Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Five: Debates on VET research (past, present, future)

September 9th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With this blog post I conclude a series of posts on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2019) that took place earlier last week in Hamburg, Germany. The first post focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network (including background information on VETNET and other networks). The second post focused on the sessions that discussed the ongoing TACCLE projects (in which I and my colleagues are working). The third post focused on presentations that have an immediate relevance for the TACCLE project. The fourth post gave an account on recent developments in the VETNET network. With this final post I give insights into debates on VET research at different phase of the development of the VET research community.

The earliest phase: From ‘who is who’ to ‘networking the networks’

In the earliest phase of the VETNET network (when the setting up of the organisational structures was moving slowly) we were in the process of finding ourselves. It appeared that we represented different academic backgrounds, institutional affiliations and research interests. Some of us were from discipline-based institutes carrying out individual research in national contexts. Some of us came from interdisciplinary and policy-linked institutes with complex research & development projects. Some of us were already at that time working primarily in European projects with comparative and/or collaborative research designs. This gave rise to different views on, what kind of research activities and results should be presented in the conferences. One of the issues was, whether we should accept only completed research projects presented final results or whether we should give room for ongoing research projects to present their way s to common approaches. Luckily enough we found a working consensus that provided a basis for mutual respect and learning from each other.

Concerning the European cooperation projects we (who were working in them or with them) tried to develop sessions that promote learning from each other. Firstly we had symposia that promoted dialogue between parallel projects with closely matching themes. In the next phase we had ‘meeting point’ events for networks and journals. At a later date we tried to work with ‘growth of knowledge’ symposia that re-examined completed projects and platform-oriented symposia that tried to develop knowledge sharing platforms for specific project areas. This all belonged to the phase of ‘networking the networks’. Looking back, these activities were niche initiatives within the research community, supported by digital tools that were in their infancy and in a very early evolutionary phase of European cooperation.

The transitional phase: From critique on European Qualification Framework (EQF) to search for new themes

In the subsequent phase the inner life in the VETNET network had got settled and the VETNET board was working as a collective team. The diversity of VET research was kept in mind with a set of descriptors (key themes) that were used to organise the conference sessions. However, at this phase role of European cooperation was changing. Instead of discussing their own innovation agendas they were becoming more dependent on European policies  and moving to new funding priorities. This brought into picture projects on making the European Qualification Framework (EQF), the European system of Credit Transfer in VET (ECVET), European models for e-Learning, evaluation frameworks for European projects and specific projects for ‘target groups’. Here I do not want argue that such themes couldn’t be innovative. Yet, the search for common grounds was taking place within policy-based priority areas.

However, during this period the community developed a culture of critical reflection on the policy concepts with which it was working. In several ECER conferences there were symposia in which we had critical discussions on the eclectic nature of the above frameworks. Also, we had analyses on the limited ‘unifying’ impact of qualification frameworks on VET cultures in countries that have similar frameworks. This prepared the grounds for moving to themes that look at new drivers of innovation and on the role of VET in contributing to change agendas.

The newest phase: Coming together to shape a European VET research agenda

Concerning the development towards the newest phase we need to note the achievements that I have mentioned in my previous blog post – the launch of the new journal IJRVET, the emergence of the new international conferences and the progress with book publications. Parallel to this the VETNET network initiated a global network under the umbrella of World Educational Research Association (WERA) with focus on internationalisation in VET research. This has broadened the range of participation and intensified the  international exchanges beyond Europe.  This has also contributed to a stronger conceptual orientation in European and international VET research. This can be seen in particular in a more differentiated and critical look at transfer of policies, VET arrangements and innovation concepts between different countries and global regions.

In this respect there has been an ongoing discussion on European VET research agenda in several ECER conferences. At ECER 2019 the discussion was guided by the challenge to promote integration of knowledge in VET research. On a more pragmatic level this discussion focused on a planning tool for VETNET sessions – how to bring different level (macro-, meso- and miro-level) in a common thematic area into dialogue with each other. Here we noted some progress in the sessions of this conference. Secondly, this challenge was discussed from the perspective, how to present ourselves and our messages to policy-makers and other stakeholders. Thirdly, this was discussed from the perspective of reviewing knowledge development in VET research in review articles.

