Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part One: Setting the scene for project activities in the field of VET

February 21st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In December 2017 I wrote a blog on the kick-off meeting of the EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project that took place in our institute ITB at the University of Bremen. In that blog I described the background of TACCLE projects and presented the achievements of the pioneering TACCLE1 and TACCLE2 projects. I also drew attention to the legacy of the recently completed EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016) upon which our institute can draw in the present project. As we see it, the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot was in many respects a predecessor of the present project in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Now it is time to have a closer look at our context of work and make more specific plans for the forthcoming activities. I will start this with an updated description of the TACCLE4-CPD project that I prepared fro the ITB website and then move on with the stock-taking (with focus on the Learning Layers’ successor activities and with the project neighbourhood that I have found from our own institute).

TACCLE4-CPD in a nutshell: What is it about?

The ErasmusPlus project TACCLE4-CPD promotes strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes. From this perspective the project supports teacher trainers and organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. The project builds upon the digital tools, web resources and training concepts that have been created in prior TACCLE projects or other predecessor activities. From the ITB point of view, this project provides an opportunity to work further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB), a key result from the Learning Layers project.

TACCLE4-CPD in a closer look: What is it trying to achieve?

The TACCLE4-CPD project is funded by the ErasmusPlus programme as a ‘strategic partnership’.  It promotes educational strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes in different educational sectors. From this perspective the project puts the emphasis on supporting teacher trainers and/or organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. When doing so, the project builds upon the digital tools,  web resources and training concepts that have been created in earlier TACCLE projects and other predecessor projects.

Regarding the earlier TACCLE projects the current project can make use of the TACCLE Handbook (that will be updated), the TACCLE2 websites and the separate TACCLE courses. Regarding the Learning Layers project the current project can build upon the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and on the Multimedia training schemes (that were organised with construction sector partners).

Whilst the previous TACCLE projects have been working directly with pioneering teachers, the TACCLE4-CPD project addresses now the training of trainers.  In the same way the emphasis is shifted from particular teaching/learning innovations to shaping models for continuing professional development. In this respect the partners promote community-development among professionals and organisations that support the delivery of digital competences and their integration into learning culture. Regarding ITB, it has a specific possibility to develop cooperation and synergy between ongoing European and German projects – in particular between TACCLE4-CPD and the parallel projects STRIDE and DMI.

I think this is enough of the starting points of the TACCLE4-CPD and how I interpret our task in the project. In my next blogs I will continue by looking more closely what we can bring into the project from the Learning Layers’ follow-up and from the neighbouring projects.

More blogs to come …

Revisiting the Learning Layers experience “2.0” – Reworking the research papers of 2017

February 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last April (2017) I prepared for myself a ToDo list to prepare three conference papers with which I would revisit the experience of our EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016) with emphasis on the achievements of the Construction pilot. I had the plan to participate in three conferences and I expected that I could prepare respectively three research papers that would examine from a conceptual point three important aspects of our project work

  • the methodological issues on accompanying research (comparing our work with that of predecessors);
  • the pedagogic foundations of our work (relating our starting points to current developments at policy level and in parallel pilots);
  • the relevance of our work vis-à-vis industrial and organisational innovations (comparing our innovation agenda with its prior and emerging innovation concepts).

In October 2017 I wrote a blog in which I mentioned that intervening factors had slowed down my work. However, I was pleased to inform that I had managed to complete my ToDo list and produce three working papers to cover the themes that I had planned. Yet, after a short while I had to admit it to myself that I had celebrated my achievements too early. Indeed, I had covered the themes but the quality of the papers was uneven. In all papers I could see gaps that I had to cover. I had brought into picture essential elements of each ‘story’ but not all of the stories were woven together with a coherent argumentation. So, I understood that I have to rework all the papers from this perspective.  Now I have revisited the Learning Layers experience once again and completed the necessary reworking of these papers.

What do the (reworked) papers tell about our research in Learning Layers and on the growth of knowledge via our project?

Below I try to present the main contents of the newly reworked papers and highlight to red thread of the ‘story’ that is to followed through different sections. Here I want to draw attention on the conceptual and methodological foundations of our work in the Learning Layers as well as to the reflection on the predecessor concepts in the light of our work. Moreover, I will discuss some newer developments in innovation policies and innovation research as challenges for our approach.

