25 years working with Graham Attwell – networking, social media and new challenges

March 15th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Some time ago it has crossed my mind that i should write some lines on my cooperation with Graham Attwell. Indeed, I have already written a blog post on my 25 years’ journey with European cooperation project and how that journey was continued when I was employed by our research insitute ITB. However, that post was written from my perspective – as a personal learning journey with interruptions and catching up with the momentum. Now I feel the need to take a fresh look from the perspective of working and learning together with Graham Attwell. I guess that the best way is to discuss three themes – networking, social media and facing new challenges.

Networking the networks: community-building across European projects

Our cooperation started in the beginning of the year 1996. I was working as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) and started an activity that was based on accompaniment of European cooperation projects. Graham had moved to Bremen to coordinate the newly started project Europrof – training of new vocational education and training (VET) professionals. The kick-off meeting of that project was the first one that I observed during my accomanaying visits. From the very beginning we saw that we were on the same wave length regarding the ideas on collaborative research, learning from each other and supporting community-building among European VET researchers.

Europrof took already some steps to mobilize a wider set of interested researchers into exchanges with its core partners. I did my part when launching the European seminars of my Cedefop project with partner institutes in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Portugal. In addition, we initiated several symposia at the European Conferences on Educational Research (ECER) in Sevilla (1996), Frankfurt (1997), Ljubljana (1998), Lahti (1999) and Edinburgh (2000). With these events we promoted learning from each other and joint knowledge development across parallel European projects. Some of the events gave an opportunity to have a closer look at national pilot projects and new initiatives to promote digital competences in the field of VET.  As such I remember the 1998 event with Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and the joint seminar in 2000 with the Portuguese national Agency Inofor in Sintra. Later on, a major arena for such network-based knowledge sharing emerged as the network-project Forum (funded by the EU 4th Framework Programme for Research). Furthermore, some of these community-building activities were taken up in certain VET-related conferences under the auspices of the current EU presidency. In this respect I remember conference of the Dutch EU presidency 1997 as well as the conferences of the UK and Austrian presidencies in the year 1998. But – all this had its time. The high season of ‘learning from each other’ and ‘networking the networks’ was soon over and the policy climate changed to other directions – and that had consequences for the funding of European projects.

Digital competences and social media in the field of VET

When some of the earlier themes of European projects started to fade away from the European policy agenda, it was important that Graham was active as an explorer on the theme ‘use of ICT in the field of VET‘. His pioneering contribution was the Cedefop-funded digital resource base “ICT in VET”. It was an outcome of intensive networking with other experts and a predecessor of several later community portals (some of which were rather short-lived and some more sustainable). At that time the discussion on promoting digital competences was heavily overshadowed by the hype around eLearning and by enthusiasm on informal ‘career spaces’ of ICT companies. At this phase Graham represented a well-grounded position that ICT competences are to be promoted in substantial vocational learning contexts.

However, at that time the European funding programmes did not focus that strongly on the field of VET. Instead, more overarching interests on ‘lifelong learning’ or on ‘human resources’ were pushed forward. Alongside these, some new priorities started to emerge – such as ‘open source software’ and ‘open educational resources’. Graham was one of the pioneers with these themes. Together with his fellow pioneers he launched network-based projects like SIGOSSEE (Special interest group for open source software in education in Europe) or the ‘Bazaar’ (for promoting open educational resources via the stalls of the Bazaar). At that time he was also a well-known blogger with his “Wales-Wide-Web’.

At this time I had had a career break after leaving Cedefop. Keeping contact with these initiatives helped me to get back on board – in particular when I was employed by the research institute ITB of the University of Bremen. At that time Graham was working closely with ITB (as a Visiting Fellow) and I could follow his new initiatives from a close distance. I also took my first steps as a blogger but that with some tumbling. Firstly I put an emphasis on project-specific blogging on project websites. These turned out to be short-lived activities – when the projects were finalised, the websites were archived and soon the domain-names expired. Another effort was to develop conference blogs for the VETNET network program at the ECER. This turned out to be a lonely job – also these faded away soon. With my personal blog on the Pontydysgu site (thanks to support from Graham) I had difficulties in keeping myself active. In the meantime Graham was roaming across a wider range of projects and had a lot to share and comment on his themes.

Facing new challenges – the Learning Layers project

All this comes together in my mind when I think of the period when we worked together in the EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012 – 2016) and its follow-up phase. The project was originally designed by educational technologists, computer scientists software and developers with whom Graham had worked together. For the EU FP7 (7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and Development) they had initiated a new project that sought to bring their expertise together to support the introduction of new ICT tools to support (informal) learning in SMEs. The initial idea was to focus on the healthcare sector – notably on networks of GP practices in the Leeds-Bradford region. But the aim was to scale up the innovations Europe-wide by approaching similar SME clusters.

