“Working & Learning” after working life – thoughts on further blogging

January 13th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last year I finished my blogs with thoughts on retirement and retreat. I came to the conclusion that I need to rediscover myself as a blogger now that I am no longer an active researcher in the field of vocational education and training. So, gone are the stories of fieldwork, European projects, transnational meetings and conferences. Also, I am no longer an expatriate Finn living in Germany (and with a motivation to explain what is going on in present-date German society). Therefore, I decided to have a holiday break and think it all over.

Now I want to wish everybody a good start for the new year 2021. Not that I would be much wiser than few weeks ago. I still need give some thoughts on my future role as a blogger. But I have already some answers to the question, why I should continue blogging:

  • Reflections on the lessons learned during my active working life: So far I have been writing in a ‘reporting’ mode on what has happened or what has been recently produced for ongoing projects. Now I can look back and discuss, what has been learned during that work on specific key themes.
  • Valuing the work of my (former) colleagues: So far I have been writing such blogs when a former colleague has passed away. Now I should also write on the importance of other colleagues (retired or active) for my work. Moreover, I should give visibility for colleagues, who are continuing the work in which I have been involved.
  • Keeping an eye, what is going on in Europe: I may still find some issues that I might comment from my particular European perspective (having lived as an expatriate abroad quite some time). In particular this might be the case with European cooperation and with the Finnish or German views on it.
  • Keeping an eye, what is going on with the cultural scenes that I follow: Here I leave it open, what I might bring into discussion under this heading. Time will tell.

So, I guess this is enough for a new start. Let us see, what may be on the cards later this year.

More blogs to come …

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Thoughts on retirement and retreat – Part One: What consequences for blogging?

December 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog posts I have been closing my activities as a project-based researcher. In addition, I have made a brief review on different phases of my career with European research & development projects in the field of vocational education and training (VET). This has been part of my stepping out of active engagement in working life and transition to retirement. At the end of those posts I have indicated that I will continue writing blogs, but from a different perspective. However, as long as I have had something to report and review (in particular in the light of occasional anniversaries), I have not given much thoughts on what implications this new situation – landing to retirement – might have for my future blogging. Now it is time to share some thoughts on it – and to make it transparent, what kind of fundamental changes I am going through. Below I will mention some aspects of these changes.

Semi-retirement, full retirement and retreat from the ‘battle grounds’

For many active researchers the end of the career at their university job has not meant a complete departure from their former activities. Many of my old acquaintances have continued in some form of consultancy and private research activities. That is often called as semi-retirement (and the Germans top it up with their joking expression ‘(Un)Ruhestand’). I have had my taste of this during this year when I had a short part-time contract alongside my pension to finish my activities in my last project. But for me it was clear that when the project is over, there will be no such continuation.

For me the strong point was the need to move back to my home country Finland. For many years I had lived as an expatriate in Germany and visiting my home country and my beloved ones as often as I could (but not as often I would have wished). So, now it was the time to put an end to this shuttling and to get settled. During the year 2020 there was a longer period of working from the Finnish home office and that was a kind of ‘semi-retreat’ but it didn’t feel like the complete retreat. Now, once I have finished the project work and moved completely back to Finland. I start to understand, what difference it makes to leave the ‘battle grounds’.

Research & development work in action vs. observation from afar

During my active years my blogging on projects has been inspired by the fact that I have been in the middle of action – working closely with development-related challenges and action contexts and with European partners. This has given me food for thought and I have been digesting my experiences and our ideas with blogs posts. Also, these project contexts have given me the awareness of actual and potential audiences with whom I am in a dialogue. Now, in the process of retirement and retreat this feeling is fading away.

In this context I have to mention the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA) and its activities in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). Ever since the founding phase I have been active in different roles and become recognised as the historian of the network. My blogs  on the annual ECER conferences have given me the basis for writing a report on the evolution of the VETNET network by the year 2016 (when I had to stay away from the conference that celebrated the 20th anniversary due to illness). I then returned to the three following conferences and wrote further blogs but indicated that I will not continue participating in the future conferences. (I left open the option to complete the history report up to ECER 2019.)

