Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

“Working & Learning” after working life – thoughts on further blogging

January 13th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last year I finished my blogs with thoughts on retirement and retreat. I came to the conclusion that I need to rediscover myself as a blogger now that I am no longer an active researcher in the field of vocational education and training. So, gone are the stories of fieldwork, European projects, transnational meetings and conferences. Also, I am no longer an expatriate Finn living in Germany (and with a motivation to explain what is going on in present-date German society). Therefore, I decided to have a holiday break and think it all over.

Now I want to wish everybody a good start for the new year 2021. Not that I would be much wiser than few weeks ago. I still need give some thoughts on my future role as a blogger. But I have already some answers to the question, why I should continue blogging:

  • Reflections on the lessons learned during my active working life: So far I have been writing in a ‘reporting’ mode on what has happened or what has been recently produced for ongoing projects. Now I can look back and discuss, what has been learned during that work on specific key themes.
  • Valuing the work of my (former) colleagues: So far I have been writing such blogs when a former colleague has passed away. Now I should also write on the importance of other colleagues (retired or active) for my work. Moreover, I should give visibility for colleagues, who are continuing the work in which I have been involved.
  • Keeping an eye, what is going on in Europe: I may still find some issues that I might comment from my particular European perspective (having lived as an expatriate abroad quite some time). In particular this might be the case with European cooperation and with the Finnish or German views on it.
  • Keeping an eye, what is going on with the cultural scenes that I follow: Here I leave it open, what I might bring into discussion under this heading. Time will tell.

So, I guess this is enough for a new start. Let us see, what may be on the cards later this year.

More blogs to come …

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Thoughts on retirement and retreat – Part Two: Blogging vs. engagement with social media

December 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post I started to share my thoughts on my transition to retirement and the consequences for blogging. I made the point that for me going on retirement was coupled with retreat to my home country Finland. Thus, I had left behind the ‘battle grounds’ in project work, activities in research communities and engagement as a German-based European expatriate. So, in many respects I had closed some important chapters in my life, changed places and faced the challenge to find a new role as a blogger. Part of this process is to think about my engagement in (other) social media and the consequences for blogging. Below I share some points on my engagement in social media – notably Facebook.

Sharing news and views of prominent persons

In my previous post I wrote of my engagement as an interpreter between the Germans (among whom I had lived for a long time) and other Europeans. This was mainly connected to historical anniversaries. Gradually, I shifted these activities to Facebook. Instead of writing posts myself, I started sharing updates (often with video or audio) published by German TV or radio channels. These have been mainly in German language but I have prepared brief introductions in English. Also, I have shared updates that present speeches or comments of prominent persons on historical anniversaries or on current political and international developments. Here, I have delimited my role into drawing attention to such contributions. I have not wanted to assume the role of expert or journalist to give a full commentary. By sharing updates I have found my role – blogging would have required an extra effort to make my views transparent and to engage in debates.

Engagement with Finnish expatriate communities

In my previous post I also referred to an interest to give European colleagues insights into the history of Finland and into the process of becoming a nation and gaining independence. Once these posts were written, I felt that I had completed that mission. At the same time I became more actively involved in the Finnish expatriate community in Bremen and in several Facebook-communities of expatriate Finns. Also in these groups I tended to share information and news articles from TV and radio channels. But I have also been in the lucky position to alert members of these groups to concerts, TV programs or video/audio recordings that are accessible on the internet. Here again, I have taken the role of communicator and facilitator, spreading information on important statements, interesting events and cultural products.

Engagement with musicians (whom I have met in Finland)

A special point of interest in my blogging (firstly) and engagement in Facebook is my interest in chamber music and friendship with several musicians. This all started from the (international) Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in the year 2017. During that year I got inspired of the performances of several international and Finnish musicians and became friends (also Facebook friends) with them. Some time later I detected the magnificent Bremer Barockorchester and started to keep an eye on them. Unfortunately I didn’t have that many chances to attend their concerts. But I was happy to spread news on their video recordings that were published on their concerts during the recent years. In the subsequent years t I have spread information of the activities of my favourite musicians on my Facebook page and in different FB-groups. Here again, I have taken the role of cultural communicator and facilitator in the interest of good music and enjoyable events.

