Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

Back to Tampere – Back to the Work Research Centre (WRC)

June 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported on my participation in the international conferences organised by Stockholm University in the beginning of May 2017 and 2018. In the middle of May I had another trip – this time to my old home town Tampere, Finland and to my old institute – the Work Research Centre (WRC) of the University of Tampere. It so happened that the WRC was celebrating its 30th anniversary and I had been one of the founding members. So, this was going back to the roots and via a long journey down the memory lane.

I was particularly happy to attend this event because 30 years before I had missed the founding festivities due to clash of dates with some other obligations. Also, I was looking forward to this event, since my ex-colleagues had asked me – half a year before – to write a text on the founding phase of the WRC for a national event that took place in Tampere. At that time I could only send the text, not knowing how it will be used and in what kind of setting it will be presented. So, I was exited to see, what had happened with my old institute, how many friends of  old I would meet and who are the champions of the younger generation that are continuing the work. But let us go back to the memories before we get to the event.

“How it all started” – what did I write down

The colleagues had asked me to write a text on the founding phase, because they new that I had been involved in a preparatory planning initiative  (1986-1987) and that this particular initiative did the seeding work that led to the decisive steps in 1988. For me this was of fundamental importance, because that planning task was my first job after graduation. And after the founding of the WRC I worked as a semi-senior researcher for laying the foundations for research on “Education and Working Life”. This work took me first to Nordic (Scandinavian) cooperation (1988-1992) and to European cooperation (1991-1994). In this process I got deeper involved in research in the field of vocational education and training (VET). And then, at the advent of the Finnish EU-Membership I was sent as a national seconded to the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), which at that time was located in Berlin. And after Finland joined EU, I got a job in Cedefop as a temporary official of EU and moved with Cedefop to Thessaloniki, where it was relocated in 1995. (And after my time in Cedefop I ended up – via a transitional phase – to my present job in ITB, University of Bremen.)

What could I then bring into discussion on the founding phase – having been there a relatively short while and then having been so many years elsewhere. Probably the best service I could do was to reconstruct the history of creation of the WRC as an achievement of an innovative movement that sought to upgrade the standing of research on working life in  the university structures and to stimulate interdisciplinary cooperation in theory and practice. Firstly this was sought by planning an interdisciplinary post-graduate Master programme for R&D in working life. In the planning of this concept I did my best to pass information on similar initiatives in Scandinavia and in Germany. Moreover, I tried to pass information policies and innovation programmes to improve quality of working life (LOM in Sweden and Humanisierung der Arbeit in Germany). Whilst, the post-graduate Master programme was not picked up as such, the idea to strengthen the institutional status of research on working life was taken seriously. At that time a new government coalition was being forged and the trade unions were heavily in favour of stronger support for specific research activities on working life. Also, the new management of the University of Tampere understood, what was coming up. Therefore, a decision was made to strengthen research on working life throughout the university faculties and to set up a special research unit – the WRC.

Whilst there were many processes that contributed to the founding of the WRC, the relatively young researchers who started there with project funding, had to develop the patterns of work and the modes of cooperation from scratch. But, for creative young researchers this was a source of inspiration rather than a factor of demotivation. And, given the strong winds from research policy and the support from Social partners, several flagship projects were launched already in the early years. Some of them were intensively working with the Social Partners – in particular the action research projects on quality of working life in municipal organisations or on the modernisation of work processes in textile and clothing industries. In the long run these projects provided the basis for a research tradition that has been continued later on. This was my message.

How was it received – reflections on the event in Tampere

I arrived early, so the first thing that I saw was a poster exhibition – consisting on three major posters. In the first one there was a brief description on the founding of the WRC with several photos of the early years. In the second one was my text nicely lay-outed. In the third one was a specific history of the action research projects with photos from different project generations.

When the event started, there was s short welcoming address on behalf of the University of Tampere, then some music played by a band consisting of young professors and researchers. Then, the interim manager Sirpa Syvänen (already involved in the earliest action research projects) gave a speech on the development of WRC. The very way that she relied – explicitly – on my text and drew upon the analysis when continuing to the newer phases – that gave me a good feeling. The researchers of WRC were telling their own history, how they made the WRC sustainable via their own work. And this was mirrored by a young researcher who reflected, how WRC could develop in the future.

