Trainers in Europe – Open Discussion

November 8th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

The last two days I have been taking part of the 1st Network Trainers in Europe open online conference.

It was quite interesting at different levels. It was an experienced different from the others I have been accustomed to. Still as enriching as the other, as if not more, for the diversity of people I was able to interact with.

I was also part of the team behind the conference, and helped organize it – keeping in close contact with all parties involved: participants, speakers and organizers it’s hard work, but also a lot of fun when you work as a coherent team.

It’s incredible how much has to be done beforehand to put an event of this dimension together. But it is equally amazing what a great experience it can also be, even if stress sometimes takes over. The backstage team much be recognized for the amazing supportive work. Thanks Dirk, Joe and Graham for all the hard work, and all the support in the back channel! ;-)

This was a conference opened to everyone, but we knew that our main target audience would be people whose familiarity with technology was not as quite advanced as in the groups and communities some of us move about. Most of them use only a working email and rarely ever consider the web for anything else. That seems to do the trick for them so far, as trainers, mentors and/or policy makers. However, but were (are) also up to trying something else, to see the landscape from another perspective. Isn’t that the greatest driver of learning: to want to?  Willing is what it takes to get us started.

Technology however often plays the trick on us. There were people who struggled to get into the conference room: institutional firewalls, computers that crashed, names with non-standard characters that the system peremptorily refused to accept, people who were continuously directed to the sandbox room, despite the fact they were clicking on the right link… we got a bit of everything! But in the end, through different back channels and with the effort of a silent team, who was working hard in the background, most participants were able to succeed and join us for two days of remote live interaction.

Contemporaneous issues were raised and well represented in practical examples. The educational concerns and wishes are common across countries: how do we engage people to learn differently? How do we innovate and comply with the assessment and outcome “rules”? How can we value, and recognise, work-based learning? How little impact informal learning still has in official recognition of skills and competences. How to change that? What should be the role of the trainer in the 21st century?…. Many thoughts were added to these questions and many others that arose from the presentations.

The interactions increased as the technology became less of a stranger. The written chat was quite powerful in that sense, and some people were even brave enough to communicate with the speakers and the rest of the audience with audio. By the last two presentations, we had completely forgotten the formalities of the traditional question- answer format and were bouncing questions and comments at each other with enthusiasm. It became a big conversation. Wewent global right there and then, and all of a sudden all barrier (space, time, technology glitches, etc) seemed to ceasse. We were just taking part in a great conversation.

Above all we were just doing what the presenters had inspired us to do: to share, communicate and work together.

I think we can say we all learned something and we all had a bit of fun. It was a meaningful opportunity to power the connection and encourage people to come together, to consider a future which some of us are already part of.

As I had planned to quote in my last two slides, and which I missed to present because the conversation took us in different routes (and I am glad it was so):

We are standing at the threshold of a new era in learning approaches and itineraries where the greatest novelty of ICT resides in the full use of the C: C for community, communication and care. (Prof. Roberto Carneiro during Online Educa 2007)

And that’s the situation some have already embraced. It is also the future others are looking forward to making into their own present reality. Change takes time, but I have hope we will get there. We just need to want to and to be able to show we care through meaningful, personalized communication inside the community.

So a final thought:

The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet. (by William Gibson)*

* On the day of the conference professor Alan Brown sent me a paper he wrote. Coincidently he had finished his thoughts with this same sentence – the sentence I had planned to finish my slides with too. Maybe the future is getting more even than we think.

My slides here (recording coming soon)

The power of learning

November 6th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

We have just finished the two day online Conference on the training of teachers and trainers organised by the Networork for the Training of Traners in Europe and Evolve.

It was – at least I felt – an inspiring event. Although I don’t have accurate figures I guess at least 70 people attended at some art of the conference – including particpants from more than 20 countries. Despite the usual technical annoyances, the technology never got in the way of the exchange of ideas. In fact, rather the reverse. The discussion was more interactive and reflective than in most face to face events I have attended. We had 15 presentation in four two hour sessions – allowing about 15 minutes presentation and 15 minutes discussion for each presentater. As we had hoped, bringing together researchers and practitioners in the training of teachers and trainers and e-learning practitioners allowed for a productive interchange of ideas and practice.

We will be provding access to the outcomes of the confernece in a variety of different media over the next seven days. Here are just a few of my impressions about the themes of the discussions.

One theme was the increasing prevalence of work based learning. This is expecially so as the divide between initial training and continuing training becomes blurred. As learning becomes embedded in work processes then it becomes increasingly bound by context. Technology can help greatly in capturing learnng from practice in the context it occurs. But this does not really fit with the idea of predeterminded outcomes specified in qualifications. Furthermore the competences required today are changing with a focus on collaboration, working in teams and the ability to support others in their learning and work. Two different approaches were put forward to deal with this. One was to support more community based learning with facilitalors to support enquiry based learning. Another was to move from seeing learning as primarily a question of individual qualification to see it as an integral aspect of innovation. An inovation approach would lead to a focus on learning rich work.

The role of teachers and trainers is also changing with a move from didactic teaching to supporting learners especially in scaffolding learning and developing learning pathways. In many ways we are all beoming teachers and learners. The best teachers, it was said, are learners. It is no longer possible to merely absorb a body of knowledge, especially given increasing job flexibility. But how much employees need to acquire basic competences before being able to learn from work and what those competences are was an issue around which there was no agreement.

Given that more and more people are having responsibility for supporting the learnering of others, the issue of how they are supported in that role becomes an issue. Traditional training the trainers courses are not enough. Rather there is a switch to encouraging peer group support and facilitating the development of communities of pracice. The many web 2.0 tools are valuable in this repect. However, many teachers and trainers are not confident in the use of such tools. There are different approaches to how to deal with this, ranging from targeted courses, the provision of interactive web based resources and fostering self directed learning networks. For all this motivation, the willingness to invest time and effort and above all self-reflection are critical. There is an issue about in whose time learning should take place and to what extent we should be personally reposnsible for our learning and employability. Web 2.0 tools can allow us to link self directed and networked learning to practice. Especially important are the wide range of open learning opportunties being developed through the web.

Three buzzwords emerged from the conference – sharing, collaboration and openess.

Sorry for all I have missed. But please feel free to comment below and add to what I have said – or correct me if I misrepresented what people said.

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