Archive for the ‘Layers PD’ Category

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Four: The continuing story of refugees and migrants (2011 and now)

August 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I have worked with a series of posts that revisit the European project “Learning about politics” in which I was the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what has happened since then. In the third post I discussed some themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project. In this final post I will have a look at a story that our group developed in the Politics Spring School 2011 – and which I followed up afterwards as a contribution to the Politics project. It so happens that the theme – integration of migrants and refugees – was a hot topic in 2011 and even more in 2016.

Making the initial story at Politics Spring School April 2011

As I have told in my first blog of this series, the Greek partners of the Politics project organised a joint Comenius and Grundtvig course with the name “Politics Spring school” to support the project work and as a free event for other interested participants. One part of the program for the project-oriented participants (mainly teachers on Comenius course) was to work in trans-national groups and to create a joint story based on each one’s individual inputs. In our group we had the Italian participant Valentina, the Norwegian Lisa (expatriate living in Brussels) and myself (Finnish expatriate in Germany).

Together we came up with a story of three observers visiting different places and looking, how the local people receive newcomers or how people from different origins get along with each other and their new environment. Our first station was the isle of Lampedusa, where we saw a video documenting the local people letting the refugees (who came with boats to harbour) that they were not welcome. Our second station was the intercultural environment in Brussels where we saw pupils of the international school communicating with each other in several languages – and small children of bilingual families talking fluently (and in turns) to their parents in their respective languages. Our third station was Berlin where we followed the work of the German-Turkish theatre group ‘Berlin Heroes’ trying to weed violent behaviour out of the relations between boys and girls (and young people with different religion). We also followed the work of the voluntary migrant-based ‘neighbourhood mothers’ (Stadtteilmütter) who visited newly arrived migrants and provided information and support to them in their new environment. So – we documented different kinds of activities and intercultural encounters – from clashes and conflicts to ‘new normality’ and to community initiatives to overcome tensions and provide mutual assistance.

Follow-up with news on refugees heading from Italy to France and Belgium

After the Spring School initiative I felt the need to continue the story with two follow-up threads. Firstly, I felt the need to follow the movements of refugees – in particular those arriving in Italy. At that time the government of Italy felt overwhelmed by the number of refugees – and provided them temporary admission certificates and free access to trains (to move further into the neighbouring countries). As a response, the government of France refused to receive refugees with such documents and introduced border control on the Italian border. At that time I wrote blogs with video documents on the movements of refugees in Italy, their problems at the Italian-French border and on the experiences of those who had made their way up to Brussels (or elsewhere in Belgium). Altogether, these documents showed that the refugees had not had an easy ride at any of the parts of their journeys.

Follow-up with stories on the integration of Turkish migrants in German society

Parallel to this I felt the need to look more closely at the integration of the earlier waves of migrants – such as the Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany and their descendants.  I was very much inspired by the new film “Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland” that gave a humorous picture of three generations of migrant family and their experiences in Turkey and Germany between 1970 and 2010. But I also took note of reports on the experiences of German-born German-Turks ‘returning’ to Turkey to start working in the country of their ancestors (and being perceived as ‘Germaners’ – Almancilar, Deutschländer). Therefore, I had discussions with mixed couples – Germans married to Turks and with experiences in living in both countries. After these sessions I wrote follow-up blogs to the story that was started at the Spring School.

Movements of refugees and reactions in receiving countries – 2011 and 2015/2016

Sadly enough, the results of our work with this story and the follow-up threads are no longer available in public domain. Archiving of old project websites is not an interesting task for former partner organisations. Nevertheless, these experiences served as a preparatory phase for encountering the more recent wave of refugees coming to EU member states in 2015 and 2016. Whilst government policies wavered between a permissive ‘welcoming culture’ and strict ‘fencing the trespassers out’ attitude, the citizens and NGOs tried to provide assistance and support. Yet, rather soon there was a backlash of xenophobic and hostile reactions as well.

For us working with social and educational projects this is not only a matter of observing what is going on. From this perspective I have found it interesting that the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC (application partner in our EU-funded Learning Layers project) has also been supporting the integration of refugees and the placement of refugee children to appropriate education provisions. Moreover, we have been thinking, how the newly developed Learning Toolbox could support the social and educational integration of refugees. These questions go clearly beyond the current project. But we know that there is a lot of potential – and that there is a lot of work to be done with these issues.

