Archive for the ‘Informal learning’ Category

Learning Analytics and the Peak of Inflated Expectations

January 15th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

hypecycleHas Learning Analytics dropped of the peak of inflated expectations in Gartner’s hype cycle?  According to Educause ‘Understanding the power of data’ is still there as a major trend in higher education and Ed Tech reports a KPMG survey which found that 41 percent of universities were using data for forecasting and predictive analytics.

But whilst many universities are exploring how data can be used to improve retention and prevent drop outs, there seems little pretence any more that Learning Analytics has much to do with learning. The power of data has somehow got muddled up with Management Analytics, Performance Analytics and all kinds of other analytics – but the learning seems to have been lost. Data mining is great but it needs a perspective on just what we are trying to find out.

I don’t think Learning analytics will go into the trough of despair. But i think that there are very real problems in working out how best we can use data – and particularly how we can use  data to support learning. Learning analytics need to be more solidly grounded in what is already known about teaching and learning. Stakeholders, including teachers, learners and the wider community, need to be involved in the development and implementation of learning analytics tools. Overall, more evidence is needed to show which approaches work in practice and which do not.

Finally, we already know a great deal about formal learning in institutions, or at least by now we should do. Of course we need to work at making it better. But we know far less about informal learning and learning which takes place in everyday living and working environments. And that is where I ultimately see Learning analytics making a big difference. Learning Analytics could potentially help us all to self directed learners and to achieve the learning goals that we set ourselves. But that is a long way off. Perhaps if Learning analytics is falling off the peak of expectations that will provide the space for longer term more clearly focused research and development.

 

Celebrating the Finnish children’s favourite TV program “Pikku Kakkonen” – 40 years and more

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

On my blog I have not dealt so much with my home country Finland – given that I have worked since 1994 most of the time elsewhere in Europe. During our EU-funded Learning Layers project I found several occasions to address some developments in Finland as impulses for the project work (e.g. developments in apprentice training and the ‘sustainability commitments’  in education, training and economy). Last December I felt the need to write about the Finnish independence, now that Finland is celebrating its 100th independence day in the coming December. In this respect I will picking more Finnish issues to celebrate during this year.

And just now I have a perfect case – the 40th anniversary of the most popular and sustainable children’s TV program – Pikku Kakkonen (Tiny 2-er). Today I watched the special TV program “Postilokero 347” (P.O. Box 347) in its full length and was amazed what all this program could report on the history, characters, contributors, feedback etc. Here I give the link to the program (made in Finnish for Finnish children) and then try to describe what all I learned.

Postilokero 347 – 40-vuotiaan Pikku Kakkosen tarina

The song “Pikku Kakkosen posti”: The TV-program invited children to send drawings and other post and the postal address was presented as a song that was performed by children. And this special program was started with this very song  – performed by several groups of children at different times. (And they all enjoyed it.)

The initial start of the program: Some of the founders had already been involved in making an earlier children’s program for the Finnish TV 2 but it had been based on a British format and was scripted in the UK. In this context they came to the conclusion that they could develop a program with their own format and with Finnish content and Finnish-initiated characters. Of course, they were also looking for contents and impulses from other countries. But on the whole Pikku Kakkonen was a Finnish design (from TV 2 and Tampere).

Some key characters and program elements: The program was composed of short elements glued together by the moderators. A special feature was to bring hand puppet animals as partners of the moderators. The most popular was Ransu the dog and his two mates Riku and Eno-Elmeri (together known as Karvakuonot – Furry Noses). Sometimes they were also making special outdoor visits (e.g. boat trips on the nearby lake or visiting police stations or fire brigade stations). From Poland the program borrowed Teddy Hangor (Nalle Luppakorva) and his animal friends. From DDR the program got its Sandman to start and to conclude the sleepy time tale (that was told by a famous Finnish actor – male or female). One of the most popular slots was that of the Circus clown Hermanni – announced either as Hermanni’s clown school (Hermannin pellekoulu) or as Hermanni’s hotline (Hermannin hätäapu). And all kinds of children’s concerns could be dealt by the sympathetic, shy and clumsy clown who was speaking directly to (fictive) kids somewhere in Finland and commenting their (fictive) answers.

Special excursions: The very special initiatives were to send a moderator with Ransu the dog to visit Leningrad in the 1980s – just to give insights into everyday life of children in Soviet Union (avoiding all kinds of ideological ornaments). Later on the same moderator and Ransu visited Berlin – and wondered why the people had got into such bad terms with each other that some got the idea to build the wall. Ransu made the point that they should learn to get along with each other so that no such walls would be needed. This was in the autumn 1989 – and by chance: the wall was opened next week (and the moderator and Ransu could add this delightful news as a PS to their travel report. Later on another moderator went with Ransu to interview the presidents of republic about their childhood memories or relations to their pet animals.

Echo from kids and families with kids: This special program presents several episodes in which city kids and rural kids rush to watch Pikku Kakkonen when the program starts – and the parents can count that the kids will focus entirely on the program the next half an hour. And in many cases this had gone from one generation to another. BUT even more striking was that in the 1980s Pikku Kakkonen had been the ‘window to west’ for the Soviet Estonian children and their families. And for Estonian children of that time it was easy to learn Finnish just watching the program.

Echo from other viewers: It was fascinating to hear a special fan – a severely disabled and blind man who had suffered from his disease from his childhood on – to tell that he had been able to follow the program very well in spite of his blindness – the program was sufficiently conversational and had a lot of music. But it appeared that the program is also popular in elderly people’s homes – it brings the children to the inhabitants of these homes (even if they may not have grandchildren of their own). And – what was striking to me – Pikku Kakkonen has become popular among the refugee families in Finland and a key facilitator of the language learning of their children at pre-school or school age. This became apparent in the talks with a Syrian family (in Arabic) and their children (in Finnish).

