Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Breaking the long silence

February 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Firstly, my heavily belated Happy New Year greetings to all!

Then, I have to apologise for the quiet period. I really didn’t mean to have such a long winter break after the holiday period. It just happened that after some urgent reporting at the end of January I experienced a complete computer crash.

And it was really scary. The first sign of relief was that all data was stored on an external hard disk. And I got a replacement computer for the time that mine was being repaired. But it took some time to find out what all needs to be repaired and to get the spare parts. Now, as of today afternoon, I am checking if everything works as usual. And as I see it, some things need to be reloaded. But this is a step-by-step process (and a story of its own).

At least I am back on the road to normality.

More blogs to come …

And the award goes to … Kubify – LTB for ePosters (@LTBePosters)

November 29th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Some time ago we were pleased to announce the our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had received the European VET Research Excellence 2018 Award in the context of the European Vocational Skills Week 2018 in Vienna. Now we have another reason to celebrate. Our former partners from the LL project who have continued the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) with their start-up companies have been successful. The start-up company Kubify that develops LTB for ePosters has won the Tech Watch Award 2018 at the international event of conference organisers.

For us, the LL partners, who have been intensively involved in the co-design, co-development and introduction of LTB in the North-German construction sector, this is great news. Also, we are happy that we have piloted successfully with the ePosters at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) and in its VETNET section in Bolzano last September. However. looking at the photos from the #IBTMWorld event organisers’ event – see below –  we can observe that our LTB-developers have taken many steps forward. This award is richly deserved!

From the introduction for new users to the creation of users’ own ePosters

Introduction to ePostersePosters for different conferences

Working with ePosters: From the Mini-Poster Wall to user engagement at the ePoster Arena

Mini-Poster WallePoster Arena

The Award Winners and The Award

Kubify Team receiving the AwardThe IBTMworld Award

Congratulations to the award winners and keep on doing the good work! We are very interested in continuing the good cooperation with you – with the LTB and with the ePosters.

More blogs to come …

 

The TACCLE4-CPD project is making further progress – Part Two: Linking my contributions to the common approach

November 27th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to blog on the third transnational project meeting of our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD that took place in Pontypridd, Wales. This project is working with frameworks, pedagogic concepts and arrangements for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in promoting their digital competences. It builds upon the achievements of three previous TACCLE projects that worked directly with teachers and provided support for promoting their digital competences. The fourth project has the task to support training providers and managers in shaping adequate arrangements for CPD in different educational sectors and enhancing appropriate digital competences.

In my previous post I gave a picture, how we revisited the key idea of this project and in what respect we have to face different challenges than the earlier TACCLE projects. The main difference is that we have to support policy-developers, educational managers and training providers – not immediately acting teachers and trainers. This has consequences for the policy analyses and frameworks to be developed in the project – as well as for our approach to collecting Open Educational Resources (OER). In general, we reached a common conclusion on giving a central role for our work with a Mindmap as an integrative tool. However, as I see it, this provided further challenges, how to link my contributions to this approach.

Linking the sector of vocational education and training (VET) to the work of TACCLE projects

In this context it is worthwhile to remind that the TACCLE projects have so far focused on general education (and general adult education). Thus, the emphasis has been on school-based education and classroom teaching. In this respect the field of vocational education and training (VET) with different institutional settings and with different interfaces between education and working life has not been present. As a contrast, our institute (ITB) had recently worked in a major EU-funded project Learning Layers in which we worked together with construction sector and with a training provider for work process -oriented learning. As a contribution to this project we had organised two campaigns for training of trainers to enhance their digital competences. In the proposal for the TACCLE4-CPD project this background had been highlighted as a major asset of our institute ITB in the current project.

However, when the TACCLE4-CPD project started working, it became clear to me that I have to provide insights into the legacy of the Learning Layers project and what needs to be considered when discussing CPD policies and measures in the field of VET. Also, I noticed that there is a need to provide insights into the institutional complexity of the German VET system – in order to grasp the role of different policy levels and R&D programmes. In this respect I felt that we from ITB had to work ourselves in into the TACCLE4-CPD projects and that we had to open new perspectives for the project work. Below I illustrate this process with three key themes.