Now, due to the corona crisis, the ECER 2020 was cancelled with rather short notice and the ECER 2021 will be organised as an online event. In this respect the VETNET network has been working with new solutions for proceedings publications to harvest the participants’ contributions for the ECER 2020 and to prepare the grounds for online participation. From this perspective, the VETNET is entering a new era with new challenges. I can at best wish good luck.

Staying as an expatriate in Germany – and being engaged with other Europeans

Alongside my project-related blogging I have sometimes taken up somewhat different themes. Mainly I have taken the role of a European expatriate living in Germany and interpreting some interesting themes from the German point to other Europeans. Many of these have been related to historical anniversaries – in particular to the processes of peaceful revolution in East Germany 1989 and to the German reunification in 1990. But I have also reported on the pro-European movement Pulse of Europe and its activities to promote positive engagement to promote European solidarity and commitment to work together for a better future. I was pleased to be able to join in the activities and give some inputs in the ‘open microphone’ sessions of the regular Sunday meetings.

Also, I have written some blogs with focus on the 100th anniversary of the Finnish independence. I felt the need to explain the particular history of our nation-building during the centuries of Swedish rule and the century of Russian rule (but with a considerable degree of autonomy). Then, I felt the need to explain the difficult process of gaining the independence (after the World War I), defending it (during the World War II) and consolidating the Finnish welfare state and the particular international position as western democracy and bridge-builder between East and West.

Looking back, I am pleased that I have been active on these fronts. BUT I am no longer there, among the Germans and working with other Europeans. So, I think that I have already completed the mission when it comes to blogging on these themes.

So, having shared these thoughts I am somewhat uncertain, how to continue my blogging from a different perspective. Obviously, I need to find a new role for myself and that takes time. Part of this process is to reconsider, what I want to discuss via blogging and what as a user of (other) social media. That is the topic for my next blog post.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

 

 

 

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25 years with European projects – 15 years with ITB – 8 years with regular blogging

November 28th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent posts I have several times mentioned that I am going through a transition from active project work to retirement. In my latest post I was pleased to note that the management of the University of Bremen thanked me for my years of service and sent me nice souvenirs from Bremen. During the last few days it has crossed my mind that several anniversaries of my career come together in this season. So, perhaps it is appropriate to say some words about the beginning of my engagement with European projects (25 years ago).  Then, I can reflect on the beginning of my work as a researcher of  Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – and as an active project promoter (15 years ago). Finally, it is worthwhile to look back at my start as a regular blogger on my work in European projects (8 years ago). To be sure, I do not try to give a complete overview of my work with projects during all these years. Instead, I want to give insights into critical turning points and changes in the European cooperation climate in the field of vocational education and training (VET).

25 years work with European projects in the field of VET

Indeed, I had started working at Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) already in the year 1994. My work started on transitional basis and at that time all Cedefop activities were overshadowed by the fact that the centre was to be relocated from Berlin to Thessaloniki. However, already during my time in Berlin I had made contacts with different European institutes that were preparing projects for the new European cooperation programs – in particular for the Leonardo da Vinci program for the field of VET. Moreover, I had participated in the inaugural events that were organised in Berlin by the European Commission and the national Leonardo centre in Germany (at that time placed in Berlin). At that time the role of Cedefop vis-à-vis the program and the projects was not clear. I then saw an opportunity to start a Cedefop project that was based on knowledge sharing and exchanges between parallel projects as ‘networking the networks’. By the end of the year 1995 (when Cedefop had moved to Thessaloniki and I had got a proper EU contract) I was ready to start working with a number of EU-funded projects with similar themes and interests of knowledge.

