Archive for the ‘Informal learning’ Category

Reflections on the impact of the Learning Layers project – Part Three: The use of Learning Toolbox in new contexts

April 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two latest posts I have started a series of blogs that report on the discussions of former partners of the Learning Layers (LL) project on the impact of our work. As I have told earlier, the discussion started, when I published a blog post on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB)  in the training centre Bau-ABC to support independent learning while the centre is closed. This triggered a discussion, how the digital toolset Learning Toolbox – a key result from our EU-funded R&D project – is being used in other contexts. And – as I also told earlier – this gave rise to the initiative  of the leader of the Learning Layers consortium to collect such experiences and to start a joint reflection on the impact of our work. In the first post I gave an overview of this process of preparing a joint paper. In the second post I presented the main points that I and my co-author Gilbert Peffer presented on the use of LTB to support vocational and workplace-based learning in the construction sector. In this post I try to give insights into the use of LTB in other contexts based on spin-off innovations and on refocusing the use of the toolset. Firstly I will focus on the development of ePosters (powered by LTB) in different conferences. Secondly I will give a brief picture on the use of LTB for knowledge sharing in the healthcare sector.

Insights into the development of ePosters powered by LTB

Here I do not wish to repeat the picture of the evolution of the ePosters – as a spin-off innovation of the LTB as it has been delivered by the responsible co-authors. Instead, I try to give firstly my impressions of the initial phase of this innovative use of LTB to support poster presenters in conferences. Then, I will give a glimpse, how we tried to present the ePoster approach to the European Conference on Educational Research and to the VETNET network. Here I can refer to my blog posts of that time. Then I will add some information on the current phase of developing the work with ePosters – as presented by the responsible authors for the joint paper on the impact of LL tools.

  • In October 2017 I became familiar with the breakthrough experience that the developers of the LTB and the coordinator of the healthcare pilot of the LL project had had with the development of ePosters for conferences. In the annual conference of medical educators (AMEE 2017) they had introduced the ePosters (prepared as LTB stacks) as alternatives for traditional paper posters and for expensive digital posters. At that time I published an introductory blog post – mainly based on their texts  and pictures. Foe me, this was a great start to be followed by others. Especially the use of poster cubicles to present  mini-posters that provided links to the full ePosters was very impressive. Another interesting format was the use of ePosters attached to Round Tables or Poster Arenas was interesting.

  • In the year 2018 we from ITB together with the LTB-developers and with the coordinator of the VETNET network took the initiative to bring the use of ePosters into the European Conference on Educational Research 2018 in Bolzano/ Bozen, Italy. We initiated a network project of the VETNET network (for research in vocational education and training) to serve as a pioneering showcase for the entire ECER community. In this context we invited all poster presenters of the VETNET program to prepare ePosters and the LTB-developers provided instructions and tutoring for them. Finally, at the conference, we had the ePoster session and a special session to e approach for other networks. This process was documented by two blog posts – on September 2nd and on September 11th – and by a detailed report for the European Educational Reseaarch Association. The LTB-stacks stacks for the ePosters can be found here, below you have screenshots of the respective web page.

  • In the light of the above the picture that the promoters of ePosters have presented now is amazing.  The first pilot was with a large, international medical education conference in 2017. In 2018 it was used at 6 conferences across Europe. In 2019 this number grew to 14 and also included US conferences. The forecast for 2020 is that it will be used by more than 30 conferences with growth in the US being particularly strong.  The  feedback from users and the number of returning customers  suggest that the solution is valued by the stakeholders.

Insights into the use of LTB in the healthcare sector

Here I am relying on the information that has been provided by the coordinator of the healthcare pilot of the Learning Layers and by the former partners from the healthcare sector. Therefore, I do not want to go into details. However, it is interesting to see, how the use of LTB has been repurposed to support knowledge sharing between the healthcare services across a wide region. This is what the colleagues have told us of the use of LTB:

“LTB has been used to create stacks for each practice and thereby improve the accessibility of the practice reports as well as to enable the sharing of additional resources which could not be included in the main report due to space. The app has thus improved the range of information that can be shared, and links are also shared which allow users to read more in-depth into the topic areas. The use of LTB has also enabled the spread of information more widely, as the team suggested that the stack poster (a paper-based poster displaying the link to the stack and a QR code) should be displayed in the practice to allow any interested staff to access the stack and resources. The use of the stack also allows for all the information to be kept by interested staff in one central place, so previous reports and resources can be referred back to at any point. It can also be accessed via a personal mobile device, so gives the opportunity for users to access the information at the most convenient time for them, and without the need to have the paper report or to log in to a system.”

I guess this is enough of the parallel developments in using the LTB after the end of the LL project and alongside the follow-up in the construction sector. In the final post of this series I will discuss some points that have supported the sustainability of the innovation and contributed to the wider use of the LTB.