And finally, at the end of the celebration program “Postilokero 347” I was inspired to hear the current bedtime storyteller of Pikku Kakkonen present the Grimm brothers’ story of Bremen town musicians (Bremer Stadtmusikanten). That made me happy in my present location – in Bremen.

– – –

I guess this is enough to give a picture of Pikku Kakkonen, its history, key characters and impact. If you want to learn more, just click the link and make your own observations! I was overwhelmed by memories of the childhood of my kids (that we shared with Pikku Kakkonen in the 1980s). And I was surprised to learn what all came after those years (when we grew out of Pikku Kakkonen but the program moved on). Congratulations, Pikku Kakkonen – years and more!

More blogs to come (but on other topics)

Informal learning in practice

December 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Last week I travelled from Derby to Manchester airport by train. It was a typical English Midlands December day – cold, damp and foggy. Waiting at the station was a train driver – I knew this because she had on an orange hi vis jacket with driver printed on the back. At some time a much older male driver came along and they started chatting. The conversation was about the weather – no surprises there. But it seems she had been driving the previous evening when the fog had been very thick and she had never encountered such conditions before. It was fairly obvious that she was new to the job. Her big worry had been not knowing where she was and failing to slow down in time for stations. The more experienced driver sympathized and advised her to slow down to 20 miles an hour. If you go at 20, he said, you will always be able to stop in time. But, he said, don’t worry – as you get more experienced you will get to know where the stations are.

I liked that conversation – it was a great example of informal learning – learning taking place in a chat at a station. And it also illustrated communities of practice – the learning took place around a common practice of driving trains and a common problem of driving in fog.

The next day I travelled early in the morning by train from Madrid to Valencia. This time I was on an AVE – the Spanish Renfe services high speed train. And once more there was thick fog. But this time the train did not slow all. I suppose it helps that there is only one stop between Madrid and Valencia. But I suspect the reason is that the AVE has m0re advanced technologies than the aging UK railways.

I wonder whether in learning to use these more advanced trains knowledge is passed on in the same ways or there is more emphasis on formal learning and knowledge. And I wonder which is the most effective?

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Six: The expedition with the Learning Layers (2012-2016)

December 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In the third post I discussed the Europrof project, the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up. In the fourth post I discussed the  TTplus project and the European Consultation seminars in the years 2007 – 2010. In the fifth blog I discussed the  Work & Learning Partners (2005-2006) and the Euronet-PBL (2009-2010). In this sixth and final post I will discuss the expedition with the Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016).

Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that this ‘journey’ has taken me and my ITB colleagues through different periods of European cooperation. Not all of our efforts have been that successful. Yet, we have achieved respectable results and we have learned a lot. It is also important to emphasise that there is a strong continuity with underlying theoretical concepts and guiding principles for R&D activities (participation, dialogue and social shaping – all in one word: Gestaltung). With this interim conclusion I try to give a nutshell picture of the latest leg of the journey – our expedition with the EU-funded Learning Layers project (on which I have been blogging the last four years).

The starting points of the Learning Layers project

Thae Learning Layers (LL) project was funded by the 7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and Development of the European Uninon (EU FP7). The aim was to support informal learning in the context of work and organisations by using digital tools, web resources and mobile devices. Special emphasis was given on addressing SMEs (and their networks) as users and to scale up innovations during the project. As a contrast to the previous projects discussed in this series of blogs, our (= ITB) starting position was completely different:

  • Firstly, the previous projects had mainly been initiated and/or led by ITB and carried out with a partnership that we new of the vocational education and training (VET) research community.  In the Learning Layers project we joined in a consortium that was led by research institutions from the fields of educational technology, software solutions, knowledge management and infrastructure architectures. Pontydysgu had made the contact between us and the emerging project consortium.
  • Secondly, the project plan had initially envisaged only one field for piloting (the healthcare sector in England, represented by General Practice stations affiliated with the National Health Service, supported in the project by Leeds University). In the final phase of the preparations the construction sector from Germany (supported by ITB) was included into the project plan as the second field for piloting.
  • Thirdly. the project concept was relying on a good synchronisation of different contributions from the technical partners in a co-design process, so that the users could easily take up the tools (with the support of an integrated scaffolding model). In this concept there was no clear pre-defined role for us (other than coodination fo the sectoral activities with the application partners in the German construction sector.

The above mentioned plan and project concept were reflected in the set of work packages in which we found our role primarily in the WP7 (deployment and promotion of LL tools in the pilot sectors). However, during the project the ‘cards were mixed and redistributed’ in the processes of co-design, tool development and bringing them to users.

The starting points of the construction pilot

Looking back, the starting point for the construction pilot was somewhat similar as the earlier educational pilot projects (Modellversuche) and the innovation programme on Work and Technology (Arbeit und Technik). Obviously, we could consider that our role was similar to the accompanying research (Begleitforschung). Yet, we had to start with a relatively open research agenda visà-vis the predecessor projects. And, compared to our colleagues in the healthcare sector (Leeds University) we both had an intermediate position between the technical partners and the application partners. Ye, in the course of the project, the pilot activities and our roles developed into somewhat different directions. I will try to summarise the points below:

  • As a contrast to the Modellversuche or the AuT programme, the accompanying research team of ITB could not take a pedagogic pilot concept and related working hypotheses (Versuchshypothesen) or explicit programme goals (AuT-Gestaltungsziele) as points of reference.
  • Concerning the project concept, the accompanying research team had to take an intermediate and interpretative role regarding the achievement of project goals in the context of apprentice training and within organisational learning in construction sector.
  • Concerning the co-design processes, the healthcare pilot worked with three parallel design ideas (and emerging tools) towards a integrative approaches. This process was supported by separate tool development teams of technical partners. In the construction pilot the overarching design idea went through two iterations before the co-design work took the course towards an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox. This development process was prepared jointly by the application partners, research partners and intermediate partners, whilst the technical partners joined in later.