Critical analyses of policies for promoting digital competences in the field of VET

Already in an earlier blog I had addressed the institutional complexity of the German VET system – with reference to the federal governance model and the dual system of VET (based on workplace-based training supported by school-based education). Taking into account the diversified power structures on education and training it is possible to understand the relevance of R&D projects and of specific sectoral partnerships. Therefore, I had produced for our November meeting a report that firstly gave a brief overview on the governance structures in education and training in Germany. Then I presented an overview of selected R&D projects that have a relevance for promoting digital competences and in shaping patterns of CPD. Thirdly, I included some interviews from actors in the field to highlight, what kind of impact different policies and initiatives have at the local level.

When I presented this contribution, I realised that it was written in the old way as a national report. In the light of our discussion on the critical analysis of policies I needed to transform the perspective to a general approach to the field of VET. Then I needed to outline different systemic models and levels of policies – after which the German governance structures could be given as examples. In a similar way the level of R&D programmes should be outlined with some main themes – under which the selected cases should be given as illustrative examples. Finally, the engagement of actors in the field should be discussed in the light of lead initiatives and by presenting modes of participation. In this way the report would provide (to some extent) an introduction to the VET section in the MindMap and should also address, how the MindMap can be used.

Exploring the project histories of TACCLE projects and of Learning Layers

As a second contribution I had prepared a discussion paper that compared the project histories of the three earlier TACCLE projects and that of the Learning Layers (LL) project (with focus on the Construction pilot). In both project histories I noticed similar phases of search, reorientation and enrichment and encountering new challenges. From the perspective of LL project experience I emphasised the central role of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as an integrative toolset for supporting vocational and workplace-based learning. From this perspective there is a slight tension vis-à-vis the former TACCLE projects that focused on general school education and emphasised the role of teachers’ handbooks.

When discussing this contribution I realised that I had not been able to reach the perspective of TACCLE4-CPD. Here, in addition to the work with the MindMap, it is worthwhile to take a look at the DigCompEdu framework as a bridging approach. Based on this framework it is possible to see the legacy of the LL project (including the co-design process, the training campaigns and the introduction of the LTB) as a systematic effort to link occupational competences, pedagogic competences and learners’ competences to each other. Here, the LTB served as a toolset that was shaped to support such integrative processes. From this perspective I needed to rework the paper to emphasise this approach and to avoid an impression that I would only be pushing the tool as such.

Reflections on different training models for promoting digital competences

A further important theme that we discussed was comparison of different training models. We noticed a general trend towards divisive grouping of training models as abstract lists. In our discussion we found it more appropriate to reinterpret such ‘models’ as ‘characteristics’ and to look, how different characteristics can be combined in holistic training concepts. From this perspective the “Theme Room” training that was used in the LL project would serve as an interesting case. In particular the prospect of further development of this concept – including the use of LTB during the training and after it – is an interesting challenge.

I guess this is enough of these points. To some extent this brief report may appear as insider-discussion – given that the MindMap is not yet there as an illustration. However, to me it was important to write down my interim conclusions for further work in the project.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

The TACCLE4-CPD project is making further progress – Part One: Giving new emphasis on the development of CPD

November 26th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD had its third transnational project meeting in Pontypridd, Wales. I have reported on this project in my earlier blogs (December 2017 and June 2018). We are developing frameworks and support for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in promoting their digital competences. As I have told earlier, this project is based on the work of three earlier TACCLE projects that provided direct support for teachers in integrating digital competences to their teaching. This project has the task to develop frameworks, concepts and support resources for CPD measures in different educational sectors (general education, adult education and vocational education and training (VET)). And as I have mentioned elsewhere, the success of all TACCLE projects has been based on the founding work and intellectual leadership of Jenny Hughes. In this respect our meeting was located to Pontypridd to meet Jenny at her home grounds and to make contacts with her local counterparts. Sadly, we lost Jenny shortly before the meeting. In the new situation we had to make a new situation assessment plan our work without counting on Jenny’s active support. Below I try to summarise some key points in our general discussion on the main Intellectual Outputs of the project. In my next blog I will discuss my contributions to the project and how they are related to this discussion.

What does ‘developing CPD’ mean for the project?

To be sure, we had discussed already in the first meetings the aims of our project and the background from where the project idea arises. Yet, at this meeting we had a special need to revisit these discussions. And here we were partly guided by Jenny’s legacy. In an earlier video interview she had told of the time lag between the proposal for the TACCLE1 project (for supporting the development of e-learning content for classroom teaching) and the actual start of the project. During that period the introduction of Web 2.o tools had taken off massively and the project had to catch up with this development. According to jenny, this was managed and the project integrated introduction to Web 2.0 tools into its original idea.