More blogs to come …

 

Reflections on the impact of the Learning Layers project – Part Two: The use of Learning Toolbox in vocational learning and construction work

April 28th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest post I started a series of blogs that report on the discussions of former partners of the Learning Layers (LL) project on the impact of our work. This was triggered by reports  that the key result of our work – the Learning Toolbox – is being used in the original pilot context (training for construction work) and is getting new users. In particular this discussion was inspired by the fact that such tools gain new importance in the period of corona crisis, when schools and training centres are closed and traditional conferences are being cancelled. In my previous blog I gave a brief overview on the discussions that we have had and on the joint paper that we have been preparing. In this blog I will summarise some key points that I and my co-author Gilbert Peffer have raised on the case that we have presented – the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. Below I will use our draft text (that was shaped as responses to given questions) as a slightly edited version.

The pioneering Case: Learning Toolbox in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup

The Learning Toolbox was developed in the Learning Layers project as a response to the needs of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup (a major application partner from the construction sector). The initial design idea referred to digitisation of training materials, instruction sheets, project reporting sheets and self-assessment procedures. However, in the course of  iterative co-design cycles, the process took the course towards shaping an interactive toolset to support training and learning activities.

What particular problems were addressed in the co-design process?

In Bau-ABC Rostrup the apprentices spend relatively short periods (one or two weeks at a time) and are trained by full-time trainers who are Meisters (master craftsmen) in their trade. During each period they complete a project in the respective trade. Then, they move back to their companies or have another training period in a supporting trade. In general, the projects are based on genuine work tasks that are implemented in a workshop or at outdoor training areas.

Previously, the instructions for the apprentices’ projects had been provided orally with the help of instructive worksheets (for preparing the project plans). Likewise, the reporting on the projects was done manually. In principle, the project cycle was based on self-organised learning – independent search for knowledge resources, drafting the plan plan, reporting the implementation and then assessing the outcome. The functionality of Learning Toolbox – based on trade-specific stacks that consisted of different tiles – provided support for learning when completing the work tasks.

Stakeholders who have been involved in the co-design process and pilot activities

The co-design work was carried out as a collaborative process by researchers, technical partners and full-time trainers from Bau-ABC. During an earlier phase of the work the project team provided basic multimedia training for some voluntary trainers. At a later phase the project team and these trainers provided an intensive training campaign for all trainers of the training centre. In the pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox a core group of trainers introduced the toolset in their training and results were monitored by the project team. Also, at the final phase of the project, the use of the Learning Toolbox as support for construction work processes was demonstrated for several craft trade companies. As a result, follow-up processes (feasibility studies and project initiatives) were started with some companies.

How have the training practices been changed and what new practices have emerged?

The functionality of the Learning Toolbox was easy to be customised for different training purposes and according to the pedagogic priorities of the trainers. Thus, it made it easier for the trainers to emphasise independent searches among a wide range of web resources. (This was essential for borehole builders who were working alone on remote construction sites). Also, it made it possible to give learners a gradual access to a wider range of resources (and to solutions of their peers) once they had learned to develop their own solutions to the project tasks. (This was essential for the road-builders and pipeline-builders.) Moreover, apprentices were encouraged to document their projects with the Learning Toolbox. This enabled the instructors to see progress of their apprentices in real time and provide more timely feedback. The LTB has also strengthened the self-organisation of the instructors in terms of streamlining their content and sharing common resources between the different professions. While this approach to collaborative training was already there at Bau-ABC, the LTB offered a further channel to systematise this practice. Altogether, the co-design process has been characterised by a continuing research & development dialogue that has been underpinned by the accompanying research approach of the research institute ITB, University of Bremen.

What has been the impact so far and what can be expected in the near future? 

After the project the use of the Learning Toolbox was spread across all trades in which Bau-ABC Rostrup provides apprentice training. Consequently, the apprentices have started to complete their projects with the help of the Learning Toolbox. Based on this pioneering case, other German training centres in the construction sector are in the process of adopting the Learning Toolbox both for initial VET and for continuing VET. There are also teacher groups at a number of medical faculties in Germany who have adopted the LTB for practice training. Due to the closure of the training centres because of the COVID19-epidemic the trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup have prepared trade-specific stacks with the Learning Toolbox to support independent learning.