Thanks to Graham, the plan was broadened by introducing a new pilot sector – construction industries and trades from Germany. And that brought our research institute (ITB) into picture as provider of research-based support for the sectoral partners in Germany. And – when working with training centres and SMEs in the construction sector – we were in the need to look closer, how to introduce new ICT tools to support work process-oriented learning. Thus, we were in the middle of promoting the development of digital tools to enhance apprentice training, organisational learning and continuing professional development. And in this context we were able to push forward the co-design process that led to the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). And, as regular readers of this blog know, we were able to finalise the project with a viable end product that found new uses beyond the initial pilot context.

However – paradoxically – the real success story of the LTB  took off in completely different context. Here we need to thank the partners of the project who took the main responsibility of the development of the LTB and promoted it as a support tool for online conferences. a new But, also we in ITB could also draw important lessons from this experience with a major project. For me, the work in the project gave me the boost to become an active blogger. And because of my regular blogging, the progress in the construction pilot could be summarised and reflected on annual basis, in the final phase and during the follow-up activities.

I guess this is enough of our journey together with European projects, networks and challenges with digital tools. I have gone to retirement, whilst Graham keeps working with new projects. I wish him and his partners good luck!

More blogs to come …

 

 

Finishing the last reports for TACCLE4 CPD project – Handing over the torch for other runners

October 31st, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few months I have surprised myself by producing three new reports for the ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4 CPD project. As regular readers of this blog will know, the project has been working with strategies for promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. And, as a contrast to the three earlier TACCLE projects, the fourth one had the task to shape models and concepts for continuing professional development in educational establishments and training organisations. Furthermore, my role in the project has been to address the task for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and to bring into the project the legacy of the Learning Layers project (in which I had been working for many years).

Now, the project is in its final phase and at the same time my career as an active researchers has come to an end. During the last few weeks I have surprised myself and others by producing three new reports for the project – in addition to the five ones that I had produced by the end of last year. Below, I want to make some comments on these newer reports and how they enrich the group picture of the earlier VET-related reports.

Report 5: Promoting digital competences beyond the accustomed realm of ICT skills

During the project I had been writing blogs on innovative activities to promote digital competences via civic learning and via introduction of specific applications of the Learning Toolbox (the main product developed in the Learning Layers project). To me, the Finnish idea of developing a broad-based introductory course on artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact for the entire civil society was very inspiring. Equally, the recent progress in using the Learning Toolbox (LTB) at different contexts was impressive. In the initial pilot context, vocational trainers made new efforts to support vocational learning during the lockdown. and after the closure period they added new features to using LTB in apprentice training.

Parallel to this, other applications of LTB – mainly the use  of LTB to shape ePosters for conferences (that are shifting from face-to-face events into online events) is becoming widespread. Here, it is worthwhile to note the spread from regular conferences into other kinds of of online events – such as multiplier events of EU-funded projects. Furthermore, I got informed of the progress with LTB showcases. Firstly they had been shaped for particular conferences to give a group picture of the ePosters for the respective conference. In a more mature phase the LTB showcase was used to give a group picture of all conferences and online events that were working with ePosters – of which some exemplars were portrayed in this ‘all stars’ showcase. I was happy to give visibility to the start-up company Kubify (founded by the former LTB-developers) due to their latest achievements. Altogether, this report demonstrated the progress of promoting digital competences beyond the accustomed realms of ICT skills.

Activity Report on the German Multiplier Event at the Training Centre Bau-ABC Rostrup

During my working visit in Bremen (after a long break) I had a chance to organise a Multiplier Event that took place as face-to-face event in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup (with whom we had worked intensively in the Learning Layers project). For me it was a pleasant opportunity to meet several trainers of the centre – some of which had been our counterparts for years, whilst some were newcomers. In my input I gave an overview, how the co-design processes (that led to to the shaping of the LTB) and the parallel training activities (that were completed with training based on Theme Rooms) worked hand in hand in the Learning Layers project. Then I gave some insights into the idea of different innovation paths (for introducing digital competences in the field of VET) and how they can be addressed in a revisited framework for Theme Room Training 2020.  In addition to this I presented the new TACCLE4 CPD Showcase that pulled together the VET-related work in the Learning Layers project and in the current project.

It was interesting to note that the discussion moved on from my inputs to the practical challenges (regarding the use of LTB as support for training) and to the possibilities to take further steps with their internal training. So, in this respect the session became a genuine multiplier event. Indeed, it was concluded with a commitment to start a new round of theme room sessions – based on the ideas and needs of the active trainers and with focus on improving the use of LTB in their context.

Report 2b: The TACCLE4 CPD Showcase as a new collection of online resources

My final report for the project TACCLE4 CPD presented the above-mentioned LTB showcase for this project and how it came into being. As the pre-history I presented the earlier pilot activity to introduce the work with ePosters into the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the year 2018 in Bolzano. This was a limited pilot project with some ePosters for the network program of VETNET (the European Research Network for Vocational Education and Training). As a further step from this phase the report introduced an overarching showcase for the TACCLE4 CPD project. This showcase provided on the one hand comprehensive LTB-stacks thet presented all VET-related reports for the Learning Layers project and for the TACCLE4 CPD project. Then, it introduced thematic stacks that focused ot the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of VET and outlined the Theme Room Training 2020 framework.