In our project meeting we found ourselves facing a similar challenge. Initially the TACCLE4-CPD project had been planned to scale up the work of the TACCLE courses and related local and regional teacher training activities. Whilst some sections of the proposal were referring to policies, strategies and management choices, other parts were very close to planning specific training activities and support materials for classroom teachers. However, the key idea was to proceed one level up in making transparent the policy choices for shaping training programmes, providing organisational learning opportunities and for linking them to progression models. And as we now saw, it several international organisations were active in mapping this landscape, developing new frameworks and in promoting pilot activities. These newer developments provided us a challenge in keeping up with the discussion and linking our work to it. Below, the implications for two Intellectual Outputs are discussed in this respect.

Implications for our work with Policy Analyses, Route Maps, Frameworks etc.

Concerning policy analyses we were aware of the problem faced by many European projects when they had provided national reports presenting the education and training policies of their countries. Although the aim of these reports had been to inform each other and to faclitate mutual learning, they often highlighted systemic differences and strengthened cultural barriers. From this point of view it was important to get insights into new patterns of sharing policy concepts and adapting policies that had been trialled in other countries (as Graham Attwell reported on the work of Unesco with a group of East-African countries. Also, for our common understanding of ‘policy learning’ it was important to share information on the European DigCompEdu framework that promotes new kinds of developments across different systemic frameworks.

In the light of the above we could give a new emphasis on the work with an integratibe mindmap that Koen de Pryck had started. Instead of separating different countries, we were able to create an overview on policies for promoting digital competences at different levels:

  • international policies (impulses and support),
  • policies for different (general) educational sectors – primary, lower & upper secondary education, (higher education) and adult education (as educational policies promoting lifelong learning)
  • policies for VET (as an insitutional interface between education/training and working life) and to
  • specific policies for promoting competences of teachers and trainers (with emphasis on digital competences).

In this context the specific ‘Routemap’ and ‘EMM-framework’ concepts that we had discussed earlier, could be seen as part of a wider group picture and could be linked to other elements. Thus, we could see the seemingly separate tasks as mutually complementing elements within an integrative framework. Also, we could see that the Mindmap could guide different users to find their levels of activity, perceive the dependencies and chances as well as address questions and outline options.

Implications for our work with Open Educational Resources

In a similar way we revisited the question, how to create collections of Open Educational Resources for TACCLE4-CPD. In the earlier TACCLE projects it was clear that the OER collections should equip teachers with teaching materials and pedagogic advice for their work. To some extent this emphasis was present in the proposal. However, as a consequence of the newer developments at different policy levels – and due to newer approaches to ‘policy learning’ – there is a demand for OER collections that cover different levels and address strategic dependencies and/or opportunities for pioneering. From this perspective we concluded that the work with the Mindmap is also the core structure for shaping a collection of OER (with sufficient amount of commentary).

I think I have grasped above the crucial steps in revisiting the proposal and reworking our way further. Based on these new perspectives we could see, how many elements of our work were growing together. Also, this discussion helped us to see, how to link input and influences from earlier or parallel projects to our work. In that sense I could see more clearly the importance of the work with the Learning Layers project and its follow-up measures. I will discuss this in my next post.

More blogs to come …

And the Award goes to … Learning Layers!

November 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

The third European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) took place this week in Vienna (Wien). The event has been launched by the European Commission to draw attention to the importance of vocational education and training (VET) for education, economy and society. Our European VETNET network has also played a role in drawing attention to the contribution of VET research to the development of VET. However, due to several intervening factors I have not been able to attend to these events. Yet, this time I was somewhat more engaged in the preparation and followed more keenly the news from Vienna.

The competition for European VET Excellence Awards 2018

As usual, during the EVSW, there was also this year the competition for European VET Excellence Awards for different kinds of contributions to the development of VET. In the category “European VET Research Excellence” the jury had nominated two European research projects for the final competition:

  • The Learning Layers (LL) project that carried out a complex Europe-wide R&D project for studying the use of digital tools, web resources and mobile technologies to support learning in the context of work. The project engaged application partners in healthcare sector (UK) and construction sector (Germany) in co-design, pilot testing and actual use of new tools. In the competition the project was represented by the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley from Tallinn University.
  • The Modelling Vocational Excellence (MoVE) project is a transnational project that has studied World Skills competitions at the national, European and wider international contexts. The aim of the project is to draw conclusions from competition processes for the development of everyday life practice in the field of VET. This project was represented by the scientific coordinator Petri Nokelainen from Tampere University.