What have been key aspects for sustaining this initiative so long after the project 

Altogether, the co-design process, the piloting phase and the follow-up phase have been characterised by intensive research & development dialogue (underpinned by an accompanying a research approach that dovetails with the co-design process), adjustment of the tool development to the pedagogic approach of the trainers and to the effort to promote self-organised learning of apprentices. In addition, the project work and the follow-up has been characterised by strong support from the accompanying researchers of ITB. Furthermore, the trainers of Bau-ABC have become strong multipliers of innovation both within their organisation and in their networking with other training centres and partner companies. At the end of the project it was not certain, how the innovations could be sustained and spread. In the construction sector it was essential that the developers of the Learning Toolbox and the accompanying researchers from ITB took several initiatives to launch follow-up activities with construction companies.

I think these were the main points that we (I and Gilbert) wanted to bring into discussion in this process. In my next post I will take a quick look at the other cases that were explored in our discussions.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Learning Toolbox going strong to the year 2020

January 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday I had a lengthy catch-up talk (via Skype) with my Barcelona-based friend Gilbert Peffer. As regular readers of this blog know, we had worked together intensively in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in the follow-up phase. For the success of the LL project it was crucial that Gilbert (on top of his other duties) engaged himself in the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). And as we know, the LTB was the key product of the project – and in particular of the Construction pilot. Yet, although the LTB was successfully implemented by construction sector partners, the follow-up phase has not been that easy.

No question, the LTB has pointed out to be a powerful digital toolset for supporting learning in different contexts of Vocational Education and Training (VET). Thanks to the successful implementation of LTB, the LL project was awarded with the VET Research Project Award of the European Vocational Skills Week in Vienna 2018. And during his visit as ‘apprentice’ in the training centre Bau-ABC the prime minister of the Federal State of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil was very impressed of the use of digital tools that were presented to him by apprentices. Here, the use of LTB was essentially part of this success story.

Also, as we have noticed it during the years after the project, the ePosters powered by LTB have been taken up in numerous conferences. With this spin-off innovation the LTB developers had reached numerous conferences that have started used ePosters powered by LTB as an alternative for traditional posters or alongside them. Also, on this front the LTB developers have received several awards as remarkable service providers.

Indeed, I have blogged on all these success stories and celebrated with the LTB developers. And indeed, in my reports for the EU-funded TACCLE4 CPD I had highlighted the use of LTB with the expression “The Learning Toolbox path”. In this way I had set the approach to a wider context. I see it as one of the innovation paths for promoting digital competences of teachers, trainers and learners in the field of VET and as a contribution to vocational learning culture. So far so good. However, now that I am in the transition to the full retirement phase I was afraid that I loose sight of the development of this innovative approach.

From this perspective it was rewarding to hear the news of Gilbert. It strikes me that the LTB developers are making progress on all fronts – with uses of LTB in training and in events. Now the LTB developers are working with several German training centres in the construction sector – and our partners in the LL project serve as multipliers in promoting the use of the toolset. In addition it strikes me that they have found new ways to use LTB in the healthcare sector in England – and the healthcare pilot partners of LL have been co-developing the new working perspectives. Furthermore, other healthcare service providers in Spain have identified new ways to use LTB to support the relatives of patients who need training for sensitive issues in their engagement with the patients.

This all has shown me that the work with the LTB is not fading away – on the contrary, it is conquering new terrains. This triggered once again my instincts of accompanying researcher and of inspired blogger. Even if I go on retirement, I want to follow these processes as best I can and support my colleagues via blog posts. So, we agreed with Gilbert on a new format for our cooperation – a monthly Blogchat. In this way Gilbert (who is very busy with the practical work around LTB) can report in a quick way on recent developments. And I can then write blogs that give visibility for the innovation. In this way we are continuing our long and successful cooperation with the innovation that is worth celebrating.

More blogs to come …

 

Getting ready for the holiday break – Looking forward to next year

December 15th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent posts I have summarised the results that have been achieved for the EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD from the perspective of vocational education and training (VET). In addition I have provided insights into the work with Open Educational Resources (OER) as support for vocational teaching/learning arrangements. Altogether I have been relatively pleased when wrapping up the achievements by the end of the year. As I see it, I have completed my tasks for the project and thus I can enjoy the holiday break.

Before going on holiday I would like to make one point concerning the contribution of our project to the field of adult education. At the end of October I was invited to visit the kick-off meeting of a new EU-funded project “Artificial intelligence (AI) and vocational education and training (VET)”. In my guest presentation I had the chance to inform the participants of the initiative of the Finnish Government to provide online training for the whole population in matters related to AI. By that time the course “The Elements of AI“ had already reached one fifth of the population and it was gaining wider popularity. The partners of the new project were very interested of this course. In November I wrote a blog post of this working visit.

Later on I was informed that the Finnish government has promoted this course as n initiative of the Finnish EU-presidency. In this context the course will be made available in all EU languages and the goal is to educate 1% of the European citizens in the basics of AI.

I cannot claim that I would be an expert in AI or in organising such online courses. But I would assume that this particular pilot case is interesting for our project and in particular for its contribution to the field of adult education. I leave this idea at this point and let us see if we can get further in the beginning of next year.