More blogs to come …

Barcamp at Association of Medical Education in Europe conference

August 1st, 2016 by Graham Attwell


At the end of August I am going to the Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Barcelona. Although I work more in the construction sector, the Learning Layers project is working to develop technology to support informal learning in two sectors, construction and healthcare. I’ll be joining the Layers team from healthcare at the conference, where we are organising a barcamp as well as an exhibition stand. On the stand we will be presenting a number of apps developed and trialled in the healthcare sector in the UK, including a ‘portfolio’ or evidence building app, Bits and Pieces, and Confer, a communication platform for collaborative work in solving problems and developing policies and procedures. And we will be showing the context aware flexibility of the Learning Toolbox app, originally developed for the construction sector, with a special stack of miniapps developed specifically for AMEE.

AMEE is a big conference, with over 3000 delegates attending annually. Although still hosting traditional paper presentations it is increasingly branching out to support a range of different presentation formats. And I think I am right in saying this is the first barcamp staged at AMEE. Having long been keen on more unconferencing events, it is good to see the larger and more formal conferences experimenting with such ideas. One of our problems is to explain to delegates just what a barcamp is. for that reason, I have hacked together the video above. Its a nice example of reuse of open educational resources. The original German language video was made by the University of Graz to report on a barcamp in Austria they had organised. With their permission I have added a new introduction and ending to the video and English language translation and subtitles.

If you would like to know more about our activities at AIMEE drop me a line. And for those interested here is the ‘rules’ we have written for the barcamp:

1st Rule: You do talk about BarCamp.

2nd Rule: You do blog about BarCamp.

3rd Rule: If you want to present, you must write your topic and name in a presentation slot.

4th Rule: Only three word intros.

5th Rule: As many presentations at a time as facilities allow for.

6th Rule: No pre-scheduled presentations, no tourists (either make a contribution or move on, you should move groups in order to participate).

7th Rule: Presentations will go on as long as they have to or until they run into another presentation slot.

8th Rule: If this is your first time at BarCamp, you HAVE to present. (Ok, you don’t really HAVE to, but try to find someone to present with, or at least ask questions and be an interactive participant.

 

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part One: The project experience and its impact

July 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During my summer break I have several times had thoughts on a prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011. The project as such was not one of the most successful ones in which I have been working. Yet – looking back at some of the activities carried out in the project and at the themes covered in the German contributions – I must say that I learned a lot during that time. And when comparing the hot issues of that time and those of the present date – there is a lot to be learned about the evolution of politics in the light of these issues. Therefore, I have decided to write a series of blogs to revisit the project experience and some of the key themes – now, five years after the end of the project. In this first post I will deal with the project as a whole and some of its key activities.

The project idea, the partnership and the evolution of the project

The project was initiated in Estonia on the basis of a ‘seed corn story’ on a young schoolboy who wants to change the world and starts a political campaign to run for the next elections. All this started in family talks and the boy and his followers started to get information and draft their program for the elections. The trans-national partnership was supposed to build upon the core story and continue it as national variants adjusted to their contexts.

As the project was launched under the transversal programme of the EU-funded Lifelong Learning Programme, the partners represented different educational sectors and had respectively different ideas, how to work further. Thus, the Estonian, Slovenian and Italian partners (who represented lower secondary schools) chose to work with this script. As a contrast, the Greek, German and Welsh partners (who represented other educational sectors) worked their own ways forward independently of the initial core story. This was reflected in the development of the trans-national website that gave each partner its own WordPress platform for developing its own contents. Below I will first give an overview on the work of the German team and then give insights into the Politics Spring School event.

The German sub-project took shape as a theme-based online learning environment

In the beginning phase we had had some difficulties in getting the project moving. After some time I cam in as a replacement of the initial partner. After exploring some other options, I ended up working with three vocational school teachers who had ‘politics’ as their second subject (in addition to their vocational subjects). We discussed several themes that might be interesting and outlined a set of  thematic ‘learning pathways’ (Lernwege) to be covered with introductory blog posts and separate ‘learning units’ with more specific information, links to additional materials and workspaces for learning tasks.

When developing this online learning environment, some additional themes came up. So, at the end of the project we had developed the following ‘learning pathways’:

Pathway One: The regional parliament elections in Germany in 2011

Pathway Two: Protest movements and citizens’ participation in Germany (Anti-nuclear protests and protests against Stuttgart 2010  railway station project)

Pathway Three: Protest movements and revolutions in Arab countries

Pathway Four: The new role of internet and social media in policy

Pathway Five: Debates on the integration of migrants and on multicultural society in Germany

Pathway Six: The issue of climate change and citizens’ responsibility

Pathway Seven: Young people’s participation in politics.