Altogther, this report gave a picture of a new kind of an online resource environment. At the same time it invited the users to consider their own innovation paths and to think of their own ways to shape training with Theme Rooms.

I guess this is enough of the latest reports and of the messages I want to pass at the final phase of the project. Now that I am finishing my career as an active researcher, I have the feeling of being a runner with the torch of the Olympic Games. I am coming to the point in which I have to had out the torch for new runners – the ones in research, the ones in the software development and the ones developing their training approaches. My message to them is the following: You need to take the fire from the past, not the ashes. And: You need not go back to the long and winding roads of your predecessors – you need to find each other in the present date circumstances.

More blogs to come … (but from a different perspective)

A German MP visits the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup – Great praise for their digital competences

October 6th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I got informed that Mr Stephan Albani, a German MP (Bundestagsabgeordnete) visited the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup during his field visit in the region. Here it is worthwhile to note that Mr Albani is a representative of that very region but also a member of the special commission of the German Parliament for Vocational Education and Training (VET) in the digital world of work (Enquete-Kommission Berufliche Bildung in der digitalen Arbeitswelt). Given this background, it was interesting to hear, what he thought of the use of digital tools to support apprentice training and further vocational learning in Bau-ABC. After all, a team of us from Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen had worked together with Bau-ABC in the EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012-2016) to co-design and pilot test digital tools to support work process -oriented learning. The main result was the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that has then been implemented in Bau-ABC in their apprentice training.

Impressions from the visit of Mr Albani

As I read it from the Facebook-update of Mr Albani and from the attached pictures, he has informed himself very thoroughly on the training of apprentices in different trades and on the use of digital toolsets (notably the LTB). He gives great praise for tthe digital competences of trainers and apprentices and declares Bau-ABC as a parade example, how to implement digitization in the field of VET.

Insights into the demonstration of Learning Toolbox during the visit of Mr Albani

Thanks to the photos that Mr Albani has shared in his update we can take a closer look, how the use of digital toolsets (and notably of LTB) has been presented to him. As we see it from the photos, he got a hands-on training and his tutor was an apprentice who had become an advanced user. So, wee see them working with a mobile device and with the LTB-terminal that makes everything transparent for the apprentices in the workshop and to the supervising trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in their office. And this guided tour is managed by the apprentice.

Perspectives for new innovations regarding digitization in the field of VET

In addition to the above-quoted Facebook-update of Mr Albani I have heard that Bau-ABC Rostrup is involved in a major innovation project that runs until the year 2023. From this perspective it has been important that a prominent politician has informed himself of the state of the art and given positive feedback on the quality of training and learning. I will try to get more information on the new project.

More blogs to come …

Remembering Kerstin Engraf

June 10th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this week we received the sad news that Kerstin Engraf, our friend and colleague from the Learning Layers project, had passed away. This was very shocking to us, because we had always learned to know her as a very lively and energetic person and we were expecting her to keep healthy. None of us could have expected this to happen. Below I try to summarise some of my memories of her in a nutshell.

Rembering Kerstin as a key actor in developing continuing vocational training at Bau-ABC Rostrup

We (researchers of ITB, University of Bremen) learned to know Kerstin Engraf at the beginning of the Learning Layers (LL) project when Bau-ABC Rostrup, the North-German training centre of construction centre joined in the project as an application partner. During the project most of our work focused on the apprentice training that was managed by full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and coordinated in Bau-ABC by Melanie Campbell. However, Kerstin, as the head of continuing training (CVT) of Bau-ABC, was interested in being involved in the development work and participated throughout the lifetime of the project. Moreover, she was supporting the launch of a follow-up project that focused on developing digital tools for training and learning in the CVT schemes of Bau-ABC. During this period we came to understand the complexity of the CVT schemes and the management of the sets short-term courses provided by external lecturers and trainers. And we realised that Kerstin had a complete overview and she knew how to manage the system through and through.

Remembering Kerstin as a contributor to the Construction pilot of the LL project

Looking back, I remember that Kerstin was keenly interested initial workshops with which we started to give shape for the Construction pilot activities. At the earliest phase we discussed the prospect of developing a digitized version of the “White Folder” of the apprentices of Bau-ABC. In these discussions we learned a lot, what the trainers expected of the digital support for a culture of action-oriented learning and self-organised learning. These ideas were taken on board, when the co-design work started to shape the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a digital toolset to support working and learning processes in the construction sector.

Once the design idea had got its shape, Kerstin was eagerly promoting the idea at special events of construction professionals. I still remember her active support for the LL project activities at the national conference of well-builders and borehole builders (Brunnenbauertage) at Bau-ABC in May 2014 and at the North-German trade fair Nordbau in August 2014. In between we had had the LL project consortium meeting at Bau-ABC. Alongside the meeting we had a demonstration space for Bau-ABC apprentices and trainers. At each corner of the meeting room we had demonstration tables with laptops or tablet PCs to present particular digital tools, toolsets and platforms that we were developing. Thanks to Kerstin’s organisational talent we could manage a carrousel event in which over 100 apprentices and trainers rotated through each demonstration table as small groups whilst members of project team presented briefly the work with the tools.