I wish all my partners and contributors in the project and all readers of this blog a merry Christmas break and a good slide to the New Year 2020!

More blogs to come (in the new year 2020) …

Productivity, innovation, learning and ‘Place’

September 3rd, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Fig 7Antiguo-cauce-del-río-Turia-3The UK Centre for Cities has been undertaking a lot of interesting research on the future of cities. In a recent article on their website, they look at ‘why place matters when thinking about productivity. Productivity has been persistently low in the UK and the article discusses “‘Place’, one of the pillars of productivity identified by the Government’s Industrial Strategy” and how it interacts with the other four pillars – ‘People’, ‘Ideas’, ‘Business Environment and ‘Infrastructure’.

Perhaps not surprisingly they find that. city centres offer inherent advantages to some businesses compared to those offered by rural areas. They also draw on previous research in finding that “broadly speaking, density is good for innovation…. the proximity of researchers to each other through co-location improves quality of output. Our work also finds that jobs in city centres are more productive than their counterparts elsewhere” although this preference is not universal.

Infrastructure’ , they say, “is the pillar where the impact of ‘place’ is the most obvious. Proliferation of public transport systems is the most efficient solution to get people around in dense city centres where as a private car is the best way to travel in the countryside.”

However it is the people pillar that I find most interesting and where I disagree with the article. “For the ‘people’ pillar, ‘place’ is indiscriminate – skill levels are the biggest determinant of outcomes everywhere.” The research has been taking place as part of the government drive to develop Local Industrial Strategies in England. Yet I do not think ‘place’ can be reduced to providing skills training courses. Our work in the EU funded CONNECT project suggests that as important, if not more so, is the promotion of opportunities for learning, through networks of different organizations including both the public and private sectors. Such organisations embrace cultural and social activities and adult education as well as formal skills training. And especially in dense cities like Valencia or Athens informal learning taking place in public spaces is critical. Such public spaces are frequently under pressure  from developers and policies need to be developed to preserve and extend such places. Thus any policy which looks at productivity and skills needs to take a wider viewpoint and in relation to cities, consider how public places play a role in sharing knowledge and developing social innovation.

 

Cities of Learning

June 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

posterPontydysgu’s Spanish organisation is part of the EU CONNECT project. Funded under the Erasmus Plus programme, the CONNECT project aims to leverage the impact of Learning Cities through building urban ecosystems of lifelong learning that harness the assets of European cities and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience for adult learners. The project application says: “In a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, connected learning for all citizens can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity; in particular when integrating both the potential of ubiquitous learning technology and learning opportunities created by European cities.”

Pontydysgu have been working on two main things. Firstly, we have been doing a field study on Russafa, an area of Valencia, looking at different opportunities for non formal and informal learning, as well as at formal adult learning provision. One of our main conclusions is the importance of public spaces for learning to take place. To this extent history, culture and context play an important role and not least climate: in Valencia many learning opportunities take place outdoors! Urban design is another key contextual factor.

Secondly, we have been undertaking a literature review. One of the most interesting documents we have come across is ‘Cities of Learning in the UK’ – a “prospectus” published by the RSA. Cities of Learning (CofL), they say “is a new approach for activating a grassroots, city-based, mass engagement movement around learning and skills. It seeks to close gaps in opportunity and empower places to promote lifelong learning as core to their cultural and civic identity.”

“CofL can be a galvanising force for bringing people together with a city’s economic and social aspirations. It can open new sources of city leadership, learning potential and civic energy. Cities can both make visible and amplify nascent systems of learning – involving learners, institutions, employers, civil society and the voluntary and cultural sectors. Learners, especially those from underserved communities, can benefit from much greater access to the wealth of enrichment experiences and opportunities their city offers. By deepening social and civic connections, CofL can be a means to developing a sense of place, identity, mission, ambition – and learning.”

The Cities of Learning movement started in the USA but the Prospectus has been “adapted for UK.”

One thing I very much like about the CofL approach is the emphasis on place. As the RSA say “Learning systems – formal, non-formal, informal – are experienced by people in places and form a fundamental part of how they experience life within their neighbourhoods, communities, and towns and cities. They operate outside of the silos of traditional programmes, allowing organisations to work together to focus on shared outcomes rather than individual concerns.”

They go on to say that CofL “capitalise on crucial intangible factors that drive collective action, such as identity, heritage and community.” Certainly, from our research in Valencia we would concur – although I am not sure that heritage and community are intangible.

The Prospectus emphasises the widening participation and opportunity gap in society today.