Paper 1: Accompanying research between knowledge development and support for innovations in the field – Revisiting earlier innovation programmes as predecessors of the Learning Layers project

The first paper starts with the explanation, why the research team from our institute ITB declared itself as an  accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot. As a conceptual and methodological background for this approach the paper reconstructs the development of accompanying research in two parallel threads of innovation programmes in Germany:

  • Innovation programmes for social shaping of work, technology and organisations (Humanisierung der Arbeit, Arbeit und Technik);
  • Pilot projects and innovation programmes in the field of vocational education and training (Modellversuche, BLK-Programm “Neue Lernkonzepte in der dualen Berufsausbildung”).

Throughout these explorations the paper draws attention to different positions, whether the researchers should take a co-shaping role in innovation processes – and on shifts of emphasis in the course of time. Finally, the paper draws attention to specific positions that argue for more intensive and shaping-oriented involvement in terms of ‘action research’, smart innovation analyses and/or dialogical knowledge development. In the concluding reflections the paper compares the position of ITB researchers with the latter approaches.

Paper 2: Research as mediator between vocational learning, work process knowledge and conceptual innovation – on the role of research in the modernisation of vocational education and training (VET)

The second paper starts with recapitulating how the ITB researchers entered a participative co-design process with an open agenda and then supported the design idea – digitisation of training and learning processes in VET – with conceptual inputs. In the following sections the paper presents different conceptual reflections and insights into policy debates – to be followed by exemplary pilot projects that respond to the challenges raised in the debates. The relations between these sections can be characterised as follows:

  • The contribution of Rauner (shaping-oriented VET) provides an interim synthesis of different concepts and themes that are essential for VET development. The empirical studies of Böhle (experiential knowledge) and Koch (mastery of complete work process) highlight the importance of their key concepts for advanced automation and future-oriented staff development.
  • The contribution of Baethge et al. presents a negative scenario on renewability of VET and vocational learning culture during the transition to ‘knowledge society’. The contribution of Pfeiffer presents a critique of Baethge’s interpretation on ‘experiential knowledge’ and gives insights in complementary relations between academic and experiential knowledge in innovative organisations. The contribution of Spöttl deepens the analysis with his examination on to parallel educational genotypes (Bildungstypen) and on the relevance of hybrid types for the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’.
  • In the light of the above-mentioned conceptual inputs and the debates on the sustainability of VET the selected pilot projects (and the example of Learning Layers) demonstrate, how shaping-oriented VET can be based on participative processes of practitioners. The exemplary cases demonstrated, how pilot projects have mobilised the participants in creating their own innovation agendas and implementation plans – and shaping the digital tools and web resources they need for themselves. Even, if these may have been modest starts, they have provided a basis for peer learning and peer tutoring – as social dynamics for innovation transfer.
Paper 3: Accompanying research as bridge-builder between digitisation and social shaping in workplace learning – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘smart innovations’ to ‘Industry 4.0’

The third paper examines the innovation agenda of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot vis-à-vis industrial and organisational innovation research that takes into account the role of VET. In this context the following milestones and transitions are discussed:

  • The starting point is the re-examination of the legacy of the European Work Process Knowledge network of the late 1990s. The paper gives a brief overview on the studies, the debates and the conclusions on the importance of VET.
  • The next milestone is the re-examination of the German project “Smarte Innovation” that was completed in 2012. This project developed a more intensively participative approach to analyses of product life cycles and innovation potentials at different stations. The project also presented critical analyses of communication gaps, lack of understanding on innovation potentials in ‘remote’ stations and on the dysfunctional role of externally imposed process standards. Concerning the role of VET, the project drew attention to an emerging model for continuing vocational training (CVT) that outlined a new career progression model.
  • The following milestone is the analysis of successive innovation programmes and the shift of emphasis from ‘remedial interventions’ (that compensate the negative consequences of mainstream innovations) to ‘enabling innovations’ (that seek to facilitate the development of ‘learning organisations’ into innovation leaders). As a contrast to the above-mentioned ones, the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ shifts the emphasis to advanced automation, complex networking and new digitised production and service chains.
  • The final milestone is the examination of the current discussion of social and educational scientists on the role of human actors in the context of ‘Industry 4.0’. Here, a number of researchers have brought together different conceptual and empirical studies that emphasise the potential of skilled workers and on the possibility to shape learning opportunities when developing new production or service concepts. Parallel to this, some researchers explore the possibilities to develop off-the-job learning opportunities as means to enhance workplace learning alongside the new production concepts.

