Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Three: Insights into special areas of learning

May 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET). In my two previous posts I have summarised some of the pedagogic points raised by the trainers and their general views on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for apprentice training. With this third post I want to draw attention to the role of LTB as support for two special areas of learning. Here I am reporting directly from an interview with an expert partner in health and safety and in supporting language learning on foreign apprentices. Here it is worthwhile to note that in both areas the use of LTB was started at the end of Learning Layers (LL) project and the trainers of Bau-ABC have been developing their own solutions.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support training in health and safety

Concerning the area of health and safety, trainers from different trades worked as an informal working group. This effort supported the creation of a coherent LTB stack and helped the trainers to prepare their domain-specific instructions in a coherent way. Now, that the trainers and apprentices in all trades are using LTB, it makes the health and safety material present in a new way – it is no longer info sheets in a folder. The LTB can be accessed by trainers and by apprentices at any time. This has helped to make the training in health and safety more creative and situation-adjusted – as lived practice.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support foreign apprentices’ language learning

The LTB-stack to support Spanish apprentices in learning occupational vocabulary has been created together with trainers and an external language teacher. It has been enriched with quiz tasks that have made the learning more exciting. Also, this stack has included health and safety terminology. The stack has been helpful in preparing the apprentices for their tests and it will be developed and updated regularly. The usability has been greatly enhanced by the fact that Spanish is provided by LTB as an optional language.

I think this is enough of these examples. Altogether these interviews have given me a good feeling that the main result of our joint LL project – the Learning Toolbox – has been used actively. Moreover, it has become clear that the LTB has not been whatever digital tool among others. Instead, in the context of vocational learning it has proven to be a strategic toolset to promote digital competences and to enhance vocational learning. But we need to work further with these themes.

More blogs to come …

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Working for Europe – Celebrating Europe – Part Two: Joining the expatriates’ communities

May 11th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started from the fact that we had just celebrated the Europe-Day on Thursday the 9th of May. That led me to think about the origins of present-day European Union and about the community-building initiatives that brought it into being. This led me to think about my own career as a European researcher working for Europe (during my years in Cedefop) and in European cooperation projects (during my years in the University of Bremen). Now it is time to look at the other side of the coin – my participation in expatriate communities in Thessaloniki and in Bremen (beyond the working communities).

When Cedefop moved to Thessaloniki, most of us knew very little, what to expect. Luckily enough, our Greek colleagues went as a pioneering troop to find out of the housing opportunities and to give us then a helping hand. This worked very well and soon we all found our new home bases. In the beginning we remained as a relative close trans-national group of  ‘castaways’ but gradually we started to find local friends in our new neighbourhoods.

For me, the village of Thermi was a very nice environment and it was also the meeting point of the Thessaloniki Caledonian society. And a handful of us – Cedefop colleagues and my neighbours got engaged in the Scottish community. Some of us were of Scottish or Irish origins, some had studied in Scotland and some were adopted Scots. So, there we were celebrating the Scottish anniversaries with appropriate music, singing and dancing.

Via my Scottish contacts I then found out that there was also a Finnish community in Thessaloniki. I was surprised to discover that there were that many people of my nationality in the Thessaloniki area. And, moreover, the Finnish mothers and fathers had a “Suomi-koulu” (a voluntary Saturday school for teaching the Finnish language). So, I got also engaged in their activities and visited several times at the Suomi-koulu (and brought my Finnish visitors there when possible). During my time in Thessaloniki we celebrated the 80th Independence Day of Finland on the 6th of December in 1997. It was a remarkable Community event and I have still good memories of that. (It has been nice to rediscover this community and active members via Facebook – we have not lost the contacts.)

When I started in Bremen, I knew already the institute and most of the colleagues on the basis of my European cooperation activities and frequent visits to Bremen. So, both in terms of work and in terms of leisure activities I found very soon my circles. Funnily enough, it took a longer time before I got into contact with the Finnish expatriate community in Bremen. Firstly, I got into contact with the Suomi-koulu (the voluntary Saturday school in Finnish) that they had also in Bremen. But the real inspiration I got during the year of festivities to celebrate the 100th Independence Day in Finland. I attended the opening event in which the chairperson of the Sami Parliament gave a speech of the rights of the Sami people in Finland and in the neighbouring countries. That led me to a more active participation in the events of the Finnish community. And as a highlight we celebrated as a community the 100th Independence Day in a restaurant at the Old Town of Bremen. And during these activities it has been interesting to notice that we have several German people who are very committed friends of Finland, Lapland and the Sami people. So, it is not only us – Finns – that are socialising among ourselves. We are nicely networked and looking ‘out of the box’.

