Archive for the ‘Communities of Practice’ Category

Highlights from the Pontydysgu Studio – Learning lessons from key projects

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I wrote down some memories of the so-called Pontydysgu Studio in Bremen, now that that ‘studio’ has been closed and the Pontydysgu activities are continued mainly in Wales (Pontydysgu Ltd) and in Spain (Pontydysgu SL). With that post I tried to give an overview on the work with multimedia (in general) and as a part of our joint projects. With this post I want to give the floor to key actors of Pontydysgu – Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell. In the year 2012 I made some video interviews for my project of that time. In the interviews with Jenny and Graham I asked them to tell what they had learned in some of their key projects and how these lessons could be taken further to possible successor projects.

Jenny: The continuing learning process through different TACCLE projects

Among the Pontydysgu-led or -supported projects the series of TACCLE projects is a clear success story. It started with the first TACCLE project (Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments) that prepared an E-learning handbook for teachers classroom teachers. In the Taccle2 project the work was differentiated to address different subject areas and alongside them the primary education teachers. In the Taccle3 the emphasis on teaching programming and coding for school children. And the (so far) newest project Taccle4 focuses on developing materials and media to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. The following two interviews were recorded already in 2012, so the it was not quite clear, in what order the successor projects would come up, but the vision was clear – this work merits to be continued.

Graham: Lessons from predecessor projects – conclusions for the Learning Layers project

In the videos above  Jenny discussed a clear continuum of projects and a training and learning strategy that was developed further in the successive steps. In this respect the interviews with Graham were somewhat different. Firstly, they covered a longer period and a wider range of projects in which very different experiences could be made. Secondly, in the latter videos they focused on comparing the predecessor projects with the forthcoming Learning Layers project. Therefore, I have selected the two latest videos for this post – the discussion on the immediate predecessor project and the shift of emphasis to the new project. Here it is worthwhile to note what challenges Graham brought into discussion and how he expected us to meet the challenges.

I think this is enough of these highlights. To me, both sets of videos have very timely messages for our current projects. I Jenny’s case we are talking of the Taccle4 project to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. In Graham’s case we are talking about the successor activities of the Learning Layers project and its construction pilot – now that we can build upon the Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in the project. Yet, the message  – that we have to meet the challenges of the construction sector partners in their complexity – is very valid. And at the same time we have to be able to address these needs by customising the LTB and by complementary measures – training, introduction of additional software solutions and by participative co-design processes. This work is still going on.

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 …

 

Communities of Practice and the world of Academia

February 6th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

A suffrage march through Stratford on Avon in 1911

I have worked in and out of academia over the last thirty years including five years working for what used to be called Gwent Tertiary College, a large vocational education college in south east Wales and another five years working at the University of Bremen in Germany. Communication between departments in large academic colleges is notoriously problematic. I once went to a meeting in Brussels and ended up talking with a researcher working in a very similar area to me. I could actually see his office from the window of mine. But he was in a different institute and our paths had never crossed in Bremen.

Talking about Communities of Practice in an article entitled  “Negotiating place, technology and identity – a postmodern narrative of places to meet in a community of practice” Patricia Arnold, John D. Smith and Beverly Trayner say “The distinguishing characteristic of a community of practice is that it is the location for an “economy of meaning” (Wenger 1998, 209) where the meaning of shared practice is negotiated among participants. Fundamental to this perspective is an understanding that communities of practice are a dynamic interaction of participation (action and connection between people that combines doing, talking, thinking, feeling, and belonging) and of reification (where a certain understanding of something is given form).”

It is possible to argue that such communities are based on practice based disciplines (and I am also aware there is a debate over the meaning of research as a practice). Yet it is possible to argue that negotiated “economies of meaning” most often happen in a cross disciplinary dialogue. Here universities seem to struggle.

At present I have an appointment as an Associate Fellow at the University of Warwick. The ‘internal comms’ department of the university send out a weekly staff newsletter by email. The well written newsletter contains section with short links on new, Get Involved, What’s on and Features. I usually flick through it but it is of limited value to non campus based staff.