A very special contribution to the project was the preparation of the Bau-ABC videos (August-September 2014). These were designed give the project consortium an idea, what the trainers and apprentices were expecting of working and learning with the Learning Toolbox. This was of vital importance, since the design work was at a very early stage and the we only had a mock-up version of the toolset to be programmed. In the production of these videos Kerstin was eagerly involved and demonstrated her enthusiasm when editing the videos. Below you see exemplary video that presents the work with trainers’ blogs (predecessors of Learning Toolbox stacks). Here the handwriting of Kerstin is clearly visible (the speed and the music).

Later on, Kerstin was actively involved in developing and implementing a new kind of training concept – the Theme Room training – for all training staff of Bau-ABC. The idea came from the trainers themselves and they had already discussed some key principles, how to put it into practice. Kerstin and Melanie Campbell brought this into discussion in the LL project and it was implemented as a local training campaign during November 2015. The aim was to provide all Bau-ABC trainers basic multimedia competences with focus on vocational learning. The training was run by a pair of peer tutors (one from the trainers and one from the researchers). The training was shaped for four themes (that were covered by respective digital learning space) and the training took place on Friday afternoons. Kerstin was involved in the planning but chose to take the role of learner – and enjoyed it greatly.

Remembering Kerstin as a participant in the consortium meetings

Because of her primary duties Kerstin was not always able to participate in the transnational consortium meetings. But when she had the opportunity, she was very present in many ways. In particular she was actively covering the meetings with photos that were uploaded into the Facebook group “Learning Layers”. And she was also interested in covering the social and natural environments of the meeting venues. Some of these photos she shared on her Facebook page. Thus, we can refresh our memories of the meetings, the sites and extra-curricular activities in Graz, Innsbruck, Tallinn and Espoo. And of course, the project consortium meeting at Bau-ABC Rostrup and the social events at the nearby Bad Zwischenahn (including the lake cruise on the Zwischenahner Meer) were highlights to her and to all of us (as the photo below shows).

These memories have only been glimpses to the time when we worked together and to the activities that we carried out together. I hope that they have given a picture of a friend and colleague whom we learned to appreciate. Kerstin has gone but the work that we have done bears fruit and the good memories bring us forward.

Rest in peace, Kerstin!

 

New videos on innovative use of Learning Toolbox in vocational learning

June 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post on this blog I reported on the new Support pages for users of Learning Toolbox (LTB) and Demonstration page with brief introduction and a video presentation. At the end of the post I mentioned that the developers of the LTB had also published three new videos that present innovative use of the LTB in the apprentice training of Bau-ABC Rostrup for different construction trades. These videos had been produced for promoting the use of LTB among other similar training centres in Germany. Therefore they are (for the moment) only available in German. All three videos are available on the following web page: https://support.ltb.io/fallvideos-learning-toolbox-im-bau-abc-rostrup/

Below I present some screenshots of these videos and then give a nutshell summary of the key messages that are conveyed by the respective videos.

Apprentice Jonas reporting on his carpenter’s project with the help of LTB

The two screenshots demonstrate, how apprentice Jonas documents an interim phase in his project in carpentry with the help of the LTB-app on his mobile phone. He takes a photo, gives it a title and then uploads it into the LTB-Stack of his trade as contribution to the current project. The trainer, who is supervising the project gets a notification and sees immediately from the LTB-Terminal in his office, what Jonas has reported and what he has to do in the next phase.

Apprentice Jannis using LTB in the context of masonry

Here the two screenshots demonstrate, how apprentice Jannis uploads the instructions for his new project in masonry by reading the QR-code from a mini-poster with his LTB-app. Firstly he synchronises the LTB on his tablet with a Leica-app on aseparate device. Then he takes a picture and edits it with a line and then takes measures with the laser of the Leica-app. At the end he shows the completely edited picture with all the necessary measurements with explanations in the picture. All this has been achieved with the help of the LTB-app on his tablet PC.

Using the shared LTB-terminal as support for trainers and apprentices in the trade of carpentry

The third video presents the LTB-terminal that has been developed for the training of carpenters – one terminal at the office of the supervising trainers and the other as a ‘kiosk’ to be used by the apprentices at the carpentry workshop. The following screenshots give insights into different potentials of the LTB-terminal.

The first two pictures show that the LTB-terminal (whether in the office or at the workshop) provides access to the training contents of the respective trade firstly as an overview on the whole training year and then at the level of particular projects. In this context it is worthwhile to note that the apprentices can compile their individual learning logs (consisting of completed projects) throughout their training and save them in their own project spaces of the respective LTB-stack. In this respect the LTB has provided a digital solution for the former paper-based White Folder of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup.