In this respect the accompanying research team in the construction pilot had to reconsider its tasks and contributions and to take new roles in the course of the project work.

The R&D dialogue in Bau-ABC – the iterative process

In the co-design process in Bau-ABC (intermediate training centre of of North-German construction industry) was to digitise the Bau-ABC White Folder (collection of training materials, worksheets and reporting documents) and the related training and learning processes. In the initial phase the ITB team engaged heavily Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices by work process analyses and storyboard workshops to identify potential points of intervention (for using digital tools). In the subsequent co-design workshops a lot of attention was paid on haping the tools in such a way that they support vocational learning – and reflective learning. However, in two iteration cycles the joint conclusions was reached to give up the over-ambitious digitisation agenda. Instead, the course was taken to develop a flexible and integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox – to provide access to web resources, to create own resources and to share knowledge and communicate in real time.

Immediately after this shift into new phase the ITB team together with the LTB developers and colleagues from Bau-ABC started outreach activities that engaged more construction sector professionals and apprentices in discussions on the emerging toolset – on the elementary functions and what could be added upon. These talks were carried out in the Brunnenbauertage trade fair (in Bau-ABC), in the Demo Camp workshop event (also in Bau-ABC) and in the NordBau trade fair (in Neumünster). Also, a closer cooperation with the first interested construction companies was started at this phase.

The training schemes as capacity building and contribution to tool development

Already before the abve mentioned shift in the co-design process the partners in the construction pilot had agreed to start a multimedia training scheme for the trainers in Bau-ABC. The first scheme was developed step by step to equip the participants with basic multimedia competences and capability to assess possibilities for using existing apps or tools and for co-creating and co-developing new ones. In this context the Bau-ABC trainers started working with their domain-specific blogs (Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog) and to develop them into repositories of their own training materials and supporting content. After the first multimedia training the Bau-ABC trainers (who had participated) produced series of videos pointing to specific contexts for using the toolset to optimise work processes and to support workplace-based learning.

In the next phase a more overarching training programme, based on the “Theme Room” concept (initiated by Bau-ABC trainers) was implemented as a ‘whole organisation’ campaign involving all  training staff of Bau-ABC. The training scheme consisted of four Friday afternoon workshops in November 2015 with focus on two main themes – ‘Use of Social Media’ and ‘Production/Use of Digital Learning Materials’ – with two workshops for each theme. The training staff in Bau-ABC (Rostrup) was divided into four parallel groups (and a fifth group in the branch centre Mellendorf). Each group was tutored by one Bau-ABC trainer and a researcher from ITB team. Altogether this campaign gave a strong push for using digital tools, and web resources in the apprentice training. Moreover, it paved the way for improvements in the infrastructure to enable the piloting with the Learning Toolbox – within the apprentice training of Bau-ABC.

The breakthrough with Learning Toolbox and the completion of the project work

In February-March the Learning Layers project project started the active use of Learning Toolbox in the apprentice training for selected pioneering trades. After the Kick-off event in March the trainers started to spread the piloting via peer tutoring and via joint projects involving several trades. This process was supported by accompanying researchers from ITB, the Learning Toolbox developers and visiting researches from Innsbruck, Espoo and Tallinn. With the jointly implemented evaluation studies in May, August and September we could conclude that the trainers in different trades had found somewhat different ways to use Learning Toolbox – and that the apprentices in their respective trades responded positively to their approaches.

Parallel to the these final activities the Learning Layers partners have prepared their contributions to the final deliverable – a comperehensive reporting website, currently called as ‘the Layers Web’. The main contributions of the construction pilot include the following:

  • Impact Cards: C-01 on specific pilot with AchSo video annotation tool in Bau-ABC; C-05 on pilot activities in Verden; C-11 on the use of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC, C-12 on Training schemes in Bau-ABC.
  • Learning Scenarios: S-02 on use of Learning Toolbox at a construction site (Verden); S-09 on Learning Toolbox as support for Handlungsorientiertes Lernen in Bau-ABC; S-10 on changing and sustaining practices in the pilot sectors.
  • Methodology documents: M-10 on accompanying research and participative design; M-11 on Training interventions as capacity-building.

These final documents and many other working documents have been made available as draft versions on the following ResearchGate project spaces:

The follow-up prospects

The signals from pilots in Bau-ABC have been positive and they have been picked up. Following the example, the application partner organisations in Verden have made their steps in using Learning Toolbox in construction work and in promoting the tool to other actors in construction sector. Based on these pioneering cases, the ITB team has recently organised bilateral talks with interested companies. Some spin-off projects have already been started with other construction sector partners before the Learning Toolbox was fully available (to be integrated to their working concepts). At the moment the ITB team is involved in talks to prepare proposals with new knowledge on the usability of Learning Toolbox in the projects.

I think this is enough of the Learning Layers project – of our experiences, achievements and follow-up prospects. To me it is important to not that this has been an exceptional project with richly documented activities and sustainable results to take further by follow-up activities. And for this reason it is important to continue the ‘harvesting’ of results while preparing further follow-up initiatives. It has been and it it is worthwhile.