This week’s newsletter however had a feature entitled Five things about women and the vote. “On the 100th anniversary of it becoming legal for some women to vote in national elections for the first time, Dr Sarah Richardson shares five things you may not know about women and the vote.” It is a great example of communicating about research to a wider audience. And it left me wanting to find out more.

Warwick Campus has many well designed ‘places’ for informal meetings and exchange. But the online ‘spaces’ are informational, rather than provoking the discourses needed to develop an economy of meaning. I think academic places need to explore how they can link to online participation and exchange through spaces. It will take time – a small first step would be to stream Dr. Richardson’s forthcoming talks on Warwickshire Women and the Fight for the Vote.

 

 

 

Places and Spaces – facilitating professional learning and identity transformation in European Public Employment Services

January 31st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I have just submitted an abstract to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). This years conference is at the Free University Bolzano in Italy in September. The proposed paper is based on work we have been doing through the European Research programme Employ-ID project.

Abstract

The world of work is undergoing fundamental transformations. Bringing employees into the position of shaping change instead of merely reacting is one of the key challenges lifelong learning as well as learning and development faces.

A neglected, but crucial aspect here is the employees’ professional identity, which is a key factor developing resilience in a world characterized by uncertainty. It empowers individuals, and determines motivation and openness to new developments – and overcomes obstructionism and frustration often associated with change processes.

Towards that end, the focus of professional learning and human resource development needs to target “deeper learning” and to shift away from training skills towards facilitating the transformation of the professional identity of employees, both individually and collectively. Identities are often communicated and developed using stories: stories we tell about our jobs and ourselves, and stories others tell about us. But todays workplaces often do not provide opportunities for exchanging narratives. But they are particularly helping in uncovering experiential and affective components, which are hidden success factors and barriers.

The paper is based on a European Research Framework project, EmployID. The project brings together research partners and partners from Public Employment Services in Europe.

Public Employment Service Employees are facing pressures in their work with austerity providing increased demand of new services with less resources and digitalisation in the delivery of services.

In the context of Public Employment Services (PES), EmployID has investigated how a technology-enhanced learning approach can facilitate identity transformation through a series of interventions in the form of social learning programmes, complemented by labour market information tools as well as reflection, and peer coaching leading to the development of reflective communities. The understanding of reflective communities of practice is based on Wenger (Wenger, 1999), who sees communities of practice as groups of people who share a domain, who work on improving themselves and who share a common practice. The common domain and practice is in our case working in a public employment as a counsellor working to bring together job seekers and employers. Communities of practice are a proven concept to facilitate exchange knowledge and experiences in companies (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).

The technology assisted interventions have been co-designed together with managers and staff in the different Public Employment Services. They have been accompanied by the extensive programme of evaluation, designed not only as a formative tool for improvement, but to provide data for developing a deeper understanding of the concepts and ideas which underpin the approach and for developing frameworks for analysis of the use of technology for learning within communities of practice.

One focus for such understanding is the idea of places and spaces. “Place and space are both products of social practice, albeit different systems of practice. These new practices, then, transform existing spaces as sites of everyday action (Dourish, 2004). Dourish says: “The technologically mediated world does not stand apart from the physical world within which it is embedded; rather, it provides a new set of ways for that physical world to be understood and appropriated. Technological mediation supports and conditions the emergence of new cultural practices, not by creating a distinct sphere of practice but by opening up new forms of practice within the everyday world, reflecting and conditioning the emergence of new forms of environmental knowing.”

The paper will draw on the extensive evaluation data collected through the EmployId project to examine the ways in which the spaces created by the interventions from the EmployID project have led to new practices, facilitated learning and supported storytelling and professional identity transformation.

Methodology and Sources

The project partners initially worked with Public Employment Services at both European and country level in identifying problems faced along with priorities for development.