Concerning the project work and conference sessions, this spirit has been present among others in sessions that focus on proactive preparation to new funding frameworks for innovation programmes. Also, this spirit has characterised sessions that discuss the role of researchers as catalysts of sustainable innovations and quality-awareness in larger R&D programmes. Finally, this spirit has become manifest in sessions on grassroot projects in which researchers study community-building processes that aim to improve pedagogic quality of VET.

I guess this is enough of the debates on VET research in the VETNET network. As I see it, we have come a long way forward from the very early phases of the community development. Thinking of the current phase, we are rather well prepared for future challenges. For me, as someone who has been involved from the beginning, this is very rewarding. Now that my time with ECER and active VETNET involvement is coming to an end, I can look forward to the future with an optimistic feeling. However, I have not finished my work yet and I have to put an effort to finish properly.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Four: Developments in the VETNET network

September 8th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my recent blogs I have been wrapping up my experiences on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2019) that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. The first post focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network (including background information on VETNET and other networks). The second post focused on the sessions that discussed the ongoing TACCLE projects (in which I and my colleagues are working). The third post focused on presentations that have an immdeiate relevance for the TACCLE project. In this fourth post I try to give insights into recent developments in the VETNET network.

Organisational consolidation of the VETNET network

As I have already mentioned in my first post, the ECER conferences are organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA). EERA was founded in 1994 as the European umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. Whilst the representatives of the national associations are in charge of the management, the development of the conference programs is the matter of networks. EERA has currently 32 thematic networks (and the Emerging Researchers Group) that each prepare and run a network program in the annual ECER conference.

The VETNET network is one of the oldest and largest networks and it has from the very beginning had an identity of its own kind. It has brought together researchers who focus on vocational education and training (VET) and who may have somewhat different academic backgrounds. However, there has been a strong commitment to develop a European research community that is open for interested colleagues outside Europe. In this respect VETNET started to shape organisational structures and develop common procedures at an early stage. By the year 2000 it got an elected network board that was working on the basis of jointly approved regulations. Parallel to this the network consolidated the pattern of double-blind peer reviews of conference proposals. By 2004 it got its first pilot website to present the conference program and the contributions.

During the years of growth the issue of membership had been kept open. The liberal interpretation was that all who participated in the VETNET program were also invited to participate in the VETNET assembly as members. By the time that the VETNET activities beyond the ECER conference started to get more standing (see below) this was too ambiguous. Therefore a task force led by Johanna Lasonen – together with the link convenors Barbara Stalder and Christof Nägele – prepared new regulations. These were then matched with the guidelines that EERA prepared and presented at the VETNET assembly. Based on the new regulations, a new VETNET board will be elected in ECER 2020.

International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) and the Vetnetsite

From the year 2000 on VETNET has had the intention to set up a journal for European and international VET research. At that time a working group was negotiating with a commercial publisher. After a period of latency (due to organisational rearrangements on the publishers’ side) the first initiative led to creation of a journal without VETNET involvement. Few years later the idea was brought back to discussion – now with the intention to set up Open Access journal using an appropriate platform. By ECER 2013 the concept was prepared to maturity and by ECER 2014 the first issue was published. Here it is worthwhile to note that the journal was launched as an international journal (and it reached a wider international support). During the years after, the journal has been published on regular basis, its status has been acknowledged and it is being used as the organ of VETNET. A special step forward was taken when the articles of the years 2017 and 2018 were made available as the respective IJRVET Yearbooks.

Parallel to this, the earlier pilot websites for publicising the VETNET conference program and sharing the presentations have been replaced by the current Vetnetsite.

Conferences, interim conferences and proceedings

Alongside the founding of ht IJRVET the VETNET network has made progress with interim conferences and with publishing the conference proceedings. At an earlier stage, during the preparation for ECER 1999 the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen managed to get the conference papers in time and published a hard copy proceedings publication by the conference. In the subsequent conferences this was not achieved. An interim solution was the collection of papers and/or powerpoint presentations to the VETNET website or to a separate proceedings page provided by Sabine Manning on her Wifogate website. During the recent years the link convenors Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder have introduced the process of preparing and editing the annual proceedings by the conference.

