Archive for the ‘Informal learning’ Category

Chamber Music Festival Kuhmo 2017 and follow-up – Part Three: My follow-up of videos with Sergey Malov

December 21st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have reported on my/our cultural highlight of this year – the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, July 2017. This was a shared experience between my partner Johanna (who has been a regular visitor since the early days of the festival) and myself (a latterly joined ‘avec’ who has learned to appreciate the festival). In my first post I told of the background of the festival and provided insights into the highlights of the Kuhmo 2017 program. In my second post I told of the meeting point ‘Salakamari’ (Secret chamber) and of the early morning lectures by artists in this pop-up restaurant and conference room. Indeed, my Kuhmo experience this year changed me from a passive sympathiser to an enthusiastic follower. I needed to learn more of this great music played by this great artists – who pointed out to be very nice fellows in the Kuhmo neighbourhood. For various reasons my follow-up ‘project’ has mainly focused on the music and video performances of Sergey Malov – Meister Sergey, as I prefer to call him. Below I will present some main points what I have found of him in the internet and what I have learned of him.

Playing violin, viola and violoncello da spalla at the same time

As has been indicated in the previous posts, Meister Sergey plays three instruments – violin, viola and the baroc instrument violoncello da spalla at the same time. For many traditional representatives of classical music this is unusual, if not suspect. For Meister Sergey this is a challenge and enrichment, something similar to learning several languages. And thanks to modern film techniques, he has been able to make his point. Together with the film crew of the Louisiana Modern Art Museum in Humlebaek, Denmark, he has produced films in which he appears to be playing the three instruments parallel to two or more Sergeys – and the music is fully synchronised. Here we have a sample of such multiple presence while playing:

Crossing the boundaries between different cultures and genres – making the performance transparent

Another film production with the same Danish film crew from the Louisiana Modern Art Museum gave Meister Sergey and his French counterparts, the composer Guillaume Connesson and the pianist Jerome Ducrot, a chance to demonstrate, how cultural boundaries can be crossed. In the video interview Meister Sergey gives insights into the development of Connesson, his capability to combine French traditions and American influences. Sergey analyses the exemplary piece of music – The Songs of Atlantis by Connesson – to be played by him and Ducrot together. At the same time the film crew equips the musicians and their instruments with numerous cameras to detect their movements – their Handwerk – while playing. In this way, the theory of music, the aesthetic performance and the technical mastery have all been made transparent.

Playing Bach with violoncello da spalla in a very special ‘concert hall’ – Gashouder Amsterdam

One of the most fascinating video recordings with Meister Sergey was made by the project “All of Bach” of the Netherlands Bach Society. In this production Sergey has been invited to play the Cello Suite no. 6 in D major of Johann Sebastian Bach – but with violoncello da spalla. And the venue is quite special – an old gas depot that had been preserved and could be reused for a concert without audience. The production resulted in three videos. The first one is the complete performance of the Suite no. 6. In the second video Sergey analyses the piece of music and puts into discussion the hypothesis that it was in fact written for an instrument with five strings. He demonstrates in a lively way, how this makes more sense regarding the technique of playing it. Finally, in the third video he discusses his instrument, violoncello da spalla and its potentials. In these videos Sergey speaks his native Russian but the videos have either English or Dutch subtitles. Please follow the link to access this treasury:

The rediscovery of violoncello da spalla – and what you can do with it

The final video in this sample is the recording of an informal conversation between Meister Sergey and Dmitry Badiarov, the violin constructor who had built the violoncello da spalla for Sergey. At first they start jokingly discussing, what it means for a musician to be ‘tagged’ as a specialist of a rare instrument. But then, when getting to the subject matter, they bring into picture evidence that some baroc compositions were explicitly written either for ‘viola da gamba’ or ‘da spalla’. If these two instruments were considered as equal options at that time, the present date musicians should explore the treasury written for viola da gamba also with violoncello da spalla. And having agreed on this, the friends of old then give a demonstration by playing together. And clearly the motto was ‘happy together’. Follow the link below and enjoy it as well:

– – –

I think this is enough of the learning journey that I have had after the  Kuhmo event. I notice that I have not mentioned the records of Meister Sergey or the video recordings of his concerts. More information is available on his website or on his professional facebook page. As far as I am concerned, I have learned a lot with this follow-up of the magnificent Kuhmo experience.

And with this blog post I wish you all a happy Christmas time and a good slide to the new year 2018!

More blogs to come (next year) …

Chamber Music Festival Kuhmo 2017 and follow-up – Part Two: The fascination of the “Salakamari”

December 21st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog I started a series of posts looking back at the highlights of the year 2017 – and this time with a focus on the cultural highlights starting from the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival 2017. In my previous post I told of the background of this festival and how it became – against odds – a success story. I also told, how this particular festival in the year 2017 became a special event for us and what kind of highlights were performed on the stage. But, I also hinted that the concerts were not all that mattered in the Kuhmo experience. This brings us to the phenomenon ‘Salakamari’.

The meeting point Salakamari (Secret chamber) and its attraction

Indeed, a major ingredient in the Kuhmo atmosphere was the meeting point “Salakamari” – a pop-up restaurant built into an old barnhouse. In the evenings it served as the restaurant and it had an outdoor bar area with a open campfire. In the mornings Salakamari served as a pop-up conference facility. For each day there was a short opening lecture on the theme of the day by one of the artists. And this was accompanied by a short performance of music – eventually with guest artists. Below we have some pictures of these Salakamari sessions.