Then, the event moved to a phase of two successive slots of parallel workshops, During the first slot I attended the workshop on dialogical innovation projects – referring to the flagship project “DINNO”. Here I was pleased to see that these projects are built on wider networks – involving other research institutes alongside WRC and involving regional universities of applied science (when the training of healthcare professionals is concerned). In the second slot I attended a workshop that discussed myths and facts on modern employment relations. Here the speakers were professors and researchers from the Faculty of Social Sciences – with affiliation with the WRC. They were referring to projects using national and Nordic statistics. Here I was pleased to see that the boundaries between the WRC and the faculty departments were easy to cross and that practical cooperation was everyday life practice.

At the end of the event the recently appointed new director of the WRC – a newcomer from a neighbouring university – was presented and she gave the concluding speech with a commitment to continue the good work in such a collaborative spirit as had been demonstrated in the event.

I guess this is enough of my memories and of this very special event. I was happy to see that I had been able to contribute something special for the preparation of the event. And I was even happier that the WRC could proudly celebrate itself as a thirty-year old research unit that had been built and carried on by project-based researchers relying on their own competences and on collaborative spirit. We agreed to stay in contact and I am looking forward to next encounters.

More blogs to come …

 

Back to Stockholm – Back to the cruise conference(s)

June 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Both last year and this year I had the privilege to participate in the International Vocational Education and Training (VET) conferences organised by Stockholm University in the beginning of May. These conferences have become already a tradition – the 2017 conference was already the sixth and this year it was already the seventh. The practical arrangements are also very special – the conference starts at noon in a the conference rooms of a cruise terminal. After the first sessions the whole conference boards on a ship and continues it work in the conference rooms of the ship. While we are working, the ship makes the trip through the Stockholm archipelago and finally stops at the port of Mariehamn (Maarianhamina) – on the Swedish-speaking island Åland (Ahvenenmaa) between Sweden and the Finnish mainland. In the morning the ship starts the journey back to Stockholm and the conference continues until the ship is getting near the port of Stockholm.

When looking back at the two cruise conferences in which I have participated, there was a clear difference to me regarding my personal life situation and in my work. In 2017 I had had a treatment of severe illness behind me and I was in the process of recovery. Also, we had just completed the EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016) and finished the last reporting duties arising from the final review meeting (January 2017). So, when I prepared my contributions for the conference, I was still to a great degree working in a ‘reporting mode’ – describing the activities of the project and explaining the specific choices of the construction pilot and the accompanying research team of our institute ITB. And – although I have a background in the Nordic and European VET research cooperation – I was a ‘newcomer’ in this setting. So, I had to familiarise myself with this conference pattern in order to  learn as best I could from the other contributions.

Now, thinking the conference of this year, my situation was completely different. During the year that had passed by, I had been monitoring the follow-up initiatives of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot (efforts to extend the scope of working with digital tools in organisational and individual learning contexts). Moreover, I had had the chance to revisit the theoretical and methodological roots of our approach that we had followed in the project. So, I had a chance to discuss the challenges of our innovation research in a transition phase – from the original project to the successor activities. And I had the chance to discuss, how our approach had built upon its predecessors but also, what new elements our context brought into discussion.

I will not try to give an overview, what all themes were covered in these conferences – that would go beyond the limits of blog articles. Instead, I am better off referring to the website of the conference organisers:

https://stockholminternationalvet.com/

This website provides information on the previous conferences as well as on the recent one. And – moreover – it provides links to the book publications based on the conference material. The book based on the 2017 conference was just published for the next conference. And the book based on the 2018 conference material will be produced even quicker – that is what we all hope. (In the meantime I will also publish updates on my ‘project’ spaces on the ResearchGate portal.)

What I want to emphasis in this context is the very specific atmosphere of these cruise conferences – they bring the participants from the Nordic circles, from the European circles and from the wider international circles closer to each other. Moreover, this conference has more intellectual flexibility to take on board interim reflections – not only finalised results and completed theoretical discourses. From that perspective it has gained an acknowledged position as a valuable ‘interim conference’ vis-à-vis the annual ECER conferences and the VET research program of the VETNET network.