Parallel to this development the VETNET network has got a settlement with two regular ‘interim conferences’. Stockholm University has had quite some time a tradition of annual cruise conference in May. Another conference tradition emerged when the University of Bremen (2015) and the University of Rostock (2017) organised international VET research conferences shortly before ECER with the theme “Crossing boundaries in VET research”. In 2017 an agreement was reached to organise these conferences every two year in May. Thus, in May 2018 we had the Stockholm conference, whilst in May 2019 we had the “Crossing boundaries” conference in Valencia. And the most important is that the proceedings of these conferences have been prepared by the conference. With the Stockholm conferences the production of book publications has taken place after the conferences.

Higher standing of VETNET network as a European expert network

Alongside these developments the VETNET has gained a higher standing as a European expert network in the field of VET. In particular this has become manifest in the cooperation of the European Commission and in the role that VETNET has got in preparing the European Skills Week. Since 2015 VETNET has been invited to organise a research-related workshop. Also, VETNET has had the task to prepare the nomination for European VET research award in the context of European Skills Week. Taken as such, these have been small steps, but they have also paved the way for proactive discussions on the future European funding programs. In this respect the VETNET board has organised in the recent years round table discussions on European VET research agenda to raise awareness and to strengthen the profile of our research community.

I think this is enough of the developments in the VETNET network. In my final post I will reflect the debates on European VET research that we have had at different phases of the community development.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Three: Glimpses to presentations of which I want to learn more

September 8th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

This blog post is the third one of a series with which I wrap up my experiences at the ECER 2019 conference that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. In the first post I focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network that is the European umbrella network for research in vocational education andt training (VET).  I also gave some background information on the role of VETNET and other networks in the ECER conferences. In my second post I focused on the two sessions that discussed the parallel TACCLE project – TACCLE 4 CPD (in which I am working) and TACCLE VET (in which my colleagues are working). With this post I want to discuss briefly three presentations that were of immediate relevance for our work in the two TACCLE projects. Here I limit myself to some first impressions – I want to learn more of the work that has been done and/or is still going on.

The Paderborn-based project: Adopting apprentice training to digital transformation – the perspective of in-company training

The presentation of Bernd Gössling and Tina Emmler was in many respects one of the highlights of this conference. I had already become aware of the work of the research group of the University of Paderborn via the report “Berufsbildung 4.0” (Sloane et alia 2018). For me it had served as a rich resource in terms of conceptual work, empirical studies and conclusions for future-oriented innovation agendas. In particular the distinction between ‘digital transformation’ (technological and organisational changes towards networked production, marketing and service processes) and ‘digitization’ (introduction of digital tools into working, training and learning processes) was very helpful. Now the presentation of Gössling and Emmler provided a closer look into the empirical studies and findings. I do not want to summarise their results here – we need to discuss them more closely. Also, the reflections on the new roles of trainers that Emmler outlined (in terms of “vita activa”) were very inspiring and reminded me of our experiences with trainers working with the Learning Toolbox at the end of the Learning Layers project.

The Bremen-based project CARO: Digital cross-action spaces in interactive nursing education

Another highlight for me was the project CARO presented by Claudia Schepers from the University of Bremen. This interdisciplinary research & development project had shaped digital learning spaces to support interactive learning arenas in nursing education. Here we need to understand the delicate nature of learning in the context of real work and the necessity to support such work with simulations, videos and reflective learning. For me this case was particularly important since I had been looking at different innovation paths for introducing digital tools into vocational learning. To me, this project appeared as a paradigmatic case for introducing digital tools and digital spaces with a ‘whole curriculum’ approach. Furthermore, all my examples that I had used were referring to technical occupations. From this perspective a case from healthcare sector was most welcome.

The Aachen-based project: Acceptance of a tutorial-creating authoring system for workplace learning in manual assembly

A third highlight for me was the Aachen-based project presented by Marvin Goppold and Fabian Handl. Their project focused on the role of low-skilled or semi-skilled workers in manual assembly and their occupational perspectives in the context of digital transformation. The key point in the project was to capture the (informal) competences and (invisible) workplace-based learning and to make it visible via an authoring tool that generates individual tutorials. In this way the workers were better prepared to encounter changes that bring robotics into picture and to point out the limits of robotics. Here I do not want to go into details, I need to learn more.