Kuhmo Salakamari 1  Kuhmo Salakamari 2

The Salakamari lecture 1: Information and impressions delivered by Sergey Malov

These early morning lectures at Salakamari turned out to be exciting sessions and the artists made their best as presenters and performers. My first experience was the lecture of Sergey Malov, who had already shown that he is a virtuoso as violinist (see my previous post). But in Salakamari he demonstrated that he is an accomplished music teacher who can reveal the secrets of music to beginners just as well as to students who want to become professionals. Sergey told about his own background and of his education in Russia, Austria and Germany – and how he refused to make an exclusive choice between violin and viola, then to add the baroc instrument violoncello da spalla to his instruments. He told us of the composers, whose music he is currently playing – and put them into group picture of predecesors, contemporaries and successors. In this way we got a feeling for continuity and development in a musical genre – not just insights into particular pieces of music. (This is also what he has delivered in his records – putting Paganini into context or even more: putting Ysaÿe into context.) Concerning the Kuhmo festival, he praised the opportunity for artists to come together, play together and try something different together. Also he emphasised the opportunity for younger artists to take more challenging roles. And indeed, he gave us an analysis on the next concert and a recommended us to join him and go to listen to it. As I said it, the great artist also proved to be a great educator and analyst – chapeau, Meister Sergey!

The video below was not exactly the music that Meister Sergey  played there, but it has probably been filmed in Kuhmo:

The Salakamari lecture 2: Daniel Rowland with guests and stories from the Netherlands and Argentina

My other great experience in Salakamari was with the English-Dutch violinist Daniel Rowland as the host. Indeed, he told something of himself and his background, growing up in a bilingual family in the Netherlands. And he had also a story, how he got attracted to Kuhmo and became fascinated. But he had also brought guests with him and with his guests he had special memories of playing together. The first guest was the Italian guitar player Alberto Mesirca and they played together Paganini. The story behind was that they had been playing in the Netherlands and a film crew insisted that they should play in the middle of a tulip field. And the artists obeyed, as we can see from the video below:

But then Alberto had to leave for the airport and gave way for the other guest, the Argentinian bandonion-player Marcelo Nisinman. And with Marcelo there had been a similar outdoor-performing session, again with a Dutch film crew but now in Kuhmo. The film crew wanted to have the musicians playing just before midnight, yet in daylight, at the lakeside. And again, the artists obeyed although they were surrounded by armies of Nordic mosquitoes. There were quite few also in Salakamari, when they played again, but not as many as you can see on the video below.

Well, we enjoyed the stories and the music. But Daniel topped it up by telling how Marcello got acquainted with the gran maestro Astor Piazzolla and invited Marcelo to tell more. So, the session became quite a learning journey delivering us influences and inspirations from here and there and everywhere. We gladly accepted Daniel’s characterisation of the festival as the “Planet Kuhmo” with its own atmosphere as a special place for encounters. Hartelijk bedankt, Meester Daniel!

– – –

I guess this is already enough of the encounters in Kuhmo and in the Salakamari sessions. It was quite an inspiration and I started my personal follow-up, tracing websites and communicating on Facebook. But that is already another story to be covered by my next post.

More blogs to come …


Chamber Music Festival Kuhmo 2017 and follow-up – Part One: Highlights of the Kuhmo program

December 20th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year I managed to start my holiday break early enough and with a firm decision to leave the work-related issues to the year 2018. Yet, little by little, the feeling creeps into your mind that you should say something about the highlights of the year 2017 that is soon coming to an end. And this time, it is clear, I need to report on a special cultural experience – our visit at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival 2017 – and how I turned into a passionate fan of classical music and of certain artists. And suddenly I find myself having a new priority area when writing updates on Facebook. But let’s start with Kuhmo and the festival and what it is all about.

Kuhmo … ? And Chamber Music Festival in Kuhmo …?

Once upon a time – over 40 years ago – a Finnish top musician Seppo Kimanen, who had already become an international celebrity, had a crazy dream. He thought of setting up a chamber music festival in such a remote place that the artists will come for a week or two without having a temptation to rush away after one or two performances. He looked at the map of Finland and found an ideal place – the municipality of Kuhmo in the Central North-East part of the country. Indeed, Kuhmo was remote from the ‘metropols’ of Southern Finland and of the relatively big cities of Northern Finland. It was remote from everything else except the Russian border, the wild woods and the nice lakeside landscapes near the centre of the municipality.

Kimanen managed to get the festival up and running and – after the difficult and ascetic beginning years it became a success story. Several years ago Kimanen handed over the responsibility to his successor, Vladimir Mendelssohn, an international musician, who is active in Finland. And in the course of the years faithful fans and committed artists have returned year by year and seen a marvellous concert hall being built to accommodate the main concerts, whilst part of the concerts are still going on in a school building, in the church and elsewhere in the region. Also, the Kuhmo experience has become a special concept, as the expression ‘the Kuhmo Planet’ indicates.

(This year the Dutch TV Channel produced a special program on Kuhmo in the series “Klasiek viert de zomer” following a Dutch couple and their ‘Kuhmo adventure’ . This program gives a lot of visual and musical insights into the life of festival tourists – and a lot of discussion in Dutch – have a look:

For us – my partner Johanna and myself – Kuhmo has become a ‘must’ already long ago. Johanna, who comes originally from that region, has been a faithful fan of the first moments on. I have joined her later as an ‘avec’, who has gradually learned to enjoy the music. However, our participation had so far been based on commuting from the neighbouring Sotkamo and attending some selected concerts during one week. This has given some insights and impressions, but not much more. But this year we decided to take a ‘bigger package’. We took weekly tickets for both festival weeks and accommodation in the centre of Kuhmo. This enabled participation in a wider range of concerts and into other activities. And it provided us the possibility to follow the concerts with a focused approach.

