Introduction

    Join me with “Working & Learning”

    November 9th, 2007 by Dirk Stieglitz

    I am Pekka Kämäräinen from Finland. From 2005 on I work as a senior researcher at Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen.  With my blog I want discuss European innovations in vocational education and training (VET) and in workplace learning.

    Working & Learning

    Multiplier Event of TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Two: Presenting the LTB-Showcase of the TACCLE4 CPD project

    October 18th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    In my previous post I gave a report on the Multiplier Event of our current EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. The event took place on Friday the 16th of October in the German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in North-Germany. As regular readers of this blog know, Bau-ABC was an important application partner in our earlier EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012 – 2017). Their collaboration was crucial for the development of the main product of the project – the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). As I have also reported, how the LTB has been used across the training centre in all apprentice training programs.

    During the current project I have made several working visits to Bau-ABC. On several occasions I have discussed with  Bau-ABC trainers on challenges and perspectives for promoting digital competences in the context of vocational learning. These interviews gave me plenty of food for thought when I prepared my reports for the project. In the previous post I gave an account on my input and reported briefly on the discussions that we had during the session. I also mentioned that I had prepared a showcase that was powered by the LTB. In this post I try to give insights into the showcase and its contents.

    The idea of preparing an LTB-showcase for TACCLE4 CPD project

    I have already presented the LTB Showcase of the LTB-developers in an earlier blog post. In that showcase they had given on overview of several conferences and online events in which LTB had been used to produce ePosters for the respective events. Given the success of these ePosters, the LTB-developers had created the format of showcase to select the ePosters of one event under a common banner. With regular users they had created cumulative showcases that contain ePosters of several years. With this newest showcase the LTB-developers had provided an overview on different user-events. And by tagging the individual ePosters with the name of the user-event they made it possible for the viewers to access the specific showcase of that event. In this way I became aware that there had already been a case in which an Erasmus+ project had organised a virtual multiplier event by creating an LTB-showcase for the project and then making it accessible for virtual participants.

    This gave me inspiration of preparing a similar showcase to support the forthcoming Multiplier Event that was under preparation. I understand that I have used specific terminology that doesn’t necessarily communicate clearly, what kind of product I was making. Perhaps one can characterise an ePoster (which is technically an LTB-stack) as a digital bookshelf that contains a collection of digital documents and other digital resources. The showcase that contains several ePosters (or LTB-stacks) can then be characterised as a small digital library. And the major showcases of the conferences can then be characterised as major ‘thematic libraries’, whilst the overarching LTB Showacase is a central library that refers to the ‘thematic libraries’.

    Overview on the contents of the TACCLE4 CPD Showcase

    Below I will first present screenshots of the contents of the showcase and of the banner that links them to each other:

    I guess that the screenshots above give an impression of the kind of digital contents that have been packed to the showcase. Some of these contents have been prepared as ePosters for conferences. Some have been prepared as LTB-stacks that present project reports for the TACCLE4 CPD and Learning Layers projects.

    I guess this is enough for a moment. Later on I will prepare a separate report that gives more detailed insights into the contents and explains how they can be accessed.

    More blogs to come …

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    Multiplier Event of TACCLE4 CPD project – Part One: Report on the event in Bau-ABC Rostrup

    October 18th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    Last Friday, the 16th of October, I was pleased to visit the German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup once again. As regular readers of this blog already know, I have been working together with this training centre for several years. Our cooperation started when our institute (Institut Technik & Bildung, ITB) and Bau-ABC became partners of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the year 2012. During the LL project we worked intensively together in the co-design process that led to the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and in training activities to promote the digital competences of the trainers in Bau-ABC. After the end of the project (2017) I maintained contact with Bau-ABC and was pleased to continue working with them when I became the ITB partner in the EU-funded TACCLE4 CPD project (2018 -2020). This newer project gave me an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the earlier one and to develop models and strategies for continuing professional development (CPD) of vocational teachers and trainers. Now, at the final phase of the project I was pleased to visit Bau-ABC and to organise the German Multiplier Event of the current project together with trainers of Bau-ABC. Below I will give a brief account on the event as such and in my next post I will discuss the contribution that I prepared for the event – a new LTB-showcase of LTB-powered stacks that I prepared for the TACCLE4 CPD project.