It stresses the importance on non-cognitive as well as cognitive skills for future employment. Skills and calls for cities to develop learning pathways leading to Open Badges, recognizing learning or formal and informal learning experiences. Learning networks would incorporate a skills spine using both OECD core skills and competences as well as more locally developed learning needs. The report points to different Interest driven and destination driven learning pathways – destination driven meaning learning for employment. This seems to us too binary a division. Interest driven learning can often lead to skills for employment and vice versa. In reality people often cross over between different pathways.

Dense networks and relationships are seen to be central to the development of CofL with “anchor organisations” and “influential change makers” acting as “network hubs and stewards.” Three key factors are identified for developing CofL initiatives – leadership, networks and platform.

Although stressing the importance of networks and of community organisations, the examples provided seem to be driven by city governments. And the report also provides the example of a large employers overhauling their recruitment policy as driving change through their supply network, but there is no discussion of the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises who provide the majority of employment in cities like Valencia.

Cities are of course important but I do not see why the approach to learning in place based networks should not also include more dispersed population areas, including rural areas and towns in the south Wales valleys with different population structures.

One thing definitely welcome is that the technology plays an enabling function, supporting learning. Technology Enhanced Learning may have a weak link to place, but place is key to practice in learning.

Less welcome is the unnecessary emphasis on CofL as disruptive or as they call it a “quiet disruption.” Neither do I see Open Badges as a “disruption.” I can only see CofL and Open Badges as developing and extending traditional ideas of adult education.

The report also claims that CoFL challenges the fragmented rigid and centralised nature of public services. Certainly, education services have become fragmented but the major challenge is not that but is government austerity policies which have decimated adult education provision.

However, despite this, City of Learning is an exciting vision, and one I think which could spread beyond the RSA sponsored experiments and networks.

Empower to Shape Change: Learning and Identities in the Changing World of Work

March 21st, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Empower-to-Shape-Change

As regular readers of this blog will know, Pontydysgu were members of a consortium in a project called EmployID, funded by the European Commission. The project focused on changing work identities in Public Employment services and how technology could be used to support Continuing Professional Development, including both formal learning and informal learning.

All too often such project produce a series of fairly unintelligible reports before they face away. We were determined not to replicate this pattern. Instead of producing a  series of annual reports for the EU based on different project work packages, for three years of the project we produced an an unified annual report in the form of an ebook.

And the EmployId Consultancy Network , formed out of the project has now produced a short book, designed for individuals and organisations interested in organisational transformations, changing identities and learning.

The EmployId Consultancy Network is a network of researchers, practitioners and trainers offering tailored services for solutions around facilitating staff development with the focus on professional identity transformation (among them are myself, Luis Manuel Artiles Martinez, Pablo Franzolini, Deirdre Hughes, Christine Kunzmann, John Marsh, Andreas P. Schmidt, Jordi Fernández Vélez, Ranko Markus, Karin Trier, Katarina Ćurković and Adrijana Derossi).

This is what the book is about:

The world of work is undergoing fundamental transformations.

For example, nurses have mostly chosen their job because they want to care for their patients, but their work now involves, to a large degree, computer-based documentation and quality assurance measures. Practitioners in public employment services turn from administrating unemployment benefits into coaches for their clients. And engineers need to make sense of large scale sensor data and assess the opportunities of artificial intelligence techniques for their companies’ future services.We see technological developments such as digitization and automation in an ever increasing number of sectors and intensity.

Are you embracing and shaping the change or are you being driven by it?

Companies and public sector organisations have to reshape their value creation processes and guide their employees to new job roles, creating an uncertain outlook. Ask yourself are you embracing and shaping change, or are you being driven by it? The ability to utilise modern technologies and methods is simply scratching the surface. Overcoming resistance to change, stressful conflicts, and lack of openness are major road blocks. We also need to look at a deeper level of learning. Employees need to rethink their job roles, their relationship to others, and what a successful working environment means to them.

Employees and Leaders need to take new approaches to match the new responsibilities

This indicates the importance of the professional identity of individuals and occupational groups. Employees are often not given opportunities to engage in reflective learning conversations. There is a need for workers to consider the emotional aspects of their work and identity. It is important that they also acquire the skills needed to work effectively with others to move from a problem focus to a solution focus and help each other in their learning process.

In this short book, we look at strategies to empower and shape change, including the role of technology and identity transformation for learning in the workplace.The contents of this book follow a deliberate path focusing on contemporary themes. It is aimed at practitioners, managers, researchers and policymakers.

You can download a free PDF copy of the book here. Or you can order the paperback version on Amazon for Euro 14.40.