After the nomination the finalists were presented on a special website for public voting that took place during the last weeks before the event and during the first two days. On the evening before the closing ceremony the finalists in different catergories had the opportunity to give short pitches to make their case. Then, in the closing ceremony the nominees of each category were invited and the winner was declared. Concerning the award for VET Research Excellence I was pleased to see a video recording and to hear the words: “The award goes to … Learning Layers”. As fair competitors Petri and Tobias congratulated each other. And then Commissioner Marianne Thyssen handed the award to Tobias Ley.

Learning Layers Awarded 2018-11-09Learning Layers Awarded 2018Tobias with the award

Celebrating the award winner Learning Layers

Firstly, let us do justice to both finalists – the two international projects and the teams involved – and for the fair competition. This was a good way to present European and international VET research at such an event.

Then, coming to our Learning Layers project: Why are we so happy that we got the award fror European research in the field of VET (vocational education and training)? Here I am speaking in particular for the partners of the Construction pilot – research partners, technical partners and application partners from the construction sector. I would like to raise the following arguments for us as award winners:

  1. A substantial part of Learning Layers pilot activities were carried out in the context of apprentice training for construction sector in North Germany. In this context the project was developing a digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support work process-oriented learning. Now, in the initial pilot context – the training centre Bau-ABC – the Learning Toolbox will be introduced to the training of all occupations.
  2. The co-design and tools deployment processes were carried out as participative Research & Development dialogue. In this dialogue practitioners, technical partners were developing tools that promote a culture of self-organised learning in different craft trades.
  3. The project organised training of trainers in such a way that they could act as promoters of innovation and adjust the use of tools to match their pedagogic priorities (self-organised search of knowledge within a wide set of resources vs. gradual extension of resources that are available for learner). The ‘theme room’ approach is being used in the further promotion of the tools by other trainers.
  4. After the end of the Learning Layers project there have been several follow-up initiatives to spread the use of Learning Toolbox to support practice-based learning in Vocational and Higher Education (e.g. in Estonia and Spain). These pilots have involved also other sectors (e.g. education/training in healthcare and media occupations).
  5. A major spin-off arising from the Learning Layers is the use of Learning Toolbox as support for ePosters in conferences. This was started in the conferences for medical and dental education (AMEE, ADEE) and in the conference for technology-enhanced learning (ECTEL). Most recently the ePosters were piloted in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the network for research in vocational education and training (VETNET).

The points above make it clear that the Learning Layers project was not merely a theory-driven or a tool-driven project. Instead, the project took a high risk in launching open-ended co-design processes and was very much dependent on the cooperation with practitioners in the pilot sectors. Moreover, the tools that were developed in the project – notably the Learning Toolbox – reached the stage of viable products. But in order to bring them further as tools for regular use, additional efforts were needed by the tool developers, practitioners and supporting researchers. These efforts have pointed out to be successful and it was fortunate that reports on recent success were communicated in the event. Thus, the award was a recognition of all the work that contributed to our success. Now we can celebrate, next week we have to take further steps in our work.

More blogs to come …

Bringing Learning Toolbox to wider use in training for construction sector

November 5th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I returned from my long sick leave. And I had immediately the possibility to attend a working meeting at the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. With this training centre we had worked in the EU-funded Learning Layers project many years to develop digital tools to support work process -oriented learning. During the project we reached the stage that Learning Toolbox (LTB) was ready as a viable product to support training and learning processes. The pilot testing in the final phase of the project proved that trainers and apprentices can use the toolset in their training processes. Yet, there were several practical issues that slowed down a wider use of the LTB. Thus, the trainers that had been involved in the pilot testing kept on using the toolset but a wider use was delayed.

Now, in our meeting last week we were facing a new situation. In the meantime most of the hurdles had been overcome and there was full confidence among all parties involved that LTB can be introduced in the apprentice training of Bau-ABC for all trades, Now the pioneering trainers, the management/administration representatives and the LTB developers were discussing, how to support a full-scale implementation of the toolset. From this perspective there was a need to harmonise the use of LTB stacks across the trades and to ensure effective ICT support. Secondly, there was a need to create awareness of good practice in different trades and to share experiences across the trades. In this context the presence of us – researchers from the research institute ITB – was relevant, since we are working in TACCLE projects that support training of trainers and we can draw upon the work in Bau-ABC.

