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

    Ideas for the forthcoming Multiplier Event of the TACCLE4 CPD project – bringing Learning Toolbox and OER into practice

    February 17th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    In my previous post I told that I will be travelling quite a while and get back to office at the end of May. But I also mentioned that we (me together with my colleagues Ludger Deitmer and Jan Naumann) are planning a Multiplier Event on using digital tools to enrich vocational learning culture. And we will be working together to develop our ideas further. Here I have put on paper our first ideas:

    1. What kind of event are we planning?

    We are planning a Bremen-based and German-speaking Multiplier Event of the TACCLE4 CPD project to be hosted by ITB on Friday 12th June 2020.

    2. What is the title of the event? What is our key message?

    “Digitale Wege in der beruflichen Bildung – Alibi-Ansätze oder Innovationen”

    With this provocative title we want to stimulate critical discussion on halfway-thought reforms around digitization in the field of VET. As a contrast we want to give insights into practitioner-led innovations in vocational learning.

    3. What kind of an event do we want to have and with whom?

    We want to have an event for and with VET practitioners. We want to invite them to think of their own possibilities to shape new learning arrangements with digital toolsets (e.g. with Learning Toolbox) and open educational resources (e.g. with such learning designs that Jan has presented in the OER-report for TACCLE4 CPD).

    As participants we want to invite teachers (from vocational schools) and trainers (from training centres) of whom we know that they

    1. have an interest in enhancing their digital competences and
    2. want to develop vocational learning with digital toolsets and OER.

    In this respect we want to give them inspiring impulses and opportunities for hands-on training in terms of peer-to-peer support.

    4. What contents for discussion and training have we considered?

    From the perspective of TACCLE4 CPD project we discussed two main perspectives:

    • Use of Learning Toolbox as means to enhance vocational and workplace-based learning culture – in particular from the point of self-organised learning.
    • Use of Open Educational Resources (OER) as support for shaping-oriented learning and for combining different learning paths.

    From the perspective of TACCLE AI and VET project we discussed some further perspectives that could be taken up:

    • The shaping of “Smart factory” competence centres in vocational schools and their contribution to the development of vocational learning culture.
    • The use of humanoid robots as “assistants” to teachers in large classes with  heterogeneous learners and diverse support needs.

    5. What further ideas we want to emphasise in the event?

    Promoting the readiness of participants to work with new tools:

    • Tools with which they can co-shape their own teaching/learning arrangements;
    • Tools that they can develop themselves and use in their teaching and learning.

    Create an understanding for the unity of culture, structures and technology in order to achieve sustainable innovations in VET:

    • Culture – to bring into picture and spread the innovative spirit to develop learning and to engage colleagues and learners;
    • Structures – to ensure the acceptance of the new ideas and the readiness of the whole organisation to support new initiatives;
    • Technology – to use appropriate technology for working and learning tasks.

    (Points from the perspective of unsuccessful practice:

    • You may have inspired teachers but if the structures do not provide any flexibility, the innovations remain isolated.
    • You may have up-to-date technologies, but if they are not linked to the learning culture, their potentials are not in full use.
    • You may have supportive structures and adequate technologies, but if teachers are not able/willing to take initiatives, the innovations do not take off.)

    Provide insights into new learning concepts (enriched with digital tools and digital media) and how to work with them:

    • Micro-learning (adjusted to vocational and workplace learning with major time constraints)
    • Nuggets with max. 5 minutes digital media content to capture the concentration of learners and to stimulate further learning.

    – – –

    I guess this is enough for the moment. I will get back to this topic in due time.

    More blogs to come …

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    Bye bye, Bremen – see you some time later in the year

    February 16th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I am in the process of going to retirement (although having an extension to my part-time contract for the TACCLE4 CPD). So, this is a departure with three steps. Now, the first step has taken place. I have stopped working regularly at my office at ITB and kept an option to use it during my working visits back to Bremen.

    Now I have taken time out for private reasons. In this context I am now in London and preparing for a week as a full-time grandpa when my grandchildren have school holidays, while their parents have to work. So, quite a difference compared to last week. And therefore, it will be rather quiet on this blog in the coming time.

    But, I still have work to do in the project – and in particular I am inspired by the Multiplier Event of the project that we are preparing for next June. So, I will keep in contact with my colleagues to work further with our plans. So, there will be some updates every now and then.

    More blogs to come … ( Watch this space!)

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    Notes on the Blogchat of February – ePosters powered by Learning Toolbox are not merely e-posters

    February 5th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    Some time ago I had a chat with my colleague Gilbert Peffer on the recent progress with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in our common project. I was so impressed that I wrote a blog post on our discussion.  Moreover, we agreed to continue these discussions and to introduce a new format of communication – Blogchat. This means that we agree on regular online sessions on agreed themes and that I will publish notes on our talks. So, here we go.

    ePosters as a major spin-off of the Learning Toolbox (LTB)

    Ever since our EU-funded Learning Layers project came to an end in the beginning of the year 2017 I have engaged myself in the follow-up activities with focus on the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In particular I have been interested in the success story of the ePosters (powered by LTB) that have become popular in many conferences. I have been writing blogs on the first pilots in conferences of medical educators and educational technologists. And I was heavily engaged in the pilot that we organised (together with the LTB-developers) at the ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen, Italy. That pilot could not be continued since the organising body – European Educational Research Association (EERA) was at that point tied up with other change agendas. So, afterwards my knowledge on the use of ePosters was rather sporadic. Indeed, I have become aware of many awards that the LTB-developers have received and congratulated them via my blog posts. Yet, I have not got an overview, how strongly our colleagues are making progress. So, it was high time to get a proper update.