– – –

I think this is enough of the contents papers and of the ‘stories’ that weave them together. As I see it, the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot may not have been at the forefront of industrial and organisational innovations or in the introduction of digital agendas to the field of VET. Yet, it has been clearly part of the big picture on all accounts and it has done its part to stimulate essential innovations in the field of VET. However, this leads us to another question: What can we say about transfer of innovations in the light of the Learning Layers project and its follow-up activities? To me, this is a subject to further studies to be reported later.

More blogs to come …

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Three: New information on the follow-up activities in Bau-ABC

January 22nd, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I have been developing a series of  posts that reflects on the Final Review of our EU-funded Learning Layers project (one year ago) and on the achievements of the follow-up activities. My first post focused on the review event and on the blogs with which I have documented the event and the follow during the year 2017. In my second post I summarised the current phase of the follow-up projects – in particular on further uses of the Learning Toolbox (the main result of Learning Layers’ Construction pilot). This reporting was based on a series of working meetings and conversations that we had last week with different partners. In the second post I discussed follow-up projects and initiatives with several partners involved. In addition, I brought forward the use of Learning Toolbox as support for conference presentations and posters (see the showcases) also in our field. In this third and concluding poster I will focus on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training activities and related initiatives of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. (As I have reported in my blogs in the years 2012-2017, Bau-ABC was the major application partner in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot and the central venue for developing and testing the Learning Toolbox.) My report below is based on the information that Bau-ABC trainers shared with us in the working meeting last week.

Use of Learning Toolbox in the regular apprentice training activities

In the context of the Learning Layers project the LTB was developed to be used in the context of apprentices’ projects (normally of one week’s duration) during their stay in the training centre Bau-ABC. At that time the LTB was introduced and tested in a few training occupations (and the results were discussed in evaluation workshops and in interviews with the trainers). Now we were interested to find out, how the Learning Toolbox is being used after the project period.

Lothar Schoka, trainer for the occupations in well-building and borehole building (Brunnenbau, Spezialtiefbau) informed us on the use LTB in his area. It appeared that the use of LTB had become everyday practice in their projects. The information is available in the trade-specific stack, the apprentices get quickly used to working with the toolset and they can combine the work with their mobile devices and work in the computer class. Thus, the use of LTB is a sustainable outcome of the Learning Layers project.

Use of Learning Toolbox for the transversal theme ‘health and safety’

Another arena for working with the LTB has been the transversal theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In Spring 2017 a working group of Bau-ABC trainers started to discuss the possibility to use digital tools to support training and learning in this field. At that time I had a chance to accompany and support the start of the working group. After the summer holidays the working group continued with regular meetings and concentrated on using the LTB. Now, trainer Thomas Weerts (the shop steward for health and safety in Bau-ABC) reported on the current phase of the work. The trainers involved in the work had agreed on common content structures for ‘health and safety’ to be covered in their trade-specific stacks for LTB. Thomas himself is developing the ‘mother stack’ for the theme ‘health and safety’ that guides the users to groups of trades and to specific trades. (This ‘mother stack’ will also provide a template for the trades that are still developing their own stacks.)

Use of Learning Toolbox in the project “Workcamp GreenHouse”

A further arena for using the LTB was presented by the trainer Markus Pape (responsible for training carpenters). He is currently working in a nation-wide project “workcamp GreenHouse” that has been launched by several training centres in the construction sector. The project is building exhibition areas and items to demonstrate ecological/sustainable solutions in building houses (with emphasis on energy-efficiency, ecological isolation materials etc.). Altogether, the project is shaping a wide range of modules to introduce these principles in the training for construction sector. In the meeting he presented an overview on the modules and explained, what modules would be suitable for piloting with the LTB. For this purpose he invited the LTB developers to prepare a proposal to be introduced to the project consortium.

Use of Learning Toolbox to support language learning alongside apprentice training

A further arena for working with the LTB is the support for language learning for non-native speakers alongside apprentice training. During the Learning Layers project this area was already explored in a workshop with several Spanish apprentices who were having their training in Bau-ABC. In the meantime a separate working group in Bau-ABC had been developing this idea further. Melanie Campbell (as a coordinator of the related Mobipro-EU project) presented a plan for shaping the LTB stacks that support general orientation (blue tiles), trade-specific vocabulary (green tiles) and communication skills (red tiles). We discussed this plan together with her, the trainers and a supporting language teacher. The developers of Learning Toolbox came up with proposals, how to introduce elements of gamification and motivational support for learners.