Kuhmo 2017 – Highlights on the stage

For us, already one of the first concerts alerted us to something special that was coming up. The Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen (a renowned Beethoven-specialist) played together with the Russian violinist Sergey Malov (who was a new acquaintance to us) were playing Antonin Dvorak’s Sonatina in G. Op.100.  And it turned out to be an explosive show – two champions inspiring each other and getting the most and even more out of the masterpiece that they had chosen. But the ‘big bang’ was yet to come.

In a late evening concert shortly afterwards Sergey Malov was playing Caprices of Paganini – and how! He managed to stun us be his ‘entrée’ by having the stage darkened and only the front part of it lit with dim red lights that were gradually brightened. And then he appeared as ‘the man from the darkness’ and played the caprices in an unforgettable way.

To me (and to some friends of old who were also there) this brought into memory a scene in the Soviet-Moldavian film ‘Lautarii’ of the year 1972. In that scene a lautar (‘gypsy’) street-musician Toma Alistar has been smuggled to the house of a nobleman who is giving a concert on his premises and is clad like the professional musicians. The musicians start to play – in a routine-like way and the nobleman follows it with gestures of ‘dejà écoutée’. Then, the lights fall off and after a moment of chaos, Toma Alistar steps in from the darkness and plays the same music like a virtuoso. The lights reappear and the professional musicians join their new soloist. So much of the scene in the film. I managed to tell Sergey of this memory and then I found from Youtube the whole film as a Moldavian language version. At the same time Sergey had found it as a Russian language version – and seen the scene to which I referred. So, we had a common topic to discuss when we met every now and then. I got more interested of Sergey and he helped to find his CDs that were at sale and signed them for me. That was the start.

(This video was definitely not filmed in Kuhmo but it gives an impression of Sergey entering the stage and the sound of Paganini is exactly the same:

Another highlight on the great stage was the joint performance of the German-Turkish violinist Önder Baloglu and the Finnish pianist Marko Hilpo, who played a very challenging piece of music in a later concert – Darius Milhaud’s Cinéma-fantasie , Op. 58b “Le boeuf sur le toit” – with great success. A British music teacher next to us said that this was the first time he heard that piece played by only two musicians – and successfully. He characterised that as a high risk effort – if not suicidial. Later on Önder told that that was exactly how they had felt it – and the joy of success was great.

At a later phase, now in the church, there was a concert with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. One of the fascinations of that performance was that there were four female violinists as soloists for one of the seasons. Minna Pensola started with Spring in her explosive way, then Elina Vähälä continued with Summer in a more calm tempo to be followed by the similarly calm Autumn soloist Alissa Margulis and then by the explosive Winter soloist Priya Mitchell (who was filmed by the above mentioned Dutch film crew).

At the final phase we were deeply moved by the concert in which Daniel Rowland and his colleagues Hugo Ticciati, Gareth Lubbe and Julian Arp – the O/Modernt String Quartet – played Schubert’s “Der Tod und das Mädchen”. We had just received a very sad news and this quartet managed to do all in their powers to ease our sorrow.

– – –

To be sure, there were many more great performances. But these were  some of the striking moments that contributed to the very special Kuhmo experience. But it was not all about the concerts and on the performances of the artists on the stage. There is much more in the Kuhmo experience. I will try to illustrate some aspects in my next post.

More blogs to come …


Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – “ToDo List” for conferences finally completed

October 19th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of April this year I had left behind all the work after the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. We had completed the work for the review and the additional tasks that were required to clarify the picture. At that time I was looking forward to revisit the project experience and wrote myself a “ToDo List” – outlining a set of working papers that I wanted to complete as soon as possible. This is what I wrote as my opening statement:

“Now, we have a chance to revisit the project experience and draw conceptual and methodological conclusions of our work in the Construction pilot. And I have booked myself in to three conferences to have a closer look at our achievements and how review them from a conceptual point of view.”

Little did I know at that time, what kind of intervening factors may cause delays to such plans. Instead of working three papers ready by the middle of August I had to take a break and give thoughts on something bigger than my work. Yet, having taken the time I needed, I am happy to announce that I have completed the ToDo List of late April. Today I have uploaded the last one of the designed three Working Papers on my account on ResearchGate. And in order to put the three Working Papers into a group picture, I published the following update:

“During the year 2017 I have written three parallel working papers that are the pillars for my re-examination of our work in the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. Together they provide insights into our methodological orientation and to two central theoretical themes in the context of a participative research & development project:


1) Accompanying research (“Begleitforschung”) between knowledge development and support for innovations in the field-Revisiting earlier developments and the experience in Learning Layers:
2) Begleitforschung in the context of digital transformation in vocational education and training (VET): Linking work process knowledge to ‘Industry 4.0’:
3) Begleitforschung as mediator between action-oriented learning and digital change: on the role of accompanying research in earlier pilot projects and the Learning Layers Construction pilot:
Altogether these papers give a picture of our approach and of our learning journey with co-design, collaborative learning and support for piloting with digital tools in the construction sector. These working papers will be developed further and linked to discussion on sustainability and transferability of the innovations with which we worked.”
– – –
I think this is enough of this effort at the moment. As I have indicated above. I need to do some work with the three papers to make the mutual relations more transparent and to fill some gaps. And I need to tackle the issue of sustainability and transferability of innovations – just as it emerged in the follow-up phase after the end of the project. But let us take one step at a time amd next steps afterwards.
More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part Two: LTB-based ePosters become success stories in European conferences

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I gave a progress report on our work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the follow-up activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot (2012 -2016). With this post I want to give visibility for the successful implementation of LTB as a tool for creating ePosters for large (European and international) conferences. This work has been led by the coordinator of the Learning Layers’ healthcare pilot, Tamsin Treasure-Jones and by the key developer of LTB, Raymond Elferink. Together with their support team they have pioneered with the use of LTB-based ePosters in the AMEE 2017 conference in Helsinki. I am pleased to publish their report on my blog. Many thanks to Tamsin, Ray and their team! From this point on I am using their text (slightly edited) and their pictures & links:

“Learning Toolbox – a transformative ePoster solution: AMEE 2017 as an example

Learning Toolbox as an ePoster solution is a spin-off initiative that emerged from the EU- funded Learning Layers research & development project. AMEE 2017 has been the pioneering ePoster client. AMEE is the very large (approx. 3,800 delegates) annual international conference of the Association of Medical Education (AMEE).