What struck me from the very beginning, was the creative and innovative spirit of many of these projects. It can at best be characterised with slogans like ‘Learning from Europe and learning for Europe’ or ‘Working together and learning from each other’. Some of the project partners had already earlier experience from European projects in which they had only produced national reports or case studies – and that was it. Now, the projects tried to develop common understanding of the theme and to set their own understanding of VET into a European group picture. In this context the partners did not understand themselves as advocates for their national systems or policies. Instead, many projects developed frameworks that helped the participants to reflect critically on the relative strengths and weaknesses of their respective VET systems and institutions. Moreover, many projects had interesting discussions, what different countries and VET models can learn from each other. As far as I am concerned, I accompanied several projects by participating in their events and organised European seminars and symposia in which project partners shared knowledge and commented each others’ work.

At that time these European research & development projects in education and training were paving the way for emerging European policies. In the beginning the first priority for these European projects was to support EU member states to develop their education and training systems with comparative and collaborative project results. Thus, the projects were working in a creative space and the policy-makers were not steering strongly the work in these programs. However, the creative period and climate of openness did not last long and the momentum faded away. As I see it, there were several reasons for this:

  • Although the projects provided valuable analyses and opened interesting innovative perspectives, they were not in the position to push forward strong change agendas. The messages on learning from each other did not lead to effective policy processes.
  • Many projects had reached an interesting interim synthesis with a limited number of partner countries. When follow-up projects were launched with a wider range of participating countries, the European group picture got blurred.
  • The researchers who had participated in several projects had reached a point of relative saturation of learning from each other and were confronted that this wider knowledge does not help them in promoting innovations in their own countries.
  • At the European level policy-makers shifted the emphasis from innovations in national VET systems to transparency of learning outcomes. Thus, instead of looking for systemic and cultural innovations, the policy processes started working with quasi-neutral ‘European’ reference levels, descriptors and credit transfer models.

During those years (19944/95 – 2002) blogging was not available as an option to reflect on the activities. At that time I could at best write down my experiences and thoughts into my mission reports (Dienstreiseberichte). After my time in Cedefop I compiled them into several thematic logbooks that gave a picture on my accompanying activities (with projects) on my involvement in conferences and on my contributions to the VETNET network (inthe context of ECER-conferences).

15 years work with European projects of ITB

Alongside the above-described change in the European cooperation climate my time at Cedefop had come to an end. I had returned to Finland and tried to get grounded in my home country. However, it pointed out to be harder than I thought. Therefore, I was pleased to start working at ITB. I had learned to know the institute already before my time in Cedefop and  I had had very close cooperation with ITB colleagues promoting the ‘networking the networks’ among European projects.

In the beginning my role was somewhat ambiguous. To be sure, I had a clear task to support ITB in the European follow-up of the international Hangzhou conference to promote a common approach to VET teacher education (based on genuine VET research tradition). However, in addition to this, it was not clear, what else was on the cards. However, very soon a colleague had a traffic accident and got a hospital infection on top of it. So, I was asked to jump in as a replacement to coordinate the EU-funded project on workplace learning partnerships. This turned out to be a hard ride, because the partners were working in very different circumstances and it was difficult to bring the activities and achievements towards common conclusions.

This difficult start was followed by a number of projects on ‘training of trainers’ or promoting professional development of ‘teachers and trainers in VET’. Many of these projects were overshadowed by policy-makers’ expectations to create common European standards or guidelines (compatible with the Bachelor/Master structure of the Bologna process or in terms of common European reference levels). Some of these projects could promote learning from each other, but the diversity of the country-specific approaches could hardly be linked to a common innovation agenda. Yet, as a side-effect, some of these projects brought the work with common platforms, project-based blogs and social media into picture.

Indeed, during this period I made several attempts to use blogging as means to support European projects. Firstly I tried to work with project-specific blogs as means to provide progress reports and to share ideas. Also, at a certain point there was an effort to develop a conference blog for the VETNET network – to share experiences of different sessions. Some of the project blogs – in particular those that involved video interviews – played a role in bringing the partners together to a common discussion. Yet, they were hardly in a position to reach a wider audience. For me personally some project blogs were of vital importance in shaping the ITB contribution as series of blog articles (e.g. the Politics project) or as series of video interviews with ITB colleagues and affiliated VET teachers (e.g. the Co-op PBL in VET project). Sadly, most of these project blogs have gone lost since the respective websites are no longer available.