As further support for training and learning the LTB-terminal provides additional resources. Above the first picture demonstrates the ‘dictionary’ (Lexikon) space of carpenters. It provides overviews on training materials, health and safety and other apps that are being used in the training. All this information is based on reliable sourcesand has been validated by the responsible trainers. The second picture demonstrates the 3D-viewer for carpentry that gives multiple insights into wooden constructions.

I think this is enough of these videos. As I see it, the trainers and apprentices have made great progress as users of the LTB. Thus, the toolset (with these further user-initiated additions) has made its case as support for vocational and workplace learning in the construction sector. Moreover, it is worthwhile to follow the further developments in the field.

More blogs to come …

 

Updates on the corona crisis – What news from field activities with the Learning Toolbox?

June 5th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In some of my recent posts I have discussed the impact of the corona crisis on education, training and learning as well as on conferences that are of interest to us. In my latest blogchat session with developers and promoters of the Learning Toolbox – Gilbert Peffer and Werner Müller – I was able to get more insights into the current activities in the field: What is happening currently with the use of LTB to support education, training and learning during and after the lockdown period? What is happening with the use of LTB as support for conferences that are being organised as online events? I will start with the conferences and then proceed to the field activities in education and training.

What news on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in conferences

As I have told in my recent posts (on the impact of the Learning Layers project), the Learning Toolbox (LTB) was developed primarily to support vocational and workplace learning. However, a very successful spin-off prospect emerged when LTB was used to prepare ePosters (supported with mini-posters on poster walls or cubicles). This kind of complementary use of ePosters alongside other modes of presentation started to spread already before the corona crisis.

Now that many conferences have sought ways to convert face-to-face events into online events, the prospect of using ePosters as a major solution has been taken up by several conference organisers. Here, new arrangements have been made to keep the ePosters visible online already during a pre-conference period. Then, during the actual conference period, particular sets of ePosters have been discussed in batches in online sessions. Now this mode of work is taking up and will probably sustain even after the exceptional period. For the developers and key promoters of LTB this has reduced travelling to conference venues and participation in face-to-face events. Instead, they have done more online tutoring and customisation of the use of LTB with supporting online communication services.

What news on the use of Learning Toolbox as support for vocational and workplace learning

Whilst the lockdown has given a push to conference organisers in finding new solutions to prepare online events with larger scale, the picture in the field of vocational education and training (VET) varies. As we have seen it, the transition from classroom teaching into online learning has been implemented rapidly in general education and higher education. For vocational and workplace learning such a transition has not been an easy exercise. In particular the intermediate training centres (that support work process oriented learning in simulated learning spaces) have gone through hard times. In Germany these organisers have been interested in promoting the use of LTB in education and training. Now, due to the lockdown, some advanced training centres – in particular the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup – have managed to provide LTB stacks to support independent learning of apprentices during the closure period. However, in other training centres the lockdown has interrupted the process of getting a core group of trainers to promote the use of LTB in several trades. Moreover, the reopening of the centres just before the examination period has provided additional challenges.

I think these were the most important messages that I need to share in my blog. In addition to these general impressions I had some further thoughts concerning the designed Multiplier Event of the ongoing TACCLE4 CPD project that we want to organise by the end of the project. As I see it know, it is not likely that we can organise it as a face-to-face event – whether before the summer holiday period or shortly after it. And since we need to organise an online event, we still have to think about the arrangements and the timing.

As we have a short time to complete the tasks for the project, we need to opt for a prerecorded webinar or a series of short webinars. And with this arrangement we need to think of a flexible mode of participation  within a flexible time frame. In this way we can probably adjust this event to the time constraints of the designed participants – teachers and trainers in the field of VET. As we have seen it, it is essential to provide new impulses at a time when the potential participants have time and energy to work with the content we provide for discussion.

These were my preliminary thoughts. I need to have further discussions with my colleagues who are supporting me in the TACCLE4 CPD project. Let us see where we can get in the coming times.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning Toolbox going strong to the year 2020

January 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday I had a lengthy catch-up talk (via Skype) with my Barcelona-based friend Gilbert Peffer. As regular readers of this blog know, we had worked together intensively in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in the follow-up phase. For the success of the LL project it was crucial that Gilbert (on top of his other duties) engaged himself in the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). And as we know, the LTB was the key product of the project – and in particular of the Construction pilot. Yet, although the LTB was successfully implemented by construction sector partners, the follow-up phase has not been that easy.

No question, the LTB has pointed out to be a powerful digital toolset for supporting learning in different contexts of Vocational Education and Training (VET). Thanks to the successful implementation of LTB, the LL project was awarded with the VET Research Project Award of the European Vocational Skills Week in Vienna 2018. And during his visit as ‘apprentice’ in the training centre Bau-ABC the prime minister of the Federal State of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil was very impressed of the use of digital tools that were presented to him by apprentices. Here, the use of LTB was essentially part of this success story.