– – –

I guess this is enough for an overview. To me this was an important update since I am trying to link cooperation with these initiatives to my participation in our new EU-funded project (TACCLE4 – CPD). In this project we are supporting the training of teachers and trainers in using digital tools and in shaping digital contents for learners. As I see it, the LTB can play a major role in promoting these activities in the field of vocational education and training (VET). But, to be sure, I need to explore this prospect deeper and have more meetings with Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Two: Working further with the follow-up projects

January 21st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of blog posts that reflects on the final review of the EU-funded Learning Layers project (exactly one year ago) and on our progress with follow-up initiatives. The first post looked back at the review event and at the blogs that I had written on the event and on the follow-up activities. At the least it gave a picture of a ‘milky way’ of posts reporting on meetings with different partners – either within ongoing projects or as preparation of new initiatives.

Last week we (the ITB team) had a series of meetings with the developers of the Learning Toolbox and with interested partners in the construction sector in North Germany. In the following I will give a brief summary on the ongoing projects and emerging initiatives that build upon our work with the Learning Toolbox in the Learning Layers project. (For more information on the Learning Toolbox see the website.)

The DigiProB project – Learning Toolbox supports continuing vocational training (CVT) of Bau-ABC

As has been reported in my blogs of the year 2017, the German-funded project DigiProB has started already during the last months of the Learning Layers project. The aim of the project is to develop and introduce digital tools that support training and learning in the continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes in the construction sector. In particular the project focuses on the CVT programmes that upgrade skilled workers to foremen (Vorarbeiter), to specialised construction site managers (Werkpolier) and general construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier). The project had a twofold aim:

  • to support the integration of training contents into integrated projects and
  • to provide the participants digital tools that support their self-organised learning between course periods.

In the year 2017 major progress was achieved with a working group of part-time trainers (lecturers) responsible of different subject areas. A development website was launched to shape a set of integrated projects and for uploading relevant content. In addition, a working agreement was reached, how to integrate this development website to the course management system of Bau-ABC and how to make the digital content available for the learners. In this arrangement it was agreed that the Learning Toolbox will be used as the learners’ tool (and interface with the learning content). In the meeting last week several points were discussed on the finalisation of the software architecture to be used in the pilot activities in the coming weeks.

The ‘Social competences’ initiative – bringing the Learning Toolbox to construction companies

Another follow-up initiative that was started after the final review was the company-specific pilot with the construction company H. This company is a medium-sized enterprise that has specialised in pipeline-building and installations (water and electricity).  The company has several regional offices and its construction teams are working in a wide area in North Germany. The starting point of the cooperation was a feasibility study that was prepared by the developers of the Learning Toolbox (with support from the ITB team). This study made recommendations for the improvement of the system solutions and the software architecture of the company – to improve the sharing of information between the offices and the construction teams. Already in this context the Learning Toolbox played a role. As a spin-off from this study, the partners prepared also a project initiative to use Learning Toolbox as means to improve the communication and knowledge sharing between apprentices and in-company trainers. The pre-proposal had been accepted by the funding body and the partners were invited to submit a detailed proposal for a project that is due to start in Spring 2018. This proposal was discussed last week in the meeting between the partners involved in the project.

From ‘BIM-Table’ to ‘BIM-Koffer’ – preparing hardware solutions for mobile construction teams

One of the pain points for promoting the use of digital tools in construction work was the lack of appropriate hardware that is robust enough and well-protected from bad weather conditions, but at the same time provides access to relevant apps and software. On larger construction sites the companies have tried to introduce ‘BIM-Kiosks’ or ‘BIM-tables’, mainly to support the work of construction site managers and/or supervising engineers. This idea was picked by several Learning Layers partners (including CIMNE, ITB and some craft trade companies) but with the emphasis on similar needs of SMEs, smaller construction sites and mobile teams of construction companies. The construction sector partners have strongly underlined the need for a ‘mobile office hardware set’ (BIM-Koffer) that could provide a WLAN for the construction site and link to internet from remote locations. Whilst the design of such a hardware solution hasn’t fallen into the scope of funding programmes, a pilot team has come up with a plan to prepare a prototype that can be used in small-scale pilots and eventually in funded projects. In this initiative both the access to BIM software and to Learning Toolbox play a role.

Bringing Learning Toolbox into conferences – also in the field of vocational education and training (VET)

One of the delightful news of the year 2017 was the broad-based and successful use of Learning Toolbox as a conference tool to create ePosters (and mini-posters for poster-walls) in the AMEE 2017 conference. This pioneering exercise has been well documented by the introductory videos and by the showcases on the Learning Toolbox site. Based on this success story, another way of using Learning Toolbox with ‘hybrid posters’ was tested in the EC-TEL 2017 conference.