8 years with regular blogging on my work and experiences with my latest projects

Already during the above-mentioned phase of work I had tried to start my own blog as means to share ideas and experiences. However, these efforts were rather short-lived. My first start was an attempt to revitalize the ‘networking the networks’ approach with a self-made framework of common ideas to be promoted in European projects. Obviously, such an idea – without an institutional backing and without any resources – was a castle in the air.  Then, at the next phase I already grasped the leading theme ‘working and learning’ but the projects of that time did not give much ingredients for regular blogging.

Strangely enough, the greatest opportunity for ‘working and learning’ in the context of European cooperation was provided by a project that was not designed by ITB and wasn’t focusing primarily on the field of VET. Indeed, the Learning Layers project was developed by an interdisciplinary consortium of educational technologists, ICT system architects, software developers and applied information technologists. They were interested in promoting organisational and workplace-based learning in healthcare organisations and were developing a proposal for the 7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and development of the European Union. Luckily, the consortium came to a conclusion that they needed another sector in another country. That brought into picture the construction sector in Germany and ITB as a partner to coordinate and support the construction pilot.

In the light of the above the ITB team had to work itself in into the project and to develop a common approach with the application partners in the construction sector. Based on the experience of ITB in an earlier Work & Technology programme it was possible to launch the initial ‘co-design workshops’ that mapped some needs and possible ways forward. The common design conferences of the consortium gave a rough orientation towards a design idea – digitization of training and learning materials in the construction sector. Yet, with trials, efforts and reorientation this idea was reworked into the concept of the Learning Toolbox – a digital toolset to support workplace learning. Yet, the path from the design idea to a workable toolset and to digital competences to use it was a rocky road. Thus, we needed to take several actions in training the trainers and in finding ways to use the functionality that was emerging. All this complexity and the search and research processes provided a basis for active blogging.

In a similar way I faced a challenge in the follow-up phase when I got the task to represent ITB in the TACCLE4 CPD project. As I have explained it in my blogs of the recent years, I had to work myself and the field of VET in into a project that had focused on general education and promoting digital competences of classroom teachers. Here, I had to analyse the tradition of earlier TACCLE projects and the legacy of the Learning Layers project as a different starting points for promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers. This tension provided a basis for a further period of active blogging.

At the end of both the Learning Layers project I have compiled annual logbooks of the blog posts that I have written during the years that project worked (2012/13 – 2016/17). I also compied a thematic logbook on the development of the Learning Toolbox during the project and in the immediate follow-up phase. Finally, at the end of my work for the TACCLE4 CPD project I have compiled a logbook of my blog posts for this project. All these logbooks – as well as the earlier logbooks of mission reports are all available on my page on ResearchGate.

I guess this is enough of the different periods in my work with European projects. As I see it, I am now stepping out of the project activities – but I can still keep on reflecting, what have been the lessons learned. And I have also learned to write blogs on other topics of European interest. So, I will not drop the pencil now that I have gone to retirement.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

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Working and Learning with the TACCLE4 CPD project – Logbook of blog posts available on ResearchGate

November 19th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the years 2017 – 2020 I have written regularly blog posts on my work for the EU-funded TACCLE4 CPD project. These have been published  on my blog “Working and Learning” and on the TACCLE4 CPD website. As has been indicated in the blog posts, this project is the fourth in the series of transnational TACCLE projects to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers in Europe. Now, on having completed my work for the project, I have collected the blogs into a single document “Working and Learning with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Logbook of blog posts on the TACCLE4-CPD project 2017-2020”.  Below I share some introductory remarks on the logbook.

The background of the TACCLE4 CPD project

The acronym TACCLE referred to the title of the first project “Teachers’ aids on creating content for learning environments” and to its main product – teachers’ handbook for developing e-learning. In the subsequent projects the emphasis was shifted to specific subject domains (TACCLE2) and to supporting the teaching of programming in general education (TACCLE3). The aim of the current project (TACCLE4 CPD) is to support the development of continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in order to enhance their digital competences. Whilst the previous projects were providing direct support for classroom teachers, the current project seeks to develop training models and provide support for those who plan CPD measures.