As I am concerned, the Aachen-based project served to me as a paradigmatic case for an innovation path that uses digital tools to make visible the hitherto invisible and non-formal learning of semi-skilled workers. So far I had referred to a case of process industry, but the case of assembly work and the use of authoring tools is of particular interest.

I guess that this is enough of these sessions. As I have said above, I need to learn more of these projects to make appropriate use of their approaches, results and conclusions. There is more work to be done on this front. However, with my reporting on ECER 2019 I have more points to cover – in particular concerning developments in the VETNET network.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Two: Glimpses to sessions on the current TACCLE projects

September 7th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog I started a series of blog posts with which I try to wrap up my experiences with the ECER 2019 conference that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. In my first post I focused on the Opening session of the VETNET program at the conference. I also gave some background information on the VETNET network and its role in the umbrella organisation EERA and its contribution to the ECER conferences. This post focuses on the sessions that discussed the current TACCLE projects – the one in which I am working (TACCLE4 CPD) and the neighbouring project (TACCLE VET).

Presenting the TACCLE 4 CPD project at ECER

I have already blogged about my preparation for the ECER 2019 conference in an earlier post. Now it was the time to present the message that I had prepared and to link it to the discussions in the conference. As I had mentioned in the earlier blog, the title of the paper was “Strategies and Training Models for promoting Digital Competences in the field of Vocational Education and Training”. The paper and the presentation focused on our work in the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. This project was mainly based on earlier projects that worked with teachers and promoted their competences to use digital tools and web resources in teaching (the TACCLE1, TACCLE2 and TACCLE3 projects). Concerning the field of vocational education training, the Learning Layers project could be seen as a similar predecessor project. BUT now the challenge for the TACCLE4 CPD project was to develop models for continuing professional development (CPD) – to enable schools and training providers to shape their own training.

For me the main challenge was to link this approach to current developments in the field of VET – to digital transformation (in work processes and occupations) and to digitization (at the level of working and learning tasks). From this perspective I introduced four  parallel innovation paths regarding the focus on ‘whole curriculum’ solutions vs. introduction of particular approaches and new learning arrangements. As further illustration of my analyses and the resources I had used, I prepared an ePoster powered by the Learning Toolbox (see below).

PK_ECER-2019 ECER 2019 LTB-stack PK

During the conference I noted that some presenters introduced cases that also served as examples of the innovation paths that I had presented (see my next blog). Also, some presenters had done similar fieldwork on the role of trainers and had come to similar conclusions (see also my next blog). This was very rewarding and we were happy to share ideas. Here the fact that I had prepared the ePoster and that it could be accessed via mini-poster with QR-code (embedded into my presentation) and via direct link was very helpful.

Discussions on the neighbouring project TACCLE VET

In a further session my colleagues Graham Attwell (Pontydysgu), Fernando Marhuenda (University of Valencia) and Ludger Deitmer (ITB, University of Bremen) presented the work of the neighbouring project TACCLE VET.

Graham outlined a bigger picture of digital and ecological transformation in working life and possible implications for work, technology and occupations. He then continued to the work of UNESCO and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission to outline perspectives for promoting digital competences of educators. In particular he referred to the DigCompEdu framework of the JRC. Whilst these frameworks are in many respects helpful, they are very generic. From this point of view the project was doing fieldwork to get closer to the reality of vocational teachers and trainers.

Fernando continued by introducing the approach to fieldwork – the focus of different partners on their selected sectors and the mapping of interview partners’ digital competences. Based on the interviews the project is developing a framework that focuses on teachers’ competence areas – curriculum, pedagogy, resources and assessment. In this respect the project tries to develop a holistic and well-grounded view on promoting teachers’ digital competences.

Ludger gave specific insights into the challenges for promoting digital competences in the dual system of VET – with multiple learning venues (enterprise, school and intermediate training centre) and different actors. He illustrated this picture with results from a recent apprenticeship survey carried out by the trade union IG Metall in Bremen. This survey brought into picture gaps and shortcomings in teaching and training and a backlog in digitisation. As a contrast he then presented interim results from his interviews with vocational teachers and trainers who served as promoters of innovation in their organisations.