Now, when preparing the 2018 conferences, the ITB team has initiated contacts between the Learning Toolbox developers and organisers of conferences in the field of educational research (or research in vocational education and training (VET)). Even if we may not be able to make major steps forward this year, we are in a good position to start preparations for similar pilots as in the above mentioned conferences

– – –

I guess this is enough updating on the projects and project-like initiatives that involve several partners. On top of this we learned a lot of further work with the Learning Toolbox within the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. But that is already a topic for a further blog post.

More blogs to come …

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part One: Looking back at the event and the follow-up

January 19th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

One year ago we had the pleasure to organise the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (2012-2016) here in North Germany. The main argument to locate the meeting ‘in the field’ was that in this way the consortium and the reviewers could get a better impression on the impact of our work on the application partner organisations and their work. Therefore, we had most parts of the review meeting in Verden at the premises of Norddeutsche Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen (NZNB). This centre for ecological construction work had worked as an application partner in the construction pilot of the LL project. Also, in the premises of the NZNB the participants could see the permanent exhibition and attend live demonstrations on working with ecological materials in construction work. The idea, to bring the review to such a location was received well. Also, trainers from the construction industries’ training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup could participate and give their contributions on the impact of the project on their work. The pictures below give an impression on the environment and on our tour round the premises.

LL Final review 2017-01-18

What we (the LL Construction pilot) presented in the review meeting

After the event I wrote several blogs focusing firstly on the preparations and event itself, secondly on our report on the Construction pilot in which our ITB team had played a major role and thirdly on the conclusions from both pilot sectors of the LL project (Construction and Healthcare). At this moment I do not want to repeat what we said and what I wrote at that time. Here you have the links to the blogs of last year:

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part One: The Event and the Arrangements
Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Two: Presentations on the Construction Pilot
Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Three: Comparisons between and reflections on the pilot sectors

Altogether, we – reporting from the sectoral pilots – gave a picture of pilot teams working intensively with the application partners in the pilot organisations (in particular with the training centre Bau-ABC and the network for ecological construction work). The development of the digital tools and the mobile learning technologies was driven as a participative process in which the technical partners adjusted their ideas to the contexts and users’ potentials. These messages were summarised in two further blogs that I wrote shortly afterwards – to support the final edition of our final ‘final report’ that we were required to submit in addition to the final reporting on the website “Learning Layers Results“.

The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part One: The project experience in a nutshell
The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part Two: Impact of project activities in Bau-ABC Rostrup

In this way we managed to reach a phase in which the Learning Toolbox was a usable tool in different contexts of the construction pilot – and its potentials had been discovered in other application contexts.

What has happened with the follow-up activities after the Final Review

By the time of the review meeting we had already reached the phase of preparing and launching follow-up activities. For us – the research team in ITB and the developers of the Learning Toolbox – it was clear that we have to work together with application partners in the construction sector. The introduction of the Learning Toolbox had been started, but it was not a self-mover. Participative design, training interventions, accompanying research and knowledge sharing was needed – both between ‘old’ partners and ‘new’ users. Therefore, we started working with several parallel follow-up initiatives that started to take shape gradually. This process can be reconstructed with the help of my blogs that I have written in the year 2017 on different follow-up events:

What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part One: The follow-up activities are taking shape
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Two: Bau-ABC trainers working with digital media and ‘health and safety’
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Three: Getting deeper with vocational learning, ‘health and safety’ and digital media
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Four: Further steps with Bau-ABC trainers and ‘health and safety’
Introducing Learning Layers tools to construction companies – Insights and working issues
Shaping digital tools for continuing vocational training in construction sector – the DigiProB workshop in May

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

These were the blogs that I wrote before the summer holiday break. After the summer holidays my work situation changed slightly and I didn’t have a similar possibility to accompany parallel activities. Yet, I could make some notes on the further progress with the activities in North Germany and on the use of Learning Toolbox in conferences.

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part One: Notes on meetings with application partners
Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part Two: LTB-based ePosters become success stories in European conferences

So, as we can see from the long list of blogs, there was all the time something going on. And indeed, the Learning Toolbox was being developed for further contexts and users. Moreover, we – as accompanying researchers – felt the need to work with these initiatives. In particular, we wanted to learn, how the introduction of digital tools into work-related or organisational learning opens new frontiers to be explored. But this is already a topic for a further post.

More blogs to come …

Great start for the new working year – The IJRVET Yearbook 2017 is available!