    The preparation of the Multiplier Event – the long and winding roads

    Originally I had prepared the initial plan for such an event together with my ITB colleagues. We had the idea of a bridging event that links the results of the TACCLE4 CPD project to their ongoing work with Open Educational Resources (OER) and with new developments with artificial intelligence (AI) in the field of vocational education and training (VET). We had drafted an invitation list that would bring together vocational teachers and trainers from different organisations – vocational schools and training centres – in the nearby region. The event was supposed to take place in June – between two travel periods when I was working outside Germany. BUT the corona-crisis made it impossible to implement these plans. Instead of returning to Bremen at that time I had to stay a longer period in my home country Finland. And due to the lockdown and the subsequent restrictions it was not possible to organise any presence event at the university campus before the summer holidays. Neither could we expect that vocational teachers and trainers could have had time to participate in such events when the schools and training centres were able to start anew at the end of May.

    During the summer months it became apparent that there will be no chance to organise any kind of face-to-face event with external participants at the university campus. On the contrary, the access of university researchers and supporting staff was strictly restricted  and meetings were transformed into online events. From this perspective it seemed impossible to go further with plans that would include inputs from different projects and bring together participants from different organisations. For some time it seemed that the only way to implement the Multiplier Event would be to produce a pre-recorded webinar and then invite online participants to access the online material. However, due to the travel restrictions I was stuck in Finland and even if I could have returned earlier, it would have been difficult to put together a good quality online resource to attract participants at the beginning of a new school year or the training period of apprentices.

    When returning to Bremen in the beginning of October I didn’t have high hopes of getting a decent multiplier event organised (whether as a face-to-face event or as a virtual even). However, things changed when I contacted Melanie Campbell, coordinator of Continuing Vocational Training at Bau-ABC and the key person for promoting the use of LTB  during the LL project and afterwards. We came to a conclusion that it would be possible to have a face-to-face event on Friday, the 16th of October in the afternoon (when the apprentices had already left for the weekend but the trainers were still there). We agreed on the input that I would make on the TACCLE4-CPD project (and the earlier LL project) and on her input concerning the current use of LTB in Bau-ABC.

    The inputs for the Multiplier Event

    So, we had the short time frame of two hours on Friday afternoon at our disposal – just as had been the case with the Theme Room training sessions in November 2015. This time there were additional challenges due to the corona restrictions and due to the fact that some of trainers were tied up with examination duties. But, with the thirteen trainers representing different trades and different training activities we had a qualified audience.

    In my input I tried to give a picture, how three aspects of fieldwork in Bau-ABC became vital threads of the work of the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot:

    • Joint analyses of work processes ans work-realated learning in different trades of construction sector;
    • Co-design of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox and different design events with trainers, apprentices and construction sector professionals who all gave their views, how a digital toolset could support them;
    • Multimedia training and ThemeRoom training that paved the way for the introduction of the LTB as a toolset that is being used regularly in the apprentice training and vocational learning activities provided by Bau-ABC.

    In a similar way I emphasised the special approach to the field of vocational education and training (VET) to promoting digital competences and to shaping continuing professional development of teachers and trainers:

    • We are not discussing merely about integrating the use of digital tools to teaching school subjects. Instead, the challenge is, how to link the use of tools to vocational learning and occupational work.
    • We are not discussing merely about use of new educational technology to support school-based learning. As a contrast, the challenge is, how to link the use of appropriate digital toolsets that contribute to changes in working life and work-related learning.
    • We are not merely talking about promotion of digital competences of individual teachers (responsible of their subject matter). As a contrast, the holistic approach to vocational learning requires that teachers and trainers have a common approach to using digital tools.

    In the light of the above I made the point of different innovation paths for introducing the use of digital tools. In this context I referred to different ITB projects that I had described in my reports:

    • The Kompetenzwerkstatt projects have been (re)designing the curricula (as a whole) for different vocational learning contexts. Here, the use of digital tools has been built in into specific curriculum processes.
    • The Learning Toolbox has been introduced as a new integrative toolset to be used in exemplary learning projects and to be spread in further projects via internal knowledge transfer and peer tutoring.
    • The Brofessio project had to deal with process industry cases in which the processes were sealed and could not be made transparent for learning in the context of work. As a contrast, it was necessary to introduce micro-learning units for off-the-job training to support work-related learning.
    • The use cases of introducing Opene Educational Resources (OER) were taken from specific vocational of pre-vocational learning contexts. Altogether they opened a perspective from relatively simple exercises to more complex uses of high-tech resources and to collaborative learning that involves learners from different trades.