In the light of the above, there has been a gradual shift from blogging to Facebook-updates in my other fields of interest. Thus, my blogging has focused more an more on my research & development projects and on my engagement in research communities. So, whilst I have found my role elsewhere in the social media, I need to to re-invent myself as a blogger. I do not think that that would be a “Mission Impossible”. But I understand that it will take some time. Therefore, I am going to have a break with this blog over the Christmas holiday and New Year’s festivities (however they may take place). But I will get back in the new year 2021. So, for the moment my message is:

Have a merry Christmas time and a good slide to the new year 2021! Keep healthy and take care!

And since I have mentioned the Bremer Barockorchester, let us have season’s greetings from them:

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

 

 

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Thoughts on retirement and retreat – Part One: What consequences for blogging?

December 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog posts I have been closing my activities as a project-based researcher. In addition, I have made a brief review on different phases of my career with European research & development projects in the field of vocational education and training (VET). This has been part of my stepping out of active engagement in working life and transition to retirement. At the end of those posts I have indicated that I will continue writing blogs, but from a different perspective. However, as long as I have had something to report and review (in particular in the light of occasional anniversaries), I have not given much thoughts on what implications this new situation – landing to retirement – might have for my future blogging. Now it is time to share some thoughts on it – and to make it transparent, what kind of fundamental changes I am going through. Below I will mention some aspects of these changes.

Semi-retirement, full retirement and retreat from the ‘battle grounds’

For many active researchers the end of the career at their university job has not meant a complete departure from their former activities. Many of my old acquaintances have continued in some form of consultancy and private research activities. That is often called as semi-retirement (and the Germans top it up with their joking expression ‘(Un)Ruhestand’). I have had my taste of this during this year when I had a short part-time contract alongside my pension to finish my activities in my last project. But for me it was clear that when the project is over, there will be no such continuation.

For me the strong point was the need to move back to my home country Finland. For many years I had lived as an expatriate in Germany and visiting my home country and my beloved ones as often as I could (but not as often I would have wished). So, now it was the time to put an end to this shuttling and to get settled. During the year 2020 there was a longer period of working from the Finnish home office and that was a kind of ‘semi-retreat’ but it didn’t feel like the complete retreat. Now, once I have finished the project work and moved completely back to Finland. I start to understand, what difference it makes to leave the ‘battle grounds’.

Research & development work in action vs. observation from afar

During my active years my blogging on projects has been inspired by the fact that I have been in the middle of action – working closely with development-related challenges and action contexts and with European partners. This has given me food for thought and I have been digesting my experiences and our ideas with blogs posts. Also, these project contexts have given me the awareness of actual and potential audiences with whom I am in a dialogue. Now, in the process of retirement and retreat this feeling is fading away.

In this context I have to mention the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA) and its activities in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). Ever since the founding phase I have been active in different roles and become recognised as the historian of the network. My blogs  on the annual ECER conferences have given me the basis for writing a report on the evolution of the VETNET network by the year 2016 (when I had to stay away from the conference that celebrated the 20th anniversary due to illness). I then returned to the three following conferences and wrote further blogs but indicated that I will not continue participating in the future conferences. (I left open the option to complete the history report up to ECER 2019.)

Now, due to the corona crisis, the ECER 2020 was cancelled with rather short notice and the ECER 2021 will be organised as an online event. In this respect the VETNET network has been working with new solutions for proceedings publications to harvest the participants’ contributions for the ECER 2020 and to prepare the grounds for online participation. From this perspective, the VETNET is entering a new era with new challenges. I can at best wish good luck.

Staying as an expatriate in Germany – and being engaged with other Europeans

Alongside my project-related blogging I have sometimes taken up somewhat different themes. Mainly I have taken the role of a European expatriate living in Germany and interpreting some interesting themes from the German point to other Europeans. Many of these have been related to historical anniversaries – in particular to the processes of peaceful revolution in East Germany 1989 and to the German reunification in 1990. But I have also reported on the pro-European movement Pulse of Europe and its activities to promote positive engagement to promote European solidarity and commitment to work together for a better future. I was pleased to be able to join in the activities and give some inputs in the ‘open microphone’ sessions of the regular Sunday meetings.

Also, I have written some blogs with focus on the 100th anniversary of the Finnish independence. I felt the need to explain the particular history of our nation-building during the centuries of Swedish rule and the century of Russian rule (but with a considerable degree of autonomy). Then, I felt the need to explain the difficult process of gaining the independence (after the World War I), defending it (during the World War II) and consolidating the Finnish welfare state and the particular international position as western democracy and bridge-builder between East and West.