January 8th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Dear readers, let me first wish you all a happy and successful working year 2017!

And having said that, I can share with you a great piece of news. Already before the ITB office building was opened to start the new working year, our professor Michael Gessler had a great message to us: The brand new IJRVET Yearbook is available as an online version and as a print version. Now, for the European and international research communities in the field of vocational education and training (VET) this is such great achievement that it merits to be discussed in a specific blog post. So, I will start my working year with this topic already before I have come to my office.

The early initiatives to create an international journal for research in VET

As I remember it, the idea to set up a genuinely international research journal in the field of VET was brought to the agenda of the board of the European VETNET network in the year 2000. There had already been a predecessor initiative (independently of VETNET) that had been turned down by a commercial publisher. In the next phase the original initiator and the VETNET board joined forces and approached another publisher, who reacted positively. Thus, in the VETNET assembly in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2004 in Rethymnon, Crete, we had an optimistic report from the working group that was preparing the initiative. Also, we had a representative of the publisher attending the conference and observing our work. Everything seemed to work into a good direction.

However, several intervening factors brought the initiative to a different direction. The publisher that VETNET had contacted was merged to a larger publishing house, and that put our initiative on hold. Secondly, disagreements emerged within the working group, and the original initiator left the working group of VETNET and started to promote the initiative independently of VETNET. This led to a creation of a new journal but with different characteristics than we had expected.

This led to a period of latency and reorientation, bridged by a feasibility study that identified several hurdles regarding the relaunching of the journal initiative. Luckily enough, the VETNET board did not give up. By the year2 2013/2014 several things came together that encouraged new start:

  • There was more know-how in the VETNET board to set up the editing procedures for an open access online journal independently of publishing houses.
  • There were advanced open source online services to support the publishing of such journals.
  • The scientific communities were ready to recognise publishing in such journals as academic merits and the global databases were ready to index them.
  • Whilst the European VETNET network had already long ago become consolidated as ‘the’ umbrella network for European VET research, a parallel network initiative (IRNVET) had been launched under the auspices of the World Educational Research Association (WERA) to bring together a wider international VET research community.

The launch of the IJRVET  (2014) and the emergence of the support activities

In the light of the above and given the hard preparatory work between ECER 2013 and ECER 2014, the VETNET General Assembly at ECER 2014 in Porto, Portugal, was happy to make the decision to launch the new journal as “International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET)”. It was accepted as the official organ of the VETNET and IRNVET networks and it had a rather strong backing in Europe and in other global regions. By the end of the year 2014, two regular issues were published and from that point on three regular issues and eventual special issues.In 2015 we had a special issue on ‘Vocational didactics’ and in 2017 on ‘Returning to VET’

In the course of the years the IJRVET has become increasingly attractive also to authors working outside Europe and we have been able to share information and research contribution from practically all global regions. Among these highlights we can include the fact that IJRVET is now fully integrated and indexed in CNKI (Headquarter: Bejing), AIRITI (Headquarter: Taipeh) and ERIC (Headquarter: Washington). Furthermore, IJRVET has  established cooperation  with the ILO (International Labour Organization) and its regional agency Cinterfor (Centro Interamericano para el Desarrollo del Conocimiento en la Formación Profesional). (See more at http://www.ijrvet.net and at the IJRVET-related updates on the Vetnetsite of the VETNET network.

Shortly afterwards new arrangements could be made that the production of the journal could be supported by several conferences, in addition to the annual ECER and its VETNET programme. From 2015 on a biennial conference tradition was started with the theme “Crossing boundaries in VET research” in Bremen and continued in Rostock in 2017. At the VETNET General Assembly  at ECER 2017 in Copenhagen the VETNET Board could inform of a new working agreement that these conferences will be scheduled for Spring months and that they will rotate with the Baltic Sea cruise conferences hosted by the Stockholm university. In 2019 the ‘Crossing boundaries’ conference will take place in Valencia, Spain (the call for papers will be published in a short while). In this way the conferences that are supporting the IJRVET will not clash with each other but complement each other. More information on these conferences and on their proceedings also on the Vetnetsite.org and on the IRNVET/VETNET  ‘project space’ on the research portal ResearchGate.