The TACCLE4-CPD project is making further progress – Part Two: Linking my contributions to the common approach

November 27th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to blog on the third transnational project meeting of our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD that took place in Pontypridd, Wales. This project is working with frameworks, pedagogic concepts and arrangements for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in promoting their digital competences. It builds upon the achievements of three previous TACCLE projects that worked directly with teachers and provided support for promoting their digital competences. The fourth project has the task to support training providers and managers in shaping adequate arrangements for CPD in different educational sectors and enhancing appropriate digital competences.

In my previous post I gave a picture, how we revisited the key idea of this project and in what respect we have to face different challenges than the earlier TACCLE projects. The main difference is that we have to support policy-developers, educational managers and training providers – not immediately acting teachers and trainers. This has consequences for the policy analyses and frameworks to be developed in the project – as well as for our approach to collecting Open Educational Resources (OER). In general, we reached a common conclusion on giving a central role for our work with a Mindmap as an integrative tool. However, as I see it, this provided further challenges, how to link my contributions to this approach.

Linking the sector of vocational education and training (VET) to the work of TACCLE projects

In this context it is worthwhile to remind that the TACCLE projects have so far focused on general education (and general adult education). Thus, the emphasis has been on school-based education and classroom teaching. In this respect the field of vocational education and training (VET) with different institutional settings and with different interfaces between education and working life has not been present. As a contrast, our institute (ITB) had recently worked in a major EU-funded project Learning Layers in which we worked together with construction sector and with a training provider for work process -oriented learning. As a contribution to this project we had organised two campaigns for training of trainers to enhance their digital competences. In the proposal for the TACCLE4-CPD project this background had been highlighted as a major asset of our institute ITB in the current project.

However, when the TACCLE4-CPD project started working, it became clear to me that I have to provide insights into the legacy of the Learning Layers project and what needs to be considered when discussing CPD policies and measures in the field of VET. Also, I noticed that there is a need to provide insights into the institutional complexity of the German VET system – in order to grasp the role of different policy levels and R&D programmes. In this respect I felt that we from ITB had to work ourselves in into the TACCLE4-CPD projects and that we had to open new perspectives for the project work. Below I illustrate this process with three key themes.

Critical analyses of policies for promoting digital competences in the field of VET

Already in an earlier blog I had addressed the institutional complexity of the German VET system – with reference to the federal governance model and the dual system of VET (based on workplace-based training supported by school-based education). Taking into account the diversified power structures on education and training it is possible to understand the relevance of R&D projects and of specific sectoral partnerships. Therefore, I had produced for our November meeting a report that firstly gave a brief overview on the governance structures in education and training in Germany. Then I presented an overview of selected R&D projects that have a relevance for promoting digital competences and in shaping patterns of CPD. Thirdly, I included some interviews from actors in the field to highlight, what kind of impact different policies and initiatives have at the local level.

When I presented this contribution, I realised that it was written in the old way as a national report. In the light of our discussion on the critical analysis of policies I needed to transform the perspective to a general approach to the field of VET. Then I needed to outline different systemic models and levels of policies – after which the German governance structures could be given as examples. In a similar way the level of R&D programmes should be outlined with some main themes – under which the selected cases should be given as illustrative examples. Finally, the engagement of actors in the field should be discussed in the light of lead initiatives and by presenting modes of participation. In this way the report would provide (to some extent) an introduction to the VET section in the MindMap and should also address, how the MindMap can be used.

Exploring the project histories of TACCLE projects and of Learning Layers

As a second contribution I had prepared a discussion paper that compared the project histories of the three earlier TACCLE projects and that of the Learning Layers (LL) project (with focus on the Construction pilot). In both project histories I noticed similar phases of search, reorientation and enrichment and encountering new challenges. From the perspective of LL project experience I emphasised the central role of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as an integrative toolset for supporting vocational and workplace-based learning. From this perspective there is a slight tension vis-à-vis the former TACCLE projects that focused on general school education and emphasised the role of teachers’ handbooks.

When discussing this contribution I realised that I had not been able to reach the perspective of TACCLE4-CPD. Here, in addition to the work with the MindMap, it is worthwhile to take a look at the DigCompEdu framework as a bridging approach. Based on this framework it is possible to see the legacy of the LL project (including the co-design process, the training campaigns and the introduction of the LTB) as a systematic effort to link occupational competences, pedagogic competences and learners’ competences to each other. Here, the LTB served as a toolset that was shaped to support such integrative processes. From this perspective I needed to rework the paper to emphasise this approach and to avoid an impression that I would only be pushing the tool as such.

Reflections on different training models for promoting digital competences

A further important theme that we discussed was comparison of different training models. We noticed a general trend towards divisive grouping of training models as abstract lists. In our discussion we found it more appropriate to reinterpret such ‘models’ as ‘characteristics’ and to look, how different characteristics can be combined in holistic training concepts. From this perspective the “Theme Room” training that was used in the LL project would serve as an interesting case. In particular the prospect of further development of this concept – including the use of LTB during the training and after it – is an interesting challenge.