However, having said that, I have to mention that for this reason the VETNET community had agreed on new conference schedules. Parallel to this Stockholm conference, we experienced the emergence of another similar ‘interim conference’ with similar features of bringing different circles of international and European VET researchers together. With this ‘other’ I refer to the “Crossing Boundaries in VET” conferences that were started in Bremen in 2015 and continued in Rostock in 2017. With these conferences the organisers had thought that the timing – one week before the annual ECER conference – would be helpful for the international participants. But this was no necessarily the case. Therefore, a mutual agreement was reached that the Stockholm conference will be organised from now on every two years and that in between the “Crossing Boundaries in VET” conference will be organised elsewhere in Europe.

So, after wrapping up my experiences with the Stockholm conference, I had to start working with the proposals for the next “Crossing Boundaries …” conference that will take place in May 2019. As the organisers of that conference want to deliver the proceedings already at the conference (and have managed to do this both times), the call for proposals was closed already at the end of May. So, to quote an old phrase: “After the conference is – before a conference”. Also in this respect, May 2018 was a busy month. But there were also other activities.

More blogs to come …

 

Academic Archers: abstract for the 2019 conference

May 18th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Archers Logo Wheat Colour Long.jpgFor years, Jenny Hughes and I have been promising ourselves to submit a paper for the Academic Archers Conference. And this year we have finally got our act together. You can read the short abstract below. But first, for non UK readers what is the Archers? According to Wikipedia:

The Archers is the world’s longest-running radio soap opera. The British production, which has aired over 18,600 episodes, is broadcast on Radio 4, the BBC‘s main spoken-word channel. Originally billed as an everyday story of country folk, it is now described as a contemporary drama in a rural setting.

Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4’s most listened-to non-news programme. With over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures.

The Academic Archers is an experimental form of academic community with The Archers as a lens through which wider issues can be explored. The web site (which includes videos from the 2018 conference) explains: “As a community we share our knowledge of the programme, our research interests, and a lot of laughs, creating the academic field if you will, of Ambridgeology. In all that we do, are values are to be ‘curious, generous and joyful’.”

And so on to our abstract:

Education and careers in the Archers viewed through the lens of gender and class

The paper will explore attitudes to education and educational participation and achievement in The Archers through the lens of gender and class.

There has never been a teacher in the cast of the Archers. The nearest is Jim, but as a retired Classics professor, he is something of a parody. Does the Archers have a problem with education?

Attitudes to education and to the choice of future career are largely determined by class. There’s the split between the cathedral school and the state school. Shula and Elizabeth’s kids attend the Cathedral school, the Brookfield children the other. Ruari is so precious he is a boarder – too good for the Cathedral school?

Higher education remains a relative rarity in Ambridge. Phoebe, Alice and Pip are the exceptions, although the Fairbrother’s rugby playing background suggests they too may have attended university. Apprenticeships are for the less academically able, such as Johnny.

Parental background largely accounts for choice of career. Few offspring have flown the nest to a completely new occupation. Indeed, it is notable that Ambridge still lacks a single person working in Information Technology.

And what of children with SLD? The only child with Down’s Syndrome was ‘removed’ from Ambridge to the big city to better meet her educational needs despite educational policy promoting integration in local, mainstream schools?

The question is to what extent The Archers reflects changing attitudes to education in rural areas of the UK and continuing divisions through class and gender?

About the authors

Both Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell are lifelong Archers listeners. They work for Pontydysgu, an educational research organisation based in Pontypridd. Their research includes the training of teachers, the use of technology in the classroom and careers education.

They have had “Enough” of it – They say #NeverAgain

March 26th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I came to Tampa, Florida, for my Easter break. Due to that fact I have felt closer to the news on the current youth movement in the United States with the motto #NeverAgain. As we know, this movement was started as the survivors’ reaction after the shootings in Parkland, Florida. The angry survivors, mostly seniors at high school, took the initiative to launch a new movement for strict gun laws and against the corrupt gun lobby (and politicians following its guidance). So, last week I saw a lot of media reports on the ‘March for Our Lives’ led by these young survivors from Parkland – now supported by hundreds of thousands participating in the demonstrations and celebrities supporting them.

But this post is not about the numbers or the celebrities, it is about these young activists who have achieved a lot and who are ready to fight for their cause – whoever they have to fight against. Below I try to grasp some key moments of this movement and add some reports (partly delivered by German media who tries to interpret what is going on).