    Finally, I discussed the Theme Room experience of the year 2015 and the rethinking of the Theme Room approach for present date use. Firstly, I emphasised that the concept of training with Theme Rooms was a well-thought format but we couldn’t benefit of all the richness since we couldn’t integrate the use of LTB to the training. Secondly, I emphasised the need of making a situation assessment on the challenges in the occupational fields, on the capability of trainers and learners regarding the use of digital tools and on the path to follow in the training. In this respect I underlined that the Theme Room Training 2020 framework (that I had drafted for the project) invites the users the design their own theme rooms with their own themes instead of following a ready-made guideline.

     

    The discussion takes off – coming together

    When opening the discussion Melanie Campbell pointed to the importance of the Theme Room training in 2015 as atraining campaign for all trainers of Bau-ABC. The aim was to bring the digital competences of trainers to an equal level – as much as this could be achieved. Since then the use of LTB in different trades has taken the main attention and the practical issues have come up as the main concerns.

    In the discussion many trainers brought into picture different problems that delimit the use of LTB at the training sites. Partly these are of infrastructural nature, partly there are difficulties in using the functions of LTB with given software solutions. Thus, the trainers have noticed that LTB is frequently used over the weekend. Melanie Campbell took note of these issues and suggested that similar Friday afternoon sessions should be used for troubleshooting and for sharing knowledge, how to overcome the difficulties.

    Some of the trainers made the point that the Theme Rooms should be brought back to picture. Others commented that more emphasis should be given on overcoming the problems and getting more users at same level. Once this has been achieved, then it would be possible to take further steps in deepening the understanding on digital tools.

    Altogether, the discussion reflected the situation in a training centre that had the experience of being early users of digital tools. In this respect it seemed that a period of “Theme Forums” would be needed to deal with the current problems befor heading to new cycle of Theme Rooms. Yet, when looking back at the earlier phases of the Learning Layers project in 2014 and 2015, the ones of us who had shared experiences of that time could agree that we come a long way further. Indeed, much of what we discussed as something desirable, had become lived practice of present date.

    I guess that this is enough of the event and of our discussions. In my next post I will give insights into the LTB-showcase of the TACCLE4 CPD project that I presented in the event.

    More blogs to come …

     

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    A German MP visits the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup – Great praise for their digital competences

    October 6th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    Last week I got informed that Mr Stephan Albani, a German MP (Bundestagsabgeordnete) visited the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup during his field visit in the region. Here it is worthwhile to note that Mr Albani is a representative of that very region but also a member of the special commission of the German Parliament for Vocational Education and Training (VET) in the digital world of work (Enquete-Kommission Berufliche Bildung in der digitalen Arbeitswelt). Given this background, it was interesting to hear, what he thought of the use of digital tools to support apprentice training and further vocational learning in Bau-ABC. After all, a team of us from Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen had worked together with Bau-ABC in the EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012-2016) to co-design and pilot test digital tools to support work process -oriented learning. The main result was the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that has then been implemented in Bau-ABC in their apprentice training.

    Impressions from the visit of Mr Albani

    As I read it from the Facebook-update of Mr Albani and from the attached pictures, he has informed himself very thoroughly on the training of apprentices in different trades and on the use of digital toolsets (notably the LTB). He gives great praise for tthe digital competences of trainers and apprentices and declares Bau-ABC as a parade example, how to implement digitization in the field of VET.

    Insights into the demonstration of Learning Toolbox during the visit of Mr Albani

    Thanks to the photos that Mr Albani has shared in his update we can take a closer look, how the use of digital toolsets (and notably of LTB) has been presented to him. As we see it from the photos, he got a hands-on training and his tutor was an apprentice who had become an advanced user. So, wee see them working with a mobile device and with the LTB-terminal that makes everything transparent for the apprentices in the workshop and to the supervising trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in their office. And this guided tour is managed by the apprentice.