Looking back, I am pleased that I have been active on these fronts. BUT I am no longer there, among the Germans and working with other Europeans. So, I think that I have already completed the mission when it comes to blogging on these themes.

So, having shared these thoughts I am somewhat uncertain, how to continue my blogging from a different perspective. Obviously, I need to find a new role for myself and that takes time. Part of this process is to reconsider, what I want to discuss via blogging and what as a user of (other) social media. That is the topic for my next blog post.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

 

 

 

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25 years with European projects – 15 years with ITB – 8 years with regular blogging

November 28th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent posts I have several times mentioned that I am going through a transition from active project work to retirement. In my latest post I was pleased to note that the management of the University of Bremen thanked me for my years of service and sent me nice souvenirs from Bremen. During the last few days it has crossed my mind that several anniversaries of my career come together in this season. So, perhaps it is appropriate to say some words about the beginning of my engagement with European projects (25 years ago).  Then, I can reflect on the beginning of my work as a researcher of  Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – and as an active project promoter (15 years ago). Finally, it is worthwhile to look back at my start as a regular blogger on my work in European projects (8 years ago). To be sure, I do not try to give a complete overview of my work with projects during all these years. Instead, I want to give insights into critical turning points and changes in the European cooperation climate in the field of vocational education and training (VET).

25 years work with European projects in the field of VET

Indeed, I had started working at Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) already in the year 1994. My work started on transitional basis and at that time all Cedefop activities were overshadowed by the fact that the centre was to be relocated from Berlin to Thessaloniki. However, already during my time in Berlin I had made contacts with different European institutes that were preparing projects for the new European cooperation programs – in particular for the Leonardo da Vinci program for the field of VET. Moreover, I had participated in the inaugural events that were organised in Berlin by the European Commission and the national Leonardo centre in Germany (at that time placed in Berlin). At that time the role of Cedefop vis-à-vis the program and the projects was not clear. I then saw an opportunity to start a Cedefop project that was based on knowledge sharing and exchanges between parallel projects as ‘networking the networks’. By the end of the year 1995 (when Cedefop had moved to Thessaloniki and I had got a proper EU contract) I was ready to start working with a number of EU-funded projects with similar themes and interests of knowledge.

What struck me from the very beginning, was the creative and innovative spirit of many of these projects. It can at best be characterised with slogans like ‘Learning from Europe and learning for Europe’ or ‘Working together and learning from each other’. Some of the project partners had already earlier experience from European projects in which they had only produced national reports or case studies – and that was it. Now, the projects tried to develop common understanding of the theme and to set their own understanding of VET into a European group picture. In this context the partners did not understand themselves as advocates for their national systems or policies. Instead, many projects developed frameworks that helped the participants to reflect critically on the relative strengths and weaknesses of their respective VET systems and institutions. Moreover, many projects had interesting discussions, what different countries and VET models can learn from each other. As far as I am concerned, I accompanied several projects by participating in their events and organised European seminars and symposia in which project partners shared knowledge and commented each others’ work.

At that time these European research & development projects in education and training were paving the way for emerging European policies. In the beginning the first priority for these European projects was to support EU member states to develop their education and training systems with comparative and collaborative project results. Thus, the projects were working in a creative space and the policy-makers were not steering strongly the work in these programs. However, the creative period and climate of openness did not last long and the momentum faded away. As I see it, there were several reasons for this:

  • Although the projects provided valuable analyses and opened interesting innovative perspectives, they were not in the position to push forward strong change agendas. The messages on learning from each other did not lead to effective policy processes.
  • Many projects had reached an interesting interim synthesis with a limited number of partner countries. When follow-up projects were launched with a wider range of participating countries, the European group picture got blurred.
  • The researchers who had participated in several projects had reached a point of relative saturation of learning from each other and were confronted that this wider knowledge does not help them in promoting innovations in their own countries.
  • At the European level policy-makers shifted the emphasis from innovations in national VET systems to transparency of learning outcomes. Thus, instead of looking for systemic and cultural innovations, the policy processes started working with quasi-neutral ‘European’ reference levels, descriptors and credit transfer models.

During those years (19944/95 – 2002) blogging was not available as an option to reflect on the activities. At that time I could at best write down my experiences and thoughts into my mission reports (Dienstreiseberichte). After my time in Cedefop I compiled them into several thematic logbooks that gave a picture on my accompanying activities (with projects) on my involvement in conferences and on my contributions to the VETNET network (inthe context of ECER-conferences).