WS-participants 1WS-participants 2WS-participants 3

Insights into the uses of LTB to support training in different trades

Here it is not possible to give a complete overview of all the examples that were presented by Bau-ABC trainers representing different trades. Below, I have selected exemplary cases that show, how the use of LTB had been incorporated into the the work process -oriented learning projects of Bau-ABC apprentices:

  1. Pipeline-builders (Rohrleitungebauer) were using LTB to draft joint plans, how prepare the grounds for the pipelines. Instead of just doing the spadework individually, they made their plans as teams – they divided the tasks and allocated responsibilities for controlling.
  2. Road-builders (Strassenbauer) had prepared a comprehensive overview of the machines provided by the company W&N with nutshell versions of users’ guides (based on the original materials).
  3. Tilers (Fliesenleger) had prepared a comprehensive overview of technical tools that were used in their trade with links to the instructions provided by the manufacturers.
  4. Construction plant operators (Baugeräteführer) had prepared electronic forms as checklists for the inspection of the vehicles before starting to use them. Only after completion of the form and reporting that the vehicles were in order the operators got clearance to start working.
  5. Carpenters (Zimmerer) had been working in a joint project “WorkCamp GreenHouse” with other training centres in Germany. In the project they had developed several modules for ecological construction work (focusing on their trade and the use of materials). In this project they had used LTB as a common toolset and developed a common project plan structure to guide the creation of mother stacks and daughter stacks.
  6. In the area “Health and Safety” (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) trainers from different trade had worked together to shape a common stack structure that presents the overarching regulations and the local instructions in the training centre. Within this structure different trades had the possibility to present trade-specific content (e.g. concerning their trade-specific personal safety outfits).
  7. In all trades the apprentices (Auszubildende) were using the LTB to upload photos as progress reports on their work and learning in the projects. The trainers used specific background colours for the tiles that documented apprentices’ work.

LWM-stacks 1LWM-stacks 2LWM-stacks 3

The relevance of the recent progress for apprentice training and vocational learning

If the points that I have listed above are taken only as separate inputs with dedicated tools, it would not appear very “revolutionary”. But the essence of the recent progress is that the trainers are working with an integrative digital toolset – the LTB. They have already used LTB for giving instructions and worksheets for apprentices’ projects. Now, with these newer features the range of using LTB in working and learning contexts is expanding. And – as already mentioned – the trainers are themselves leading the innovation and sharing experience with each other. Moreover, for the apprentices the use of LTB is not just a matter of receiving instructions and reporting of the completion of their tasks. As we have seen it from the examples, the use of LTB requires from them a holistic view on their projects and a professional attitude to completion of the tasks. This has been the spirit of working with the LTB in Bau-ABC.

Now, at this stage we were happy to see that Bau-ABC is organising the wider use of the LTB independently of externally funded projects and within its own organisational frameworks – in collaboration with the LTB developers. And, moreover, Bau-ABC is looking for ways to spread the use of LTB across its professional networks. As we see it, the work of the Learning Layers project bears fruit! We – as accompanying researchers – are happy to observe this also in the future.

More blogs to come …

Remembering Jenny Hughes – Part Two: Reflections on the TACCLE projects

October 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

This post is a continuation of my previous post in which I gave a picture of my long-term cooperation with Jenny Hughes who sadly passed away last Sunday. When discussing different themes I mentioned that I would get back to the TACCLE projects in a separate post. This was not only due to the fact that the TACCLE projects have been the flagship projects in Jenny’s career and their continuation proves that they have been a success story. However important this may be alone, another argument is that I have authentic video material in which Jenny reflects the experience earlier TACCLE projects and outlines her plans for forthcoming projects. This discussion was recorded for another European project (Co-op PBL in VET) in 2012 but it was reused and republished couple of times in the context of the Learning Layers project. The introductory text below is based on my earlier blog of April this year. Let us give the floor for Jenny with this adapted text and the videos!

The continuing learning process through different TACCLE projects

The series of TACCLE projects started with the first TACCLE project (Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments) that worked in 2008 and 2009. It prepared an E-learning handbook to support the e-learning competences of  classroom teachers. In the Taccle2 project the work was differentiated to address different subject areas and alongside them the primary education teachers. In the Taccle3 the emphasis on teaching programming and coding for school children. The  project Taccle4 focuses on developing materials and media to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. The most recent project – Taccle5 – focuses primarily on the field of vocational education and training (VET). As the following two interviews were recorded already in 2012, so the it was not quite clear, in what order the successor projects would come up, but the vision was clear – this work merits to be continued.