Overview of Learning Toolbox as the ePoster solution at AMEE 2017

These two short videos (which were created for the conference participants) provide an overview of the how the ePosters worked at AMEE.

ePoster_Video2 ePoster_Video2      

In total we supported 80 ePosters (this included 3 which we created with the authors during the conference itself, as they had lost their paper posters in transit!). You can explore and interact with all the ePosters on our AMEE 2017 ePosters Showcase page


What is novel about Learning Toolbox?

Underlying our approach are several educational aims to transform the way in which posters (and existing ePoster solutions) are used in conferences:

Moving beyond PDFs

We wanted to move beyond a vision of ePosters as just an onscreen version of a paper poster (most ePoster solutions are effectively online PDFs with minimal interactivity). Learning Toolbox allows people to include a wide range of multimedia and interactive material in their ePoster including videos, surveys, presentations, web links and even apps.

Bridging between the physical and virtual worlds

We wanted to give the ePosters both a physical and virtual presence at the conference, and to allow easy bridging between these worlds. Existing ePoster platforms often only offer the ePosters online, so that they are easily overlooked in busy conferences. We used the mini-poster wall to actually give the ePosters a high profile (but small footprint) presence in the conference and a very easy way to move from the mini-poster to the ePosters.


Direct engagement & interaction between people

We wanted to support people engaging with the ePoster work and the ePoster authors (with traditional posters & ePosters this interaction with the author is only really possible during a very short timetabled presentation session). So Learning Toolbox also allows people to have discussions that are attached to the ePoster (viewable by all who interact with that ePoster) and the ePoster author can also send out messages to the ePoster. These exchanges can happen before, during & after the conference. Our educational aim is for this extra interactivity to help people to find and develop groups who have a shared interest in their research topic. This can be a particular issue at large conferences such as AMEE.

Bring your own device – ePosters in your pocket

We wanted to help people to feel very connected to the ePosters, to have them in their hands, in their pocket. You can also easily share an ePoster from one phone to another, allowing people to pass on the ePosters that interest them. Many traditional ePoster solutions rely heavily on expensive hardware (large screens or touchscreens). Learning Toolbox instead uses people’s own devices, supporting a more personalised experience.

Life beyond the conference

We wanted people to be able to take home the ePoster, to actually have them as a long-term learning resource that could be used by the ePoster author and those who had an interest in their topic. Learning Toolbox allows conference attendees to favourite and easily take home ePosters with them on their phone and it allows the ePoster author to add to and update their ePoster following the discussions at the conference”

– – –

This was the report of our pioneering team in AMEE 2017. If you want to have more information on the way the participants prepared themselves for the conference and how the ePosters were used, I would recommend you to follow the tweets of Tamsin Treasure-Jones @tamsinttj. And if you want to get more information, how to use ePosters in your conferences, contact Raymond Elferink and his team support [at] stack [dot] services

As I have heard it from Gilbert Peffer, who was also involved in that exercise, also other conferences and support organisations are interested to use ePosters. We hope that also our conference organisers in the field of Vocational Education and Training (VET) research will follow their example in due time.

More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part One: Notes on meetings with application partners

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week I have had a chance to participate in some working meetings that have discussed further work with the “Learning Toolbox – LTB”. As readers of this blog have learned during the last few years, the LTB was the main result of the Construction pilot of our EU-funded project “Learning Layers LL” (2012 – 2016). In the project researchers, technical partners and application partners in North Germany were involved in the co-design of the LTB and in the pilot testing of this integrative toolset in apprentice training and in the coordination of construction work. LTB was built as an integrative toolset that linked together mobile apps, resource tiles and communication tiles. As such it has facilitated project-based learning of construction sector apprentices in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. In a similar way it has facilitated the cooperation and coordination work of construction site manager in a special project of ecological construction work in Verden. (These achievements of the LL project and the transition to follow-up activities have been discussed in my blogs in 2016 and in the first half of 2017).

In Spring 2017 I witnessed several working meetings in which my colleagues from Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) and developers of LTB were discussing follow-up activities of the LL Construction pilot – with emphasis on new contexts for using the LTB.  Now – after a lengthy break – I had the chance to observe some further steps and progress to new milestones in these follow-up activities. In May I wrote more detailed blogs on these earlier meetings and on the initiatives that were taking shape. This time it is enough to make brief notes on the progress and on new milestones to be reached in the near future.

Verden: Looking at integrative hardware and software solutions to support process optimisation an construction site

In our previous meeting with the LL application partner Thomas Isselhard we had discussed several initiatives to promote the use of LTB via his networks for ecological construction work. This time my ITB-colleague Werner Müller and our LL-partner Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) took further steps in their talks in Verden towards shaping one central initiative. The aim is to bring together hardware development (“BIM-Koffer”), software development (BIM, construction sector applications and network connectivity) and uses of LTB at construction sites. With this initiative the colleagues want to tackle several key issues that prevent effective uses of mobile technologies at construction sites. I am looking forward to hearing more of the further steps.