15 years work with European projects of ITB

Alongside the above-described change in the European cooperation climate my time at Cedefop had come to an end. I had returned to Finland and tried to get grounded in my home country. However, it pointed out to be harder than I thought. Therefore, I was pleased to start working at ITB. I had learned to know the institute already before my time in Cedefop and  I had had very close cooperation with ITB colleagues promoting the ‘networking the networks’ among European projects.

In the beginning my role was somewhat ambiguous. To be sure, I had a clear task to support ITB in the European follow-up of the international Hangzhou conference to promote a common approach to VET teacher education (based on genuine VET research tradition). However, in addition to this, it was not clear, what else was on the cards. However, very soon a colleague had a traffic accident and got a hospital infection on top of it. So, I was asked to jump in as a replacement to coordinate the EU-funded project on workplace learning partnerships. This turned out to be a hard ride, because the partners were working in very different circumstances and it was difficult to bring the activities and achievements towards common conclusions.

This difficult start was followed by a number of projects on ‘training of trainers’ or promoting professional development of ‘teachers and trainers in VET’. Many of these projects were overshadowed by policy-makers’ expectations to create common European standards or guidelines (compatible with the Bachelor/Master structure of the Bologna process or in terms of common European reference levels). Some of these projects could promote learning from each other, but the diversity of the country-specific approaches could hardly be linked to a common innovation agenda. Yet, as a side-effect, some of these projects brought the work with common platforms, project-based blogs and social media into picture.

Indeed, during this period I made several attempts to use blogging as means to support European projects. Firstly I tried to work with project-specific blogs as means to provide progress reports and to share ideas. Also, at a certain point there was an effort to develop a conference blog for the VETNET network – to share experiences of different sessions. Some of the project blogs – in particular those that involved video interviews – played a role in bringing the partners together to a common discussion. Yet, they were hardly in a position to reach a wider audience. For me personally some project blogs were of vital importance in shaping the ITB contribution as series of blog articles (e.g. the Politics project) or as series of video interviews with ITB colleagues and affiliated VET teachers (e.g. the Co-op PBL in VET project). Sadly, most of these project blogs have gone lost since the respective websites are no longer available.

8 years with regular blogging on my work and experiences with my latest projects

Already during the above-mentioned phase of work I had tried to start my own blog as means to share ideas and experiences. However, these efforts were rather short-lived. My first start was an attempt to revitalize the ‘networking the networks’ approach with a self-made framework of common ideas to be promoted in European projects. Obviously, such an idea – without an institutional backing and without any resources – was a castle in the air.  Then, at the next phase I already grasped the leading theme ‘working and learning’ but the projects of that time did not give much ingredients for regular blogging.

Strangely enough, the greatest opportunity for ‘working and learning’ in the context of European cooperation was provided by a project that was not designed by ITB and wasn’t focusing primarily on the field of VET. Indeed, the Learning Layers project was developed by an interdisciplinary consortium of educational technologists, ICT system architects, software developers and applied information technologists. They were interested in promoting organisational and workplace-based learning in healthcare organisations and were developing a proposal for the 7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and development of the European Union. Luckily, the consortium came to a conclusion that they needed another sector in another country. That brought into picture the construction sector in Germany and ITB as a partner to coordinate and support the construction pilot.

In the light of the above the ITB team had to work itself in into the project and to develop a common approach with the application partners in the construction sector. Based on the experience of ITB in an earlier Work & Technology programme it was possible to launch the initial ‘co-design workshops’ that mapped some needs and possible ways forward. The common design conferences of the consortium gave a rough orientation towards a design idea – digitization of training and learning materials in the construction sector. Yet, with trials, efforts and reorientation this idea was reworked into the concept of the Learning Toolbox – a digital toolset to support workplace learning. Yet, the path from the design idea to a workable toolset and to digital competences to use it was a rocky road. Thus, we needed to take several actions in training the trainers and in finding ways to use the functionality that was emerging. All this complexity and the search and research processes provided a basis for active blogging.

In a similar way I faced a challenge in the follow-up phase when I got the task to represent ITB in the TACCLE4 CPD project. As I have explained it in my blogs of the recent years, I had to work myself and the field of VET in into a project that had focused on general education and promoting digital competences of classroom teachers. Here, I had to analyse the tradition of earlier TACCLE projects and the legacy of the Learning Layers project as a different starting points for promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers. This tension provided a basis for a further period of active blogging.