And the story goes on …

As I have indicated above, the series of Taccle project was continued to a somewhat different direction than anticipated in the video interview above. The next theme (and target group) to be picked up after the subject teachers in Taccle2 pointed out to be teaching coding in primary schools (Taccle 3). This was a clear response to new educational priorities at European and national levels. The theme ‘continuing professional development of teachers’ (Taccle4) was an urgent need because the resources of Taccle partners were not sufficient to meet the demand for Taccle courses. And finally, the field of VET was taken up in the Taccle5 project.

As we sense it from the videos, Jenny had put her heart and soul into the work in these projects. She learned a lot, how to bring these new competences to teachers in such a way that they became owners of their own learning. She also learned. how to meet the demands of the time. In Taccle1 it was necessary to work with hard copy book to get the teachers on board. In Taccle2 it was necessary to move to an online platform in order to manage the multiple contexts. In Taccle3 it was necessary to bring the coding specialists into work with teachers. All this required learning and mutual adjustment.

As I have said it earlier, we have lost Jenny but we have learned a lot of her and we can work further in the same spirit.

More blogs to come …

 

Remembering Jenny Hughes – Part One: Personal memories on our cooperation

October 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Sunday we got from Graham Attwell the sad news: Jenny Hughes has passed away. As we know it, Graham is a long-time friend of Jenny over decades. In his blog Graham has already given us a picture what all Jenny has been up to during the years they have known each other (see Graham’s recent blog post). I have also known Jenny and Graham quite some time – our cooperation dates back to the year 1996 when I started monitoring EU-funded cooperation projects as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). Little did we anticipate, what all we would experience together in the years to come and what kind of initiatives we could bring forward. Below I try to cover some of the main themes with which we have worked together in the field of vocational education end training (VET). In this context I will try to give a picture, how Jenny has contributed to European networking and community-development through all these years.

Jenny training the trainers in Bau-ABC

Professionalisation of teachers, trainers and VET professionals altogether

The first time I met Jenny (and also Graham) in Bremen in January 1996 in the kick-off meeting of the European cooperation project “Europrof”. The project was initiated by Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen, but they chose to employ Graham as the coordinator. Jenny was representing the UK (Welsh) partner organisation. I was representing Cedefop – as an additional accompanying researcher. The aim of the project was to shape a new integrative framework for VET professionals – to overcome the divide between teachers (in school-based education) and trainers (in workplace-based training). The conceptual starting point inspired many European colleagues to join in at a later stage – as affiliated expert partners. However, the project had difficulties in working its way forward from a critical ‘state of the art analysis’ to a realistic change agenda that could be adjusted to different VET cultures. Yet, the work in the Europrof workshops prepared the grounds for a Europe-wide ‘invisible college’ and community-building process that was continued in other projects. In the beginning phase I remember that Jenny was critical about the ‘European English’ terminology that we (non-native English speakers) were using. It took some time for us to understand that we were not disagreeing on the underlying ideas but instead we were not aware of the connotative meanings in British English – that made our message weaker or diluted it altogether. Once we understood this, we were happy to work with Jenny on our side.

The Europrof project had tried to outline an integrative change agenda for promoting education and training for new VET professionals (covering the school-based and workplace-based VET). The successor projects tried to develop a differentiated approach – addressing teachers and trainers in VET as different target groups. The TTplus project (2006 – 2008) was initiated by Graham (now representing Pontydysgu and bringing Jenny with him). I joined this project as a freshman in ITB, based in Bremen. In this project we looked at the instances of change and interests that we could trace in different countries – in order to draw common conclusions. In this project Jenny provided insights into the training practices in Welsh organisations and outlined a framework for continuing professional development (for countries that did not have strong established frameworks at place).

A third phase of such European cooperation took shape in the European Consultation seminars 2007 -2008. The European Commission had decided to launch a consultation process based on six ‘regional’ workshops involving EU Member States and EFTA cooperation partners. The workshops had the task to bring different stakeholders to joint discussion on the role of European policies in promoting the professionalisation of teachers and trainers in VET. The project was led by ITB and supported by Pontydysgu. In the light of the difficulties that we had experienced in previous projects it was of vital importance that Jenny was able to shape a set of interactive workshops that kept the participants busy in common discussion instead of getting stuck with institutional and systemic differences.

