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

    25 years working with Graham Attwell – networking, social media and new challenges

    March 15th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

    Some time ago it has crossed my mind that i should write some lines on my cooperation with Graham Attwell. Indeed, I have already written a blog post on my 25 years’ journey with European cooperation project and how that journey was continued when I was employed by our research insitute ITB. However, that post was written from my perspective – as a personal learning journey with interruptions and catching up with the momentum. Now I feel the need to take a fresh look from the perspective of working and learning together with Graham Attwell. I guess that the best way is to discuss three themes – networking, social media and facing new challenges.

    Networking the networks: community-building across European projects

    Our cooperation started in the beginning of the year 1996. I was working as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) and started an activity that was based on accompaniment of European cooperation projects. Graham had moved to Bremen to coordinate the newly started project Europrof – training of new vocational education and training (VET) professionals. The kick-off meeting of that project was the first one that I observed during my accomanaying visits. From the very beginning we saw that we were on the same wave length regarding the ideas on collaborative research, learning from each other and supporting community-building among European VET researchers.

    Europrof took already some steps to mobilize a wider set of interested researchers into exchanges with its core partners. I did my part when launching the European seminars of my Cedefop project with partner institutes in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Portugal. In addition, we initiated several symposia at the European Conferences on Educational Research (ECER) in Sevilla (1996), Frankfurt (1997), Ljubljana (1998), Lahti (1999) and Edinburgh (2000). With these events we promoted learning from each other and joint knowledge development across parallel European projects. Some of the events gave an opportunity to have a closer look at national pilot projects and new initiatives to promote digital competences in the field of VET.  As such I remember the 1998 event with Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and the joint seminar in 2000 with the Portuguese national Agency Inofor in Sintra. Later on, a major arena for such network-based knowledge sharing emerged as the network-project Forum (funded by the EU 4th Framework Programme for Research). Furthermore, some of these community-building activities were taken up in certain VET-related conferences under the auspices of the current EU presidency. In this respect I remember conference of the Dutch EU presidency 1997 as well as the conferences of the UK and Austrian presidencies in the year 1998. But – all this had its time. The high season of ‘learning from each other’ and ‘networking the networks’ was soon over and the policy climate changed to other directions – and that had consequences for the funding of European projects.

    Digital competences and social media in the field of VET

    When some of the earlier themes of European projects started to fade away from the European policy agenda, it was important that Graham was active as an explorer on the theme ‘use of ICT in the field of VET‘. His pioneering contribution was the Cedefop-funded digital resource base “ICT in VET”. It was an outcome of intensive networking with other experts and a predecessor of several later community portals (some of which were rather short-lived and some more sustainable). At that time the discussion on promoting digital competences was heavily overshadowed by the hype around eLearning and by enthusiasm on informal ‘career spaces’ of ICT companies. At this phase Graham represented a well-grounded position that ICT competences are to be promoted in substantial vocational learning contexts.

    However, at that time the European funding programmes did not focus that strongly on the field of VET. Instead, more overarching interests on ‘lifelong learning’ or on ‘human resources’ were pushed forward. Alongside these, some new priorities started to emerge – such as ‘open source software’ and ‘open educational resources’. Graham was one of the pioneers with these themes. Together with his fellow pioneers he launched network-based projects like SIGOSSEE (Special interest group for open source software in education in Europe) or the ‘Bazaar’ (for promoting open educational resources via the stalls of the Bazaar). At that time he was also a well-known blogger with his “Wales-Wide-Web’.

    At this time I had had a career break after leaving Cedefop. Keeping contact with these initiatives helped me to get back on board – in particular when I was employed by the research institute ITB of the University of Bremen. At that time Graham was working closely with ITB (as a Visiting Fellow) and I could follow his new initiatives from a close distance. I also took my first steps as a blogger but that with some tumbling. Firstly I put an emphasis on project-specific blogging on project websites. These turned out to be short-lived activities – when the projects were finalised, the websites were archived and soon the domain-names expired. Another effort was to develop conference blogs for the VETNET network program at the ECER. This turned out to be a lonely job – also these faded away soon. With my personal blog on the Pontydysgu site (thanks to support from Graham) I had difficulties in keeping myself active. In the meantime Graham was roaming across a wider range of projects and had a lot to share and comment on his themes.

