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Innovation in Training practice

November 11th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

For the last two days I have been moderating at the second on-line international confernce on innovation in training Practice. the conference, organised by the EU funded Network of Trainers in Europe, took place on the Elluminate platform and attracted some 70 participants from twenty or so countries.

The conference was seen as an experiment: whilst on-line conferences are becoming more common in the educational technology community, they are rare in wider professional areas like teaching and training. For many who attended it was their first experience of such an event and despite the occasional bandwidth glitch, most seemed happy with the event.

In contrast to the first conference, held last November and largely organised and moderated by Pontydysgu, other members of the network took an active role in organising this years conference and also moderated the different sessions. This was exemplified by the second day bilingual session from Spain, with a link up with a live audience from Madrid.

There were four main themes for the conference:

  • Innovations in Work-based Learning for VET Teachers and Trainers
  • Equality and Diversity – Innovations in training practice for socially disadvantaged group
  • Technology Enhanced Learning / ICT for innovation and training practice
  • Innovations in company-based training

In his presentation on Creativity as a starting point of Innovation process, Stanislav Nemerzitski, from Estonia expored the idea of innovation and what it means within our society. Individual creativity, he said, was linked to societal ideas of innovation.

throughout the conference, presenters provided exampales of innovation. What made this conference special for me was the strong focus on practice, rather than systems. however, most of the examples were based on projects or initiatives, giving rise to the question of how such innovation could be sustained and how it could be mainstreamed through institutions. One presenter,  Anna Grabner from Austria suggested that it was through conferences such as this that innovations in practice could be shared and thus transferred and adopted to new working situations. She saw processes of institutional change as coming from a boottom up direction, based on innovatory practice.

The conference once more highlighted the importance of teachers and trainers. Not only were more and more people involved in training as some part of their work practice, but the roles of trainers were becoming broader and in many cases involved some degree of specialisation. This poses questions about the initial training of teachers and trainers and about opportunities for professional development.

Although the first afternoon of the conference was devoted to innovation in the use of Information and communication technology, the theme of technology and learning ran through the conference. It seemed apparent that the use of technology is now impacting on training practice – particularly through social networking and Web 2.0 technologies.

In parallel many contributions focused on the move towards more work based learning. Work based learning was often being driven by the rate of change in  products and processes and in work organisation. Within such a focus informal learning was also receiving more attention. However, work based learning also required attention to be paid to the design of work and of the workplace in order to facilitate learning.

The role of research was another ongoing point of discussion. Research was seen as important in theorising innovation in practice in order to allow their sustainability and transfer. This required new tools to help practitioners and researchers gain a deeper understanding of processes and outcomes of innovation.

In terms of the skills and knowledge required by trainers pedagogic skills (in tecahing and learning) and a knowledge of the labour market were highlighted. many of the presentations highlighted the need for professional development and the training of trainers, especially in the area of new technology. this raises the issue of who such professional development can be organised. it was suggested that networking is important in this regard through the development of Personal Learning Networks. Indeed going further, it might be that involvement in innovation and projects might be the basis for Professional Development. In her keynote presentation, Lilia Efimova from the Netherlands looked at how blogging could support reflection and learning. Reflection in innovation could possibly provide support for teachers and trainers to take part in further innovation, thus developing an ecology of sustainable innovation in practice.

If you missed the confernce and would like to catch up on the sessions, the first day recordings are already available on the Network of Trainers in Europe website. And the slides from the seventeen presentations can be found on the slideshare embed at the top of this post. Check them out – there is some good stuff there.

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