This lead to a co-design process with different PES services around a series of interventions including

  • Social learning programmes (or MOOCs) providing online courses typically of six weeks duration with 2-3 hours learning per week. The term ‘social’ reflects a pedagogic approach for participants facilitating the learning of others.
  • Peer coaching programmes have been developed and delivered both through face to face workshops and online activities
  • Reflective communities’ have been developed and launched in Public Employment services in three countries (Bunk & Prilla, 2017)
  • Systems and tools have been developed for providing access to Labour Market Information and Intelligence, also in two different countries

All the interventions have been extensively evaluating and analysis of the evaluation results is ongoing (the results are expected by May 2018).

Evaluation methods have included:

  • Interviews and focus groups with participants
  • Interviews with managers
  • Discourse analysis (from the social learning programmes and Reflective Communities)
  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • Analysis of log data

The ongoing analysis of the data is focusing on not just the success or otherwise of the interventions but what the data can tell us about identity transformation, professional development and the use and appropriation of online spaces for learning and knowledge sharing.

Conclusions

Our earlier work has led to interim findings regarding learning and identity transformation. We have identified three ways of learning (Kunzman, C. & Schmidt, A. 2017).

Learning as becoming

Stories, as identities themselves, have both a personal and an organisational dimension and could link to ideas about learning through self-understanding; sense-making; personal agency; motivation (determination); resilience; commitment to own learning and professional development; and career adaptability.

The second way ‘learning for identity development’ can be represented as occurring is across four domains: relational development; cognitive development; practical development; and emotional development. Learning may involve development in one or more domains and development in each domain can be achieved in a number of different ways, but development can be represented thematically, although the extent of development under particular themes can vary greatly across contexts and in individual cases.

Thirdly learning in opportunities structures within which individuals in the PES operate.

The key to understanding learning for identity development is to switch between the three representations in order to get a more rounded picture.

Our present ongoing work is focusing on how participants use and develop places and spaces, the opportunities for action that spaces afford and their relation to changing social, cultural and professional practices.

Key References

Blunk, O., & Prilla, M. (2015). Prompting users to facilitate support needs in collaborative reflection. In M. Kravcik, A. Mikroyannidis, V. Pammer, M. Prilla, & T. D. Ullmann (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Technology Enhanced Learning (AR℡ 2015) in conjunction with the EC℡ 2015 conference (Vol. 1465, pp. 43–57). CEUR-WS. Retrieved from http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-1465/

Blunk, O. & Prilla, M. “Supporting Communities of Practice in Public Administrations: Factors Influencing Adoption and Readiness.” In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Communities and Technologies, 36–45. C&T ’17. New York, NY, USA

Brown, A. & Bimrose, J. (2015). Identity Development. In Hartung, P. J.; Savickas, M. L.; and Walsh, W. B. (Eds), (2015). APA handbook of career intervention, Volume 2: Applications. APA handbooks in psychology. (pp. 241-254). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Cressey, P., Boud, D., & Docherty, P. (2006a). Productive Reflection at Work. In D. Boud, P. Cressey, & P. Docherty (Eds.), Productive reflection at work: Learning for changing organizations (pp. 11–26). New York: Routledge.

Dillenbourg, P., Järvelä, S., & Fischer, F. (2009). The evolution of research on computer-supported collaborative learning. In Technology-enhanced learning (pp. 3–19). Springer.

Dourish, P. (2006) Re-space-ing place: “place” and “space” ten years on, CSCW ’06 Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on Computer supported cooperative work, Pages 299-308

Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 247–273.

Hyland, N., Grant, J. M., Craig, A. C., Hudon, M., & Nethery, C. (2012). Exploring Facilitation Stages and Facilitator Actions in an Online/Blended Community of Practice of Elementary Teachers: Reflections on Practice (ROP) Anne Rodrigue Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario

Kunzman, C. & Schmidt, A. (2017) EmployID: EmployID Deliverables D[2-9].3, 2017

Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Harvard Business School Press.