Also, as we have noticed it during the years after the project, the ePosters powered by LTB have been taken up in numerous conferences. With this spin-off innovation the LTB developers had reached numerous conferences that have started used ePosters powered by LTB as an alternative for traditional posters or alongside them. Also, on this front the LTB developers have received several awards as remarkable service providers.

Indeed, I have blogged on all these success stories and celebrated with the LTB developers. And indeed, in my reports for the EU-funded TACCLE4 CPD I had highlighted the use of LTB with the expression “The Learning Toolbox path”. In this way I had set the approach to a wider context. I see it as one of the innovation paths for promoting digital competences of teachers, trainers and learners in the field of VET and as a contribution to vocational learning culture. So far so good. However, now that I am in the transition to the full retirement phase I was afraid that I loose sight of the development of this innovative approach.

From this perspective it was rewarding to hear the news of Gilbert. It strikes me that the LTB developers are making progress on all fronts – with uses of LTB in training and in events. Now the LTB developers are working with several German training centres in the construction sector – and our partners in the LL project serve as multipliers in promoting the use of the toolset. In addition it strikes me that they have found new ways to use LTB in the healthcare sector in England – and the healthcare pilot partners of LL have been co-developing the new working perspectives. Furthermore, other healthcare service providers in Spain have identified new ways to use LTB to support the relatives of patients who need training for sensitive issues in their engagement with the patients.

This all has shown me that the work with the LTB is not fading away – on the contrary, it is conquering new terrains. This triggered once again my instincts of accompanying researcher and of inspired blogger. Even if I go on retirement, I want to follow these processes as best I can and support my colleagues via blog posts. So, we agreed with Gilbert on a new format for our cooperation – a monthly Blogchat. In this way Gilbert (who is very busy with the practical work around LTB) can report in a quick way on recent developments. And I can then write blogs that give visibility for the innovation. In this way we are continuing our long and successful cooperation with the innovation that is worth celebrating.

More blogs to come …

 

Remembering Hans-Dieter Höpfner

November 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today we heard the sad news that our former colleague (and long-time Visiting fellow of our institute ITB) Hans-Dieter Höpfner has passed away. To me this is striking, since I have just blogged about the historical events of 1989 (when the political system of former DDR collapsed) and of 1990 (when the two German states were unified). To me, my first encounter with Hans-Dieter was very much linked to these events. I first time met Hand-Dieter at the conference Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung in October 1990 in Magdeburg and got immediately acquainted with him. Then, with several irregular intervals our paths crossed time and again – and we were always happy to meet again and to catch up since the last time. Now, it is my turn to summarise my memories and to pay my respects to the nice colleague whom we have lost.

Meeting during the turbulent times of the year 1990

My first encounter with Hans-Dieter was a chance meeting. We were both participating in the Cedefop-led workshop at the conference in Magdeburg 1990 (Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung). I ended up being a last-minute addition to the program – as a speaker coming from the Nordic Countries, recommended by my earlier acquaintances from the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BiBB) of West Germany. Hans-Dieter attended as one of the comparative and international researchers of the East-German Central Institute for Vocational Training (ZIB).

I was taking my first steps towards a career as a European and international researcher (coming from the remote Finland that was not yet an EU Member State at that time). Hans-Dieter was experiencing a rupture period – knowing that the institute for which he had worked would be closed and that he would not be one of those to get transferred to BiBB. So, there we were – two people with such different life situations – sitting next to each other during the workshop and then getting acquainted with each other. Already at that time I knew that Hans-Dieter would overcome the hard period and get along with the transition. What he told me about his background – being a specialist in psychology of work and work-related learning (and coming from the well-known Dresden-based school led by Winfried Hacker), I knew that he has the kind of expertise that is needed during the societal transformation of East Germany. This all turned out to be very true.

Meetings during the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe

Our next encounters were no longer such chance meetings but rather something to be expected. I had made further steps on my career path and had been sent in 1994 as a national seconded expert to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) – at that time located in Berlin. In the meantime I had had cooperation with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) and I had learned of their involvement in an experimental innovation project (Modellversuch – MV) with dually qualifying apprentice training at the brown coal site Schwarze Pumpe. With this background knowledge I was eager to participate in the annual Workshop of the MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995. And there I met once again Hans-Dieter, who was part of the accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team together with Gerald Heidegger and Rainer Bremer who were old acquaintances from ITB. This event was inspiring since the apprentices from two trades were invited to present their joint working and learning project – constructing a fully working miniature model of the bricket-producing machine. This was a clear demonstration of participative, collaborative and shaping-oriented learning of the apprentices.

At a later phase Cedefop had been relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece and I had got a temporary contract as an EU-employed project manager. In this capacity I had taken the task to monitor (or accompany) parallel EU-funded R&D projects with similar educational ideas and working concepts. From this perspective I was happy to include the projects Post-16 strategies and Intequal (both dealing with dually oriented qualifications) into my list of projects to be accompanied. And indeed, ITB was a partner in both projects with the MV Schwarze Pumpe as a national case (to be examined from different perspectives. So, I had the chance to visit the site Schwarze Pumpe time and again. Once I visited an interim conference that assembled several German innovation projects with focus on dually oriented qualifications. And the then with the concluding conference I had brought a European delegation to attend the conference and to have an international workshop on the theme of the innovation project. Every time I was pleased to catch up with Hans-Dieter.