    Perspectives for new innovations regarding digitization in the field of VET

    In addition to the above-quoted Facebook-update of Mr Albani I have heard that Bau-ABC Rostrup is involved in a major innovation project that runs until the year 2023. From this perspective it has been important that a prominent politician has informed himself of the state of the art and given positive feedback on the quality of training and learning. I will try to get more information on the new project.

    More blogs to come …

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    New report for TACCLE 4 CPD on Artificial Intelligence and progress with Learning Toolbox

    September 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    At the end of last year I wrote a series of blog posts with which I presented a set of reports that I had delivered for the EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. As regular readers of this blog know, the aim of the project is to design models for continuing professional development (CPD) that focus on promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers. The earlier TACCLE projects had focused mainly on school-based and subject-based learning in general education. However, in the concept of the current project the aim was also to address also the  field of vocational education and training (VET). From this perspective our institute, Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) was invited as the partner responsible for VET.

    During the work I found it necessary to prepare special VET-related reports to clarify the boundary conditions, specific needs and emerging potentials for shaping VET-related approaches to promoting digital competences. From this perspective I presented in November and December 2019 the following set of  VET-related reports:

    • Report 1: Policy analyses (with focus on different contexts, approaches and strategies to promote digital competences in the field of VET
    • Report 2: Legacy of predecessor projects (with a differentiated interpretation of the approaches of prior TACCLE projects and the Learning Layers project)
    • Report 3: Use of Open Educational Resources in VET (with specific insights into the opportunities to use OER in particular vocational learning contexts)
    • Report 4a: Research-based reflections on strategies and training models (with specific emphasis on different innovation paths and feedback from practitioners)
    • Report 4b: The “Theme Room Training 2020” framework (as an outline of a training concept for the field of VET, based on different thematic blocks)

    At that time I felt that the series of VET-related reports had been completed.

    Elements on the report – training on Artificial Intelligence and uses of Learning Toolbox

    During the later phase of the TACCLE4 CPD project I had some exchanges with the newest TACCLE project on Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Education and Training (AI and VET). I visited their kick-off meeting and learned about their project plans. Then I became aware of the Finnish  initiative “Elements of Artificial Intelligence” that was promoted as important civic learning for the whole civil society. And later on I got access to the first report on the project AI and VET and became aware of the issues that they had explored in the initial phase of their work. This gave rise to a blog post on the challenges for civic learning (in general) and for VET providers (in particular).

    In addition to this I have had intensive exchanges with the developers of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) who were our former partners from the Learning Layers (LL) project (see my previous blogs). In this way I got information, how training centres equipped their apprentices for independent learning during the corona crisis – with the help of LTB-stacks. Also, I learned how the LTB-developers made use of the quiet period by preparing new instructions and demonstration videos. Furthermore, I learned of the successful use of LTB as support for ePosters in online conferences and workshops. Finally, the publishing of the new Learning Toolbox Showcase made transparent the wide range of conferences and themes that had been covered by numerous ePosters. I have shared this information by publishing several blog posts.

    The idea of a new report takes shape

    When writing this blogs I was focusing on separate issues. And indeed – the themes ‘training on artificial intelligence’ and ‘reporting on successful use of Learning Toolbox’ seemed to be different cups of tea (or different pairs of shoes). However, once I got further with the blogs on using Learning Toolbox – during the training in exceptional times and in the transformation of conferences into online events – I found a new perspective. Both themes can be treated with the help of a similar (non-linear) story line: facing a challenge – search for an approach – finding a solution – piloting with innovation – facing new challenges with the innovation – transfer of innovation. In this context I wanted to draw attention to the ideas that came up with the training initiatives that link to each other civic learning and vocational learning when introducing artificial intelligence in working life. Furthermore, I wanted to underline the aspect of re-inventing the ordinary practice when adjusting vocational learning or conference cultures into new constraints – when contact learning and presence events are no longer available. As I see it, the work with Learning Toolbox has progressed in a fantastic way but remains work in progress.

    The report “Promoting digital competences beyond the accustomed realm of ICT skills – New challenges for civic learning and continuing professional development” is already available on ResearchGate and will be published on the website of the TACCLE4 CPD project.

    With these reflections this report completes the series of VET-related reports for the TACCLE4 CPD project. As I see it, this report links current expertise on promoting digital competences to future-oriented challenges and to continuing professional development in real working life. We have put a lot of effort in this project but there is a lot of work for future projects.

    More blogs to come …

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