More blogs to come …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Five: From Work & Learning Partners to Euronet-PBL (2005 – 2010)

December 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In the third post I discussed the Europrof project, the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up. In the fourth post I discussed the  TTplus project and the European Consultation seminars in the years 2007 – 2010. In this fifth blog I will discuss the development of our work from Work & Learning Partners (2005-2006) to Euronet-PBL on practice-based learning  (2009-2010).

The three previous blogs have discussed reform and innovations concepts with systemic relevance (Doppelqualifikation, New VET professionals) and/or European policy frameworks (Teachers and trainers in VET). As a contrast, the projects to be discussed in this post can be characterised as intermediate innovations (partnerships for workplace learning in VET and for practice-based learning in higher education).

The project Work & Learning Partners (2005-2006)

The Leonardo da Vinci project “Work & Learning Partners (WLP)” was based on the experiences of a successful regional pilot project (Modellversch GoLo) with workplace learning partnerships in the Wilhelmshaven region. This predecessor project demonstrated that a crisis region can cut the declining tendency in apprentice training by grouping SMEs into partnerships that provide training opportunities jointly. Here it is worthwhile to note that in the case of Wilhelmshaven these cooperation arrangements were supported by a local mobilisation of the companies (by the local industrial association) and by training interventions of the pilot team.

The European project (initiated by Philipp Grollmann) tried to promote transfer of innovation by relatively light-weight accompaniment arrangements (with case studies using a GoLo-based “Learning Potential Analysis” (LPA) method. This was originally used to clarify whether the partner enterprises were in the position to cover all content areas in the domain-specific apprentice training – and to identify areas of learning to be covered with partnership cooperation. However, the case studies that were carried out parallel to these analyses gave a picture that the companies involved in the other partner countries were not looking for partnership-based cooperation with other companies by letting apprentices rotate. Instead, in the second phase of the project the partners refocused their fieldwork into examining the kind of cooperation arrangements that could be introduced in their contexts and/or measures to improve their workplace learning with the use of multimedia support. Also, as a support for the initial ideas, the French partner provided an additional case study of the trans-national company Endress + Hauser that has pioneered with rotating ita apprentices between its plants in Switzerland, Germany and France (and completing apprenticeship with certificates recognised in all countries).

Looking back, the the partners had apparently expected more of the willingness of the companies to work in partnerships and of the contribution of the LPA-analyses to the development of workplace learning arrangements. As I came to the project as a replacement of the coordinator (due to an accident and a longer leave of absence), my task was to coach the local partners to find alternative initiatives to be reported. This process history was symptomatic for attempted transfer of innovation with very context-specific innovation concepts to wider European use.

Euronet-PBL – the approach to studying and developing practice-based learning

Some years later the Erasmus project Euronet-PBL was initiated by ITB (by Ludger Deitmer as primus motor). It was shaped as an allrounder-project to study and develop practice-based learning arrangements in three domains: engineering studies, business administration and vocational teacher education. The university partners were working together with partner enterprises to analyse the experieences with hitherto implemented practice-based learning arrangements (case studies), to evaluate the experiences (evaluation workshops) and to collect tools, instruments and support arrangements into a curricular toolbox. Altogether the work was supported by comparative analyses that provided the basis for eventual recommendations that were discussed in valorisation workshops.

Euronet-PBL – student’s projects, evaluation workshops and valorisation workshops

The project worked intensively with its case studies which included context descriptions on the study programs and on the role of practice-based learning arrangements (Praktikum, Company-Action-Projects, Coop-placements). Then, selected students’ projects or placement cases were analysed for more detailed information). based on this interim information the university partners organised with the partner companies and ths students self-evaluation workshops (using an evaluation tool developed in earlier ITB projects). Here, it is worthwhile to note that the use of the evaluatzion tool is linked to the workshop concept and the quantifiying and visualising features of the tool serve the purpose of stimulating discussion and clarification of arguments. On the basis of ‘local’ evaluation workshops the university partners organised valorisation workshops that had the task to validate the findings and to put them into wider (national) group picture.

Euronet-PBL – the role of comparative analyses

Initially the project was expected to produce a common framework or guidelines for supporting the development of practice-based learning arrangements in higher education (in general) and in the participating academic domains. However, the comparative analyses (using the empirical material gathered in the project) came to the conclusion that this is not realistic. Instead, the comparative analyses provided a framework for

  • distinguishing different learning arrangements from each other: intensive intervention projects (CAP-projects), series of  students’ short-term projects (Praktikum projects), work experience placements (without study project);
  • distinguishing between ‘reference case’ and ‘parallel’ case in the academic domains analysed (project vs. placement);
  • making the information on different models and patterns of implementation transparent as a group picture;
  • analysing the role of the Bologna process as a background and context for developing different models;
  • analysing developments and ambitions in shaping different models (taking into account the European context.

Thus, instead of preparing a ‘framework’ or ‘guideline’ document, the project prepared a secondary analysis of exemplary students’ projects to highlight the potentials of such projects for university-enterprise cooperation.

The role of  the Toolbox of the Euronet-PBL (at that time and looking back)

In the light of the above it is easy to understand, what kind of changes the idea of shping a common toolbox went through during the project and how differently such a task would be approached with present-date understanding. Originally the idea of a common toolbox was linked to the common curricular framework or curricular guidelines (to develop practice-based learning). The toolbox was to collect national or local guidelines, instructions, contract templates, reporting documents, presentation templates, assessment guidelines and forms etc. These materials were to be structured in the light of agreed recommendations or guiding principles.

Once the comparative analyses had suggested the conclusion to support mutual learning and exchanges as the main thrust for developing practice-based learning, the role of the common toolbox changed. Now, it was developed as a resource base for learning from other partners’ models, instruments and tools. From this perspective the “Toolbox” was shaped as a moodle ‘course’ that was based on a process model for implementing practice-based learning. The ‘learning units’ of the course highlighted a phase in the planning, preparation, implementation and assessment of practice-based learning. And exemplary instructions, instruments, tools and reports used by partners were made available to illustrate this phase.