Here, in the discussion we could notice a complementary relation between the two TACCLE projects and their emphasis on innovation paths and addressing the competence areas of teachers and trainers. Also, when discussing the role of Open Educational Resources (OER) we noticed that a major need for training is related to copyright issues and to licensing. Whilst the tightened copyright rules are making teachers scary about using external resources, there is lack of knowledge on OER, different licenses and Open Access materials. From this perspective both TACCLE projects should address these issues.

I think this is enough of these sessions. In my next post I will discuss the sessions that gave me direct impulses for my work in the TACCLE4 CPD project.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part One: The opening session of the VETNET network

September 7th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Once again, the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) – has taken place. This time the venue was the University of Hamburg. The advantage for us working at the University of Bremen was that we didn’t have to travel far away. The counter side of the coin was that we were expected to commute between Bremen and Hamburg on daily basis. That cut us off from most of the social events and informal encounters in the evenings. Nevertheless, there was quite a lot to experience and to share with colleagues from all over Europe and beyond Europe. With this series of blog posts I try to cover different sessions in the program of the VETNET network – the research network for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and give some insights into developments in the network. In this first post start with the opening session of the VETNET program. Firstly I need to give some insights into the role of the networks of EERA in organising the conference and of the specific traditions of VETNET.

EERA and ECER as the common umbrella – VETNET as a community with its own identity

When the EERA was founded and started organising the ECER conferences on regular basis, the common umbrella was created in two ways. The EERA was shaped as the umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. For the shaping of the conferences EERA invited the member associations to propose thematic networks that would then be in charge of organising their section in the conference programs. The network for research in vocational education and training (VET) – from the beginning on known as VETNET – was accepted as the Network 2 of EERA. The number of networks grew rapidly and they developed their own patterns to run peer reviews, to organise social events and to disseminate the research in their area of specialisation.

As a contrast to this general picture, the VETNET network has been from the very beginning more than just one of the EERA networks and a small club for organising part of the ECER program. Already in the founding phase there was a sense of building a community of VET researchers under the EERA umbrella. Yet, we were aware that we had somewhat different discipline-based backgrounds and in some countries the institutional commitment to VET was a basis of special disciplinary structures. Therefore, we have also paid attention to openness and mutual learning across the network.

In this spirit the VETNET network has developed a tradition of common Opening sessions – starting from ECER 1999 in Lahti, Finland (initiated by the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen). These opening sessions have mostly been keynote speeches by prominent researchers from the host country – with comments by invited discussants. Sometimes they have been panel discussions on critical research issues or on future research agendas. In ECER 2007 the Opening session celebrated the 10 years’ milestone of VETNET as an active network (as organiser of its own program). In ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen the opening session got insights into VET development in the host region from different stakeholder perspectives (and from representatives of different lingual communities).

The VETNET Opening session at ECER 2019 – insights into apprentice training at Airbus sites in Germany

At the VETNET Opening session 2019 the invited speaker was Matthias Havekost, head of vocational training of Airbus commercial in Germany. He had been an active practitioner counterpart of several VET research projects of our institute (ITB, University of Bremen) and familiar with our research approach. From this perspective it was appropriate to invite him to discuss directly with the participants on the role of apprentice training and other training activities at Airbus sites in Germany.

We got a lot of information on the development of apprentice training in the course of years – regarding the demographic factors (aging workforce), technological changes (balancing between manual work and robotics) and educational changes (developing vocational pathways to higher qualifications). In between we had glimpses to the actual contexts of working and learning on site – provided by videos that were prepared by apprentices and students in so-called dual studies (that are based on a combination of apprentice training and higher education).

An interesting part of the presentation of Havekost was the example of a particular workplace learning arrangement at an early phase of apprentice training. Instead of explaining the task and launching the group work with the task that trainer took considerable time for a ‘teaming up’ phase. At this phase all apprentices were invited to discuss their views on their occupation, their understanding on their tasks and on the requirements. These views were shared in the group and contrastive views were discussed to the point that mutual understanding was reached. In the beginning some of the participants were annoyed by such delay instead of going straight to the task. Yet, it appeared that the group had developed a culture of collaboration and it finished the tasks in shorter time and with better quality than earlier groups. Also, teachers of vocational schools and representatives of production units noticed the change in the performance.