Firma H: Shaping integrative software ecologies to optimise company-specific knowledge processes and workplace learning

The next meeting (which I could also attend) was an interim assessment of the feasibility study and the workshop process that my colleagues had carried out with the company H (see my blog of last May). Now my colleagues had finalised their  feasibilty study and provided a draft report on the workshop with the company staff (of last June). Now the discussion focused on starting a short-term pilot with the solutions that were proposed in the reports: to start a transition to a more integrative software ecology – including new online communication arrangements between the offices and the worksite troops (with the help of LTB). The meeting made progress in setting the schedules, defining the pilot sites and the modes of participation (project team, supporting training arrangements). I am looking forward to hear more when the project activities in the field will start early next year.

Bau-ABC Rostrup: Continuing the work with Learning Toolbox and linking it to new software ecology

Our final meeting was at Bau-ABC Rostrup, our central application partner in the co-design and pilot testing of the LTB. With Bau-ABC we have had several follow-up activities/initiatives on which we now had a catch-up meeting.

In spring I had worked with a group of full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) to develop coherent patterns for training in the cross-cutting area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) until the holiday break. (I have blogged on this activity in April and May 2017.) Unfortunately I had to extend my stay in Finland for personal reasons and then I got other duties. Now I was pleased to learn that a similar pattern of parallel thematic groups had been established and that there was an internal support team. Moreover, it was inspiring that these groups were also working with the LTB and its use in initial vocational training.

Parallel to this my colleagues have been working in the German-funded DigiProB project that introduces digital media to Continuing Vocational Training of construction sector professionals. In the project meetings and workshops that I followed in Spring I could see that this project shaped a new software ecology to match with each other a traditional course management database, an innovative platform for integrative project development and a workable mobile toolset for course participants. I will not go into the technicalities. The important thing in our catch up-meeting was that we could address the latest issues on the role of LTB as the participants interface for accessing course information and for planning their participation.

– – –

I think that this is enough for a quick update on these follow-up activities of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot. My main point here is to demonstrate that our work with LTB is being continued with several application partners and on several fronts. Although the work with LTB may not have scaled up that quickly as expected, we are making progress in getting the work grounded. In my next post I will give another kind of progress report on work with the Learning Toolbox.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Four: Discussions on vocational teacher education

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined a working agenda with themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. With this fourth post I try to give an overview on presentations that discussed reforms in vocational teacher education or issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. Here I am facing a multitude of presentations and sessions and I cannot even try to give comprehensive characterisations of them. Instead, I try to list the presentations below as thematic blocks and make some remarks on each block – with the hope that I get access to published 2017 Copenhagen presentations on the Vetnetsite and/or to full papers. At the end I will give links to our (ITB) projects of earlier years that can be read as background materials for the newer contributions.

Vocational teacher education in the light of recent reforms – Danish and Irish experiences

In this block I would like to discuss the two studies presented in the same session:

Vocational Teacher Education and Vocational Didactics – authored and presented by Henriette Duch from Denmark and

The Students’ Experience Of FE Teacher Education Qualification (TEQ) Programmes: A Study of FE Teachers Professional Development And Evolving Identity In Ireland: North and South – authored by Anne Graham Cagney, Carol Yelverton- Halpin, Ned Cohen and presented by Anne.

Both presentations gave a picture of reforms that were allegedly aiming to support pedagogic autonomy of vocational schools or to upgrade the level of vocational teacher education. In both cases the presenters brought into picture boundary conditions and side-effects that overshadowed the implementation.

Finding the ‘e’ in VET and the ‘researchers’ and ‘pedagogists’ in VET teachers

In this block I would discuss one single presentation with multiple messages:

What’s In A Name – VET Teachers Acting Upon The Meaning Of The ‘E’ In VET authored and presented by Lewis Hughes.

In this presentation Lewis gave us insights into a conversation approach to motivate and support VET practitioners to include research as part of their professional practice With the help of a framework (adapted from the Activity Theory group around Yrjö Engeström) Lewis is integrating researching related matters with these teachers perceiving themselves as educators and, accordingly, finding an interest in reflection that takes the shape of research. Moreover, when making this experience as a collective, the teachers are able to position themselves as doing ‘research’ as a means of continuing professional development and adding to vocational currency. Associated with this, Lewis referred to the Australian recent initiative of establishing the VET Practitioner Research Network (VPRN) – his Founding Partner involvement in this is adding to informing his research as his research is also informing his contribution to configuring and activity of the VPRN.

I assume that I have picked a key message from Lewis’ presentation (among other important points). To me it was important that I manage to bring into contact with Lewis a group of Italian VET teachers who represented the institute Cometa Formazione and had established their Cometa Research program based on similar ideas.

The development of VET teacher pedagogy through practice

In the third block I would like to discuss the  presentations of the final session of the VETNET program at ECER 2017:

Development of practicum pedagogy to enhance VET teacher learning – authored by Ingela Andersson, Ingrid Berglund, Ingrid Henning Loeb, Viveca Lindberg and presented by Ingrid from Göteborg.

The practice of feedback in practicum periods in VET – case of Swedish-speaking Finland – authored and presented by Birgit Schaffar-Kronqvist from Turku/Åbo.

Developing novice VET teachers’ pedagogy: A work-based learning curriculum framework – authored and presented by Susanne Francisco from Australia.

Here the two first presentations by Ingrid and Birgit discussed the shaping of vocational teacher education programs by universities in Sweden and in (Swedish-speaking) Finland. These programs are delivered by universities (or by universities of applied sciences) independently of the Bachelor-Master structures. The volume of the program is in Finland 60 ECTS points and in Sweden 90 ECTS points. Both programs can be studied as full-time students or as part-time students. The learning arrangements are appropriate for teacher candidates who are already working as teachers without formal qualification, and for people with vocational backgrounds without teaching experience. The schedules (with on-the-job learning and presence sessions) are attractive for adult learners who want to shift to teacher occupation. However, in both cases the presenters reported on tensions regarding the role of practicum (practice-based learning period) and challenges, how to implement these periods in a such a way that the VET teacher candidates have new learning experiences.