(I will get back to these themes in my next blogs.)

The Politics Spring School 2011 as a joint training and learning event

During the project the partners tended to work somewhat separately with their own contents and learning stories (except for the Estonian and Slovenian partners who had a closer collaboration). Therefore, the Politics Spring School (initiated and hosted by the Greek partners) was an important complementary training and learning event. The Politics Spring School was designed as a combination of a Grundtvig course for individual adult learners and of a Comenius course for teacher’s further education. In practice, the two first day were run as a joint multimedia training and then during three following days the groups were separated. The adult learners worked individually with their stories, whilst the teacher group worked in transnational teams that created their own stories. To me it was a positive experience to see that I could combine the theme ‘integration of migrants’ with the interests of two other participants (outside the project context). I a similar way the two German vocational school teachers could link their themes (junior voting and climate change) into their group stories.

– – –

I think this is enough of the project as such. I do not think that we would have been very successful if we would have followed strictly the original original plan. Some partners found it appropriate for them – for the others it was better to follow alternative options. Yet, as the Politics Spring School showed it, there was enough common content and interest to get the international partners learn and work together. Based on our teamwork in Bremen and in the Spring School the German vocational school teachers have continued their cooperation and shared experiences on their teaching in politics. I think this is already a good result. Moreover, the work with the German platform and the respective ‘pathways’ and ‘learning units’ provided me a pre-school for the kind of multimedia competences that I have needed in our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers project. Finally, the work with the themes to be covered has clearly been a valuable learning experience in German and international politics. (I will get back to this in my next blogs.)

More blogs to come …

Learning Analytics for Vocational Education and Training

July 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I have just spent an hour or so on a periodic search for research and development about Workplace Learning Analytics and the use of Learning Analytics in the public sector. As usual the results are pretty thin – although I think the slowly growing interest in the links between learning design and Learning Analytics may come in handy in the future.

The one thing which did interest me was a report of a workshop organised by Jisc with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce “to explore significant opportunities for improving access to data, and analytical capacity, in the face of the significant changes that are taking place across further education and training, skills commissioning and apprenticeship provision and funding.”

Of course, some of this is very UK specific in terms of the commissioning and funding models and are focused particularly at Further Education institutions. But some of the approaches  would appear more transferable for work based learning in general.

As part of the Further Education initiative, Jisc have been developing a series of user stories. The breadth and depth of the stories were extended at the workshop. Paul Bailey from the Jisc Learning Analytics project explains: “The user stories that were prioritised were around using analytics to

  • help learners to improve retention, achievement of grades and make informed decisions regarding their next destinations
  • improve the quality of learning and teaching, including looking at the curriculum design and use of rich content in online learning
  • improve college support processes to improve retention and provide effective careers service to support progression
  • understand the employer demand to better plan curriculum and recruitment
  • track finance and quality to remain competitive.”

In general these priorities apply across the initial vocational and education training sector (particularly for apprenticeships). However they don’t really work for public sector organisations which are largely focused on continuing training and professional development and which have different institutional and organisations aims and purposes than vocational colleges. But I like the story telling approach which could be a good way of exploring the potential of Learning Analytics in these organisations.

Waking up with the results of the Brexit-Referendum

June 24th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the recent years I have been blogging mostly on our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I leave it at the background. And normally I am not making comments on politics – not of my country of origin (Finland) or of my host country (Germany) nor of any other country. BUT today I cannot help picking up the topic “Brexit” due to various reasons. Let me give three reasons for this:

  1. The “Learning Layers” connection: It so happened that the referendum took place just one day after the LL project consortium meeting in Bristol. The two last days before the referendum we spent in a productive and collaborative project meeting – working towards common results and discussing prospects for follow-up activities. In our meeting we worked in the spirit of accustomed normality – partners from Member States among each other as peers among peers. There was no feeling that this could abruptly change (although the British colleagues were worried and acknowledged the risks). Now, after the results, we understand that things will not change overnight and that the future cooperation arrangements will not exclude the British universities from European research cooperation. Yet, the change of climate is taking place and we don’t quite know what to expect.
  2. The Pontydysgu connection: I am writing my blogs on Pontydysgu website as a result of long years of cooperation. I came to know the senior members of Pontydysgu staff (Graham and Jenny) in 1996 at the beginning phase of the EU funding programme Leonardo da Vinci. That was quite some time ago – and some years before the start of Pontydysgu. During the following twenty years we have had a shared history of working in and with European cooperation projects – mostly with focus on vocational education and training (VET). In the course of the time I have learned to appreciate the effort of my Pont colleagues to work as interpreters between the Welsh, British and continental views – and to get the best out of different projects. In this way they have become popular and successful as British partners in EU projects – with educational, labour market -oriented, regional or ICT-related themes. Now, in the new situation I understand that my Pont colleagues have more concerns about their European cooperation than the universities.
  3. The family connection: Finally, I have a personal reason: I have very close family members living as expatriates in London. To be sure, the adults of the family have double nationality and so have the children. They should not need to feel ‘outsiders’, they have got their proper places in the British society. Yet, they (the adults) have grown up on the continent and brought with them a common family language (Finnish) when they moved to Britain long ago. Now, after this heated referendum campaign there are more questions in the air, how expatriates are being perceived in their neighbourhoods (or how the neighborhoods with expatriates are being perceived). Up to now I have had no reason to raise this question, now I am not sure. As we recently learned it in the context of the tragic killing of the Labour MP Jo Cox, “rhetoric has consequences”. But, in the same context we should try build on her life work and her attempt to overcome the power of hatred and division with something grater – human values and solidarity.

I think this is enough to clarify, why I cannot leave the topic ‘Brexit’ aside like an old newspaper with news of yesterday and days before. This new period of uncertainty – on both sides of the Channel – is not a matter of some rapid negotiations and then back to ‘normal business’. Now it is time to rethink and reshape the mutual relations on a new basis – and that need time. Let us hope that this time will be used well. I leave my remarks here and try to get back to my usual themes.

More blogs to come …

Back to blogging – and catching up with the newest in Learning Layers

April 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Sadly I have had to notice that to month of March 2016 has gone past without any blog entries to ‘Working and Learning’ on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. No one should get the false impression that nothing worth blogging has been going on. On the contrary – this was a busy month. Firstly we were preparing the Kick-off event of the field pilots with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in Bau-ABC (that took place on the 14th of March). Then, unfortunately I (and some other participants of that event) fell ill. Then, before and after the Easter break I (and we) were occupied by other duties and concerns in the LL project.

But, now it is time to get back to producing blog articles on the progress with the LL project and in the piloting with the Learning Toolbox in the construction pilot – and in particular in the training centre Bau-ABC. So, here we go.

More blogs to come …

Mobile Learning – the Dream goes on

February 29th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

“What killed the mobile learning dream?” asks John Traxler in an article for Jisc’s Digifest. John goes on to say:

Mobile learning was e-learning’s dream come true. It offered the potential for completely personalised learning to be truly any time, anywhere.

ltbInstead, we’ve ended up with mobile access to virtual learning environments that are being used as repositories. So, in practice, students reading their notes on the bus.

He’s right but I am not sure his reasons are sufficient. The main problem John sees is that when early projects were developed into mobile learning, they were based on supplying participants with digital devices. This was expensive and limited the scale and sustainability of such projects. Now new initiatives are emerging based on BYOD (bring your own Device). This is more sustainable but raises its own questions.

Bring your own device, enabling students to use their own equipment, introduces more questions: is there a specific range of technologies they can bring, what’s the nature of the support offered, and have we got a network infrastructure that won’t fall over when 20,000 students turn up with gadgets? What kind of staff development is needed to handle the fact that not only will the students turn up with many different devices but tomorrow they’ll have changed to even more different devices?

All this is true. And as we prepare to roll out the trial of our Learning Layers project funded Learning Toolbox (LTB) application we are only to aware that as well as looking at the technical and pedagogic application of Learning toolbox, we will have to evaluate the infrastructure support. The use of Learning toolbox has been predicated on BYOD and has been developed with Android, iOS and Microsoft versions. The training centre where the pilot will take place with some 70 apprentices, BauABC, covers a large site and is in a rural area. Telecoms network coverage is flaky, broadband not fast and the wireless network installed to support the pilots is a new venture. So many issues for us to look at there. However in terms of staff development I am more confident, with an ongoing programme for the trainers, but perhaps more importantly I think a more open attitude from construction industry trainers to the use of different technologies than say from university lecturers.