Another interesting aspect alongside the above-mentioned cultural change was the career development of trainers. For Havekost it was important that the in-company trainers are experienced in the production and keep up to date. Therefore, the trainers should be trainers only a certain number of years and not for too long time. This kind of rotation has been successfully implemented and those trainers who went back to other business in the company entered real interesting and adequate jobs (e.g. production, quality, manufacturing engineering).

In the light of the above we had a rich and lively discussion that gave food for thought for different sessions in the VETNET program. Also, we had some discussion on the training culture on other Airbus sites and on the role of VET systems in the respective countries. These issues were also taken up later.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET Opening session. In the following posts I will first report on the sessions that were closely related to my ongoing project, then cover some other themes and finally get back to developments in the VETNET network.

More blogs to come …

A German top politician visits Bau-ABC Rostrup – Great praise for the training of apprentices

August 30th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this week Ministerpräsident Stephan Weil (prime minister of the Federal State of Lower Saxony) made a field visit to the North-German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. As the readers of this blog know, Bau-ABC played a vital role in our EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012-2016) as the main application partner of the Construction pilot of the said project. During the project researchers, technical partners and trainers of Bau-ABC worked together to develop an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support vocational and workplace-based learning. Now, some time after the end of the project, it was interesting to see, how the prime minister perceived the training and learning that was presented to him. Let us start with prime minister Weil’s comment on his Facebook page and then give more information on the visit.

Prime minister Weil on the training and learning at Bau-ABC Rostrup

On his Facebook page prime minister Weil published the following, highly inspired update (see below). And another picture shows that he was involved in hands-on training during the field visit (see below).

Weil Facebook 2019-08-28 Hands-on-training 2019-08-28

The comment that prime minister Weil made in his Facebook-update above was the following (translated into English by me):

“Today I have visited the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup and I can only say the following: They have a strong case – I have not seen anything similar before. They are training young people from all over Germany in two dozen training workshops and in very practical way to master 22 different construction trades, Digitization is solidly integrated in all curricula. And on top oft hat they have a broad-based provision of continuing training schemes. This is really impressive.”

And as we can see from the pictures, he took time to inform himself by trainers, apprentices and managers. And he also egaged himself in discussions and in hands-on training.

Reporting on the field visit in a journal article

The field visit was covered by the article of Christian Qapp “Ein Ministerpräsident als Azubi” published in NWZ Online. The article made the point that the prime minister took the role of apprentice (guided by an experienced apprentice) on the drilling grounds. And at different training sites the apprentices had a major role in presenting the training in their trades.

From the perspective of promoting digital competences in vocational education and training (VET) the article makes an interesting point (translated into English by me):

“The apprentices in carpentry, Vanessa Hermes, and in pipeline-building, Linus Köneking, explained the Learning Toolbox. The App for Smartphones and Tablet-PCs was developed in collaboration with Bau-ABC. Now it is being used there from the very first day of apprentice training on. On the one hand it contains practical information for apprentices on travel arrangements, Accommodation and on the daily menu of the canteen. But equally it presents learning tasks with three-dimensional models, digital measurements and with creating lists of necessary construction materials. With all this the apprentices can deal with by taking the gadget from their pocket. And, moreover, they themselves can  document their own work with the help of the app.”

Reflective commentary

For us, who had been involved in the project work that led to the development of the Learning Toolbox, it is very rewarding to hear such comments from a top politician and to read such news reports. They deliver to us the message that the use of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox has become lived practice. Moreover, it is clear that the apprentices are in the best position to tell, how thwy can benefit from using it. We are happy to follow the progress of Bau-ABC Rostrup and others who are working with the Learning Toolbox. It is very inspiring to learn more from the users.

More blogs to come …

Learning, education outcomes and socioeconomic class

August 30th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

We have long known that educational outcomes are heavily influenced by social class. But little has been done to try to understand how social class affects learning. In that respect the article by Lien Pham on ‘How socioeconomic background makes a difference in education outcomes‘ is very welcome.

Pham notes that although “PISA publishes its PISA context assessment framework to supplement its regular international PISA testing of reading, maths and science”, ” these are just snapshots rather than an analysis of the impact of students’ background characteristics on their participation in these processes, or whether the educational system, schooling processes and classroom practices may favour certain groups over others” and “they do not help to shed light on how and why some students perform better than others.”