In this context Susanne Francisco brought into discussion theoretical insights (with reference to Stephen Kemmis from Australia, who also attended the session) and selected examples from the practice. She also presented some exemplary ‘learning journeys’ that demonstrated, how teacher candidates’ learning processes in practicum can be kept at ‘ordinary’ level or enhanced or driven into dead ends. Altogether, we had an interesting discussion

Revisiting ‘Vocational teachers and trainers’ and ‘Practice-based learning’ as prior European project themes

I am aware that I have only scratched the topics above and not really entered them. That is why I have presented them as thematic blocks that I want to revisit in due time. In this context I also want to revisit the materials of some earlier European projects in which I was involved in one way or another, such as:

  • The Europrof project and its follow-up activities (Training of new VET professionals; 1996 – 2001)
  • The UNIP network for developing an international framework for TVET teacher education (2004 – 2006)
  • The TTplus project in Europe (focus on trainers) and TT-TVET project in Europe and Asia (2006 – 2009)
  • VET teachers and trainers – Consultation seminars in six European regions (2008 – 2009)
  • The Euronet-PBL project (Practice-based learning in engineering, business management and VET teacher education (2008-2010)

I have collected the materials on ResearchGate to the following two Project spaces:

Workplace Learning/ Practice-Based Learning – Legacy of European projects 2005 – 2012

Teachers & Trainers in Vocational Education &Training – Legacy of European projects 1995 -2010

and regarding ECER conferences

My VETNET Journey – Archives of my contributions to ECER conferences and VETNET network (1992 – 2016)

– – –

I think I have made enough notes and taken plenty of homework for the time to come. In my next post I will report on a very interesting workshop at ECER 2017.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Two: My reflections on Accompanying Research in the Learning Layers project

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series of posts to wrap up my experiences in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. I presented a thematic overview and a working agenda to explore different aspects that came up in the sessions I attended. With this post I give insights into my own presentation.

Background, work plan and modification of the plan

This year all my conference presentations focus on revisiting and reconceptualising our experience with the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. In particular I want to highlight the particular role of our “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) approach in the complex projects. Initially I had planned to write three parallel research papers and to present them in three successive conferences (see my post of April “Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – A “ToDo List” for forthcoming conferences“). I could partly implement it by preparing the first paper for the Stockholm International VET Conference in May – with emphasis on Accompanying research as promoter of action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). Then, I could prepare a second paper that I intended to present in the Rostock International VET Conference one week before the ECER. In this paper the main emphasis was given on revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and linking it to newer innovation agendas – in particular to “Industry 4.0”. However, then – due to intervening factors – I neither had the chance to present this paper in Rostock nor to prepare a third paper for ECER. Thus, I had to postpone my work with the methodological development of Accompanying research in the Learning Layers project (compared with prior approaches in pilot projects and innovation programmes).

Looking back at Learning Layers project – and forward to the follow-up

As has been the case with some other presentations, I had to give some background information, how the Learning Layers project was shaped and how the two sectoral pilots (in Healthcare and Construction) worked. Then I had to give insights into the change in the design idea – from digitising learning resources to shaping of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to different iterations. Finally, I had to to draw attention to the complementary relations between co-design workshops, multimedia training and pilot testing with digital tools. Mostly, these activities were carried out in the training centre Bau-ABC of the North-German construction industries and trades. Here, the key achievement was the introduction of the LTB as a digital toolset to support (trade-specific) training and learning in Bau-ABC.

But I also managed to give insights into the follow-up activities that promote company-specific applications of the LTB (as contributions to overarching management of work-related knowledge processes) and similar uses of LTB in continuing vocational training (as support for integrative curriculum development and learning approaches). In addition, one follow-up process is shaping integrative approaches to ‘health and safety’  in construction sector. All these processes are taking further steps to reach real work contexts and users in work organisations.

Revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and analysing old and new innovation agendas

In the light of the above it was worthwhile recapitulating, what we had learned from studying the legacy of the “Work process knowledge network” of the years 1997 -2004. In particular it was important to compare the views on the role of VET and informal learning in promoting the acquisition of work process knowledge. Furthermore, it was important to take on board the recent analyses on three generations of innovation programmes in working life (‘Humanisation of work’, ‘Learning organisations’ and ‘Industry 4.0’). With the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ I explored the recent analyses of German sociologists and educationalists on the general frontiers in the debates (techno-centric v.s. socio-technical approaches) and efforts to develop spaces and facilities for learning within work processes or to shape complementary learning spaces.

– – –

I think this is enough for a brief introduction. The long version of my paper is available on ResearchGate (see ‘Begleitforschung’ as contributor to digitisation in vocational education and training (VET) for construction sector – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ to ‘Industry 4.0’. The short version will be published in the proceedings of the Rostock conference (see the forthcoming conference proceedings). And my PowerPoint presentation will be published on the website of the VETNET network (see the Vetnetsite/2017 Copenhagen Presentations).

Concerning the feedback that I got, I note that the issue ‘scientific status of accompanying research’ has been discussed recently when the research work of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) in Germany has been evaluated. Indeed, I need to continue my work with this theme and inform myself the points made in this evaluation.

In my next posts I will discuss some key themes that were discussed in several sessions.

More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox – Overview on current activities in construction sector

June 16th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

After the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (see my blogs from January and February) I have tried to report on the follow-up activities in North Germany and with our partners in construction sector. In my blogs in March, April and May I have reported on ongoing projects or new initiatives in which the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) has played an important role. As these blogs have been based on particular meetings or workshops, the picture may have remained somewhat fragmentary. However, this week we have had a series of meetings with different counterparts. This has made it possible to create a group picture of ongoing activities.