    Facing new challenges – the Learning Layers project

    All this comes together in my mind when I think of the period when we worked together in the EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012 – 2016) and its follow-up phase. The project was originally designed by educational technologists, computer scientists software and developers with whom Graham had worked together. For the EU FP7 (7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and Development) they had initiated a new project that sought to bring their expertise together to support the introduction of new ICT tools to support (informal) learning in SMEs. The initial idea was to focus on the healthcare sector – notably on networks of GP practices in the Leeds-Bradford region. But the aim was to scale up the innovations Europe-wide by approaching similar SME clusters.

    Thanks to Graham, the plan was broadened by introducing a new pilot sector – construction industries and trades from Germany. And that brought our research institute (ITB) into picture as provider of research-based support for the sectoral partners in Germany. And – when working with training centres and SMEs in the construction sector – we were in the need to look closer, how to introduce new ICT tools to support work process-oriented learning. Thus, we were in the middle of promoting the development of digital tools to enhance apprentice training, organisational learning and continuing professional development. And in this context we were able to push forward the co-design process that led to the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). And, as regular readers of this blog know, we were able to finalise the project with a viable end product that found new uses beyond the initial pilot context.

    However – paradoxically – the real success story of the LTB  took off in completely different context. Here we need to thank the partners of the project who took the main responsibility of the development of the LTB and promoted it as a support tool for online conferences. a new But, also we in ITB could also draw important lessons from this experience with a major project. For me, the work in the project gave me the boost to become an active blogger. And because of my regular blogging, the progress in the construction pilot could be summarised and reflected on annual basis, in the final phase and during the follow-up activities.

    I guess this is enough of our journey together with European projects, networks and challenges with digital tools. I have gone to retirement, whilst Graham keeps working with new projects. I wish him and his partners good luck!

    More blogs to come …

     

     

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    Remembering Stavros Stavrou, former Deputy Director of Cedefop

    February 26th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

    Earlier this month I received the sad news from Thessaloniki, Greece. Stavros Stavrou, the former Deputy Director of Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) had passed away. Many years have passed since we worked together in Cedefop, but the memories are still there.

    We learned to know each other during the difficult period 1994 – 95, when Cedefop was to be relocated from Berlin (where it was launched in 1976) to Thessaloniki, Greece. I had just started in Berlin as a national seconded expert sent by the Finnish government (during the period when Finland was still a candidate member of the EU). Shortly after my arrival the new management – Director Johan van Rens and Deputy Director Stavros Stavrou started their term of office. From the earlier management only the second Deputy Director Enrique Retuerto continued during the transitional period.

    As I remember it, the last year in Berlin was in many respects a turbulent time. The decision to relocate Cedefop (taken by the European Council – the summit of the EU in 1993) was a complete surprise for the Centre. In addition, the change of management caused a lot of uncertainty and anxiety – a major part of experts and other staff members were looking for other employment prospects in other EU services. Moreover, the decision to relocate Cedefop to Greece was a complete surprise for the Greek authorities.

    At this point of time it was not easy for Stavros to step in as a newly elected Deputy Director. To be sure, he was already known to Cedeofp as  a prominent Greek expert in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Moreover, having studied in Germany, he had completed his doctoral studies in Berlin with a thesis that compared VET in Greece and Germany. But, the uneasy process of moving Cedefop from Berlin was surely very stressful for him – representing the Cedefop interests vis-à-vis the Greek authorities and explaining the Greek circumstances to other Europeans.

    Somehow the difficult preparatory processes were managed and a considerably reduced contingent of Cedefop experts and staff members made the move to the temporary building at the American Farm School campus outside Thessaloniki. Moving from the centre of Brelin to such a peripheral location was quite a challenge. But the nice late summer weather in 1995 and the youth hostel -like intimacy of the temporary building brought the new settlers closer to each other. During this period Stavros and other Greek colleagues in Cedefop did all their best to help us settle down and become familiar with our new environment. Some of us were lucky with the search for a new apartment, others were not so happy and opted for alternative employment prospects in other EU services (in Brussels or Luxembourg).