The challenge for the project work in the field of vocational education and training (VET)

This logbook contains primarily contributions to the work for the TACCLE4 CPD project in the field of vocational education and training (VET). However, many posts try to relate this work to the school-centred approach of the previous TACCLE projects. In particular this becomes visible in the blogs that reflect the importance of the Learning Layers project as a predecessor of the TACCLE4-CPD project.

In this respect this logbook serves as a documentation of a project-specific learning history in which achievements of prior TACCLE projects and of the Learning Layers project are brought together in order to support CPD initiatives in the field of VET. Since this is a logbook of blogs that had been written for an ongoing project, it is not appropriate to present final conclusions. Instead, the logbook provides snapshots on the development of the work at different phases of the work. Therefore, the original blog posts have been copied below as such, without further commentaries.

The logbook “Working and Learning with the TACCLE4 CPD project” is available in the project space “TACCLE CPD and VET” on ResearchGate.

With this update I bring my blogging on the TACCLE4 CPD project to an end and finalise the logbook of the blogs.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

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The reports of ITB for the TACCLE4 CPD projects are published on the website and on ResearchGate

November 18th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog posts I have announced that I have completed the work on behalf of Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) for the TACCLE4 CPD project. I have described the finalisation of the latest reports and given a group picture. In this way the journey from preparatory analyses to addressing key points in promoting digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers has become more transparent. Moreover, the revisited framework Theme Room training 2020 and theTACCLE4 CPD Showcase have been set to a context. And the glimpses to the newer work with the theme ‘Artificial Intelligence and VET’ and the progress with using the digital toolset Learning Toolset (as support for online conferences) have been added to the picture.

Now it is time to announce that all these reports have been made available on the TACCLE4 CPD website in the section

Developing Technology Enhanced Learning in VET.

In addition to this, the reports are also available on ResearchGate in the project space

TACCLE CPD and VET.

And, as has been mentioned above, they are also accessible via the above-mentioned LTB-powered resource environment

TACCLE4 CPD Showcase.

The project work with focus on the field of vocational education and training (VET) has been completed and the results have been delivered. Now it is time for follow-up activities and for reflecting on lessons learned.

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

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The work of ITB for the TACCLE4 CPD project successfully completed

November 5th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog post I reported of my last contributions to the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. In the same context I announced the end of my career as an active researcher and my transition to retirement. However,  I then realised that I had been asked to write a short overview on the finalisation of my project work for the web page of our institute – Insitut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen. I then thought that the best way to complete this task is to write firstly a blog post. In this way I have the chance to revisit firstly the initial idea, then the way that project work was shaped and finally results of the project. Here, it is worthwhile to note that I am not writing on behalf of the whole project but on the specific contributions that focus on the field of vocational education and training (VET).

The project idea and finding the way to work with it in the field of VET

TACCLE4 CPD project was launched as a successor of three earlier TACCLE projects that focused on promoting the digital competences of classroom teachers. The acronym TACCLE stands for “Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments. The three first projects developed handbooks and online materials to support teachers who were creating contents for e-learning. The aim of the fourth project was to develop strategies and models for continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of  teachers and trainers in different educational sectors.

Whilst the other partners were focusing on general education and adult education, ITB was invited to work with the field of VET. Here the main reference was the involvement of ITB in the co-design of digital tools, multimedia training for vocational trainers and pilot testing of digital tools in the EU-funded Learning Layers project. From this point of view the background of ITB experience and collaboration with practitioners differed from the approach of other partners who focused integrating the use of digital tools to school-based learning.

The above-mentioned contrast became apparent when the founder of the project, Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu became seriously ill and then passed away during the first year. As Angela Gerrard from Pontydysgu took over the coordination, the project team had to redefine their roles in the project and find their own ways to work in their respective fields. From this point on the work of ITB became a specific sub-project that focused on the field of VET  and built upon the work in the Learning Layers project.