Looking back, it is symptomatic that the project of the years 2009-2010 worked with an idea of a curricular toolbox instead of a learners’ toolbox. Now, with present-date Internet-connections and mobile apps it is easier to think of common toolboxes to support learners’ activities and share information on students’ Praktikum or CAP projects in real time.

– – –

I think this is enough of these intermediate innovation projects (between systemic reforms and ‘local’ development measures). As I have indicated above, many of these projects could be revisited as early anticipations of innovation concepts that now can be shaped in a more user-friendly, dynamic and interactive way.

More blogs to come …

 

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Four: From the TTplus project to Consultation seminars (2007 – 2010)

December 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In the third post I discussed the Europrof project, the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up. In the fourth post I will discuss the development of our work from the TTplus project to the European Consultation seminars on VET teachers and trainers in the years 2007 – 2010.

Remarks on the earlier history of the theme “Teachers and trainers in VET” at European level

My first encounter with the theme “Teachers and trainers in VET” at European level took place, when I was working in Cedefop (European Centre for the Drevelopment of Vocational Training) as a national seconded expert sent by the Finnish government. Cedefop was being relocated from Berlin to Thessaloniki, Greece and I had just got a new contract with which I would start as a temporary official of the EU in Thessaloniki. At that time the Cedefop project manager who was in charge of the newly started project “Teachers and trainers in VET” asked me to take over this project since she was leaving Cedefop and moving to Eurostat. For her this was a project to be completed when the national reports for all countries are completed.

When I had joined the project, I realised that there was a strong community-building process going on and that it should not be dropped. Yet, I had already got my activities in VET research cooperation started (accompaniment of European projects, joint synergy seminars with top projects, participation in European policy dialogue events with the projects) and I couldn’t concentrate sufficiently on the practitioner network. After a lengthy transition period another Cedefop project manager took over this project and managed the official launch of the TTnet network in 1998 (based on the preparatory work in the years 1995-1997).

From that point on the TTnet seemed to be the natural address to collect European studies and expertise on the theme ‘teachers and trainers’ However, there were two major limitations in the way that the network had been constituted. Firstly, following the Cedefop tradition, the network was built upon national contact points that coordinated the activities and eventually invited further actors. This was a somewhat exclusive mode of participation. Secondly, it was left to each country, whether the contact point is hosted by institutions for vocational teacher education or major training organisations (with ‘training the trainers’ activities) or national VET authorities. As a consequence, the national contact points covered the field from the perspective of their own priorities.

When the European Commission in the years 2005-2006 was looking for ways to analyse more closely the role of VET teachers and trainers as a target group for European policies, these measures were not crried out via TTnet but via new priorities in the Leonardo da Vinci programme and via specific tenders (which also were open for the TTnet members as well). From the thematic pointof view, special emphasis was given on measures that focused on in-company trainers or on trainers in specialised training organisations (beyond the initial VET). This was the background for the many parallel activities on the theme ‘teachers and trainers’ that were carried out by ITB in the years 2006 -2010: The Eurotrainer I survey, the TTplus project, the Consultation seminars and the Eurotrainer II network. Below I will focus on the TTplus project and the Consultation seminars in which I had a major role.

The TTplus project – approaches and initiatives

The TTplus project was set up with the ambitious heading ‘Framework for continuing professional development of trainers’ and building upon the experiences of the Euroframe project (see my previous post). The project took into account from the beginning the fact that the patterns for employing trainers (for workplace-based learning) and the respective arrangements for ‘training of trainers’ vary to a great extent. Therefore, The empirical work was based on three case studies to be carried ou in the particpating countries – then to be followed by policy analyses, reflections on the role of European Qualification Framework (EQF) and recommendations.

Concerning the policies and/or societal boundary conditions for engaging trainers and organising ‘training for trainers’ the case studies and policy analyses provided the following kind of group picture:

  • In Germany the exisiting framework for training of trainers (AEVO) had been teamporarily suspended (in order to encourage the companies to take more apprentices. The companies that were studied were interested in supporting training of trainers – and used AEVO as a basis. Yet, they saw AEVO as minimum and were looking for more.
  • In Portugal the partners studied private training providers who organised employment schemes commissioned by the employment services. The trainers’ aptitude certificate (CAP) required as minimum standard tended to reduce the pedadgogic room for manoeuvre to traditional frontal teaching.
  • In Greece the companies studied were not subject to follow any government policies regarding in-company training – this was up to company-specific decisions. Likewise, it was up to the companies to engage trainers and to consider the competences of trainers from their perspectives. From the analyst’s point of view there was a case for a government intervention to to introduce minimum level training obligations and minimum standards for trainers.
  • In Wales the companies contacted had outsourced most of their training activities and these were catered for by freelance-trainers who had developed their career as allrounders (from the content point) and as training technique specialists. Whilst they were in the position to outline frameworks for professional development (but were sceptical whether such frameworks should be applied to freelance trainers).

As these examples already indicate, the European landscape of training at workplace and ‘training of trainers’ was getting more colourful and it was not self-evident, how to promote European policies in an effective way. The approach of the project made it possible to get insights into the training contexts (companies, training providers, training arrangements) and to collect working issues. This all served as good preparation for the forhcoming European activities.

Analyses on the role of the European Qualification Framework(s) (EQF)

in the light of the above it was apparent that the ‘European dimension’ of the project TTplus was not to set common European standards for trainers – neither was there a case to declare a common recommendation for continuing professional development. Instead, the project provided an overview of the challenges and eventual steps forward in different countries (taking into account the organisational, institutional and policy contexts).