Industry 4.0 and identity transformation

September 19th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I gave this presentation last week at a panel discussion on Industry 4.0 at the Bundeswehr AusBildungs Kongress in Hamburg. Firstly – for those of you who do not live in Germany where the term is verywhere, what is Industry 4.0. According to Wikipedia:

“Industry 4.0 is a name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing.

Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”. Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Over the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time, and via the Internet of Services, both internal and cross-organizational services are offered and used by participants of the value chain.”

In other words – pretty much everything going on in technology today. But the particularly German take on it is how such developments will effect manufacturing and services and what it implies for education and training.

I was a bit concerned with how the presentation would work -given that it is based on research and development in the Public Employment Services. But it seemed to work extremely well.  It is not so much the threat to jobs coming from new technologies and AI, but the impact this is having on the organisation of work and the skills and competences required in the workplace. Professional identity, is a key factor in developing resilience in a world characterised by uncertainty. It empowers individuals, and determines motivation and openness to new developments – and overcomes obstructionism and frustration often associated with change processes. Identity transformation describes the processes through which people can change their professional identity to deal with new work demands. Even more it describes how individuals and groups of people can themselves use their competence and skills to shape the processes and results of introducing new technologies.

The first half of the presentation looks at the research behind identity transformation, the second half at different activities and intervention we have undertaken in the Employ-ID project to support identity transformation for staff in Public Employment services in Europe.

Conversational learning and evidence based education

September 12th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I have missed out on this autumn’s conference circuit. I just DJg4lLdXUAAiqw8don’t have the money to pay for fees and travel (let alone beer) in attending these events. I am not sure that I actually miss the conferences themselves, but I do miss meeting friends and catching up with what is going on.

And of course, it is increasingly possible to at least dip in to conferences online these days. What with mobile phones and twitter you can almost watch the slides progressing in real time. This morning I noticed one presentation seemed to be getting a lot of my twitter feed. It was Mike Sharples speaking at the ALTALC tagged conference – it took me some time to suss out the ALC stood for the Active Learning Conference taking place at Anglia Ruskin University.

A couple of slides interested me.The slide above is based on the Open University FutureLearn platform. This sums up perfectly how we have used the platform in the EmployID project for running (sadly not open) courses on the Future of Work for employees from the UK Department for Works and Pensions (the UK Public Employment Service. The evaluation showed the courses to be a great success (more on this tomorrow). But I am not so convinced to what degree the FutureLearn platform helped our pedagogic approach – at best I would say it hindered us less than other MOOC platforms we have used.DJg2tuIXcAA5A_X

The second slide also rings true – at least to my experience in using technology for professional development. It is not always easy to link online professional development to practice. But I am ever more sure this is critical to effective learning. Learning spaced over time is an interesting idea in an age of quick bite learning. Of course it depends learning over how much time. Ideally the learning should evolve in line with the practice – but that is not easy to achieve.

Technology is only useful if it involves no extra effort!

February 7th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

ComputerNancy Dixon has published an interesting review of a study entitled “To Share Or Not To Share: An Exploratory Review Of Knowledge Management Systems And A.Knowledge Sharing in Multinational Corporations” (for full reference see below).

The authors define knowledge sharing as “the movement of knowledge between different individuals, departments, divisions, units or branches in Multinational Corprorations through Knowledge Management Systems (KMSs)” and study was based on semi-structured interviews with 42 participants across 32 organizations in 12 countries.

Nancy Dixon says one of the main findings of the study was that the acceptance of technology for knowledge sharing is directly related to how employees view the usefulness of the technology in supporting their job performance, without extra effort. Interviewees said they are more likely to use their KMS if it is similar to the tools they already use at home, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia.

Part of the work we have been doing in the EU Learning Layers project has been developing and evaluating tools for informal learning in Small and Medium Enterprises. Our findings are similar in that tools should take no extra effort. One reason may simply be speed up and pressure in the work process, particularly in the National Health Service in the UK. Another may be lack of familiarity and confidence in the use of technology based tools, especially tools for collaboration. Although most jobs today require some form of collaboration, much of that still happens through face to face contact or by email. The move to collaborative tools for knowledge sharing is non trivial.

