Multiplier Event of TACCLE4 CPD project – Part One: Report on the event in Bau-ABC Rostrup

October 18th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Friday, the 16th of October, I was pleased to visit the German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup once again. As regular readers of this blog already know, I have been working together with this training centre for several years. Our cooperation started when our institute (Institut Technik & Bildung, ITB) and Bau-ABC became partners of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the year 2012. During the LL project we worked intensively together in the co-design process that led to the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and in training activities to promote the digital competences of the trainers in Bau-ABC. After the end of the project (2017) I maintained contact with Bau-ABC and was pleased to continue working with them when I became the ITB partner in the EU-funded TACCLE4 CPD project (2018 -2020). This newer project gave me an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the earlier one and to develop models and strategies for continuing professional development (CPD) of vocational teachers and trainers. Now, at the final phase of the project I was pleased to visit Bau-ABC and to organise the German Multiplier Event of the current project together with trainers of Bau-ABC. Below I will give a brief account on the event as such and in my next post I will discuss the contribution that I prepared for the event – a new LTB-showcase of LTB-powered stacks that I prepared for the TACCLE4 CPD project.

The preparation of the Multiplier Event – the long and winding roads

Originally I had prepared the initial plan for such an event together with my ITB colleagues. We had the idea of a bridging event that links the results of the TACCLE4 CPD project to their ongoing work with Open Educational Resources (OER) and with new developments with artificial intelligence (AI) in the field of vocational education and training (VET). We had drafted an invitation list that would bring together vocational teachers and trainers from different organisations – vocational schools and training centres – in the nearby region. The event was supposed to take place in June – between two travel periods when I was working outside Germany. BUT the corona-crisis made it impossible to implement these plans. Instead of returning to Bremen at that time I had to stay a longer period in my home country Finland. And due to the lockdown and the subsequent restrictions it was not possible to organise any presence event at the university campus before the summer holidays. Neither could we expect that vocational teachers and trainers could have had time to participate in such events when the schools and training centres were able to start anew at the end of May.

During the summer months it became apparent that there will be no chance to organise any kind of face-to-face event with external participants at the university campus. On the contrary, the access of university researchers and supporting staff was strictly restricted  and meetings were transformed into online events. From this perspective it seemed impossible to go further with plans that would include inputs from different projects and bring together participants from different organisations. For some time it seemed that the only way to implement the Multiplier Event would be to produce a pre-recorded webinar and then invite online participants to access the online material. However, due to the travel restrictions I was stuck in Finland and even if I could have returned earlier, it would have been difficult to put together a good quality online resource to attract participants at the beginning of a new school year or the training period of apprentices.

When returning to Bremen in the beginning of October I didn’t have high hopes of getting a decent multiplier event organised (whether as a face-to-face event or as a virtual even). However, things changed when I contacted Melanie Campbell, coordinator of Continuing Vocational Training at Bau-ABC and the key person for promoting the use of LTB  during the LL project and afterwards. We came to a conclusion that it would be possible to have a face-to-face event on Friday, the 16th of October in the afternoon (when the apprentices had already left for the weekend but the trainers were still there). We agreed on the input that I would make on the TACCLE4-CPD project (and the earlier LL project) and on her input concerning the current use of LTB in Bau-ABC.

The inputs for the Multiplier Event

So, we had the short time frame of two hours on Friday afternoon at our disposal – just as had been the case with the Theme Room training sessions in November 2015. This time there were additional challenges due to the corona restrictions and due to the fact that some of trainers were tied up with examination duties. But, with the thirteen trainers representing different trades and different training activities we had a qualified audience.

In my input I tried to give a picture, how three aspects of fieldwork in Bau-ABC became vital threads of the work of the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot:

  • Joint analyses of work processes ans work-realated learning in different trades of construction sector;
  • Co-design of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox and different design events with trainers, apprentices and construction sector professionals who all gave their views, how a digital toolset could support them;
  • Multimedia training and ThemeRoom training that paved the way for the introduction of the LTB as a toolset that is being used regularly in the apprentice training and vocational learning activities provided by Bau-ABC.