Emma Gonzales “We call BS”

One of the early events of the movement was the gun control rally on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, days after the gunman entered her school in nearby Parkland and killed 17 people.

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/17/us/florida-student-emma-gonzalez-speech/index.html

Here some quotes of the impressive speech of EmmaGonzalez:

“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting.”

“If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.”

“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS.Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.”

The movement takes off – and the “March for Our Lives” takes place everywhere in the US

What happened then – of that I have been better informed by the German media. They have given a reports on the interim events and on the growing pressure on politicians. Whilst the first reactions from the White House and from the leading politicians tended to belittle the problems and the activists, the reports on mass engagement to participate in the March for Our Lives (24th of March) got the politicians alerted. This was reflected in the hasty process to tighten the gun laws in Florida just on the advent of the forthcoming March for Our Lives. See on this the report of the news department of the German TV channel ARD (with video and audio reports included):

http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/parkland-waffendebatte-101.html

And then came the great day of the mass demonstrations. The report of the German TV channel ZDF informs of the preparations and on the atmosphere on the evening before the marches:

https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/heute-plus/videos/heuteplus-schueler-demonstrieren-gegen-waffen-100.html

The speech that silenced the masses

Again it was Emma Gonzales who delivered the speech that got the most attention. Few but significant words in the beginning, long silence in between and then the concluding statements that delivered a strong messge.

https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/heute-sendungen/videos/emma-gonzalez-schweigen-volle-laenge-100.html

I think this is enough of the events and of the movement that has reached great dimensions. The leaders of the movement are young but not naive. They have stood up against the gun lobby and mighty politicians – and shown that they cannot be intimidated. Instead, the politicians have got the challenge to stand up with them or to enjoy their last term of office. To me these young activists merit to be called as ‘profiles in courage’. To be sure, they know what they are fighting for – and they know that the future will be theirs.

More blogs to come …

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part Three: Mapping the approaches and contributions of parallel ITB projects

March 16th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two latest blogs I have been started a series of  posts with which I want to take further steps with the ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. In the first post I gave a nutshell description, how our institute (Institut Technik & Bildung, ITB) positions itself in the current TACCLE project as the partner responsible for the field of vocational education and training (VET). With the next post I summarised the legacy of the predecessor project Learning Layers (LL), and how we have been able to continue the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – the main result from the LL Construction pilot – in its successor activities. With this post I will give a brief overview on the neighbouring ITB projects that focus on introducing digital media and web tools in the field of VET and on training of teachers and trainers.

Mapping the neighbouring projects – what for?

We started our discussions on the approach that ITB should take in the TACCLE4-CPD project with the question, how we could at best support for continuing professional development (CPD) activities in the field of VET. Our earlier activities in the LL project had brought us quite far in a strong multiplier-organisation in the construction sector (the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup). Also, in the follow-up activities we had been able to witness, how practitioners in VET are ready to use the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in different contexts. Yet, we were short of an overview, what else is going on in projects that promote the use of digital media and web tools to support vocational learning and/or (informal) learning in organisational contexts. In order to fill this gap I interviewed several of my ITB colleagues and prepared a similar moodle-based overview as I had done on the training activities in the LL project and on the shaping and further use of the Learning Toolbox. The newest overview has the title “Digital Media, Web Tools & Training of Trainers – Overview of current projects alongside TACCLE4-CPD” and can be accessed via the following link (using the guest login):

http://moodle.itb.uni-bremen.de/course/view.php?id=14

Below I will give brief characterisations on the projects that I have explored and on their neighbourhood relations with the ongoing TACCLE4-CPD project.

Research-intensive projects with focus on the pedagogy of VET and workplace learning

The exemplary projects for this theme are in particular the following ones:

  • The DieDa project studies empirically, how patterns of self-organised learning are developing in continuing vocational training for ecological construction work (and in parallel cases of CVT provisions in other sectors).
  • The INTAGT project studies vocational learning and issues on health & safety in companies that introduce ‘Industry 4.0’ and draws conclusions for the development of VET provisions.

With these projects I experienced the closest neighbourhood relation to TACCLE4-CPD and also the greatest interest to work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for training the trainers.