In this respect the analysis on the role of  the problems in applying European Qualification Frameworks (EQFs) to the field ‘teachers and trainers in VET’. Whilst in several countries, VET teachers were educated in universities or higher education institutions, this was not  the universal rule across Europe. In this respect the EQF for Higher Education (the Bologna process) provided the general framework. Yet, considering the career models of VET teachers, there was a tension between study programs for full-time students vs. professionals in the middle of career shift.

For the same reasons the European Qualification Framework for VET (or lifelong learning) did not provide an orientative framework for career progression – neither within the context of workplace training nor regarding career shift from training activities fro teacher duties. In this respect the German country report made transparent the initial discussion on such career models (and how to support them with different national frameworks). However, the discussion was at early stage and ITB got at that time linked with the developmental initiatives (after the TTplus project).

The consultation seminars – overall approach and insights into the workshops

In the light of the above it is interesting to note the opportunities provided by the Europe-wide Consultation seminars “VET teachers and trainers” in 2oo8 – 2009. This was a European Commission initiative to pull together knowledge and different stakeholders’ views via series of ‘regional’ workshops that cover all Members States, EEA partners and candidate countries. ITB won the tender with a consortium based on the Eurotrainer projects. The task was originally to organise six regional workshops to cover different European regions and to draw conclusions from hitherto implemented policies and intiatives for common European initiatives. The expectations were rather high regarding conclusions that could support incorporation of VET teachers and trainers into EQFs or under specific EU-level ‘communications’ (from the Commission to the European Parliament).

The workshops were designed as higly participative, interactive and collaborative events with quick shifts between differen kinds of sessions as the following:

  • Statements on the wall: Collection of statements on the roles, tasks and development prospects of trainers –  collected and grouped on the wall under respective headings – reflections on different positions and groupings.
  • Witness sessions: Quick presentations on recent innovations/initiatives/pilots that the participants bring from their home countries – what were the strengths/weeknesses, what made them sustainable/fragile.
  • Mapping European policies/initiatives: Participants were asked to fill in ‘problem’ cards, ‘method/measure’ cards and ‘policy’ cards to outline proposals. The groups collected and grouped the results.
  • Priority ranking: Participants were asked to indicate European ‘priorities’ that had been high and should be kept high vs. had been high but should be lowered vs. had been low and should be topped up vs. had been low and should be kept low.

These were some examples of the activities that were managed in the workshops. Altogether they gave the participants a good feeling that their views were respected, their contributions were taken on boards and the the groups worked together. Indeed, as ‘regional’ and trans-national workshops for knowledge sharing and dialogue the events served very well. However, the problem was in brining the European policy level into discussion and developing the feedback processes in such a way that European policy-makers could draw conclusions for their work.

– – –

I think this is enough of the projects and activities of this period. They were rich learning experiences but showed major difficulties in working towards a European synthesis – and at the same time shaping recommendations for development activities in particular VET contexts. This challenge will be explored in the forthcoming blogs.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

 

Once more Learning Layers – Part Four: Drawing conclusions across the pilots in construction and healthcare

December 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With this series of posts I am completing one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work we need to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I am have presented extracts from a joint draft document on which I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell. With these posts I try to ‘blog into maturity’ the preliminary thoughts we have put into discussion. In the previous posts I presented some starting points and insights into the processes as well as reflections on the parallel pilots. In the final post I outline conclusions across the pilots. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)

Whilst it has been relatively easy for us to present the stories of the two pilots (even in a comparative setting), it is difficult to draw conclusions across the pilots – and to keep the complex picture of the contexts in one’s mind. Therefore, we are very cautious about presenting cross-cutting conclusions. Below, after several iterations I present our joint conclusions:

Concluding reflections – across the sectoral pilots

Altogether, it is difficult to formulate conclusions that could link together either success factors of the two different sectoral pilots. The circumstances were very different and the processes as well. However, some of the challenging experiences can be formulated as ‘paradoxes of co-design work’:

  1. Co-design processes that start with a focus on very specific needs of particular user groups are not always able to pursue their work consequently to an end. Iterations and eventual revisions are natural elements of such processes. Radical shifts of emphasis during the process may lead to more flexible or better solutions but equally they can also cause a loss of momentum.
  2. Processes that have created a ‘milieu’ of participative events and exchanges between the developers and users may be influential as facilitators of multimedia learning and upgrading of user-skills. Yet, positive experiences in the preparatory work do not necessarily guarantee successful deployment of tools in actual practice. Here it is necessary to look at the context in which the introduction of the tools takes place. There are limits to what a project can achieve when working in a complex and changing environment.

Concerning the changing of practices, takeup of the tools and transferring ownership of innovation, the experiences of both sectoral pilots emphasise the importance of critical transitions, such as:

  • Radical changes in the initial design idea should be supported in responsive co-design work. Yet such changes need to be made with care, since they can introduce problems (loss of motivation, dropping good ideas too early, losing the link to the original well-understood context) as well as leading to improvements.
  • Moving from the work with the initial group (involved in the co-design) to work with a similar group that had not been engaged in the co-design work. In such situations the new users may be less motivated to work with tools that are under preparation; they have not developed the same personal investment and feelings of ownership as the co-design group
  • Transferring the innovation from the initial pilot context to new ones with different user groups. If the tools can be easily customised for new contexts, engagement of users may be easier with new groups of users who first encounter the tools when mature.