Meetings as researchers affiliated with the  ITB

Later on, our paths went to somewhat different directions. During my last years in Cedefop I had less field visits and in 2002 I returned to Finland. Then, after some time, in 2005, I got a new chance to engage myself in European and international projects – now as a contracted researcher of ITB. In the meantime Hans-Dieter had found his way to international development aid projects as an expert on vocational education and training (VET). He had a remarkable experience with the societal transformation in East Germany and in adjusting the VET provisions to market economy.  With this know-how he was considered as a prominent expert by the development aid agencies of German-speaking countries that had projects in former Soviet republics.  And strangely enough, we had both been acknowledged with the status of Visiting fellow of ITB. (For me, this was only an interim phase, since I got employed by ITB, whilst for Hans-Dieter this was a matter of maintaining the working relation with ITB.)

So, once again we had our chances to catch up with Hans-Dieter, mainly during the annual meetings of the advisory board (Beirat) of the ITB. On such occasions we had the chance to refresh our memories of earlier times and inform each other of our newer activities. Hans-Dieter had experienced all kinds of things in the faraway countries in which he had worked and we were keen to learn more of his experiences. Also, he was interested to find out what we were doing and how we were doing – in Germany, in our EU projects and in our international projects.

And most of all, Hans-Dieter was popular as a story-teller – whatever the subject matter. For me, as a Finn, it was interesting that one of his favourite authors was the Finnish humourist Arto Paasilinna. It was such a pleasure to share impressions of Paasilinna’s writings – be it the Year of the Rabbit or the Nine Buildings or whatever.

Now we have lost the fine colleague, but his memory lives with us.

More blogs to come (with newer topics, I hope) …

 

 

 

 

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Three: Glimpses to presentations of which I want to learn more

September 8th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

This blog post is the third one of a series with which I wrap up my experiences at the ECER 2019 conference that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. In the first post I focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network that is the European umbrella network for research in vocational education andt training (VET).  I also gave some background information on the role of VETNET and other networks in the ECER conferences. In my second post I focused on the two sessions that discussed the parallel TACCLE project – TACCLE 4 CPD (in which I am working) and TACCLE VET (in which my colleagues are working). With this post I want to discuss briefly three presentations that were of immediate relevance for our work in the two TACCLE projects. Here I limit myself to some first impressions – I want to learn more of the work that has been done and/or is still going on.

The Paderborn-based project: Adopting apprentice training to digital transformation – the perspective of in-company training

The presentation of Bernd Gössling and Tina Emmler was in many respects one of the highlights of this conference. I had already become aware of the work of the research group of the University of Paderborn via the report “Berufsbildung 4.0” (Sloane et alia 2018). For me it had served as a rich resource in terms of conceptual work, empirical studies and conclusions for future-oriented innovation agendas. In particular the distinction between ‘digital transformation’ (technological and organisational changes towards networked production, marketing and service processes) and ‘digitization’ (introduction of digital tools into working, training and learning processes) was very helpful. Now the presentation of Gössling and Emmler provided a closer look into the empirical studies and findings. I do not want to summarise their results here – we need to discuss them more closely. Also, the reflections on the new roles of trainers that Emmler outlined (in terms of “vita activa”) were very inspiring and reminded me of our experiences with trainers working with the Learning Toolbox at the end of the Learning Layers project.

The Bremen-based project CARO: Digital cross-action spaces in interactive nursing education

Another highlight for me was the project CARO presented by Claudia Schepers from the University of Bremen. This interdisciplinary research & development project had shaped digital learning spaces to support interactive learning arenas in nursing education. Here we need to understand the delicate nature of learning in the context of real work and the necessity to support such work with simulations, videos and reflective learning. For me this case was particularly important since I had been looking at different innovation paths for introducing digital tools into vocational learning. To me, this project appeared as a paradigmatic case for introducing digital tools and digital spaces with a ‘whole curriculum’ approach. Furthermore, all my examples that I had used were referring to technical occupations. From this perspective a case from healthcare sector was most welcome.

The Aachen-based project: Acceptance of a tutorial-creating authoring system for workplace learning in manual assembly

A third highlight for me was the Aachen-based project presented by Marvin Goppold and Fabian Handl. Their project focused on the role of low-skilled or semi-skilled workers in manual assembly and their occupational perspectives in the context of digital transformation. The key point in the project was to capture the (informal) competences and (invisible) workplace-based learning and to make it visible via an authoring tool that generates individual tutorials. In this way the workers were better prepared to encounter changes that bring robotics into picture and to point out the limits of robotics. Here I do not want to go into details, I need to learn more.