In a similar way I emphasised the special approach to the field of vocational education and training (VET) to promoting digital competences and to shaping continuing professional development of teachers and trainers:

  • We are not discussing merely about integrating the use of digital tools to teaching school subjects. Instead, the challenge is, how to link the use of tools to vocational learning and occupational work.
  • We are not discussing merely about use of new educational technology to support school-based learning. As a contrast, the challenge is, how to link the use of appropriate digital toolsets that contribute to changes in working life and work-related learning.
  • We are not merely talking about promotion of digital competences of individual teachers (responsible of their subject matter). As a contrast, the holistic approach to vocational learning requires that teachers and trainers have a common approach to using digital tools.

In the light of the above I made the point of different innovation paths for introducing the use of digital tools. In this context I referred to different ITB projects that I had described in my reports:

  • The Kompetenzwerkstatt projects have been (re)designing the curricula (as a whole) for different vocational learning contexts. Here, the use of digital tools has been built in into specific curriculum processes.
  • The Learning Toolbox has been introduced as a new integrative toolset to be used in exemplary learning projects and to be spread in further projects via internal knowledge transfer and peer tutoring.
  • The Brofessio project had to deal with process industry cases in which the processes were sealed and could not be made transparent for learning in the context of work. As a contrast, it was necessary to introduce micro-learning units for off-the-job training to support work-related learning.
  • The use cases of introducing Opene Educational Resources (OER) were taken from specific vocational of pre-vocational learning contexts. Altogether they opened a perspective from relatively simple exercises to more complex uses of high-tech resources and to collaborative learning that involves learners from different trades.

Finally, I discussed the Theme Room experience of the year 2015 and the rethinking of the Theme Room approach for present date use. Firstly, I emphasised that the concept of training with Theme Rooms was a well-thought format but we couldn’t benefit of all the richness since we couldn’t integrate the use of LTB to the training. Secondly, I emphasised the need of making a situation assessment on the challenges in the occupational fields, on the capability of trainers and learners regarding the use of digital tools and on the path to follow in the training. In this respect I underlined that the Theme Room Training 2020 framework (that I had drafted for the project) invites the users the design their own theme rooms with their own themes instead of following a ready-made guideline.

 

The discussion takes off – coming together

When opening the discussion Melanie Campbell pointed to the importance of the Theme Room training in 2015 as atraining campaign for all trainers of Bau-ABC. The aim was to bring the digital competences of trainers to an equal level – as much as this could be achieved. Since then the use of LTB in different trades has taken the main attention and the practical issues have come up as the main concerns.

In the discussion many trainers brought into picture different problems that delimit the use of LTB at the training sites. Partly these are of infrastructural nature, partly there are difficulties in using the functions of LTB with given software solutions. Thus, the trainers have noticed that LTB is frequently used over the weekend. Melanie Campbell took note of these issues and suggested that similar Friday afternoon sessions should be used for troubleshooting and for sharing knowledge, how to overcome the difficulties.

Some of the trainers made the point that the Theme Rooms should be brought back to picture. Others commented that more emphasis should be given on overcoming the problems and getting more users at same level. Once this has been achieved, then it would be possible to take further steps in deepening the understanding on digital tools.

Altogether, the discussion reflected the situation in a training centre that had the experience of being early users of digital tools. In this respect it seemed that a period of “Theme Forums” would be needed to deal with the current problems befor heading to new cycle of Theme Rooms. Yet, when looking back at the earlier phases of the Learning Layers project in 2014 and 2015, the ones of us who had shared experiences of that time could agree that we come a long way further. Indeed, much of what we discussed as something desirable, had become lived practice of present date.

I guess that this is enough of the event and of our discussions. In my next post I will give insights into the LTB-showcase of the TACCLE4 CPD project that I presented in the event.