At the end of both the Learning Layers project I have compiled annual logbooks of the blog posts that I have written during the years that project worked (2012/13 – 2016/17). I also compied a thematic logbook on the development of the Learning Toolbox during the project and in the immediate follow-up phase. Finally, at the end of my work for the TACCLE4 CPD project I have compiled a logbook of my blog posts for this project. All these logbooks – as well as the earlier logbooks of mission reports are all available on my page on ResearchGate.

I guess this is enough of the different periods in my work with European projects. As I see it, I am now stepping out of the project activities – but I can still keep on reflecting, what have been the lessons learned. And I have also learned to write blogs on other topics of European interest. So, I will not drop the pencil now that I have gone to retirement.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

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Working and Learning with the TACCLE4 CPD project – Logbook of blog posts available on ResearchGate

November 19th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the years 2017 – 2020 I have written regularly blog posts on my work for the EU-funded TACCLE4 CPD project. These have been published  on my blog “Working and Learning” and on the TACCLE4 CPD website. As has been indicated in the blog posts, this project is the fourth in the series of transnational TACCLE projects to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers in Europe. Now, on having completed my work for the project, I have collected the blogs into a single document “Working and Learning with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Logbook of blog posts on the TACCLE4-CPD project 2017-2020”.  Below I share some introductory remarks on the logbook.

The background of the TACCLE4 CPD project

The acronym TACCLE referred to the title of the first project “Teachers’ aids on creating content for learning environments” and to its main product – teachers’ handbook for developing e-learning. In the subsequent projects the emphasis was shifted to specific subject domains (TACCLE2) and to supporting the teaching of programming in general education (TACCLE3). The aim of the current project (TACCLE4 CPD) is to support the development of continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in order to enhance their digital competences. Whilst the previous projects were providing direct support for classroom teachers, the current project seeks to develop training models and provide support for those who plan CPD measures.

The challenge for the project work in the field of vocational education and training (VET)

This logbook contains primarily contributions to the work for the TACCLE4 CPD project in the field of vocational education and training (VET). However, many posts try to relate this work to the school-centred approach of the previous TACCLE projects. In particular this becomes visible in the blogs that reflect the importance of the Learning Layers project as a predecessor of the TACCLE4-CPD project.

In this respect this logbook serves as a documentation of a project-specific learning history in which achievements of prior TACCLE projects and of the Learning Layers project are brought together in order to support CPD initiatives in the field of VET. Since this is a logbook of blogs that had been written for an ongoing project, it is not appropriate to present final conclusions. Instead, the logbook provides snapshots on the development of the work at different phases of the work. Therefore, the original blog posts have been copied below as such, without further commentaries.

The logbook “Working and Learning with the TACCLE4 CPD project” is available in the project space “TACCLE CPD and VET” on ResearchGate.

With this update I bring my blogging on the TACCLE4 CPD project to an end and finalise the logbook of the blogs.

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

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Online learning during the corona crisis – The contribution of the Learning Toolbox

April 7th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog I made the point that nowadays – due to the corona-crisis – the education and training providers have to start delivering their teaching and training online. This is no longer something as add-on to the ‘ordinary’ teaching and training. And as I mentioned, this challenge is being taken in rapid tempo – and it seems to push the developers to new innovations. Since I have been recently travelling, I have not been able to follow all relevant developments. Therefore, I need to catch up with my colleagues who are better informed. However, already at this point I can refer to inspiring news on the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for vocational learning – also during the period of lockdown.

Learning Toolbox (LTB) as shared digital toolset for trainers and apprentices

As regular readers of this blog surely know, the Learning Toolbox (LTB) was developed in the context of our EU-funded project Learning Layers (2013 – 2017). After a lengthy co-design process the project partners managed to develop and pilot test a digital toolset to support vocational and workplace-based learning. In our major pilot context, the North-German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup, the full-time trainers have continued to use the toolset and spread it across all construction trades (for which they give training). As we have seen it during the project and afterwards, the LTB has proven to be user-friendly – both from the perspective of trainers and apprentices. Moreover, it has served the purpose to support self-organised learning and professional growth in the respective trades.

Use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) during the period of lockdown

So far our observations on the use of LTB have been based on working visits to Bau-ABC during the normal training periods when the full-time trainers have supervised the apprentices’ projects. Now, during the crisis, the training centre has been closed and the training periods have been postponed. However, the trainers have not capitulated. Instead, they have prepared special LTB-stacks for the closure period and announced them via Facebook. Below, some screenshots will give an impression, how vocational learning contents have been shared with apprentices.