Below I will report on the discussions in the three first meetings of this week in which I was present. Here it is worthwhile to note that none of these meetings was focusing only on specific uses of LTB as a dedicated tool for certain uses. Instead, all these meetings were discussing more comprehensive ecosystems of knowledge processes and software solutions (Ökosysteme für Wissensvermittlung und Software-Lösungen). In this context our counterparts were looking for different roles for LTB – as a part of an integrative software ecosystem – in promoting learning, training and workin in construction sector.

1. Bau-ABC Rostrup: New uses for LTB in continuing vocational training (CVT) and projects

In the meeting in Bau-ABC we discussed the prospects of developing an integrative software ecosystem to address course management issues, continuing quality assurance and integration of innovative pedagogic designs to regular training provisions. Here the meeting of Bau-ABC training managers, software developers (including LTB developers) and ITB researchers was partly building on the progress in the project DigiProB (see my previous post). Partly it was building on parallel planning of software solutions for course management and quality assurance. The key point was in the shaping of a software ecology that is linked to traditional data management solutions and receives the ‘mature’ results from development platforms. This would be the case with the DigiProB platform that is being used by lecturers in continuing vocational training (CVT) to create integrated project-based learning designs for CVT participants). In such a software ecology the LTB would serve as the participants interface for accessing digital contents and communication channels in such projects.

Alongside the case of the DigiProB project we discussed parallel possibilities to work further with the Bau-ABC trainers’ group that has been developing more systematic approach to the theme ‘Health and Safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In a similar way we discussed the possibilities to use LTB to support context-specific language learning of the Spanish apprentices (in the Mobipro-EU project) and key issues preparing them for their workplace-based training at construction sites. For these themes the Bau-ABC participants and the LTB developers presented recently created or modified LTB stacks as means to support learning in these contexts.

2.  Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen in Verden: New software ecosystems for construction work

In the meeting at the agency for ecological construction work (Agentur) ITB researchers and LTB developers discussed with Thomas Isselhard on the new working perspectives from their point of view (Verden-based organisations and networks focusing on ecological construction work). As we remember, the LTB-use case in which Thomas demonstrated, how he can use the LTB as means to coordinate the work process at a construction site was well received in the workshop for construction companies in September 2016. Now, based on that basic stack we were looking at newer software solutions and mobile apps that can enhance the usability of LTB by craft trade companies. In this discussion a major role was given for construction process-oriented digital tools (Datenlogger) and for possibilities to develop Building Information Modelling (BIM) solutions from the the perspective of craft trades working together. In this context Gilbert Peffer presented the work of CIMNE with portable BIMtables and BIM screens as means to support knowledge sharing during construction processes. In this discussion we could link to a similar session in our previous meeting with Bau-ABC in which we had had a presentation on BIMtable and on a digital tool package (GreenHouse Koffer) for ecological construction work of carpenters. In our discussion in Verden the key point was that the integration of tools and software should support both construction processes and further maintenance. Therefore, the tools and software solutions should take into account planners, craftsmen and clients as the users. Here it is not possible to go into details but this meeting took further steps in planning of new projects with LTB as a key element in such software ecosystem.

3. Company H.: Rethinking the software ecosystem and promoting the competences of the staff

In the third meeting ITB researchers and LTB developers were discussing with representatives of the company H. In one of my previous blogs I have given a rather detailed picture of a workshop in which we discussed the preliminary findings of a mapping tour that the colleagues had done by visiting different sites of that company. Now in this meeting the colleagues presented a draft report on work flows, support systems, eventual gaps and risk zones and their recommendations. We had a rather detailed discussion – both in terms of situation assessment and possible improvements.

Here it is not relevant to give a detailed picture of the discussion. However, at a more general level it is worthwhile to note that the company representatives were looking at a holistic ecosystem for steering work processes, supporting real-time interaction and reporting as well as enhancing knowledge sharing within the company. From the organisational and pedagogic point it was interesting that the company was interested in the potentials of LTB, both from the perspective of process optimisation as well as enhancing the learning processes of apprentices. Moreover, the company was interested in supporting free spaces for exchanges among the apprentices and for organising events to take up their ideas, concerns and wishes. However, with all these interests the company was looking for improvements that could be implemented with the agreement of the staff and with a perspective to integrate different staff members to common processes.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these meetings. For me this series of discussions was inspiring as I could observe clear steps forward on several fronts. Moreover, this experience gave me a new perspective to ‘digital transformation’. As I now see it, such transformations are not just matters of pushing new technologies upon users (or to substitute a great number of users). Neither can such transformations be characterised as equipping of users with magic tools that radically enhance their powers. Instead, the innovative tools – in order to contribute to digital transformations – have to fit into emerging ecosystems of knowledge processes, steering, sharing and reporting as well as co-design processes in which developers become aware of such requirements. In all these meetings I saw signs of such processes. I am looking forward to observe the next steps.

More blogs to come …

Shaping digital tools for continuing vocational training in construction sector – the DigiProB workshop in May

May 23rd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Friday (19th of May) I visited a workshop hosted by my ITB colleagues for yet another follow-up activity of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time the German-funded DigiProB project had a workshop on preparing digital tools for continuing vocational training (CVT) in the construction sector. The participants (in addition to my ITB colleagues) were training managers from the training centre Bau-ABC, guest lecturers of their CVT schemes and the software developer supporting the project. I have had several encounters with the DigiProB project but this time I could witness that the participants were making progress in shaping digital tools to support their training activities. But let us first recapitulate what the project is about and what it tries to achieve.