I guess this is enough of these memories. I feel privileged that I have had a chance to experience such things in Thessaloniki and in Bremen. What strikes me now – years after – is the success story of the Suomi-koulu in Thessaloniki. What I hear from the parents of the school children of those years is that the school gave the youngsters a great boost in learning Finnish. And later on, during the years of economic crisis in Greece, most of these young people managed to study in Finland. And now some of them are returning back to Greece as qualified experts. This, to me as a committed European, is something worth celebrating.

And this leads me to the starting point, the celebration of the Europe-day in Bremen. That is s topic for my next post.

More blogs to come …

 

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New stacks for new users of the Learning Toolbox – Two cases in Bau-ABC

June 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blogs I have reported on the pilot activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the intermediate training centre for construction sector Bau-ABC. Therefore, I have focused on the intermediate part of apprentice training (between learning in the companies and in vocational schools) carried out in the training halls and outdoor training areas of Bau-ABC. In this post I focus on efforts to open up the use of the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) for other users. This was the aim of our teamwork in Bau-ABC this morning. Below I report on the creation of new stacks for LTB that take explicitly into account wider range of users than the current groups of apprentices.

Stack to promote awareness on Health and Safety in construction sector

Already in February  we had our first talks with the Health and Safety specialist (Sicherheitsfachkraft) of Bau-ABC, Thomas Weerts, on the prospect of using LTB for thus special area (see my blog of the 22nd of February). Already at that time we gathered several ideas, how to make essential reference materials and practical tools accessible for users with the help of the functionality of LTB. Now we had found time to put these ideas into practice.

Firstly, we considered it important that this stack should not be exclusively for trainers and apprentices in Bau-ABC. Therefore, we named it as ‘Health and Safety in construction sector’ (Arbeitssicherheit in construction sector).  Thus, it should also be relevant for  in-company trainers (betriebliche Ausbilder) and shop stewards for health and safety (Sicherheitsbeauftragten).

Secondly, the first collection of materials provides links to web-based reference materials of Berufsgenossenschaften (public trade-specific bodies for hazard prevention and social insurance in industry and crafts & trades). In addition, this collection provides links to their mobile apps and to compendia that are available as CD-ROMs in companies and training centres.

Thirdly, another collection provides links to tools with which individual users assess health and safety risks in the context of work tasks (Gefährdungsbeurteilung). In apprentice training this is a mandatory task and it is supported by special worksheets provided by the respective Berufsgenossenschaften. (In the near future these will probably be transformed into mobile apps – which could then pave wider use for such tools beyond the initial training.)

The points above can be summarised quickly. Yet, it requires a special effort to decide, what kind or resources can be made available with different tiles and how to support the work of users with such resources. At the moment we stopped after having produced the welcome message and two collection tiles with the above mentioned resources. Thomas had made a good start and was prepared to continue with the next steps that would bring more interactivity into picture. Here, the prior work with trade-specific stacks (e.g. for carpenters, bricklayers and well-builders) could give some clues, how to integrate special tools and apps to this theme.

Stack to support learning and social integration of apprentices from foreign countries

Parallel to the work with the above mentioned stack Melanie Campbell was preparing a stack for a European mobility scheme. Bau-ABC is coordinating for the North-German construction industries and craft trades the Mobi Pro EU project that promotes mobility of trainees and apprentices from South-European countries – mainly from Spain – to get trained in German companies within the dual system. The first cohort of apprentices has already spent over a year and a new one is coming in a short while. As the experience has shown, the newcomers face many open questions and challenges – not only in their working and learning processes but even more regarding their socio-cultural integration and well-being. Here, the functionality of LTB could provide an easier access to information – but also communication channels between the apprentices and their peers of earlier cohorts.

With these thoughts coming up in our discussion Melanie started to give shape to the stack of the Mobi Pro EU project. After the welcoming message she started to prepare placeholder tiles for different kinds of information resources (general, domain-specific and local) to be accessed and for communication channels to be provided (different groups and chat channels). At the moment the format is still in the process of making, but it provides a possibility for involving different parties in further steps of the design process.

– – –

I end my report here – at the point when we ended our joint session. Both Melanie and Thomas will work further with these stacks and involve other colleagues as well. I am looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

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