The bigger issue though for me is pedagogy. John hints at this when he talks about mobiles being used to access virtual learning environments that are being used as repositories. The real limitation here is not in the technology or infrastructure but a lack of vision of the potential of mobiles for learning in different contexts. Indeed I suspect that the primary school sector is more advanced in their thing here than the universities. Mobile devices have the potential to take learning into the world outside the classroom and to link practical with more theoretical learning. And rather than merely pushing learning (to be read on the bus although I have never quite understood why mobile learning vendors think everyone travels home by bus), the potential is to create a new ecosystem, whereby learners themselves can contribute to the learning of others, by direct interaction and by the sharing of learning and of objects. Dare I say it – Learning Toolbox is a mobile Personal Learning Environment (at least I hope so). We certainly are not looking to replace existing curricula, neither existing learning technologies. Rather we see Learning Toolbox as enhancing learning experiences and allowing users to reflect on learning in practice. In this respect we are aware of the limitations of a limited screen size and also of the lack of attraction of writing long scripts for many vocational learners. This can be an advantage. Mobile devices support all kinds of gesturing (think Tinder) and are naturally used for multimedia including video and photographs.

So what killed the mobile learning dream. Lack of understanding of its true potential, lack of vision and a concentration of funding and pilot activities with the wrong user groups. That is not to say that mobile learning cannot be used in higher education. But it needs a rethinking of curriculum and of the interface between curriculum, pedagogy and the uses of technology. So the dream is not dead. It just needs more working on!

If you would like to know more about Learning Toolbox or are interesting in demonstration or a pilot please contact me graham10 [at] mac [dot] com

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part Two: The Bavarian model project and the discussion in the event

February 14th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

As already mentioned in my previous  blog, these two posts are not focusing on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Instead I have taken up a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees.  In my previous post I started reporting on a public event “Perspektive Beruf: Junge Geflüchtete erfolgreich zum Berufsabschluss führen“. This event brought into picture fresh information and assembled several stakeholders from different organisations to joint discussion. In the first post I gave some background information on the event and present insights into a study on young refugees’ perspectives in Bremen. In this second post I will give insights into a model project in Bavaria (that was presented in the event) and highlight some key points of the stakeholders’ discussion.

1. Insights into the model project in Bavaria

The first part of the event was based on a Bremen-focused study that provided information on young refugees and their chances to get access to training and labour market in the Bremen region. The study had raised some issues that need further attention from policy makers and stakeholders who are engaged with support measures. The second part of the event was based on a guest input from the Federal state of Bavaria (Bayern).

This input was given by Manfred Bäuml who represented a foundation that supports educational projects in Bavaria (Stiftung Bildungspakt Bayern). He firstly gave insights into the innovation concept ‘vocational integration classes’ (Berufsintegrationsklassen) and how they have been embedded into the regulative frameworks. This concept is based on a 2-year long full-time school-based vocational education scheme that includes intensive language learning, vocational orientation, vocational subject-learning (including language support), internships in companies and opportunity to obtain/ refresh general school certificates). A key feature of this model is the collaboration between language teacher, subject teacher and social pedagogic advisor. (The key point in this model is that it is meant to provide entry to the regular vocational education and training provisions, not to replace them with a short variant.)

In his presentation Bäuml also made transparent the rapidly growing numbers of young refugees and the quick response in setting up such vocational integration classes all over the Federal state of Bavaria. This gave rise for setting up a state-wide model project to support the quality development in such classes and to enhance their acceptance. For this purpose the Federal state of Bavaria and the Foundation have set up the state-wide model project that involves 21 model schools (public vocational schools in all sub-regions) and several support organisations. The project works with organisational development, staff development and curriculum redesign. As special challenges Bäuml mentioned the following ones:

  • Functioning language learning – linking everyday life language learning and domain-specific vocabulary to each other;
  • Integration – bringing learners of integration classes and ordinary vocational classes into cooperation with each other;
  • Transition from school to occupational work – intensifying career guidance and counselling to facilitate personal commitment to the occupation in concern.

As Bäuml told, the project had only started at the end of 2015 and it was only in the process of building up its network and support activities. Yet, the work was making progress all over Bavaria.