Pham says “In order to truly understand what is happening with inequality I believe we have to recognise the implicit social relationships and social structures in the schooling processes that position students in different vantage points.”

Pham goes on to look at what PISA says about students’ family backgrounds, student ethnicity and polices to improve educational inequality, adding his own comments and analysis. His overall conclusion is that reducing inequality neds more than just access to economic resources

We need to deeply understand students’ “real” opportunities within our systems of education. I believe we need to look more closely at what students can reasonably do (or not do) with those resources given their backgrounds and situations.

Resources are important, but just because a school has a wide variety of resources doesn’t mean all of its students will benefit from those equally.

I am arguing that policy attention to improve educational inequality should place student agency and diversity at the forefront, rather than focussing on resources with the assumption that all students will be able to access them in similar ways with similar outcomes.

You can read more in his paper: Capital and capabilities in education: Re-examining Australia’s 2015 PISA performance and context assessment framework

 

 

Preparing for forthcoming TACCLE project meetings

August 24th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I wrote about preparing for the forthcoming ECER 2019 (beginning of September in Hamburg). For a conference of educational researchers one needs to work with research papers and related presentations – that is obvious. However, later in the Autumn I will have two TACCLE project meetings for which I have had to prepare from another perspective. The two parallel TACCLE projects are working to promote digital competences of practitioners. The TACCLE-VET project focuses directly on teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). The TACCLE-CPD project shapes models for continuing professional development (CPD) in different educational sectors (general education, adult education, VET). I have been working only in the latter project – but as responsible for the sector of VET. Now, at this point, it is high time to share experiences between the two projects and to present some interim results for the neighbouring project.

To be sure, I have worked a lot and produced a lot. That all has contributed to the research paper, powerpoint presentation and ePoster (as a wider digital resource). BUT now it is necessary to prepare materials that support continuing professional development of practitioners – teachers and trainersand related planning in their organisations. Indeed,  I have written of  challenges with digital learning culture and on different innovation paths – that all gives food for thought. But now it is not just about delivering text and presenting it in attractive packages. What is also needed, is the inspiration and encouragement to take new challenges and try something hitherto unknown. And it is this spirit that I hope that we can grasp from our predecessor projects – the earlier TACCLE projects and the Learning Layers – and their training activities. Below I want to illustrate this with two videos.

Training in TACCLE3 project – Brussels meets Dillingen

The video “Unplugged coding in Dillingen” gives an impression, how three TACCLE trainers engaged the participants during their training visit. With such an approach the working with digital tools is brought into lived practice. (Many thanks to Angela Gerrard for sharing this video! And our deepest respects to Jenny Hughes who played an important role in this event as well!)

Putting digital competences into practice after Multimedia training – the Carpenters’ blog takes off

The other video demonstrates, how a full-time vocational trainer (working in a training centre of construction sector) made rapid use of his newly acquired digital competences. In a couple of weeks after the training session he had developed a remarkable resource base powered by a WordPress blog. In the Learning Layers project this was a major step forward in developing digital learning culture.

 

In both videos we can sense the joy of learning and of becoming owner of one’s new competences. In the Learning Layers project this interim phase was crucial to push the co-design process further – to the phase in which the Learning Toolbox (LTB) became a toolset for trainers and learners.

It is this creative spirit that we want to promote with our projects. Let us see what we can achieve in the coming time.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Preparing for the ECER 2019 conference – paper, presentation and ePoster

August 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

The period before and after the summer holiday is usually characterised by preparation for conferences. For me, the highlight of the conference season is the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA). The ECER 2019 will take place in Hamburg, so not that much travelling from Bremen. But this conference will be something special, since I will go on retirement in the year 2020. So, the tradition of participating in ECER conferences – that started in 1992 and continued regularly since 1996 – it is coming to an end. But, let us leave the memories to a later date! At the moment I am busy preparing my/our contributions for the conference. So, let us have a look, what is going on!