In this respect, sustainable deployment of tools like the ones of the Learning Layers project require the readiness of both individuals, organisations and networks to complete the transition to use them. The introduction of the tools that were piloted has not been merely a replacement of older tools with newer ones. The pilots with collaborative tools have required changes in routines, knowledge processes and patterns of sharing information. If only some of the users are ready to complete the transition to new tools, then there is a risk that the tools are not used at all. If the tools can be used individually, for limited user groups and for collaborative processes (as the Learning Toolbox), then the transition can proceed from smaller pilot groups to wider use more easily.

I guess we managed to complete our  work in a good way. I think we got the mainlessons pulled together.

More blogs to come …

 

Once more Learning Layers – Part Three: Reflections on parallel pilots in construction and healthcare

December 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In this series of posts I am working with one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work it is necessary to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I am presenting extracts from a joint draft document on which I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell. With these posts I try to ‘blog into maturity’ the preliminary thoughts we have put into discussion. In the previous posts I presented some starting points and insights into the processes. In this post I present our reflections on the parallel pilots – to be continued in the final post with conclusions across the pilots. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)

Reflections on different factors influencing project work in the pilot sectors

In the light of the above presented process characteristics and findings it is appropriate to reflect the lessons from the two pilot sectors with their respectively different processes of project work. Below we summarise the lessons of the two sectoral pilots concerning

  • factors that facilitated successful project work and take-up of innovation,
  • factors that caused hindrances and required efforts to overcome them,
  • factors that enabled transfer from initial pilot contexts and supported wider engagement of users.

Lessons from the construction pilot

  1. In the primary pilot context – training centre Bau-ABC – it was possible create a multi-channelled research & development dialogue, in which different activities supported each other. Work process analyses, analyses of critical bottlenecks in training, pedagogic reflections on the use of tools – all this contributed to the shaping of the Learning Toolbox. Furthermore, in the trades that have been involved in the pilots, the apprentices have taken the Learning Toolbox as an adequate support for their own learning processes.
  1. During the pilot activities the following hindrances and restrictive factors were experienced and partly overcome: a) The initial design idea (comprehensive digitisation of training materials) was too specific to the primary pilot organisation and too complex in technical terms. This was overcome with the concept of Learning Toolbox and with its open and flexible framework. b) At a later phase the gaps of multimedia competences in the pilot organisation were seen as a risk for successful tool deployment across the organisation. This was partly resolved by introducing the Theme Room training scheme as a ‘whole organisation’ engagement.
  1. The transfer of innovation from the initial pilot context (training centre) to further pilot contexts – to construction companies and to other organisations in construction sector has been enhanced by the following factors: a) A specific impact case was presented by a construction site manager who demonstrated the usability of Learning Toolbox as means to share information in real time (and for reporting from the construction site). cb In promotion events both the training-related examples and the case of construction site management have enabled the company representatives to express their own interests on using Learning Toolbox.

Lessons from the healthcare pilot

  1. Factors that appear to have supported adoption of the tools and transformation of practice include working with organisations whose key remit/focus is training/education. This occurred with our work with both PCTC and AMEE. Both organisations had the interest and knowledge to see how they could use the tools within their practice and to use their own resources to support this. Another approach that has led to change in healthcare has been the involvement of a commercial/development company (PinBell) who already have a related product (Intradoc247) in the market.
  2. Factors that appear to have hindered adoption of the tools and transformation of practice include the workload pressures within the healthcare SMEs. Learning Layers was working within the UK healthcare sector at a time of constant change and national reorganisation. Staff feeling under pressure have little time to devote to R&D projects which do not have a clear service delivery output. The co-design activity did lead to some healthcare professionals feeling ownership of the tools.  However, this engagement and adoption did not appear to transfer fully when the tools were taken beyond the co-design teams and into their networks for the pilots.
  3. Factors that have facilitated transfer beyond the initial contexts in healthcare include the use of the tools by healthcare professionals in real work settings and their own presentation and championing of the tools to others. Based on their understanding of the tools (developed through their engagement in the co-design work), healthcare professionals were able to present the tools to their healthcare networks and engage those networks in the pilots. However, this approach only succeeded in getting the wider networks involved in the pilots, it did not yet lead to the wider networks adopting the tools or making long-term changes in practice.  

I think this is enough of our reflections on the two parallel pilots. We already start to see different constellations of facilitating and challenging factors coming up. In the next post I conclude this series with our reflections across the pilots.

More blogs to come …

Once more Learning Layers – Part Two: Comparative insights into both pilot sectors

December 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In this series of posts I am working with one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work it is necessary to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I have been working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell with a joint draft document. In this series I present extracts from our document as ‘loud thinking’ to ‘blog them into maturity’. In my first post I presented our approach and the starting points of the sectoral pilots. In this post I present some insights into project work in the two pilots. In the final posts I will present our reflections and some emerging conclusions. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)

Insights into project work in the two parallel pilots

“In both sectors the general approach was to adopt co-design and capacity for implementing and rolling out the technology in the application partner organisations. In addition to work in the primary pilot contexts, the pilot teams engaged additional, ‘secondary’, contexts.”

“In construction the process started as digitisation of existing training and learning resources and through  a process of research and development dialogue. In this context the co-design shifted from digitisation of learning content to shaping a flexible digital toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). The Bau-ABC trainers adopted the Learning Toolbox as part of their normal practice and starting to develop digital learning resources themselves. This activity enhanced their efforts to change the role of the trainers from a more didactic role to a facilitative one.

In the outreach activities to present the LTB to other users in construction sector the ‘champion case’ has been the example in which a architect Thomas Isselhard (from the network for ecological construction work) demonstrates how to use the toolset in managing a construction site and the cooperation between different craftsmen. In the light of this example the construction companies have developed their own ideas, how to use the LTB for their purposes.

