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

November 27th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exploring the project histories of TACCLE projects and of Learning Layers

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

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

Reflections on different training models for promoting digital competences

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

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

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

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

October 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

Jenny training the trainers in Bau-ABC

Professionalisation of teachers, trainers and VET professionals altogether

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

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

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

Here some of the key points of this workshop concept:

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

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

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

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

Networks, communities and real life wisdom

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

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

More blogs to come …

 

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 …

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