reduce their carbon emissions linked with local resource management by 25% by 2025!

But how? Make sure you attend the launch event on 19 November 2019 to discover the steps that public authorities will take to reach this ambitious target. You will also understand how local circular economy strategies could contribute to reduce the global carbon footprint.

And Pontydysgu are proud to be launching a new project funded by Erasmus Plus on the Circular Economy for Youth. ACR + are a partner in the project along with the municipality of Vesuvias and youth organisations from Greece, North Macedonia and France.  The first online meeting is Thursday and I will be reporting on the project 0n this blog

Productivity, innovation, learning and ‘Place’

September 3rd, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Fig 7Antiguo-cauce-del-río-Turia-3The UK Centre for Cities has been undertaking a lot of interesting research on the future of cities. In a recent article on their website, they look at ‘why place matters when thinking about productivity. Productivity has been persistently low in the UK and the article discusses “‘Place’, one of the pillars of productivity identified by the Government’s Industrial Strategy” and how it interacts with the other four pillars – ‘People’, ‘Ideas’, ‘Business Environment and ‘Infrastructure’.

Perhaps not surprisingly they find that. city centres offer inherent advantages to some businesses compared to those offered by rural areas. They also draw on previous research in finding that “broadly speaking, density is good for innovation…. the proximity of researchers to each other through co-location improves quality of output. Our work also finds that jobs in city centres are more productive than their counterparts elsewhere” although this preference is not universal.

Infrastructure’ , they say, “is the pillar where the impact of ‘place’ is the most obvious. Proliferation of public transport systems is the most efficient solution to get people around in dense city centres where as a private car is the best way to travel in the countryside.”

However it is the people pillar that I find most interesting and where I disagree with the article. “For the ‘people’ pillar, ‘place’ is indiscriminate – skill levels are the biggest determinant of outcomes everywhere.” The research has been taking place as part of the government drive to develop Local Industrial Strategies in England. Yet I do not think ‘place’ can be reduced to providing skills training courses. Our work in the EU funded CONNECT project suggests that as important, if not more so, is the promotion of opportunities for learning, through networks of different organizations including both the public and private sectors. Such organisations embrace cultural and social activities and adult education as well as formal skills training. And especially in dense cities like Valencia or Athens informal learning taking place in public spaces is critical. Such public spaces are frequently under pressure  from developers and policies need to be developed to preserve and extend such places. Thus any policy which looks at productivity and skills needs to take a wider viewpoint and in relation to cities, consider how public places play a role in sharing knowledge and developing social innovation.

 

The Circular Economy and Education

February 26th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 18.21.29Last week I spoke at a meeting – Circular Economy Competences Making the Case for Lifelong Learning – at the European Parliament in Brussels. The meeting was hosted by MEP Silvia Costa and organised by ACR+ as part of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, brought together key actors working on incorporating circular economy competences in education and lifelong learning. Pontydysgu are partners in the project and I introduced briefly what we are doing.

The press release below gives a good summary of the event. But the main lesson for me was that there are a lot of people doing practical things (and policy initiatives) around the circular economy. And there are a lot of people in the education sector (not least of all students) wanting to do things around the environment and climate change.

The problem is that for some reason there is not a lot of communication going on between the two communities. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has produced some excellent and there have been a number of MOOCs, hosted mainly by Dutch and French organisations. But a lot of the learning materials available are focused on particular technical areas, rather than looking at the Circular Economy as a whole.

The CYCLE project is a start – aiming to develop an online competence centre for learning materials. But in reality the project is really too small when compared to what is needed.

I think the next step should be to attempt to develop a European Special Interest Group (SIG) on the circular economy and Education. Anyone interested?

Press Release

Brussels, Belgium. The event “Circular Economy Competences Making the Case for Lifelong Learning”, hosted on 19 February at the European Parliament by MEP Silvia Costa and organised by ACR+ in the framework of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, brought together key actors working on incorporating circular economy competences in education and lifelong learning.

The fully booked event was opened by MEP Silvia Costa, who stressed the importance of mainstreaming circular thinking in lifelong learning policies. The MEP also reported on the dialogue between the Parliament and the European Commission aimed at introducing recitals on climate change and sustainable development goals in the text of the next Erasmus+ 2021/2027 programme. Afterwards, Callum Blackburn from Zero Waste Scotland gave an introductory speech calling for international cooperation for circular economy education based on strategic partnerships that facilitate mutual learning.

The first thematic panel tackled the issue of circular thinking in education. Graham Atwell from Pontydysgu presented the e-learning platform that is currently being developed within the CYCLE project. The platform, which will be launched in May 2019, aims to collect training material on circular economy for adult educators. Sander Bos and Heleentje Swart from the Dutch Fryslan Region showed how governments and schools are already working together within the regional SPARK initiative to achieve a circular change in educational methods, practices and tools.

The second panel focused on how to upskill waste, repair and reuse industries. Fiona Craigintroduced the audience to the SWITCH Forum, a multi-partnership forum made up of organisations active across all the sub-sectors of resource management . The SWITCH Forum aims to support continuous improvement in education and training and in health and safety in this sector. Roberto Cerqueira from LIPOR presented the training programmes of the LIPOR Academy, which include circular economy as an area of knowledge.

The speakers of the last panel discussed the evolution of the labour market related to the circular economy and the skills that will be increasingly required for circular jobs. Lorenzo Barucca from Legambiente presented the key outcomes of a study carried out together with the University of Padova, about the main connections between innovative industries (Industry 4.0) and circular economy. Joke Dufourmont from Circle Economy presented the mapping of core and enabling circular jobs in the city of Amsterdam, reflecting on the technical and transversal competencies that underlie them.

The slides of the presentations made at the event are available on the ACR+ website.

Young people living with parents for longer

February 8th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

WONKHE reports there has been a significant rise in the number of 20 to 34-year-olds living with their parents in the UK, according to analysis of the Labour Force Survey by think tank Civitas.” The analysis, covered by the Financial Times, finds an increase of 791,600 under 35-year-olds living with their parents between 1996-8 and 2014-15. The rise has been noted in all UK regions, with the most pronounced results in London. Civitas puts the increase primarily down to the cost of housing, and suggests that HE participation could be a factor, as more young adults are financially dependent on their parents for longer.”

Th8s brings UK more into line with other countries in Europe, where young people tend to live at home with their parents until tehy are much older than has been in the UK. It also would be interesting to look at the figures (if available) for numbers of people studying at their home town university, rather than following the ‘rites of passage’ to move to college in another twon or city.

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    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.


    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.


    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.


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