I guess this is enough of these points. To some extent this brief report may appear as insider-discussion – given that the MindMap is not yet there as an illustration. However, to me it was important to write down my interim conclusions for further work in the project.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

The TACCLE4-CPD project is making further progress – Part One: Giving new emphasis on the development of CPD

November 26th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD had its third transnational project meeting in Pontypridd, Wales. I have reported on this project in my earlier blogs (December 2017 and June 2018). We are developing frameworks and support for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in promoting their digital competences. As I have told earlier, this project is based on the work of three earlier TACCLE projects that provided direct support for teachers in integrating digital competences to their teaching. This project has the task to develop frameworks, concepts and support resources for CPD measures in different educational sectors (general education, adult education and vocational education and training (VET)). And as I have mentioned elsewhere, the success of all TACCLE projects has been based on the founding work and intellectual leadership of Jenny Hughes. In this respect our meeting was located to Pontypridd to meet Jenny at her home grounds and to make contacts with her local counterparts. Sadly, we lost Jenny shortly before the meeting. In the new situation we had to make a new situation assessment plan our work without counting on Jenny’s active support. Below I try to summarise some key points in our general discussion on the main Intellectual Outputs of the project. In my next blog I will discuss my contributions to the project and how they are related to this discussion.

What does ‘developing CPD’ mean for the project?

To be sure, we had discussed already in the first meetings the aims of our project and the background from where the project idea arises. Yet, at this meeting we had a special need to revisit these discussions. And here we were partly guided by Jenny’s legacy. In an earlier video interview she had told of the time lag between the proposal for the TACCLE1 project (for supporting the development of e-learning content for classroom teaching) and the actual start of the project. During that period the introduction of Web 2.o tools had taken off massively and the project had to catch up with this development. According to jenny, this was managed and the project integrated introduction to Web 2.0 tools into its original idea.

In our project meeting we found ourselves facing a similar challenge. Initially the TACCLE4-CPD project had been planned to scale up the work of the TACCLE courses and related local and regional teacher training activities. Whilst some sections of the proposal were referring to policies, strategies and management choices, other parts were very close to planning specific training activities and support materials for classroom teachers. However, the key idea was to proceed one level up in making transparent the policy choices for shaping training programmes, providing organisational learning opportunities and for linking them to progression models. And as we now saw, it several international organisations were active in mapping this landscape, developing new frameworks and in promoting pilot activities. These newer developments provided us a challenge in keeping up with the discussion and linking our work to it. Below, the implications for two Intellectual Outputs are discussed in this respect.

Implications for our work with Policy Analyses, Route Maps, Frameworks etc.

Concerning policy analyses we were aware of the problem faced by many European projects when they had provided national reports presenting the education and training policies of their countries. Although the aim of these reports had been to inform each other and to faclitate mutual learning, they often highlighted systemic differences and strengthened cultural barriers. From this point of view it was important to get insights into new patterns of sharing policy concepts and adapting policies that had been trialled in other countries (as Graham Attwell reported on the work of Unesco with a group of East-African countries. Also, for our common understanding of ‘policy learning’ it was important to share information on the European DigCompEdu framework that promotes new kinds of developments across different systemic frameworks.

In the light of the above we could give a new emphasis on the work with an integratibe mindmap that Koen de Pryck had started. Instead of separating different countries, we were able to create an overview on policies for promoting digital competences at different levels:

  • international policies (impulses and support),
  • policies for different (general) educational sectors – primary, lower & upper secondary education, (higher education) and adult education (as educational policies promoting lifelong learning)
  • policies for VET (as an insitutional interface between education/training and working life) and to
  • specific policies for promoting competences of teachers and trainers (with emphasis on digital competences).

In this context the specific ‘Routemap’ and ‘EMM-framework’ concepts that we had discussed earlier, could be seen as part of a wider group picture and could be linked to other elements. Thus, we could see the seemingly separate tasks as mutually complementing elements within an integrative framework. Also, we could see that the Mindmap could guide different users to find their levels of activity, perceive the dependencies and chances as well as address questions and outline options.

Implications for our work with Open Educational Resources

In a similar way we revisited the question, how to create collections of Open Educational Resources for TACCLE4-CPD. In the earlier TACCLE projects it was clear that the OER collections should equip teachers with teaching materials and pedagogic advice for their work. To some extent this emphasis was present in the proposal. However, as a consequence of the newer developments at different policy levels – and due to newer approaches to ‘policy learning’ – there is a demand for OER collections that cover different levels and address strategic dependencies and/or opportunities for pioneering. From this perspective we concluded that the work with the Mindmap is also the core structure for shaping a collection of OER (with sufficient amount of commentary).