The idea of the IJRVET Yearbook

After all the progress that had been achieved so far, the editorial team of the IJRVET had the feeling that something was missing. Indeed, one should appreciate the fact that there was the online journal that was appearing regularly and that readers had an open access to the archives of previous issues. Also, the proceedings of the conferences were available via Vetnetsite and ResearchGate. Yet, there was a need to get an overview on the progress with the journal. And the solution for that was the annual yearbook. Here again, the services were available for producing such a yearbook independently of publishing houses, either as printed publication via Amazon (see Vetnetsite) or downloaded via ResearchGate.

So, in a relatively short time the IJRVET and the supporting European and international VET research communities have taken major steps forward. We are looking forward to further steps during the year 2018 and from that year on.

More blogs to come …

 

Remembering Juhani Kirjonen and our cooperation – Jussin muistolle

November 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday morning I got from Finland the sad news that my former boss, professor Juhani Kirjonen – Jussi, as we used call him – had passed away. It so happened that his life span came to end just one month before Finland celebrates the 100th anniversary of its independence. To me, there is another striking coincidence with the news of Jussi. At the end of October I had just written out my memories of the period that I had worked together with Jussi at the University of Tampere in the years 1986-1987.

At that time Jussi took the initiative to develop a post-graduate Master programme with focus on ‘Work Sciences’ (interdisciplinary consortium for research on working life). This was an interesting pilot initiative to engage researchers into cooperation with practitioners – HRD professionals, Health and Safety professionals, Training professionals. The aim was to get the participants shape developmental projects with conceptual and methodological support. Jussi, who had a long track record in interdisciplinary research on health and safety issues in working life, was convinced that the time was ripe for such a novelty – at that time there were hardly any postgraduate Master programmes in Finland (except the worldwide spread MBA programmes).

Jussi had got funding for a planning project from the Ministry of Education and the rector of the University of Tampere had set up an interdisciplinary planning committee consisting of researchers from different faculties and of external experts from the competent bodies for Health and Safety. In the year 1986, just after graduating as an MA from educational and social sciences, I started as the curriculum planner for this initiative. That period – one and a half year – was quite an adventure for both of us. We didn’t take this just as a ‘local’ curriculum initiative but as an intellectual mobilisation to get a better institutional backing for research on working life. From this point of view I was exploring also international models and made a lot of use of the German innovation programme “Humanisation of Work” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Also I provided information on the German debates on integrative approaches to ‘work sciences’ (Fürstenberg: Konzeption integrativer Arbeitswissenschaft) and on the efforts to bring conflicting views from ergonomy vs. work psychology together. This work with literature was important for my further career development.

Alongside the planning work Jussi and I had several contacts with other interested researchers and with Social Partners. Also, after we had submitted the final report, we got involved in the discussion on launching a special research unit for research on working life. In that phase the initiative to set up a postgraduate Master programme got sidelined. Instead, the idea of a new interdisciplinary “Work Research Centre” got wide support and a this new centre was set up in record time bypassing all other earlier priorities of the university. However, in this final phase other researchers got the lead and Jussi retreated and took other duties. For me the new centre provided new opportunities to work in the research field “education and working life” and to create new international contacts – firstly in the joint initiatives of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) and then with German research institutes – in particular with ITB. And this then brought me deeper to European cooperation in the field of vocational education end training (VET). And from 1994 on I worked several years in Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training).

– – –

Looking back, I could not have dreamed of making such career steps without the pioneering work with the curriculum planning initiative with Jussi. Also, during that period I enjoyed his strong support. Surely – there were also periods when we were not quite on the same page. But, what was more important, we got over those periods and we were happy to conclude our work with a good spirit. And, although the launch of the Work Research Centre was not a direct follow-up of our initiative, something of the good spirit was taken over during the ‘golden’ pioneering years. Therefore, I feel the loss of my former supervisor, but at the same time I am thankful for having experienced that interesting period of work with him.

Jussin muistoa kunnioittaen

 

Ten years blogging – five years active blogging

November 12th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today (11.11.2017)  I noticed by chance that I had started my career as a Pontydysgu blogger exactly ten years ago. The start was not great and there were periods of hibernation. Although I renamed my blog I didn’t quite get the swing immediately. But then, about exactly five years ago (16.11.2012) I started blogging on the Learning Layers (LL) project – and became a regular blogger. Now, almost one year after completing LL project I have kept myself busy with reporting on the follow-up activities. And indeed – during these active years – I have also learned to write on other topics alongside the work-related blogs. These anniversaries call for a brief reflection on my ideas during the earlier phases and during the active project-related blogging and in the follow-up phase.