The main contributions of ITB to the project

Consequently, the contributions of ITB have been special reports that link the issue of promoting digital competences to contexts of vocational and work process-oriented learning. From this perspective the reports have addressed the following themes, challenges and working perspectives:

  • The report on Policy analyses made transparent specific governance models in the field of VET (federal structures, stakeholder involvement) and the role of national local and sectoral innovation partnerships;
  • The examination of Prior and parallel innovation projects gave insights into different innovative approaches in school-based education and in vocational learning contexts;
  • The report on Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of VET gave insights into specific cases in which OER had been used in vocational learning arrangements;
  • The research report on Strategies and Training concepts for promoting  digital competences builds upon the previos reports. It makes distinctions between school-based and work process-oriented approaches, dicusses overarching frameworks and outlines different innovation paths.
  • The framework “Theme Room Training 2020” builds upon the research report. It revisits the experiences of training with theme rooms in the Learning Layers project. It then outlines a new set of thematic blocks in the light of the research report (e.g. the innovation paths) and other contributions (e.g. the planning tool “TACCLE Routemap”).
  • The report on Civic learning and new uses of digital toolsets complements the picture with newer developments. Firstly it informs of training initiatives that focus on artificial intelligence (AI). Secondly, it informs of new ways of using the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for self-organised learning and for online conferences during the coroca-crisis.

The final activities and results – Multiplier Event and the TACCLE4 CPD Showcase

In the final phase ITB organised a Multiplier event in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup – a former partner of the Learning Layers project. The event was based on a short resume of the work of the TACCLE4 CPD project and on the experiences of Bau-ABC trainers on the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for training. Also, the experiences with training in theme rooms and the prospect of relaunching a new round of such training was discussed. The work with and in the multiplier event has been documented in and activity report.

In this context ITB presented the TACCLE4 CPD Showcase – a digital resource environment that presents the work of the project as a collection of several LTB-stacks. In this way the showcase provides a comprehensive overview and an easy access to the digital resources that have been produced and used in the project. The showcase has also been introduced in a special report for the project.

I think this is enough of reporting of the work that has been completed in the TACCLE4 CPD project. From now on I need to move on to a phase of reflecting on lessons learned – in this project and throughout my career as researcher. That is a different exercise.

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

 

 

 

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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)

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New instructions for (new) users of Learning Toolbox

June 8th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent posts on this blog have focused on the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project to support vocational and workplace learning. At this point it is worthwhile to mention that the developers of the LTB have made good use of the quiet period when they have not been able to travel to visit interested partner organisations and run face-to-face workshops with new users. So, instead, they have prepared new introductory web pages and demonstration pages for the time when they can activate their contacts again. Below I want to give insights into the main introductory page (available in English, German and Spanish) and into a demonstration page (available in German).

Support page for new users of the Learning Toolbox

As I see it, the new support page for new users speaks for itself (see below two screenshots and links to the respective pages):

Here you have the link to Support page in English: https://support.ltb.io/

And here is the link to the Support page in German: https://support.ltb.io/wie-konnen-wir-ihnen-helfen/

Insights into the demonstration page on uses of Learning Toolbox (in German)

In a similar way the demonstration page – “Introduction to the Learning Toolbox in one minute” speaks for itself. Below you find four screenshots of the introductory texts (the one minute information package) and then a longer video presentation (slideshow with audio introduction and subtitles in German).

Here is the link to this demonstration page: https://support.ltb.io/learning-toolbox-kurz-und-knapp/

The video presentation gives more detailed information on the use of Learning Toolbox in vocational and workplace learning with an audio slideshow. Here we have four screenshots that give insights into the contents.

I think this is enough of these introduction and demonstration pages. In my next post I will discuss further videos that demonstrate innovative use cases of Learning Toolbox in specific construction trades.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

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Reflections on the impact of the Learning Layers project – Part Four: What all has contributed to the sustainability of the Learning Toolbox?