    The new start in Thessaloniki was difficult in many respects. Cedefop got firstly a temporary  building that was not so well equipped. (In the meantime the planning of the permanent building was on its way, but very slowly – siga siga, as the Greeks put it. The number of VET experts and administrative staff that moved to Thessaloniki was very small and it took quite a lot of time to recruit new ones. Therefore, Stavros had to stretch himself to multi-tasking – both regarding the supervision of the VET projects and regarding the monitoring of the contracting processes. So, during this time he may have sometimes appeared moody – launisch as the Germans put it. But, then we had several occasions to witness his sense of humour.

    As I see it, Stavros was at his best when representing Cedefop and our work at other European arenas – like EU presidency conferences and the Advisory Forum of the European Training Foundation (ETF). He could then draw on the richness of the projects of that time and make use of his own VET-related expertise.

    I personally had the chance to experience the human side of the friendly Stavros during the Kosovo war 1999. I and my daughter were worried of what was happening to the relatives of my son-in-law. Stavros contacted personally the Greek authorities to get information and found a contact person to keep us updated. I still remember the shining face of Stavros when we got the good news that the family had been safely evacuated to a third country.

    Finally, when my time in Cedefop was coming to an end, Stavros invited me to a private send-off dinner. We wished each other all the best. It so happened that that was the last time that we met each other on privat terms.

    Rest in peace, Stavros!

     

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    TACCLE4 CPD website presents the end products of the project

    February 5th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

    During the last few years most of my blog posts have dealt with my contributions to the EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. As I have told it several times, the project has developed models and resources to support continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers with focus on promoting their digital competences. In this respect the project has built upon earlier TACCLE projects that worked directly with active teachers and organised courses for them. The fourth project sought to equip education and training managers and teacher trainers with tools to develop CPD measures and trainingmodels. Moreover, the project extended the scope beyond school-based education to include also the field of vocational education and training (VET).

    As I have explained it time and again, our institute ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) from the University of Bremen was invited as a new partner to the project to cover the field of VET. For this purpose we were well positioned since we had been working with vocational teachers and trainers – in particular in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. However, during the work it appeared that there was a need to provide separate outputs that focused on the field of VET – in particular when considering the dual system of apprenticeship. From this perspective my blog posts have given insights to this VET-specific work and how it has been received by teachers and trainers in Germany. As I have gone to retirement during the project, I was not so well informed by the progress of the work for other educational sectors. Now I am happy to give an overview on the results of the entire project as the have been published on our website http://taccle4cpd.eu/.

    The Webinars – insights into the project

    The opening of the website is provided by the webinar section. Our project coordinator Angela has recorded two webinars. The first one gives a quick overview on the project idea and on the achievements.

    The Intellectual Outputs – Mindmaps, web resources and supporting reports

    The second webinar gives a more detailed overview on the final results and how they have been presented on the website. In this way it becomes transparent that some of the IOs are presented as mindmaps, others as interactive handbooks or collections of web resources, whilst others have been presented as written reports.

    The CPD- and VET-related blogs

    In addition to the sections that present the results and resources that have been produced the website gives access to blog posts that have documented the work during the project.

    So, now we have all the results nicely presented on the project website. Congratulations Angela and the partners!

    More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

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    Celebrating Martin Luther King – Revisiting a German radio program of January 2017

    January 19th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

    Yesterday, on Monday 19.01.2021 our American friends celebrated  Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. This reminded me of a blog that I wrote four years ago on the important travels of Martin Luther King Sr and Jr (father and son) to Germany. Both visits had consequences and it is worthwhile revisiting the memories of these trips – once again.