More blogs to come …

 

Reflections on the impact of the Learning Layers project – Part Two: The use of Learning Toolbox in vocational learning and construction work

April 28th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest post I started a series of blogs that report on the discussions of former partners of the Learning Layers (LL) project on the impact of our work. This was triggered by reports  that the key result of our work – the Learning Toolbox – is being used in the original pilot context (training for construction work) and is getting new users. In particular this discussion was inspired by the fact that such tools gain new importance in the period of corona crisis, when schools and training centres are closed and traditional conferences are being cancelled. In my previous blog I gave a brief overview on the discussions that we have had and on the joint paper that we have been preparing. In this blog I will summarise some key points that I and my co-author Gilbert Peffer have raised on the case that we have presented – the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. Below I will use our draft text (that was shaped as responses to given questions) as a slightly edited version.

The pioneering Case: Learning Toolbox in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup

The Learning Toolbox was developed in the Learning Layers project as a response to the needs of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup (a major application partner from the construction sector). The initial design idea referred to digitisation of training materials, instruction sheets, project reporting sheets and self-assessment procedures. However, in the course of  iterative co-design cycles, the process took the course towards shaping an interactive toolset to support training and learning activities.

What particular problems were addressed in the co-design process?

In Bau-ABC Rostrup the apprentices spend relatively short periods (one or two weeks at a time) and are trained by full-time trainers who are Meisters (master craftsmen) in their trade. During each period they complete a project in the respective trade. Then, they move back to their companies or have another training period in a supporting trade. In general, the projects are based on genuine work tasks that are implemented in a workshop or at outdoor training areas.

Previously, the instructions for the apprentices’ projects had been provided orally with the help of instructive worksheets (for preparing the project plans). Likewise, the reporting on the projects was done manually. In principle, the project cycle was based on self-organised learning – independent search for knowledge resources, drafting the plan plan, reporting the implementation and then assessing the outcome. The functionality of Learning Toolbox – based on trade-specific stacks that consisted of different tiles – provided support for learning when completing the work tasks.

Stakeholders who have been involved in the co-design process and pilot activities

The co-design work was carried out as a collaborative process by researchers, technical partners and full-time trainers from Bau-ABC. During an earlier phase of the work the project team provided basic multimedia training for some voluntary trainers. At a later phase the project team and these trainers provided an intensive training campaign for all trainers of the training centre. In the pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox a core group of trainers introduced the toolset in their training and results were monitored by the project team. Also, at the final phase of the project, the use of the Learning Toolbox as support for construction work processes was demonstrated for several craft trade companies. As a result, follow-up processes (feasibility studies and project initiatives) were started with some companies.

How have the training practices been changed and what new practices have emerged?

The functionality of the Learning Toolbox was easy to be customised for different training purposes and according to the pedagogic priorities of the trainers. Thus, it made it easier for the trainers to emphasise independent searches among a wide range of web resources. (This was essential for borehole builders who were working alone on remote construction sites). Also, it made it possible to give learners a gradual access to a wider range of resources (and to solutions of their peers) once they had learned to develop their own solutions to the project tasks. (This was essential for the road-builders and pipeline-builders.) Moreover, apprentices were encouraged to document their projects with the Learning Toolbox. This enabled the instructors to see progress of their apprentices in real time and provide more timely feedback. The LTB has also strengthened the self-organisation of the instructors in terms of streamlining their content and sharing common resources between the different professions. While this approach to collaborative training was already there at Bau-ABC, the LTB offered a further channel to systematise this practice. Altogether, the co-design process has been characterised by a continuing research & development dialogue that has been underpinned by the accompanying research approach of the research institute ITB, University of Bremen.

What has been the impact so far and what can be expected in the near future? 

After the project the use of the Learning Toolbox was spread across all trades in which Bau-ABC Rostrup provides apprentice training. Consequently, the apprentices have started to complete their projects with the help of the Learning Toolbox. Based on this pioneering case, other German training centres in the construction sector are in the process of adopting the Learning Toolbox both for initial VET and for continuing VET. There are also teacher groups at a number of medical faculties in Germany who have adopted the LTB for practice training. Due to the closure of the training centres because of the COVID19-epidemic the trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup have prepared trade-specific stacks with the Learning Toolbox to support independent learning.