2. Key issues taken up in the stakeholders’ discussion 

The event was not planned just to present the study and the model project but to stimulate discussion on necessary policy measures and ways to support different support initiatives. Therefore, the organisers had set up two rounds of discussions – after each presentation. Here, for the sake of simplicity, I try to pick up some key messages from both rounds without going deeply into details:

  • The representatives of vocational schools and and continuing training provisions – Herbert Grönegreß and Sandra von Atens – emphasised the necessity, not to challenge the refugees overly, to adjust the education/training provisions to what they can achieve and to provide well-timed support and constant support networks. Also, they emphasised the need to adjust the ‘offerings’ to refugees to their possibilities and to be prepared for providing second chances.
  • The company representative Michael Heyer told of the initiative of their company to select a group of refugees to be taken on internship and to prepare them for the opportunity to start a regular apprentice training. This initiative was launched in close collaboration and with support from public authorities. Concerning language support, the company arranged for them extra courses. Concerning integration, the company was surprised to see, how supportive and cooperative their ordinary apprentices were vis-à-vis the newcomers.
  • The Educational senator (minister) of the City state Claudia Bodegan put as into the picture of the scales of the problems. Concerning the reception of unaccompanied young people, the German cities had agreed on balanced quotas of reception (der Königstein Schlüssel). However, in 2015, Bremen had received five times as much young unaccompanied refugees – and, given the flow of refugees, it would have been inappropriate to push them elsewhere. Also, since Bremen is struggling with budgetary deficits, it doesn’t have such resources in the regular budgets as the richer Federal states. Furthermore, Bremen has had to make a difficult choice, whether to prioritise perfect diagnostic (at the expense of longer waiting times) or effective integration (at the expense of providing less favourable education and training opportunities). Here, the choice has been on avoiding  long waiting times in idlewild.
  • The representative  of the Chamber of Commerce, Karlheinz Heidemeyer, drew attention to the prompt responses of the member companies to their call for initiatives. in this way, and due to good cooperation with the local/regional authorities, the company-specific initiatives could be brought into action without unnecessary delays. In the same way he praised the good cooperation between different stakeholders in overcoming the formal hurdles and addressing the needs for Federal level policy adjustment.
  • The representative of the voluntary organisation Fluchtraum, professor Marc Thielen (also from ITB), shifted the perspective from the quantitative situation assessment, training opportunities and language courses to the individual situations of refugees. The organisation Fluchtraum that he represents, provides legal advice, guardians and mentors for unaccompanied young refugees. With insights into their life histories, learning histories and refugee histories, he emphasised the needs to get solid and trustworthy support persons and support structures for the refugees. He also addressed the need to avoid giving the refugees challenges that they cannot meet (e.g. in terms of starting regular vocational training before being properly prepared).
  • The representative of the host organisation Arbeitnehmerkammer, Regine Geraedts, drew attention to the readiness of different stakeholders in Bremen to tackle the problems as promptly as they could. Also, they had shown readiness to create new forms of cooperation for unbureacratic treatment of the problems of young refugees. Furthermore, they had shown readiness to take own initiatives at the same time as they had addressed needs to revise federal regulations. And, given the seemingly uncoordinated actions of voluntary organisations, they had been able develop flexible forms of coordination and to develop common discussion on policy development.

I guess this is enough of this event. I know that there were lots of details that I couldn’t grasp with this report. Nevertheless, I got a picture of a dynamic regional langscape of developing policies, services and support activities for young refugees. In addition, I could see a role for possible European cooperation measures (of which I discussed with some participants) in the coming times.

More blogs to come …

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part One: The event and the Bremen study

February 13th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the recent times my blogs on this site have focused almost exclusively on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I will shift the emphasis to a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees. In particular Bremen is struggling with a large number of unaccompanied young people (under 18 years). On Thursday I attended with several other ITB colleagues a public event that brought into discussion a new study from Bremen, an ongoing model project in Bavaria and several views of stakeholders (from different organisations). In the first post I will give some background information and present insights int the Bremen study. In the second post I will give insights into the model project in Bavaria and highlight some key points of the discussion.

1. The background of the event

One of the specific institutions of the Hanseatic City of Bremen is the Chamber of salaried employees (Arbeitnehmerkammer). This is a public body and all salaried employees in Bremen are also members of the chamber. This is a similar arrangement as is the case with Chambers of Commerce or with Chambers of Craft and Trade (which comprise all the enterprises in their respective domains). Given this co-existence of public representative bodies, they have developed several forms of practical cooperation with different societal issues. Also, they have a tradition to contribute to each others’ events.