April 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous posts I have 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. The discussion started, when I published a blog post on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training centre Bau-ABC to support independent learning while the centre is closed. This triggered a discussion, how the digital toolset Learning Toolbox – a key result from our EU-funded R&D project – is being used in other contexts. This then gave rise to collect such experiences and to start a joint reflection on the impact of our work.

In the first post I gave an overview of this process. In the second post I presented the main points that I and my co-author Gilbert Peffer outlined on the use of LTB to support vocational and workplace-based learning in the construction sector. In the third post I gave insights into the use of LTB in other contexts based on spin-off innovations and on refocusing the use of the toolset. With this concluding post I try to summarise – from my perspective – what factors have contributed to the sustainability of the Learning Toolbox. Here I will make use of some aspects that were outlined for the authors of particular case studies that were brought together in our joint discussion. The points that I present below reflect the views of me and my co-author Gilbert Peffer on our experiences with the construction pilot of the LL project and its follow-up phase.

Strong focus on co-design and stakeholder engagement

As we see it, the co-design, pilot implementation and wider deployment of LTB in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup underlines the importance of well-functioning research & development dialogue. Many elements in the project design of Learning Layers provided favourable starting points – e.g. the emphasis on co-design practices, iterative processes and flexible teamwork. Yet, during the work, the partners had to find their ways – time and again – to adjust the guiding principles, the practical pedagogic orientations and possible software solutions to each other.

Flexible collaboration between partners during the follow-up phases of the project

By the end of the project it was not certain, in what ways the innovations could be sustained and the collaboration between researchers, technical partners and practitioners could be continued. From this perspective it was essential that the developers of the LTB and the accompanying researchers from research institute ITB  took several initiatives to launch follow-up activities with partner organisations  in the construction sector. These efforts were not always successful in terms of acquisition of new funded projects. Yet, they provided new insights into potential use of the LTB in organisational contexts and between dispersed work processes.

Rethinking the contextual opportunities and applying technology in previously unforeseen contexts

Due to many intervening factors the progress with the follow-up activities had not been a direct process of  scaling up the innovation. Instead, the interested partners have had to find new paths for working further with the Learning Toolbox in new contexts. Partly the success in using Learning Toolbox in vocational training and partly the spread of using ePosters in conferences have inspired new users. Partly the feasibility studies in the construction sector have opened new prospects for using Learning Toolbox for organisational knowledge sharing – as has been the case latterly in the healthcare sector.

Shaping of R&D projects as innovation hubs/ platforms

On this point our experiences suggest a common success conclusion: R&D projects should not be understood and planned out as mere research studies. Neither should they be looking for allegedly integrated solutions (‘one size fits all’, ‘one format suits all’). Instead, they should rather be shaped as networked innovation hubs or platforms. In such context research elements can receive initial validation and a team to start an innovation process. As we see it, the strength in the construction pilot of the LL project was the continuity of a participative research & development dialogue that kept the processes vivid and helped to overcome difficult periods. Moreover, the multiple support activities helped the practitioners to take ownership of the innovation and become multipliers of new practices.

I guess this is enough of our reflections for the moment. I will get back when we know, on what forum and in what way we will be presenting our joint findings and conclusions from all case studies.

More blogs to come …

 

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Reflections on the impact of the Learning Layers project – Part Three: The use of Learning Toolbox in new contexts

April 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two latest posts I have 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. As I have told earlier, the discussion started, when I published a blog post on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB)  in the training centre Bau-ABC to support independent learning while the centre is closed. This triggered a discussion, how the digital toolset Learning Toolbox – a key result from our EU-funded R&D project – is being used in other contexts. And – as I also told earlier – this gave rise to the initiative  of the leader of the Learning Layers consortium to collect such experiences and to start a joint reflection on the impact of our work. In the first post I gave an overview of this process of preparing a joint paper. In the second post I presented the main points that I and my co-author Gilbert Peffer presented on the use of LTB to support vocational and workplace-based learning in the construction sector. In this post I try to give insights into the use of LTB in other contexts based on spin-off innovations and on refocusing the use of the toolset. Firstly I will focus on the development of ePosters (powered by LTB) in different conferences. Secondly I will give a brief picture on the use of LTB for knowledge sharing in the healthcare sector.