Here some of the key points of this workshop concept:

  1. Mapping of concerns of teachers and trainers: What are the issues – what are common to both, what are different? The issue cards were written and set on the wall – illustrating the sense of commonality or relative distance between teachers and trainers.
  2. Witness sessions: Participants reported of recent reforms in their countries and of current European projects that they perceived as innovative.
  3. Problem and Solution cards: Participants wrote on one side of the card a pressing problem and on the other side a possible solution. These were then discussed in groups.
  4. Mapping policies: On a matrix the participant groups were asked to indicate, what European policies do more and what less and what national policies should do more and what less.
  5. Taking a message home: Participants were asked to formulate their own conclusions as messages to take home.
  6. Self-evaluation of the workshop: Participants indicated on flipchart, what had worked well and what was less well in the workshop process – and the process could be improved.

During the workshops the participants worked mostly in mixed groups and language support was provided on demand. Also, at different phases of the process that participants changed groups. In this way the workshop stimulated cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge sharing on key issues and emerging initiatives. The participants emphasised the value of such process and hoped that it would be continued. Unfortunately the Commission services were expecting the process to deliver a Common European framework that would make such exchanges gradually redundant.

From ‘distance learning’ and ‘e-learning’ to the TACCLE projects

Another key theme for Jenny has been the promotion of teachers’ and trainers’ competences in e-learning – remote learning, open distance learning, multimedia learning, e-learning, technology-enhanced learning – whatever it has been called at different times. The major flagship projects in this context have been the TACCLE projects (I will get back to this in my next blog) and the related TACCLE courses. In these projects and in the supporting courses Jenny had the chance to shape handbooks, web-based support materials and workshops that brought the e-learning competences ‘home’ to the work of different teachers and trainers. As a personal memory I can refer to the Multimedia Training workshops that Pontydysgu and ITB organised together for the full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in Germany. The lively approach that Jenny radiated throughout the training made the construction sector trainers do their best to get something useful for them in their own work. At a later phase of the Learning Layers project these pioneering trainers served us the champions in introducing the digital toolset Learning Toolbox to their training. And later on they have served as peer tutors in their own organisation and multipliers in a wider context.

Networks, communities and real life wisdom

One important aspect in Jenny’s career has been her role in European networks and community-building processes. She may not have pushed herself into the representative positions but yet her contribution has been vital. I still remember the start of the European “Forum” network that was launched in 1995 as a ‘learning community’ for European researcher. This network tried to avoid premature institutionalisation. Instead, it developed a culture of regular thematic workshops – and included specific workshops for emerging researchers. Gradually, it became necessary to apply for funding and to develop a formalised structure for thematic knowledge development – and in this way the project-specific goals for producing publications in each work package took over the process dynamic. During this development Jenny was trying to maintain the culture of ‘learning community’ and resist the atomisation of the network.

Throughout her career Jenny has been remembered as an advocate of ‘real life wisdom’. She took seriously the challenges of academic knowledge development but at the same time she always work together with practitioners and supported their development. We have lost Jenny but her legacy inspires us from now on.

More blogs to come …

 

Quiet on the blog – Pekka on sick leave

September 25th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally after the annual ECER conference I am eager to step into the ongoing project work – catching up with reports to be finalised and moving on with fieldwork. This time I have had to pull the brakes. Shortly after publishing the blogs on #ECER2018 I was sent to an eye operation as an emergency case. Now, one week after the operation I have a good feeling about the recovery – but it takes quite some time. Therefore, no intensive reading or writing or anything else that may disturb the healing. I am on sick leave until the 15th of October and perhaps it needs to be extended. So, I am better off taking it easy and taking rest from blogging as well.

Funnily enough this blog post seems to be the 300th after I got myself into regular blogging at the beginning of the EU-funded Learning Layers project in November 2012. It seems ironical that I have to celebrate reaching this milestone by announcing a quiet period. But this is life – and blogging has to be adjusted to facts of life.

Mind you, I have very little to complain when I compare my sick leave and my sick note to the well-known case of the Irish Paddy on a construction site, reported by the Dubliners:

So, I am taking my time out and will be back when I am fit again.

More blogs to come (in due time) …

 

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Five: Developments in the VETNET network

September 14th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my four previous posts I have shaped a series of blogs on the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I reported on the pilot with  ePosters powered by the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the second post I gave an overview on my own contributions – on the research background of the LTB and on ‘transfer of innovation’ issues in recent and earlier innovation projects. In the third post I reported on the Opening Session of our VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network) and on some contributions of our Italian colleagues. In the  fourth post I give insights into some of the VETNET sessions that I had attended as a participant.With this fifth – and concluding – post I will focus on the VETNET network and its general assembly.