I think I have grasped above the crucial steps in revisiting the proposal and reworking our way further. Based on these new perspectives we could see, how many elements of our work were growing together. Also, this discussion helped us to see, how to link input and influences from earlier or parallel projects to our work. In that sense I could see more clearly the importance of the work with the Learning Layers project and its follow-up measures. I will discuss this in my next post.

More blogs to come …

And the Award goes to … Learning Layers!

November 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

The third European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) took place this week in Vienna (Wien). The event has been launched by the European Commission to draw attention to the importance of vocational education and training (VET) for education, economy and society. Our European VETNET network has also played a role in drawing attention to the contribution of VET research to the development of VET. However, due to several intervening factors I have not been able to attend to these events. Yet, this time I was somewhat more engaged in the preparation and followed more keenly the news from Vienna.

The competition for European VET Excellence Awards 2018

As usual, during the EVSW, there was also this year the competition for European VET Excellence Awards for different kinds of contributions to the development of VET. In the category “European VET Research Excellence” the jury had nominated two European research projects for the final competition:

  • The Learning Layers (LL) project that carried out a complex Europe-wide R&D project for studying the use of digital tools, web resources and mobile technologies to support learning in the context of work. The project engaged application partners in healthcare sector (UK) and construction sector (Germany) in co-design, pilot testing and actual use of new tools. In the competition the project was represented by the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley from Tallinn University.
  • The Modelling Vocational Excellence (MoVE) project is a transnational project that has studied World Skills competitions at the national, European and wider international contexts. The aim of the project is to draw conclusions from competition processes for the development of everyday life practice in the field of VET. This project was represented by the scientific coordinator Petri Nokelainen from Tampere University.

After the nomination the finalists were presented on a special website for public voting that took place during the last weeks before the event and during the first two days. On the evening before the closing ceremony the finalists in different catergories had the opportunity to give short pitches to make their case. Then, in the closing ceremony the nominees of each category were invited and the winner was declared. Concerning the award for VET Research Excellence I was pleased to see a video recording and to hear the words: “The award goes to … Learning Layers”. As fair competitors Petri and Tobias congratulated each other. And then Commissioner Marianne Thyssen handed the award to Tobias Ley.

Learning Layers Awarded 2018-11-09Learning Layers Awarded 2018Tobias with the award

Celebrating the award winner Learning Layers

Firstly, let us do justice to both finalists – the two international projects and the teams involved – and for the fair competition. This was a good way to present European and international VET research at such an event.

Then, coming to our Learning Layers project: Why are we so happy that we got the award fror European research in the field of VET (vocational education and training)? Here I am speaking in particular for the partners of the Construction pilot – research partners, technical partners and application partners from the construction sector. I would like to raise the following arguments for us as award winners:

  1. A substantial part of Learning Layers pilot activities were carried out in the context of apprentice training for construction sector in North Germany. In this context the project was developing a digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support work process-oriented learning. Now, in the initial pilot context – the training centre Bau-ABC – the Learning Toolbox will be introduced to the training of all occupations.
  2. The co-design and tools deployment processes were carried out as participative Research & Development dialogue. In this dialogue practitioners, technical partners were developing tools that promote a culture of self-organised learning in different craft trades.
  3. The project organised training of trainers in such a way that they could act as promoters of innovation and adjust the use of tools to match their pedagogic priorities (self-organised search of knowledge within a wide set of resources vs. gradual extension of resources that are available for learner). The ‘theme room’ approach is being used in the further promotion of the tools by other trainers.
  4. After the end of the Learning Layers project there have been several follow-up initiatives to spread the use of Learning Toolbox to support practice-based learning in Vocational and Higher Education (e.g. in Estonia and Spain). These pilots have involved also other sectors (e.g. education/training in healthcare and media occupations).
  5. A major spin-off arising from the Learning Layers is the use of Learning Toolbox as support for ePosters in conferences. This was started in the conferences for medical and dental education (AMEE, ADEE) and in the conference for technology-enhanced learning (ECTEL). Most recently the ePosters were piloted in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the network for research in vocational education and training (VETNET).

The points above make it clear that the Learning Layers project was not merely a theory-driven or a tool-driven project. Instead, the project took a high risk in launching open-ended co-design processes and was very much dependent on the cooperation with practitioners in the pilot sectors. Moreover, the tools that were developed in the project – notably the Learning Toolbox – reached the stage of viable products. But in order to bring them further as tools for regular use, additional efforts were needed by the tool developers, practitioners and supporting researchers. These efforts have pointed out to be successful and it was fortunate that reports on recent success were communicated in the event. Thus, the award was a recognition of all the work that contributed to our success. Now we can celebrate, next week we have to take further steps in our work.

More blogs to come …

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