Support for digital strategies and creative learning designs in vocational schools

The exemplary projects for this theme are in particular the following ones:

  • The STRIDE project supports the development of digital strategies in partner schools in Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Poland. The partners from Germany (ITB) and Spain serve as expert partners that coordinate the studies and the training workshops.
  • The RISE project promotes Design thinking and creative learning arrangements in vocational schools. The three partner schools and three expert organisations from Germany (ITB, Wilhelm Wagenfeld Schule), Spain and Slovenia develop concepts of ‘social enterprises’ and ‘innovation hubs’ to promote such concepts and validate the ideas in several workshops.

With these projects the working concepts are somewhat different but there are common interests – also concerning the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

Support for learning and knowledge processes in specific occupational contexts

The exemplary projects for this theme are the following ones:

  • The NABUS project for supporting training in ecological construction and renovation work.
  • The MeMoApp project for supporting the use of mobile apps and digital tools in the logistic and transport occupations.
  • The LiKa 4.0 project for promoting innovation transfer from the previous Kompetenzwerkstatt projects to craft trades.
  • The LaSiDig project for promoting health and safety awareness in the logistic and transport occupations.

Here the projects were rather heterogeneous and some of them were at the beginning stage, whilst others had very dedicated software solutions. Therefore, further talks were needed to clarify the cooperation prospects.

I guess this is already enough for a first look at the neighbourhood. I will get back to most of the projects in April to specify, how we can develop further cooperation.

More blogs to come …

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part Two: Revisiting the legacy of the Learning Layers project

February 26th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of blog posts with which I want to take further steps with the ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. Already in December I had posted of our kick-off meeting and shared some links to videos that presented the work of earlier TACCLE projects (that equipped teachers with capability to use digital tools and to create online content for their teaching). Now, the current TACCLE project – the fourth one – is focusing on continuing professional development (CPD). The partners from different countries focus also on different educational sectors (general education, adult education, vocational education and training (VET)). Moreover, the partners bring into the project different background experiences in introducing digital tools and web resources as well as enabling the practitioners to reach e-maturity in their own context.

In my previous post I gave a nutshell description, how our institute (Institut Technik & Bildung, ITB) positions itself in the project as the partner responsible for the field of VET. With this post I try to give an idea, how we worked in the predecessor project Learning Layers (LL), and how we have been able to build on the legacy of the project and its successor activities. In particular I will highlight the training activities and the piloting with the digital toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

The role of training campaigns in promoting e-maturity – the case of Bau-ABC

Initially the Learning Layers (LL) project was launched primarily as an ambitious co-design project – with a Europe-wide consortium and with multiple development agendas to be implemented in the pilot sectors Construction and Healthcare. The key impulses were given in the first Design Conference in Helsinki, in which also the idea of digitisation of training and learning materials of Bau-ABC was taken on board. However, in practice the co-design process turned out to be more complicated than expected (see below).

In the light of the above it was of vital importance for the Construction pilot that we started the Multimedia training activities in Bau-ABC at a relatively early phase – with a smaller number of pioneering trainers who volunteered to participate in training workshops that took place on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In the first phase of these training sessions the participating trainers got an overview on the most important digital tools and enhanced their skills in producing and editing videos. For a short interim period they continued to engage themselves with digital media in Friday afternoon sessions. Then, at a crucial phase in the project work the trainers initiated a training scheme for the whole organisation – based on the idea of “Theme Rooms” to be visited in a series of workshops. This idea was put into practice at the end of the year 2015 as a joint effort of ITB researchers and the pioneering trainers. In the final phase of the project we knew that these training campaigns were of vital importance for the co-design process and for the pilot activities. Therefore, I produced already in 2016 a digital overview on the evolution of the training activities – using a moodle ‘course’ as the means of presenting the different phases and respective actions. Below I share the link to this moodle overview:

The “Theme Room” training in Bau-ABC Rostrup – from the origins to the implementation in 2015

(Please use the guest login to access the overview.)

Learning Toolbox – from digitisation of training materials to a flexible toolset with many applications

As has been mentioned above, the co-design process in the Construction pilot (and in particular in the Bau-ABC) started with the idea to digitise the training and learning materials – hitherto collected into the “White Folder”. However, after a rather short explorative phase, the process took a new course – to develop a digital toolset (that can be used with mobile devices) – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Here, it is worthwhile to not that the explorative phase helped to put an emphasis on supporting workplace-based learning of the users. This process was carried out – parallel to the training campaigns – and completed with a viable product that the Bau-ABC trainers could use.  Primarily they presented working & learning tasks, share relevant knowledge resources and managed training-related communication. Parallel to this, the first applications were developed, in which LTB was used to support the coordination and management of construction work and related communication on a construction site.