    Four years ago I happened to listen to the German radio program “Am Sonntag morgen” (on Sunday morning) – provided by the German Lutheran church. And came to follow a special program about the travels of Marin Luther King Sr and Jr in Germany. Inspired by the program I wrote a blog entry in which I wanted translate the content of  that program into English. So, the following section of this blog article is a compressed English version of the text provided by the German priest Andrea Schneider for Deutschlandfunk. The original text is available here:

    http://rundfunk.evangelisch.de/kirche-im-radio/am-sonntagmorgen/eine-folgenreiche-reise-8611

    Eine folgenreiche Reise. Martin Luther King in Deutschland (A travel with consequences. Martin Luther King in Germany)

    Let us start with the father – Martin Luther King Sr. He was originally called Michael – and so was his son. But in the year 1935 he and some other baptist preachers attended an international baptist conference in Berlin. The Nazis were already in power and tried to make an image as tolerant rulers allowing such events to happen. But this was not the point of this story. King Sr (still called Michael) took the opportunity to visit the home places of the reformer Martin Luther (Wittenberg and Eisenach). There he got very much impressed of the spirit of Martin Luther – civil courage and self-determination – and he wanted to convey this spirit to the American civil rights movement where he was already involved. So, after returning home he renamed himself and his son as Martin Luther King – Senior and Junior.

    The son – Martin Luther King Jr – follows in the footsteps of the father and continues his work as a preacher, intellectual and activist in the civil rights movement. By the year 1963 he had become world famous as the leader of the non-violent civil rights movement of black Americans – the man who gave the speech “I have a dream …” in the largest demonstration for civil rights. One year after – in 1964 (nearly 30 years after his father) he travels to Europe to participate in the international conference of baptists (this time in Amsterdam). And just like his father, he has his own extension program to explore Germany – but his target is the divided Berlin.

    Little is known of this part of the travel of Martin Luther King – and mostly we thank for our knowledge a Berlin school pupils’ documentation project “King Code”. What this project has found out by interviewing witnesses and tracing documents makes us clear, why the details of this visit were kept secret.

    On 13.09.1964 a well-known person from the German Democratic Republic (DDR) tries to escape to West-Berlin and is shot at just before he reaches the other side. An American sergeant risks a lot by dragging the wounded person to the Western side and takes him to the hospital. Martin Luther King gets to know of the incident, visits the place of shooting and visits the victim at the hospital. In his famous speech at the Waldbühne he predicts that the wall – the symbol of inhumanity for him – will fall down. But he wants to do more – he insists to visit East Berlin as well. The American authorities wanted to prevent this and confiscate his passport but he managed to get through the border control with his credit card as a travel document.

    Thanks to the above mentioned school project we can listen to witnesses and an audio recording of the speech of Martin Luther King in the crowded Marienkirche (and memories of another speech in the nearby Sophienkirche). King presents his audience greetings from America and from all over the world. He then emphasises that people on both sides of the Berlin Wall ar e children of God and thus alike as human beings – and therefore, no regime can take that quality away from them. He speaks of justice, equality and civil rights – determined that that the path leads to freedom. Three months later he receives the Nobel Price for Peace and continues his work in the civil right movement.  Sadly, King was murdered some years later but his life work became know everywhere. And so, for the civil rights movement in DDR his message was present when they demonstrated for freedom and justice with the message for non-violence: “Keine Gewalt!” And in November 1989 the Berlin Wall and the borders of DDR were opened – another dream to come true.

    In 2013 the activists of the school project “King Code” had the pleasure to witness the visit of the first black president of the USA to Berlin and to listen to his speech. Barack Obama spoke for open-mindedness between different religions as well as between residents and migrants. And in the spirit of Martin Luther King he emphasised that injustice at one place on earth is a threat to other places as well. In this respect he passed the message further to the young generation.

    – – –

    So, this was in a nutshell the message of the radio program that I listened to four years ago. I think it is really worthwhile to revisit the legacy of Martin Luther King in general and to consider the impact that his example had on the peaceful revolution in East Germany (DDR) in the year 1989. And now, thinking of what all is going on in our world, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the message that was promoted by the Ameican civil rights movement of the 1960s, here presented by Joan Baez:

    I guess that this is enough of this theme. I am looking forward to seeing that this ‘some day’ is getting nearer.

    More blogs to come …

     

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