    Firstly, I was impressed when Gilbert told me about the conferences with which they are working. In the year 2019 the LTB-developers supported fourteen (14) conferences that used ePosters (powered by LTB) in their program. Most of these took place in Europe. For the year 2020 they have already fifteen (15) agreements, half of them taking place in Europe and the rest outside Europe. Moreover, they have agreements with biennial conferences that take place every two years. And, what is most interesting, is the fact that almost all conferences that have piloted with ePosters are now regular users. They have found their ways to integrate the ePosters to their conference cultures.

    ePosters are more than mere e-posters

    As I have seen it – from afar and from our joint experience – the ePosters made their breakthrough as alternatives to traditional paper posters. For many conferences that had struggled with the space needed for poster sessions and for accommodating the desired number of presentations on a limited number of poster sessions this was a relief. Moreover, some conferences had been frustrated with commercial e-poster software (that didn’t bring much added value). From that perspective the functionality of LTB-powered ePosters was a great step forward:

    • All ePosters could be presented as mini-posters on a poster wall or poster cubicle throughout the conference.
    • With the help of QR-codes all conference participants could download the ePosters they were interested in and access them whenever they had time.
    • It was possible to arrange informal meetings between presenters and participants in the vicinity of the poster walls in a flexible way.
    • The presenters didn’t need to use much time in poster discussion sessions – they could be shaped as actively interactive events (such as barcamps or ePoster arenas).

    However, this is not the whole story of ePosters as an innovation in conference culture. Some conferences have become concerned about travel expenses, carbon footprints and travelling times due to presence sessions in conferences. In this respect  one of the forthcoming conferences is organising a pre-conference week that is based on the availability of ePosters on the web already one week before the presence conference. The organisers invite presenters and online participants to a Zoom meeting on the respective ePosters. Then, the recording of the discussion session will be added to the respective LTB stack. From this perspective the emphasis is gradually shifting from ePosters (to be viewed) to ePresentations (that can be discussed with the help of digital media).

    Finally, a major asset with the ePosters is that they provide for conference organisers a domain, on which they can keep the legacy of ePosters in successive conferences. This is already the case with the pioneering conferences of healthcare educators. They can now give access to ePosters of their conferences during the last few years.

    I guess this is enough of this Blogchat session. I got a much more comprehensive overview of what kind of enrichment the ePosters can provide for conferences. I think that there are some lessons to be learned.

    More blogs to come …

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    Thoughts about Brexit – Part Three: The negotiations and decision-making

    February 3rd, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

    With my two previous posts I have started to write down my thoughts about Brexit. As I have said, I didn’t really want to take up this theme on my blog. And indeed, I haven’t had the least intention to present myself as a historian or as a political analyst. In my first post I have written about the difficult pre-history – the rocky road of the United Kingdom to membership and the uneasy years of the British membership. In my second post I wrote about the campaigning before and during the referendum and about the polarised atmosphere. Now, it is time to say something about the policy processes after the referendum – of the negotiations and of the decision-making.

    The negotiations on the “Brexit-Deal” – the first phase

    Once the result of the referendum was clear and there was a new government, the hard work for preparing a mutual agreement on future relations started. This pointed out to be a long period with many issues to be settled and to be considered anew. After all, the United Kingdom (UK) was during that time a Member State and could not declare its obligations null and void just on the basis of the referendum. Equally, as long as there was no clarity of the future relations, there was an immense uncertainty on the practical implications of Brexit.

    The situation was not improved when the prime minister called new elections and the government lost its majority. From that point on the government had to struggle to keep the government party and the supporting party united behind a deal to be made with the European Union (EU). And the situation was not improved when the prime minister brought a deal that was once rejected time and again to the parliament with some modifications.

    The (prospect of) change of government and (of) the new negotiations

    During the period when the government tried to get support from the parliament, very specific dynamics emerged. The opposition and the opponents in the government party were not debating the substance of the agreements. Instead, they declared themselves to be more competent and capable to negotiate a better deal. So, whatever was put on the table by the government was bound to be rejected. Time passed by and the risk of a chaotic No-Deal Brexit was becoming a real threat.

    The (prospect of) elections and (of) the final decisions under time constraints

    Then, after the unsuccessful prime minister had stepped down, a new phase started with negotiations and playing poker with procedural questions. The parliament wanted to prevent a No-Deal Brexit by legislation. The government wanted to extend the autumn break of the parliament. And it was difficult to reach a fair agreement on the timing of new elections. Finally, the elections took place and the government got a clear majority. And the decisions were made within the time frame to reach a basic agreement on the general terms of Brexit.

    What comes next?

    Now, after the departure of the UK from the EU has been confirmed, there is a transition period. During this period UK is a third country vis-à-vis the EU and its partner countries with framework agreements (such as Norway or Switzerland). The new relations have to be negotiated. And these negotiations will not be easy. From the UK side we hear expectations that the EU should give up its basic principles for common market (that it has created as a union) just because the UK (now as an outsider) doesn’t want to comply with them. And – given the history of Brexit negotiations so far – there is not much time to reach and agreement.

    So, time will tell what comes out of these negotiations. I do not want to speculate on the result. It is better to wait and see with patience what negotiators can work out. For the moment I want to leave this theme for the future. I hope that those who want to continue good cooperation between EU and UK will find their ways forward.

    More blogs to come … (but preferably on other topics)

    PS1. Disclaimer: These are merely thoughts of the author – an observer from the European continent. Pontydysgu as an organisation is not responsible for the views presented above.

    PS2. What could be a better musical theme for leaving this topic for a while than Auld Lang Syne as it was sung by the Members of the European Parliament together with the British MEPs leaving them?

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