Successful preparation – successful participation

The convenors of the VETNET network – Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder – had a pleasant duty to report on the preparation of the VETNET program and how it was put into practice. Once again we had clearly over 100 proposals and despite some withdrawals we remained among the biggest EERA networks. For the convenors the high number provided a challenge – not to end up with four parallel sessions in the same time slot. They managed it – although packing sometimes four presentations into one session. But this seemed to work fine. Also, when distributing the session chair duties, they took a new approach – in each session the last presenter was appointed as the chair. In this way the chairing duties were distributed more widely – not only to the board members. And in this way also the last presenters got their fair share of the time. Finally, the organisation of the VETNET dinner – with a record participation – was praised widely.

ECER VETNET Proceedings 2018

One of the remarkable achievements of the convenors was that they managed to produce proper proceedings – as an online version and as a book that is printed on demand:

Nägele, C., & Stalder, B. E. (Eds.) (2018). Trends in vocational education and training research. Proceedings of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET).https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1319718

The VETNET pilot with ePosters

This year VETNET had a specific pilot activity with ePosters powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Together with Christof Nägele I initiated firstly an EERA event for presenting this approach and then an EERA-funded Network project that enabled us to organise an interactive poster session with six authors who had prepared their ePosters (see my first post of this series). In the VETNET assembly I was pleased to report that this pilot activity had been a successful one. The sessions had good numbers of participants, the technology worked well and the mini-poster wall enabled further discussions after the sessions. And the EERA showcase and the instruction page are available for further use.

IJRVET – our journal is getting stronger

Michael Gessler, the editor-in-chief of the IJRVET (International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training) reported on the development of journal, Now that the IJRVET  has already reached its fifth volume, we can be happy that it has taken its place as a major journal in our field. during the last year we were happy that Cinterfor – the ILO unit for promoting training in Central and South America – started supporting the IJRVET.  Also, we were pleased to have the journal articles as the IJRVET Yearbook – printed on demand.

Crossing Boundaries in VET – the Spring 2019 Conference in Valencia

Last year we reached an agreement on scheduling two other conferences so that they are not clashing with each other or with the ECER. According to this agreement the “Crossing Boundaries …” conference and the Stockholm International VET Conference will be organised every two years. Thus, the next “Crossing Boundaries …” conference will be organised in May 2019 in Valencia (and the next Stockholm conference in May 2020). The call for papers for the Valencia conference was closed already at the end of May this year. On behalf of the organisers Fernando Marhuenda gave an interim report on the preparation. They were happy about the good number of proposals. Yet, as a consequence, the selection process had taken more time. However, the results will be communicated by the end of September. Here also the organisers are preparing the proceedings to be distributed before/at the event.

The European Skills Week

From the year 2016 on the VETNET network has been supporting the European Commission in organising research-related events in the context of the European Skills Week. In addition to a research work there has been a competition to award distinguished European researchers and successful European projects. This tradition will be continued and the information on the forthcoming event in Vienna will be published soon.

Celebrating the new VETNET Network Honorary Member Johanna Lasonen

Last year the VETNET general assembly had nominated Johanna Lasonen for VETNET Honorary Membership. In April this year the EERA Council confirmed her status and published this on the EERA website. Now the VETNET network was in the position to celebrate her. In his laudatio speech Michael Gessler paid attention to the long career of Johanna as an active member – starting from the founding process and including over 20 years service as a reviewer. Moreover, Michael listed all the new things that Johanna brought into the conference culture of VETNET when she was the first ‘local’ program chair in 1999 – the VETNET opening session with keynote speakers, the VETNET proceedings (published by the conference), the VETNET dinner (sponsored by Lahti Polytechnic) and the VETNET study visits to vocational schools and enterprises. Also, Michael referred to Johanna’s role in supporting the IJRVET in many ways. And finally, Michael gave insights into Johanna’s long career in the International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA) as the European Vice-President, as the President Elect, as the President and as the Immediate Past President. These duties required sometimes bold actions and firm leadership, as the examples tha Michael mentioned made us aware.

Awarding-JL-1Awarding-JL-3

Johanna thanked the network and the EERA Council for the honour and paid tribute to other team players as board members and convenors with whom she had worked. With this celebration we were happy to take the course to the next ECER 2019 that will be hosted by Hamburg.

I think this is enough of the VETNET meeting and of the reporting on ECER 2018 altogether. This major conference was a good experience and now it is time to continue with the daily work.

More blogs to come …

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    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

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    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


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    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


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