Conference paper and VETNET proceedings

This year I am contributing with only one submission – a joint paper with Angela Gerrard (Pontydysgu) and my former ITB-colleague Werner Müller (now representing stack.services). The (modified) title of the paper is “Strategies and Training Models for promoting Digital Competences in the field of Vocational Education and Training”. This paper focuses on our work in the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. As the acronym tells, it is based on the work of prior TACCLE projects.  These have prepared teachers’ aids for creating (digital) content for (web-based) learning environment. The challenge for the current project was to shift the emphasis from direct teacher training to shaping models and patterns for continuing professional development (CPD). And, with this task the project is looking at different educational sectors – including vocational education and training (VET).

The paper gives insights into the development of the TACCLE approach through different projects and changes in working patterns (working with hard copy handbook, shifting to different subject areas and shaping parallel online resources). As a another root project the paper presents the work of the Learning Layers project (co-design of digital tools to support vocational and workplace-based learning). Based on these backgrounds the paper reflects the transition to digital learning culture in the field of VET – including risks, opportunities and hurdles. Taking into account different VET-specific challenges the paper outlines three exemplary ‘Innovation paths’, how to to introduce digital learning culture into vocational curricula and learning arrangements. Then – concerning the promotion of digital competences of teachers and trainers – the paper discusses the European DigCompEdu framework and the local “Theme Room” training model that was developed in the Learning Layers. Altogether, the paper gives a picture, how VET research can contribute to a development-oriented project.

This year – once again – the coordinators of the VETNET network of EERA have invited us to submit out papers before the summer holiday so that they can edit the VETNET proceedings by the conference. This has put us under pressure (to finish the papers before the holiday period) but finally it is rewarding to receive the proceedings by the conference.

Conference presentation and the ePoster

After the summer holiday I have done some other work for the TACCLE 4 CPD project (to be covered in another blog post) and then prepared the conference presentation. This has helped me to take some further steps in the conclusions. However, the major effort was not so much the traditional powerpoint presentation but the ePoster, powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

Last year, before the ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen we had a mini-project of the VETNET network (supported by EERA) to explore the use of ePosters in the VETNET program of ECER. Together with the LTB-developers we arranged that the authors delivered their poster contents via LTB-stacks and used them to present in the VETNET ePoster session. Also, we had a general introductory session for other EERA networks (see my blogs of September 2018). This year we couldn’t continue in the same way but I wanted to keep the idea alive and add new content to the EERA showcase of ePosters. Therefore, I prepared a new stack to present the powerpoint, the full paper and other supporting resources.

ECER 2019 LTB-stack PK ECER-stack Screen2ECER-stack Screen3

This ePoster can be accessed directly via its web link or via the QR-code of the related mini-poster, see below:

Mini-poster PK ECER 2019

So, this is how I have been preparing our contribution to the ECER 2019 together with my co-authors and supported by the LTB-developers. We are looking forward to the conference in Hamburg in a short while.

More blogs to come …

 

Privacy online: a toolkit for childre

August 14th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

The London School of Economics has published an online toolkit to promote children’s understanding of the digital environment and support them to make good decisions about privacy online. They say “the toolkit is aimed at children of secondary school age, parents and educators, and was developed with the participation of a mix of children in Years 8 and 10. It includes information and resources on: why privacy online is important, how online data is generated and used, children’s rights, privacy-related risks and protective strategies, where to seek support, suggestions and recommendations from children, and fun resources to watch and play.

With the help of experts and practitioners, we collected the best resources on online privacy and reviewed them based on a number of criteria: relevance and suitability to children, quality, free access, no need for creating an account, and no installing or downloading. A list of selected resources were presented to three child juries in March 2019 where 18 children were given the opportunity to assess the selected resources and help design the online toolkit.

The toolkit is part of an ICO-funded project led by Professor Sonia Livingstone. The project  aims to listen to children’s voices and develop tools to better empower them.

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    News Bites

    Open Educational Resources

    BYU researcher John Hilton has published a new study on OER, student efficacy, and user perceptions – a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Looking at sixteen efficacy and twenty perception studies involving over 120,000 students or faculty, the study’s results suggest that students achieve the same or better learning outcomes when using OER while saving a significant amount of money, and that the majority of faculty and students who’ve used OER had a positive experience and would do so again.


    Digital Literacy

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

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

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

    See here for more information


    Zero Hours Contracts

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

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


    Resistance decreases over time

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


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