I-Europe – The difficult beginning

I first named my blog as “I-Europe”. This needs an explanation. In the ECER conference in 2003 in Hamburg there was a special session of the VETNET network under the heading “Open meeting”. Alan Brown had initiated it to discuss different options for European cooperation (independently of EU-funding). He was at that time working part time as a programme director for a national research programme and had the opportunity create networking among similar research councils. Alan presented a preliminary framework “Learning in Knowledge Society (LinKS)”. I came up with a parallel initiative “I-Europe” – to promote knowledge development on international, innovative, integrative and inclusive developments in European vocational education and training cultures. Obviously, I didn’t have institutional backing or resources for supporting any practical measures based on such framework (I had just recently ceased to work as Cedefop project manager). However, my initiative had some positive feedback, but there was very little that we could have done.

Four years later I thought that I could start a new round of discussions. I had got settled to ITB in Bremen and started working on transnational projects that included fieldwork. At that time the European policy processes were geared to the framework processes – the Bologna process promoting the European Higher Education Area and the Copenhagen process pushing forward the European Qualification Framework (EQF). A working group in ITB had prepared a critical discussion paper on the EQF. I wanted to take the discussion further – to positive ideas on thematic knowledge development at the European level. But once again I had to observe that I was floating high up – and couldn’t get my ideas properly grounded.

Working & Learning – a new start (but shaky)

After some time and some self-critical reflections I decided to try a new start with a renamed blog. “Working & Learning” seemed to me an appropriate title because it referred to my research context and to the way I wanted get my blogging grounded. I was hoping that I could rely strongly on the projects of that time – Consultation seminars (on teachers and trainers in VET) and the network ‘Trainers in Europe”. However, the blogs for the Consultation seminars had to published exclusively on the project website, whilst the Trainers in Europe network allowed publishing on multiple websites. That already caused a split in the project landscape and made it difficult to reflect on the work in parallel activities. Two further projects of that time – the Politics project and Coop-PBL in VET – required content creation on the respective project websites. At that time I didn’t see any added value in posting on multiple websites. Therefore, I ended up with another period of hibernation with my blog.

Working & Learning gets a new swing with the Learning Layers project

The start of our major EU-funded research & development project Learning Layers (LL) changed the situation radically. We (ITB) had joined in the consortium at the late phase of preparations and we had the responsibility to coordinate the work with application partners in the Construction pilot in Germany. So, we had to work ourselves in and position ourselves as a research partner with genuine research contribution. And the project schedules pushed us into a rapid start (the initial interviews, the Application Partner Days, the preparation of the User Stories, the Helsinki Design Conference …). All this brought me back to blogging – and I got accustomed of regular blogging.

In the beginning this was just quick documentation on activities and events. But gradually there was more in it – reflection on lessons learned in the fieldwork, discussion on working issues, reorientation in the co-design work, introduction of training activities … In addition to this we redefined some aspects of the work as ‘development projects’, had a consortium-wide “Theory Camp” and prepared sustainability plans. The ‘hot’ phases of the work started when the idea of Learning Tool started to take shape, when the multimedia training was expanded to the “Theme Room” campaign and when the Learning Toolbox was piloted in the field. Furthermore, much of the discussion on the final reporting was supported by numerous blogs posts. At the end of the day, the annual logbooks of LL-related blogs were rather massive documents.

Working & Learning continues with follow-up activities of the Learning Layers project

When the Learning Layers project had reached the stage of final review and completed the final-final reporting duties, this could have been the end of the story – both for the project and for the project-related blogging. But it was not the case. Instead, the main actors in the Construction pilot – ITB, the application partners and the developers of the Learning Toolbox were keen to move on to follow-up activities. Although it was not easy to find appropriate ways to continue the development work and to find suitable funding opportunities, several smaller follow-up initiatives emerged. In this way the work with Learning Toolbox was linked to shaping of new ecosystems for coordinating work processes and/or supporting integrative training and learning arrangements. Moreover, the challenge to support the multimedia training for trainers and instructors has become actual time and again. All this makes me confident that there is work to be done in the follow-up activities.

– – –

I guess this is enough as a quick review and reflection on lessons learned. I may not have achieved a record number of blog posts during the ten years (and definitely not during the first five years). But that doesn’t matter to me. I have gone through quite a learning journey and found my way of blogging during the last five years. And with that I can be happy to continue.

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

https://youtu.be/6KUFHBhZGVs                https://youtu.be/QKQ5R1mZzlw

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 https://my.ltb.io/#/showcase/amee:

ePoster_Showcases

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:

Novelty-in-ePoster
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.

ePoster_cubicle

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 …

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