As I am concerned, the Aachen-based project served to me as a paradigmatic case for an innovation path that uses digital tools to make visible the hitherto invisible and non-formal learning of semi-skilled workers. So far I had referred to a case of process industry, but the case of assembly work and the use of authoring tools is of particular interest.

I guess that this is enough of these sessions. As I have said above, I need to learn more of these projects to make appropriate use of their approaches, results and conclusions. There is more work to be done on this front. However, with my reporting on ECER 2019 I have more points to cover – in particular concerning developments in the VETNET network.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part One: The opening session of the VETNET network

September 7th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Once again, the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) – has taken place. This time the venue was the University of Hamburg. The advantage for us working at the University of Bremen was that we didn’t have to travel far away. The counter side of the coin was that we were expected to commute between Bremen and Hamburg on daily basis. That cut us off from most of the social events and informal encounters in the evenings. Nevertheless, there was quite a lot to experience and to share with colleagues from all over Europe and beyond Europe. With this series of blog posts I try to cover different sessions in the program of the VETNET network – the research network for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and give some insights into developments in the network. In this first post start with the opening session of the VETNET program. Firstly I need to give some insights into the role of the networks of EERA in organising the conference and of the specific traditions of VETNET.

EERA and ECER as the common umbrella – VETNET as a community with its own identity

When the EERA was founded and started organising the ECER conferences on regular basis, the common umbrella was created in two ways. The EERA was shaped as the umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. For the shaping of the conferences EERA invited the member associations to propose thematic networks that would then be in charge of organising their section in the conference programs. The network for research in vocational education and training (VET) – from the beginning on known as VETNET – was accepted as the Network 2 of EERA. The number of networks grew rapidly and they developed their own patterns to run peer reviews, to organise social events and to disseminate the research in their area of specialisation.

As a contrast to this general picture, the VETNET network has been from the very beginning more than just one of the EERA networks and a small club for organising part of the ECER program. Already in the founding phase there was a sense of building a community of VET researchers under the EERA umbrella. Yet, we were aware that we had somewhat different discipline-based backgrounds and in some countries the institutional commitment to VET was a basis of special disciplinary structures. Therefore, we have also paid attention to openness and mutual learning across the network.

In this spirit the VETNET network has developed a tradition of common Opening sessions – starting from ECER 1999 in Lahti, Finland (initiated by the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen). These opening sessions have mostly been keynote speeches by prominent researchers from the host country – with comments by invited discussants. Sometimes they have been panel discussions on critical research issues or on future research agendas. In ECER 2007 the Opening session celebrated the 10 years’ milestone of VETNET as an active network (as organiser of its own program). In ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen the opening session got insights into VET development in the host region from different stakeholder perspectives (and from representatives of different lingual communities).

The VETNET Opening session at ECER 2019 – insights into apprentice training at Airbus sites in Germany

At the VETNET Opening session 2019 the invited speaker was Matthias Havekost, head of vocational training of Airbus commercial in Germany. He had been an active practitioner counterpart of several VET research projects of our institute (ITB, University of Bremen) and familiar with our research approach. From this perspective it was appropriate to invite him to discuss directly with the participants on the role of apprentice training and other training activities at Airbus sites in Germany.

We got a lot of information on the development of apprentice training in the course of years – regarding the demographic factors (aging workforce), technological changes (balancing between manual work and robotics) and educational changes (developing vocational pathways to higher qualifications). In between we had glimpses to the actual contexts of working and learning on site – provided by videos that were prepared by apprentices and students in so-called dual studies (that are based on a combination of apprentice training and higher education).

An interesting part of the presentation of Havekost was the example of a particular workplace learning arrangement at an early phase of apprentice training. Instead of explaining the task and launching the group work with the task that trainer took considerable time for a ‘teaming up’ phase. At this phase all apprentices were invited to discuss their views on their occupation, their understanding on their tasks and on the requirements. These views were shared in the group and contrastive views were discussed to the point that mutual understanding was reached. In the beginning some of the participants were annoyed by such delay instead of going straight to the task. Yet, it appeared that the group had developed a culture of collaboration and it finished the tasks in shorter time and with better quality than earlier groups. Also, teachers of vocational schools and representatives of production units noticed the change in the performance.

Another interesting aspect alongside the above-mentioned cultural change was the career development of trainers. For Havekost it was important that the in-company trainers are experienced in the production and keep up to date. Therefore, the trainers should be trainers only a certain number of years and not for too long time. This kind of rotation has been successfully implemented and those trainers who went back to other business in the company entered real interesting and adequate jobs (e.g. production, quality, manufacturing engineering).

In the light of the above we had a rich and lively discussion that gave food for thought for different sessions in the VETNET program. Also, we had some discussion on the training culture on other Airbus sites and on the role of VET systems in the respective countries. These issues were also taken up later.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET Opening session. In the following posts I will first report on the sessions that were closely related to my ongoing project, then cover some other themes and finally get back to developments in the VETNET network.

More blogs to come …

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