What have been key aspects for sustaining this initiative so long after the project 

Altogether, the co-design process, the piloting phase and the follow-up phase have been characterised by intensive research & development dialogue (underpinned by an accompanying a research approach that dovetails with the co-design process), adjustment of the tool development to the pedagogic approach of the trainers and to the effort to promote self-organised learning of apprentices. In addition, the project work and the follow-up has been characterised by strong support from the accompanying researchers of ITB. Furthermore, the trainers of Bau-ABC have become strong multipliers of innovation both within their organisation and in their networking with other training centres and partner companies. At the end of the project it was not certain, how the innovations could be sustained and spread. In the construction sector it was essential that the developers of the Learning Toolbox and the accompanying researchers from ITB took several initiatives to launch follow-up activities with construction companies.

I think these were the main points that we (I and Gilbert) wanted to bring into discussion in this process. In my next post I will take a quick look at the other cases that were explored in our discussions.

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 …

 

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 …

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

June 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

https://stockholminternationalvet.com/

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

 

Highlights from the Pontydysgu Studio – Learning lessons from key projects

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I wrote down some memories of the so-called Pontydysgu Studio in Bremen, now that that ‘studio’ has been closed and the Pontydysgu activities are continued mainly in Wales (Pontydysgu Ltd) and in Spain (Pontydysgu SL). With that post I tried to give an overview on the work with multimedia (in general) and as a part of our joint projects. With this post I want to give the floor to key actors of Pontydysgu – Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell. In the year 2012 I made some video interviews for my project of that time. In the interviews with Jenny and Graham I asked them to tell what they had learned in some of their key projects and how these lessons could be taken further to possible successor projects.

Jenny: The continuing learning process through different TACCLE projects

Among the Pontydysgu-led or -supported projects the series of TACCLE projects is a clear success story. It started with the first TACCLE project (Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments) that prepared an E-learning handbook for teachers 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. And the (so far) newest project Taccle4 focuses on developing materials and media to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. 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.

Graham: Lessons from predecessor projects – conclusions for the Learning Layers project

In the videos above  Jenny discussed a clear continuum of projects and a training and learning strategy that was developed further in the successive steps. In this respect the interviews with Graham were somewhat different. Firstly, they covered a longer period and a wider range of projects in which very different experiences could be made. Secondly, in the latter videos they focused on comparing the predecessor projects with the forthcoming Learning Layers project. Therefore, I have selected the two latest videos for this post – the discussion on the immediate predecessor project and the shift of emphasis to the new project. Here it is worthwhile to note what challenges Graham brought into discussion and how he expected us to meet the challenges.

I think this is enough of these highlights. To me, both sets of videos have very timely messages for our current projects. I Jenny’s case we are talking of the Taccle4 project to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. In Graham’s case we are talking about the successor activities of the Learning Layers project and its construction pilot – now that we can build upon the Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in the project. Yet, the message  – that we have to meet the challenges of the construction sector partners in their complexity – is very valid. And at the same time we have to be able to address these needs by customising the LTB and by complementary measures – training, introduction of additional software solutions and by participative co-design processes. This work is still going on.

More blogs to come …

Bye bye “Pontydysgu Studio” – good luck Pontydysgu Ltd & Pontydysgu SL!

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Pontydysgu headquarters in Pontypridd, Wales and ‘Pontydysgu Studio’ as its filial in Bremen – that is how we have experienced it quite a long time. The name “Pontydysgu Studio” was used by Graham Attwell and Dirk Stieglitz when they worked with projects that had a radio program as its major contribution. Altogether, the years when that ‘studio’ was used, they were to a great extent characterised by multimedia, radio and video productions, e-learning … all this as a support for learning in the context of work. But then came the time for changes. Pontydysgu Ltd will continue as usual, but next to it there is the Valencia-based Pontydysgu SL. And alongside these changes the “Pontydysgu Studio” was closed. This week Graham and several friends have emptied it and closed that chapter of Pontydysgu history. Bye bye Pontydysgu Studio, good luck with Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL! I give the word to Paul McCartney to spell out his greetings:

Memories of the “Pontydysgu Studio” and of our joint activities of that era

My earliest memories on working in and with this Pontydysgu Studio go to the years 2004-2005 just before I started working in ITB and the University of Bremen (but had already got the status of Visiting Fellow). Graham had already become a renown blogger with his “Wales-Wide-Web” and he was promoting Open Source software in Education. We remember the pioneering project SIGOSSEE that brought several key actors together. And in the next phase the successor project Bazaar started to look at possibilities to spread out Open Educational Resources by different stalls under the common umbrella of the Bazaar. However, the greatest success story of this project was the radio program “Sounds of the Bazaar” that was continued in several successor projects. And it was then followed by other similar radio initiatives like the conference radio programs for Online Educa Berlin (OEB) or European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). During these years several radio interviews were also made with international guests visiting the Pontydysgu Studio – I still remember the interviews with Ji Li and Tien Je from Beijing, Nikitas from Athens, Lewis and Libby from Melbourne and several others.

But our cooperation was not only about multimedia, there were many research & development projects and initiatives in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Here it is worthwhile to mention that Graham had been recognised as a life-time Visiting Fellow (Gastwissenschaftler) of ITB. So, research in VET had a high priority. However, thanks to Graham and Dirk, the web and multimedia components started to play a greater role in these projects – one after another. And when these components started to become increasingly important, the projects became ‘learning laboratories’ for the research partners as well. Here I try to give a more or less comprehensive overview of projects or initiatives in which we (me and my ITB colleagues) have worked together with Pontydysgu during those years. After the acronym of the project and a nutshell description I have added in brackets the work with multimedia and web resources:

  • WLP – Workplace Learning Partnerships (Project website that was enriched with project blog, project wiki and a gallery of video interviews and external video clips);
  • TTplus – Framework for training of trainers (Conceptual and field-oriented project, summarised in a project wiki);
  • iKoopNet – Initiative for a networked project to introduce e-portfolios and digital tools to vocational learning (was given up because the leading industrial partner was hit severely by the economic crisis);
  • “Trainers in Europe” (EuroTrainer 2) – A network activity based on a Europe-wide consortium to promote networking among workplace trainers and trainers of training centres (Creation of a network platform with many communication and sharing functions);
  • “Consultation seminars” – Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars (for different stakeholders) to discuss the role of common frameworks for promoting professional development of trainers (Web platform to bring together the results of different regional workshops; enriched with video material from the latest workshops);
  • Euronet-PBL – promoting practice-based learning as a work-related learning component in higher education with focus on three domains – engineering, business management, vocational teacher education (Web platform enriched with project blog and a number of video interviews with partners and students);
  • Politics – promoting learning about politics by means of storytelling, media commentaries and informal learning (Creation of a single platform with sections using multiple languages and with different kinds of ‘educational resources’, ‘competitions’ and storytelling components);
  • Coop-PBL in VET – transnational project for sharing knowledge on problem- and project-based learning in VET with support of specific learning software and ‘virtual community’ section (Pontydysgu was not a partner but supported me in producing a large section of video interviews into the ‘virtual community’);
  • Learning Layers – Major European research, technology and development (RTD) project funded from EU FP7 with a several technical, research-oriented and intermediate partners as well as application partners from two pilot sectors (construction and healthcare); the aim was to support learning and knowledge processes in SMEs with the help of widely usable digital tools (that networked web resources and were available as mobile apps). (Pontydsygu was leading the work package in which the digital toolset “Learning Toolbox (LTB” was initiated, developed and piloted in a highly participative and interactive process).

I guess this is enough of the memories and of the project history. A lot of working and learning was involved in those activities that in many respects were linked to this famous “Pontydysgu Studio” (and to its extension, the “Pontydysgu Meeting Room” further down at Horner Strasse). Those were the days, but times – they are a-cha-anging as the old song tells us. So, we say goodbye to the Pontydysgu Studio with good memories in our minds and wish all the best to Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL in the new situation.

More blogs to come …

 

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

March 16th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

Mapping the neighbouring projects – what for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support for digital strategies and creative learning designs in vocational schools

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

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

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

Support for learning and knowledge processes in specific occupational contexts

The exemplary projects for this theme are the following ones:

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

February 26th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

February 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

 

 

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