Based on this founding phase, Bau-ABC has continued with its internal follow-up activities, whilst new challenges have come to picture in projects that extend the use of LTB to construction work in decentralised work organisations (and decentralised training and learning within continuing vocational training).

Moreover, a very different context for using LTB has been discovered in the conferences of former LL partners. In the Helsinki conference of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) in 2017 the LTB was used to reshape the poster area and to shift the emphasis from paper posters to ePosters that were shaped with the LTB. In some other conferences in 2017 a different approach is introduced with a limited number of hybrid posters or hybrid presentations that are linked to LTB-stacks. In this way the use of LTB is spreading to other contexts.

For our present discussions in the TACCLE4-CPD project I have prepared a similar moodle-based overview on these developments. Below I share the link to this latter moodle overview:

Learning Toolbox (LTB) pilot and follow-up (2014 – …)

(Here again, please use the guest login to access the overview.)

I guess this is enough of the legacy we bring to the TACCLE4-CPD project from the predecessor project Learning Layers. In particular the latter overview shows that the Learning Toolbox (LTB) is not only viable but also transferable – in the original contexts and in new ones. Therefore, I have to keep my eyes open to see, what all we can learn from the transfer activities.

More blogs to come …

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 …

 

 

Remebering Curtis Finch – the American scholar in the VETNET network

January 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Couple of days ago we received the sad news from Blacksburg, Virgina: Curtis Finch, the American scholar with whom we have worked in the European VETNET network, had passed away. To those, who new Curtis more closely, this was not a surprise. He had been suffering from a severe illness for quite a long time. Yet, when the final message came, then we felt the loss – Curtis was a unique personality and we will miss him.

When looking back, I remember that I first time met Curtis at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the year 1996 in Sevilla, Spain. That was the pioneering conference in which the scattered European researchers in the field of vocational education and training (VET) came together to set up a common research network under the umbrella of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Curtis, a prominent American professor from the Virginia Tech and State University, was also there with us. He had already created his European networks and was happy to come to Sevilla to contribute to a symposium on School-to-work transition in different countries. And Curtis was also there, when Martin Mulder invited an open meeting in which the researchers agreed to set up the VETNET network (as the Network 2 of the EERA).

Later on I heard that Curtis had shared his experiences on the regulations and working patterns of the special interest groups (SIGs) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) with his European colleagues. In this way he had already positioned himself as an active supporter of the newly created network. Consequently, he was invited to work in the first VETNET Board, which he gladly accepted. Parallel to this, Curtis was actively involved also in the global organisation International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA). So, it is no coincidence that the papers of the above mentioned ECER symposium were published as a special issue of the IVETA journal. This happened long before the VETNET network could reach the point of publishing its own proceedings or launching its own journal.

During the 1990s Curtis was actively there in our conferences and fulfilled his duties in a quiet and effective way. At that time I worked at Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) with an emphasis on supporting European cooperation projects and ‘networking the networks’. Therefore, I could not always follow that closely what Curtis was up to. But whenever I met him, it was a positive encounter – whether on our European grounds or far away in Hong Kong (the IVETA world congress 2000).

The latest European cooperation initiative in which I remember that Curtis played a central role was a comparative study on the upgrading of Polytechnics into Universities of Applied sciences. Curtis, who himself had a vocational and professional background, was interested to find out, whether these aspects are going hand in hand or getting separated. In this initiative in which he worked in 1999 – 2000 he was comparing the developments in the United States, in Scotland, in the Netherlands and in Finland. (Unfortunately the years 2001 and 2002 were gap years in my participation in ECER, so I am not aware, how the initiative worked further.)

After those years Curtis had gone to retirement and was no longer participating in ECER. But, as I see it now, he was a role model for the non-European scholars who were interested in knowledge sharing on research and development in the field of VET. And his example has been followed by many colleagues from different global regions. Today we see that this has borne fruit in the VETNET network and in the International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET). Although Curtis couldn’t witness these latest developments with us, I am sure that he would have enjoyed the progress we have made.

Farewell Curtis, your memory lives with us!

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 …

 

 

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