Insights into the development of ePosters powered by LTB

Here I do not wish to repeat the picture of the evolution of the ePosters – as a spin-off innovation of the LTB as it has been delivered by the responsible co-authors. Instead, I try to give firstly my impressions of the initial phase of this innovative use of LTB to support poster presenters in conferences. Then, I will give a glimpse, how we tried to present the ePoster approach to the European Conference on Educational Research and to the VETNET network. Here I can refer to my blog posts of that time. Then I will add some information on the current phase of developing the work with ePosters – as presented by the responsible authors for the joint paper on the impact of LL tools.

  • In October 2017 I became familiar with the breakthrough experience that the developers of the LTB and the coordinator of the healthcare pilot of the LL project had had with the development of ePosters for conferences. In the annual conference of medical educators (AMEE 2017) they had introduced the ePosters (prepared as LTB stacks) as alternatives for traditional paper posters and for expensive digital posters. At that time I published an introductory blog post – mainly based on their texts  and pictures. Foe me, this was a great start to be followed by others. Especially the use of poster cubicles to present  mini-posters that provided links to the full ePosters was very impressive. Another interesting format was the use of ePosters attached to Round Tables or Poster Arenas was interesting.

  • In the year 2018 we from ITB together with the LTB-developers and with the coordinator of the VETNET network took the initiative to bring the use of ePosters into the European Conference on Educational Research 2018 in Bolzano/ Bozen, Italy. We initiated a network project of the VETNET network (for research in vocational education and training) to serve as a pioneering showcase for the entire ECER community. In this context we invited all poster presenters of the VETNET program to prepare ePosters and the LTB-developers provided instructions and tutoring for them. Finally, at the conference, we had the ePoster session and a special session to e approach for other networks. This process was documented by two blog posts – on September 2nd and on September 11th – and by a detailed report for the European Educational Reseaarch Association. The LTB-stacks stacks for the ePosters can be found here, below you have screenshots of the respective web page.

  • In the light of the above the picture that the promoters of ePosters have presented now is amazing.  The first pilot was with a large, international medical education conference in 2017. In 2018 it was used at 6 conferences across Europe. In 2019 this number grew to 14 and also included US conferences. The forecast for 2020 is that it will be used by more than 30 conferences with growth in the US being particularly strong.  The  feedback from users and the number of returning customers  suggest that the solution is valued by the stakeholders.

Insights into the use of LTB in the healthcare sector

Here I am relying on the information that has been provided by the coordinator of the healthcare pilot of the Learning Layers and by the former partners from the healthcare sector. Therefore, I do not want to go into details. However, it is interesting to see, how the use of LTB has been repurposed to support knowledge sharing between the healthcare services across a wide region. This is what the colleagues have told us of the use of LTB:

“LTB has been used to create stacks for each practice and thereby improve the accessibility of the practice reports as well as to enable the sharing of additional resources which could not be included in the main report due to space. The app has thus improved the range of information that can be shared, and links are also shared which allow users to read more in-depth into the topic areas. The use of LTB has also enabled the spread of information more widely, as the team suggested that the stack poster (a paper-based poster displaying the link to the stack and a QR code) should be displayed in the practice to allow any interested staff to access the stack and resources. The use of the stack also allows for all the information to be kept by interested staff in one central place, so previous reports and resources can be referred back to at any point. It can also be accessed via a personal mobile device, so gives the opportunity for users to access the information at the most convenient time for them, and without the need to have the paper report or to log in to a system.”

I guess this is enough of the parallel developments in using the LTB after the end of the LL project and alongside the follow-up in the construction sector. In the final post of this series I will discuss some points that have supported the sustainability of the innovation and contributed to the wider use of the LTB.

More blogs to come …

 

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