From the year 2015  on (when the amount of refugees coming to Bremen grew rapidly) the Arbeitnehmerkammer has taken several initiatives to get information on refugees’ situation, to facilitate cooperation between different support organisations and to promote public discusssion on necessary policy measures. In this context the Arbeitnehmerkammer had initiated with the research institute of the University of Bremen for Work and Economy (Institut für Arbeit und Wirtschaft) a special study on the prospects of young refugees to enter training and labour market in Bremen. This event was called to

  • make public the main results of the study,
  • make comparisons to an ongoing model project in Bavaria and to
  • promote public discussion between  different stakeholders who engage themselves with problems of young refugees.

2. Insights into the study on young refugees in Bremen

In the first part of the event the author of the Bremen study, René Böhme gave a comprehensive overview on the context, design and results of the study. Here I will not try to reflect its richness. Instead, I try to draw attention to some points that were of vital importance for the discussion:

 a) Concerning the amount of refugees arrived in Bremen: Whilst in 2014 the number of refugees was slightly over 2000, in 2015 it was over 10.000. In addition, the number of unaccompanied young refugees was in 2014 ca. 500, whilst in 2015 it was over 2500.

b) Concerning attitudes of employees: In general, employees are ready to receive refugees (given the shortage of skilled workforce) and to make extra efforts to support their training and integration into working life. Yet, they are aware of problems and risks (e.g. of high drop-out rates).

c) Concerning efforts to overcome formal hurdles: Preconditions for flexible and supported entry to training (e.g. via pre-vocational measures) have already been created. Yet, they alone do not guarantee successful completion of training.

d) Concerning parallel support measures and initiatives: At the moment the services and initiatives have been brought into picture in rapid tempo and separately by different actors. Therefore, they appear as uncoordinated patchwork of activities. However, as such they are not merely limited to educational and career guidance but cover also everyday life problems.

In the light of the above the study drew attention to the following needs:

  • to make the formal frameworks more flexible at Federal level,
  • to improve the pre-vocational learning opportunities in vocational school (with linked career guidance and counselling)
  • to improve the cooperation of public authorities, companies and service providers to create a coherent support system for refugee-trainees and -apprentices,
  • to strengthen complementary support  and mentoring networks to support overall integration into society and everyday life.

I think this is enough of the background of the event and of the Bremen study that was presented as a basis for joint situation assessment. In the next post it is appropriate to present the Bavarian model project and some insights into the discussion.

More blogs to come …

 

Confer – Three steps to consensus

February 9th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I have written a number of post about the Learning Toolbox mobile app being developed through the Learning Layers project and of course Pekka Kamareinen has documented the development of the project in some detail on this site.

But Learning Toolbox is just one of a number of applications developed by the project and being rolled out for evaluation this spring. One which in my view holds some promise is Confer. Confer is a collaborative workflow tool, being launched under the banner of  “Confer – Three steps to consensus”. Confer provides online collaboration spaces for working groups that can be used both synchronously as well as asynchronously and supports groups in working collaboratively on a task or project; helping to keep the work focused and flowing, recording the discussions and reasoning along the way and producing a final summary output that can become the first draft of a report or recommendations.

Confer is based on research work in computer supported work and learning – for instance by Hämäläinen & Häkkinen, who say “the production of descriptive and surface-level knowledge, the difficulty in creating explanation-seeking questions, the reaching of mutual understanding among participants, and uneven participation are some of the main challenges that exist in computer-supported collaborative learning settings.”

Confer supports and scaffolds groups in working through a collaborative meaning making and decision process.

It first asks “What do we need?” by clearly describing the problem at hand including what, where, when and for whom? The second stage is to explore “What do we know?” through a brainstorming process identifying issues and collecting together relevant knowledge, resources, ideas and experience.

The third stage is decision making – “What should we do?” –  developing and describing options/solutions that will address the problem and identified issues. The end point is to agree on a recommendation.Whilst it may all sound simple in real life these processes are challenging especially with distributed groups who may only meet together face to face at limited intervals. Our research suggests that in reality one person is left alone to write up the results, thus both diminishing group expertise and often failing to develop shared meanings.

The pilot implementations of Confer start next week. But if you would be interested in trialling Confer please email me. You can find out more by visiting the Confer Zone.

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