The findings of the study and of our own work pose particular problems for research, design and development. I remain wedded to the idea that co-design processes are critical to design and develop tools to support informal learning and knowledge sharing in teh workplace. Yet at the same time, iterative design processes will be problematic if employees are unwilling or unable to rethink work processes.

Another finding from the Knowledge Management study was that interviewees said they are more likely to use their Knowledge Management System if it is similar to the tools they already use at home, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia. While people may have said this I think it requires a little interpretation. Instead of similar, I suspect that people are referring to ease of use and to design motifs. Of course software changes. The interface to Slack is very different to that of collaborative software platforms that came before. And Facebook has undergone numerous redesigns.  But one of the big problems for relatively modestly funded research and development projects in learning and in knowledge management is that we tend not to worry too much about interface design. That is always something that can be done later. But users do worry about the interlace and about appearance and ease of use.

I increasingly suspect the acceptance, adoption and use of new (innovative) tools for learning and knowledge management rest with processes of digital transformation in organisations. Only when the tools themselves are linked to changing practices (individual and collective) will their be substantial uptake.

Abdelrahman, M., Papamichail, K. N., & Wood-Harper, T. (2016). To Share Or Not To Share: An Exploratory Review Of Knowledge Management Systems And Knowledge Sharing in Multinational Corporations. In: UK Academy for information systems (UKAIS) 21st Annual Conference – 2016, 11-13 April 2016, Oxford

 

Brexit, universities and research

July 21st, 2016 by Graham Attwell

bannerEmptyH2020Much of the concern expressed by UK universities regarding Brexit is linked to free movement of researchers and to the loss of income from European funded research. these are important issues and while Brexit campaigners promised national money to meet any funding shortfall, the credibility of such promises is doubtful.

But there are other important issues raised from the probable exclusion, or at least downgrading, of UK institutions in European funded projects. In the 40 or so years since the UK joined the European Union, research has changed. The days of the lone researcher, labouring away in their office or laboratory are long gone. Research today is largely comprised of distributed and cross disciplinary teams, often at a large scale. Internet technologies have facilitated communication between distributed teams and made knowledge sharing much easier. Not only does Brexit threaten to isolate researchers in the UK from participating in such projects, but it also makes the UK institutions less attractive for ambitious researchers. And at the same time, especially in an age of austerity, core national funding for full time researchers has been greatly reduced, with the rise of short term appointments based on European and other project based research funding.

Of course European funding is not perfect. As with any such funding programme, the bureaucracy can be annoying (to say the least). Competition to get projects is high. And the short term nature of project funding often condemns promising prototypes to a silo, whilst seeking more resources to continue the work. Despite various attempts by the EU to prompt sustainability, research exploitation routes remain perilous. But one of the great benefits of the European research programmes in education has been for professional development, although this is rarely or ever picked up in evaluation reports. Many of those leading research and teaching in European universities today have benefited from the informal learning from discourse and exchange with peers in different countries. Exclusion from that opportunity for UK researchers will be one of the greatest losses for education from Brexit.

 

New book: Empowering Change in European Public Employment Services

July 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

employid bookReaders familiar with European Research projects will know how they work. The projects negotiate with the European Commission a DOW – Description of Work – which details the work to be undertaken in each year of the project. It is divided into discrete work packages. Every year the work package provides a (usually over lengthy) report on research and development undertaken which is then presented to a team of expert reviewers who can ‘pass’, recommend changes or ‘fail’ the report. Although obviously large scale multi national research projects need structures and plans. But all too often the work package structure separates research and development activities which should not be separated and the DOW become a restrictive ‘bible’, rather than a guide for action. And despite the large amount of work which goes into preparing the work package reports, they are seldom widely read (if indeed read at all), except by the reviewers.