The DigiProB project – Pedagogic challenges for CVT trainers and participants

The aim of the DigiProB project is to support the successive CVT schemes in construction sector (Vorarbeiter, Werkpolier, Geprüfte Polier) with digital tools. In this context the project has to cope with several pedagogic challenges:

a) Limited presence training time: The above mentioned CVT schemes are supported by very short course periods with face-to-face training. Most of the learning has to take place as self-organised learning alongside the work of the participants in construction sector. (These schemes are targeted as upgrading schemes for skilled workers in construction sector and prepare them for management responsibilities at different level.)

b) Subject-based curriculum framework vs. action-oriented learning goals: The main pedagogic challenge for developing the above mentioned CVT schemes was the tension between the subject-based curriculum contents and the action-oriented learning goals. Thus, the presence training is based on subject areas covered by guest lecturers that have been invited as subject specialists (e.g. for construction processes, construction techniques and personal management). Yet, a central role in the curriculum has been given for complex learning tasks and an integrative project report.

c) Providing support for self-organised learning by dispersed part-time lecturers: A further challenge was the fact that the lecturers were recruited individually to cover their subject areas during the course period. Thus, they did not have a collective responsibility on promoting the participants’ learning beyond the course period. Yet, the lecturers were interested in providing further support inasmuch as they possibly could. Therefore, they were interested in working with digital tools for themselves and for their participants.

The DigiProB workshops – finding ways to provide support for integrative projects

During the last few months the DigiProB project has managed to establish a working group of active lecturers who serve as a pioneer group for developing integrative learning projects (and for introducing digital tools to support action-oriented learning in the CVT schemes). This working group has come together on monthly basis and now had its fifth meeting. I had visited their meeting only once – quite some time earlier – so I could now see the progress that the group had made. Below I try to sum up key achievements and working issues of this working group:

1. Working on two tracks to develop digital tools: Already at an early phase the working group took the course to two-track development of digital tools: a developmental platform for lecturers and a user-interface for participants. In this way the group avoided the risk of rushing to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ or ‘one-design-fits-all’ in introducing digital tools. For the moment the group is working primarily with the developmental platform to shape an integrative project that serves as a model for shaping further projects (and complex learning tasks). The shaping of user-interfaces can draw upon the progress with the work with this platform.

2. Shaping a model project to cover a wide range of content areas in an integrative vocational learning environment: Instead of using the developmental platform as a mere collector of training materials for different content areas the group has worked towards more integrative solutions. As a model project the group has chosen the construction of  a motorway service area (Autobahn Raststätte) with different sub-projects (including construction of  a kiosk-building with toilets, construction of special parking bay for trucks and lorries etc.). With such an overarching  theme the lecturers were challenged to incorporate their training contents as contributions to sub-projects of the whole project. Moreover, the real challenges in coordinating such project became transparent in the mutual adjustment of the sub-projects. This led to cross-cutting questions like the following ones: “Can the construction of the kiosk-building be started before the groundwork for the parking bays has been completed?” “Can the building materials for the kiosk-building be stored properly at the construction site when the groundwork is still going on?”

3. Working towards project-related and integrative learning goals: In general the digital learning platforms tend to shape such learning environments with reference to (atomistic) content areas and (atomistic) learning goals. The working group took a course towards project-oriented and integrative learning goals. In this respect the lecturers maintained the curriculum document and its main learning areas (construction techniques, construction processes and personal management) as reference points. Yet, instead of proceeding to a patchwork-like layout of learning units, the group insisted on keeping the projects and sub-projects transparent on the platform. Furthermore, the group insisted on formulating such learning goals that link the above mentioned learning areas to each other.

Interim observations and reflections

I guess this is enough of the main themes of the workshop. In addition, some lecturers presented their own ideas on specific apps (to be found on the learning platform H5P) as support for individual learning. Others introduced ideas for serious games that could be used in the context of these training schemes. Altogether, these ideas envisaged to support the self-organised informal learning of CVT participants (before or after the limited course periods).

Furthermore, the process in the working group reminded me of the Multimedia training schemes that were implemented during the Learning Layers project in Bau-ABC. This working group was going through a similar learning process as the voluntary Bau-ABC trainers in the earlier phase of Multimedia training. However, the Bau-ABC trainers could focus on the project-based learning periods and vocational learning tasks in their trades – and use their blogs as repositories for training materials. They were not challenged to develop integrated projects. For the working group in the DigiProB project it was essential to bring different content areas together in an integrative project – in order to make progress with shaping digital tools for the CVT schemes. Just as it was in the Learning Layers project, it is important that this pioneering group makes progress with the model project – then to be able to share experiences and know-how with other colleagues.

Finally, the process reminds me also of the introduction of the Learning Toolbox in the apprentice training in Bau-ABC (as a user-interface for vocational learners to support work process-oriented learning). Just as in the Learning Layers project,  the shaping of user-interfaces for the CVT participants needs to draw upon the pedagogic idea that are being developed by the DigiProB working group – then to be put into practice in the CVT schemes. From this perspective the earlier work in the shaping of the Learning Toolbox (for the apprentice training) serves as an advanced preparatory phase for the user-interfaces to be developed for the CVT participants.

– – –

I think this is enough of this DigiProB workshop. To me the participation as a visitor was a rich learning experience. And here I mean both regarding the development process of the DigiProB working group (as such) and the general picture of the learning Layers follow-up activities in construction sector (altogether). We (ITB and our partners) are building on the legacy of the Learning Layers project and its construction pilot. And we see new tasks and opportunities coming into picture.

More blogs to come …

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    According to the University Technical Colleges web site, new research released of 11 to 17-year-olds, commissioned by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity which promotes and supports University Technical Colleges (UTCs), reveals that over a third (36%) have no opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom and over two thirds (67%) admit that they have not had the opportunity even to discuss a new tech or app idea with a teacher.

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