In healthcare the initial empirical and co-design work had identified three potential opportunities for technology to support informal learning at the healthcare workplace. Co-design teams w followed a Design Based Research approach to the subsequent development and field-testing of the tools – Bits & Pieces, Confer and Living Documents. By the end of the third year the tools had been used by small groups within each General Practices within a short field-study to support their collaborative work. There was some evidence that the groups involved in the pilots started to work in a more collaborative way. Yet, there is little sign that the pilot tools themselves will continue to be used beyond the project.

However, Learning Layers had involved a key commercial partner (PinBell) in the co-design work to help with longer-term sustainability. PinBell’s Intradoc247 software is a leading intranet solution designed specifically for General Practices. Therefore the changes in practice observed within the pilot activities may be continued through the use of collaborative working functionality now embedded within Intradoc247 and supported by PinBell.

The wider stakeholder engagement work in healthcare has involved work with a regional training company (Primary Care Training Company – PCTC) and an international medical education organisation (Association of Medical Education in Europe – AMEE). In year 4 with the maturing of Learning Toolbox, PCTC identified the possibility for it to support their annual conference for Healthcare Assistants and they are now also exploring whether it can support their training courses.  Learning Toolbox was successfully used as part of the technology-enhanced informal learning package at AMEE’s 2016 conference.”

I think this is enough on the implementation of the two pilots and of the outcomes at the end of the day. In my next post I will present reflections on the processes (relative strengths and weaknesses) in the parallel pilots.

More blogs to come …

 

Once more Learning Layers – Part One: Learning lessons from both pilot sectors

December 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Twice I have already tried to say goodbye to project work in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – in vain. Having completed the reporting on the construction pilot with the the forthcoming web documents (impact cards, learning scenarios and methodology documents) I thought that I could step to a follow-up phase. However, at that point I had not realised that there is one more pending task that we need to address in the context of our reporting. We need to have a closer look at the efforts, achievements and experiences in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – with a comparative view. We need to see, what specific lessons we have learned in each of them and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of both sectoral pilots. So, now I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell to summarise the picture of the two pilots in one document and to outline common conclusions.

In this series of posts I present some extracts from our draft document – firstly the starting points, then some insights into project work and some reflections on the parallel pilots and finally some emerging conclusions across the pilots. I hope that my colleagues accept my way of ‘thinking aloud’ in blogs and ‘blogging through’ the draft texts to maturity – this is the way of work I have learned during the LL project. So, here we go with the first extract:

“Challenges for research & development activities and for valuing the achievements

The Learning Layers project has worked in two pilot sectors – construction sector and healthcare sector. The aim has been to develop and introduce appropriate tools and technology solutions that support the application partners in workplace-based learning, knowledge sharing and networking – given the sectoral boundary conditions. However, during the project work the pilot teams have encountered also several hindrances as well as organisational and cultural barriers.

In the reporting of the project this has been taken into account by providing a picture on the progress in both pilot sectors. This may easily lead to particularisation of the view – the achievements of the project are to be judged on the basis of success in particular pilot organisations with the respective tools and measures introduced there. This would leave to margins the fact that the project worked towards integrative tool development and that the sectoral pilot teams tried to learn from each others’ experiences. Therefore, this document provides comparative insights into project work in the two pilot sectors and reflects on lessons learned when comparing the experiences and achievements.

Starting points for the sectoral pilots

Starting points for Construction pilot

In the beginning phase  of the project following kinds challenges, problems and interests were identified in the initial interviews and stakeholder talks in the construction sector:

  • Recent innovation campaigns of construction industry and trades (see e.g. the joint document of construction sector stakeholders “Leitbild Bau”2009) highlighted improvement of human productivity as a major innovation factor. At the same time construction sector was suffering from lack of skilled workers and apprentices.
  • Construction companies that had pioneered with digital tools, mobile offices and first-generation apps at construction sites had made negative experiences with non-mature technologies, less user-friendly software solutions and compatibility problems between different tools and apps. Construction sector trainers had mostly encountered such ‘domain-specific’ apps that were designed for laymen users but were not adequate for professional use (or as support for learning).
  • Apprentices were not familiar with domain-specific apps and had mainly become familiar with digital tools, web resources via private use of Internet.
  • Most construction companies were very restrictive regarding the use of mobile devices at construction sites – partly due to data privacy issues, partly due to hazard risks and partly because use of such devices was perceived as distraction.

Given this background, the training centre Bau-ABC was interested in starting pilot activities that would give mobile technologies a new role in construction work, training and learning.

Starting points for Healthcare pilot (Prepared by Tamsin Treasure-Jones)

In the healthcare sector the Learning Layers project was working with General Practices within the UK National Health Service. These General Practices are independent, SME organisations (usually owned by a partnership of doctors) employing doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to deliver first-line healthcare services to their registered patients. In the early stages of the project the following issues were identified from the empirical work (interviews, focus groups, observations) and stakeholder meetings with these healthcare professionals:

  • There was an increased emphasis on collaboration both within General Practices (working in interprofessional teams) and between General Practices (working in the newly set-up Clinical Commissioning Groups and Federations).
  • This collaboration was currently being facilitated mainly through email and face-to-face meetings but healthcare professionals felt that this was not effective, was contributing to their information overload and was inhibiting the work.
  • The General Practice work was mainly office-based, using PCs, and the General Practices did not have wifi installed nor any plans to add this.
  • The key driver for the General Practices was healthcare service delivery and improvement, particularly through collaboration.

I think this is enough of the challenge that we are facing when comparing our project experiences and process histories in the two pilots. In my next post I will give insights into the processes – and into the findings that we are considering.

More blogs to come …

 

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