In the EmployID project which is working with identity transformation in European Public Employment Services (PES), we are doing things differently. The work is structured though cross work package teams, who follow an adapted SCRUM structure. The teams are reviewed at face to face meetings and recomposed if necessary. And this year, instead of producing a series of Work package reports, the project partners have jointly contributed to a book – Empowering Change in Public Employment Services: The EmployID Approach which has just been published and can be downloaded for free.

The introduction to the 244 page PDF book explains the background to the work:

European Public Employment Services (PES) and their employees are facing fundamental challenges to the delivery of efficient and effective services and the need to change their strategies to combat high unemployment, demographic change in increasingly uncertain and dynamic labour markets. This does not only require developing new professional skills related to new tasks, but poses for more profound developmental challenges for staff members.

Three of these changes relate to understanding the changing world of work; a ‘turn’ towards coaching; and the increased importance of relations with employers. The staff need to learn new ways of working, with a major challenge being to enhance the power of collaborative (peer) learning in order to support staff in accomplishing their goals.

All these changes are linked to transforming professional identity, which requires learning on a deeper level that is often neglected by continuing professional development strategies. EmployID makes its contribution here; that PES practitioners’ learning related to professional identity transformation needs to be facilitated through social learning approaches and the nurturing of social learning networks, which include the following:

  • Reflection as a way of turning one’s own and others’ experiences into general insights on multiple levels, both from an individual and a collective perspective

  • Peer coaching as a way of helping learners in changing their behavior through a structured process

  • Social learning programmes as a way of engaging learners with new topics, other perspectives, and conversations around it.

A short note about communities

June 9th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

PodcastToday I got an email from the Yahoo podcasters group mail. It was a long time since I could remember the last. But at one point, the group was very active with usually a daily digest appearing. And at that time it felt like a real community, of people from different countries and contents with different kills and knowledge reaching out to help each other.

As podcasting has become established there is a wealth of help available online, videos and manuals as well as specialist software and hardware. Podcasting is not longer a frontier sport. And the community is no longer need, or at least it no longer plays the same function.

And I wonder if that is true of other communities of practice. Etienne Wenger has suggested that communities of practice are always emergent (a point protecting them from making a fetish of conservative and out of date practices). That is usually taken to mean through membership, with new members becoming central as others move to the edges. But it may be that communities are always emergent in the knowledge and practices which constitute their base. And when that knowledge and practices cease to be emergent – as in the case of the Yahoo podcasters group – unless the community can move on to new emergent pastures, then it simply slowly dies.

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    News Bites

    Adult Education in Wales

    Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

    They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

    The conference will seek to debate how can we respond to need, grow participation, improve and measure outcomes for citizens, and revitalise community education.”


    Industry 4.0

    The UK Education Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the challenges posed and opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.The Committee is inviting written evidence on:

    • The interaction between the Government’s industrial, skills and digital strategies
    • The suitability of the current curriculum to prepare young people for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
    • The impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the delivery of teaching and learning in schools and colleges
    • The role of lifelong learning in re-skilling the current workforce
    • Place-based strategies for education and skills provision; and
    • The challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for improving social justice and productivity

    The deadline for written submissions is Thursday 21 June 2018.


    Online Educa Berlin

    OEB Global (formerly Online Educa Berlin) has announced its Call for Proposals and the overall theme for 2018: Learning to Love Learning. The event will incorporate Learning Technologies Germany – a leading European exhibition on learning technologies in the workplace – for the first time this year. More details here.


    Barcelona to go Open Source

    The Spanish newspaper, El País, has reported that the City of Barcelona is in the process of migrating its computer system to Open Source technologies.

    According to the news report, the city plans to first replace all its user applications with alternative open source applications. This will go on until the only remaining proprietary software will be Windows where it will finally be replaced with a Linux distribution.

    To support the move, the city will employ 65 new developers to build software programs for their specific needs. they also plan the development of a digital market – an online platform – whereby small businesses will use to take part in public tenders.


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