Screenshots 1a and 1b: The general announcement on the LTB-stacks for different trades

Screenshots 2a and 2b: Trade-specific LTB-stacks with attached introductory messages

 

At this point I will not go into details, in what ways the trainers expect that these stacks will be used – after all, no one knows, when and how the return to some kind of new normality can take place. Nevertheless, the Bau-ABC trainers have shown that the LTB has proven to be a valuable toolset in supporting the training and learning processes during the crisis. I will try to catch up with the LTB-developers, the Bau-ABC trainers and other experts to learn more during the coming weeks.

More blogs to come …

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Quiet period in education and training activities – What news on the project fronts?

April 6th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I am populating this blog with reports on field visits and project meetings or on emerging results. Right now we are in the middle of a very quiet period. The hitherto normal activities of education and training providers have been closed due to the spread of the corona virus. And in a similar way all face-to-face meetings – whether project meetings, field visits or workshops with local/regional partners – all such events have been cancelled or postponed. So, it is very quiet right now. But yet, it is worthwhile to look at the possibilities that digital tools and online services may provide under such circumstances.

Indeed, as Graham Attwell mentioned in the online meeting of our TACCLE4 CPD last week, this crisis has been a strong push for teachers and trainers to move their activities online. What has been so far considered as a sideline opportunity – something complementary to the ‘regular’ teaching and training in presence – has to be considered as the remaining main option. From this point of view teachers, trainers and university lecturers are making rapid progress in implementing new online learning solutions in their own context. And at the same time developers of online learning platforms and software solutions are doing their best to support such transitions. All this is reflected in many online conferences and meetings. So, even during this quiet period, there are several new developments that need our attention.

From this point of view we discussed the role of our next transnational meeting – which we cannot organise as a face-to-face meeting but as an online meeting. Nevertheless, we agreed to book time slots to catch up with these new developments in online learning and in knowledge sharing within online communities. Also, we discussed the prospects to organise the forthcoming Multiplier events of the project as online events (and to use new formats for such events). Here, we need some time for further planning. BUT, if we want to capture the most valuable fruits of the new developments, we would need to organise the events at a time when our target groups – teachers and trainers – are getting back to the new normality after the period of lockdown. Therefore, I hope that the funding agencies are flexible enough to extend the working periods of projects like ours.

At any rate, I am trying to bring myself back to working mode (at least after the Easter period) and catch up with my friends and colleagues who are closer to new developments. Let us see, what all we will find out.

More blogs to come …

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Quiet on the blog – What news from the health front?

April 3rd, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks it has been exceptionally quiet on this blog. Partly it was to be expected, partly I was hit by the new circumstances – ‘force majeure’ as they call it in French. I had announced that I will stop working regularly from my Bremen-based office (or home office) and enter a transitional period (including some travelling and preparation for the retirement). Yet, what I and we all have experienced after my departure from Bremen has been a surprising shock that goes beyond anything we could have anticipated.

During the last few weeks I have been following news on the spread of the corona-virus all over Europe (notably in Germany and England), the United States and in Finland. I do not want to comment the developments here – it has been a hard ride everywhere. However, at a certain point the family members started to urge us to get back to Finland from our faraway location – and they were right in doing so. Sooner than we could anticipate the flight connections were narrowed down before a complete standstill. It was a stroke of luck to get back home before it was too late.

Now, being safe in the home country and staying at home for the required two weeks it is a relief to get settled in peace and quiet. Yet, this is not a holiday period and we know that we need to keep ourselves busy. However, at the moment we do not know, what kind of ‘new normality’ we shall enter when the period of lockdown is over in Europe. What we can expect is that many things will change and that we have to think many things over.

For me personally this goes along with my transitional period. I will not return to regular working from my office at ITB. As I have said, I am on the way to retirement and I will finish my current projects from remote locations (with some short periods in Bremen when possible). Yet, in order to keep myself on track, I will tr¥ to go on with blogging on some of my key themes. In particular I will try to catch up with some of the new developments in organising online learning and online events during this period. In particular our current project TACCLE4 CPD is in a good position to draw conclusions for training of teachers and trainers, how to use digital tools and online learning services in the context of social isolation. There is a lot to be learned in this respect

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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