Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

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

October 18th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

Overview on the contents of the TACCLE4 CPD Showcase

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

October 18th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

The inputs for the Multiplier Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The discussion takes off – coming together

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

 

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

September 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The idea of a new report takes shape

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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Impressive Learning Toolbox Showcase presents the success of ePosters

September 25th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog I had reported of the achievements of our former partners from the Learning Layers (LL) project  with ePosters powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in different online conferences. As regular readers of this blog know, the LTB was developed as a digital toolset to support workplace-based and vocational learning in the Construction pilot of the LL project. After the project the LTB-developers have developed a spin-off innovation with ePosters that use the functionality of the LTB. The further development and commercialisation is carried out by the start-up company Kubify BV and up-to-date information is delivered via their Twitter feed Kubify – LTB for ePosters. After I had written my latest post I discovered that the LTB-developers had released a new Learning Toolbox Showcase that presents a gallery of ‘all stars’ of ePosters in recent conferences. Below I will give some insights into this interesting resource environment.

ePosters conquer new grounds

So far I have been able to observe the progress with the LTB-powered ePosters from the conferences of the Association of Medical Educators in Europe (AMEE) in the years 2017 and 2018. I have also become aware that they have been able to mainstream the use of ePosters in several conferences – mainly in the healthcare sector. In my recent blog I referred to the new interest of several conference organisers who have had to transform the conferences into online event. Yet, my picture of the progress has been fragmentary and my awareness of the range of LTB-users has been narrow.

Now, when looking at the selected ePosters of the LTB Showcase I realise, how widely the innovation has spread – both in geographic and in domain-related terms. What is of particular interest, is the fact that some of the early users have incorporated the ePosters into their regular conference culture – no longer as an optional space but as a mainstream approach. Moreover, some of the new users have directly stepped into a broad-based introduction of ePosters. And last but not least – whilst the main activity around the ePosters will take place during the conference dates, the ePosters are visited in great numbers also after the conferences (as the statistics of the LTB-developers show it).

Concerning the spread of the  ePosters, this new showcase makes it transparent that they are really widely used in several conferences and online events. In fact, the sample that is presented is merely the top of an iceberg. Behind the chosen ones there is a critical mass of other ones. So, when clicking the names of the events (attached to the ePosters) you will get a link to the respective showcase with many more to explore. Below I try to give a brief group picture.

The ePosters made their breakthrough in conferences of the healthcare sector, in particular addressing educators of healthcare professionals. Already this field brings into picture quite a variety  thematic areas:

  • AMEE – the annual conference of medical educators in Europe
  • ADEE – the annual conference of dentist educators in Europe
  • Clinical Education Network Symposium
  • SESAM – the conference on simulations in healthcare education
  • Future Physiology – the conference of early career researchers of the Physiological Society

In addition to the above-listed regular conferences, ePosters have been used widely in special events focusing on other themes that are related to the healthcare issues, such as:

  • Mirots – the multiplier event of the project for internationalisation of occupational therapy
  • APS – the conference for plant health

Furthermore, ePosters have been used in other kinds of contexts, such as

  • Midlands4Cities Digital Research Festival – a regional R&D festival with a broad variety of topics
  • EC-TEL and DELFI Poster and Demo Track – a section in the online conference on technology-enhanced learning
  • IMEX Association Day – a discussion group in a conference of event organisers.

ePosters bring richness to knowledge sharing

When looking at the topics covered in the various showcases it is interesting to see different aspects of expertise and professional development being covered by different ePosters. Then, having them arranged as a conceptual neighbourhood in the common showcase, they give a group picture of current progress in the respective online community. And finally, the fact that the ePosters remain accessible in the showcase after the conference, they remain as sustainable knowledge resources that can be reused as support for domain-specific learning.

I think that this is enough of the new Learning Toolbox Showcase and of the thematic showcases that provide the background for this ‘all stars’ formation. Altogether I am impressed. And I am eager to learn more, how such ePosters and showcases can be used to support the promotion of digital competences of teachers and trainers.

More blogs to come …

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Great progress with LTB-powered ePosters as support for conferences and learning

August 15th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this year I have blogged about problems that the Corona-crisis had caused for conferences. In that context I drew attention to the potential of ePosters – powered by Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for transforming conferences into online events. At that time I was informed by the developers of the LTB of the requests that they had received and on their efforts to create appropriate solutions for different conferences.

(As regular readers of this blog already know, the Learning Toolbox was created in our EU-funded project Learning Layers to support workplace-based learning in construction sector. In that context our job as accompanying researchers was to document and support the practitioners’ and technical partners’ work during the co-design process. After the project some of the partners continued the further development of the LTB and introduced the concept of ePosters to support conferences. With this blog I have tried to keep myself and my readers updated on the success of this spin-off innovation from our project.)

Recently, via the Twitter account of the LTB-developers – Kubify – LTB for ePosters – I have become aware of the progress they have made and how it has been appreciated by their counterparts. Below I want to give insights into their work and into their achievements. At best I can do this with quotes and screenshots from the blog of our colleague Tamsin Treasure-Jones and by sharing links to the complete blog articles.

What all is going on with using LTB for ePosters in conferences?

Let us firstly have a look at the  multitude of activities and achievements that Tamsin presents on the opening page of her blog. The screenshot below gives an idea, what has been going on and how the LTB-developers’ company Kubify has supported different users with their challenges and initiatives. Then, below, two special cases are highlighted.

Kubify to the rescue! (The Oman case)

A special case to be highlighted was the introduction of Kubify’s ePoster system to rescue a medical informatics course at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), Oman. The organisers of the course were hit by the sudden departure of the students due to COVID-19. SQU, however, could not afford to let medical courses lapse, so medical students began online learning. Here, as Tamsin tells us in her blog post, the ePoster system powered by LTB met the quality requirements to keep the course running and enable the assessment of the students’ contributions.

Kubify to the rescue!

The look and sound of creativity (The Midlands4Cities case)

The other special case took place, when the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership chose to use Learning Toolbox for the ePosters at their 2020 Research Festival. As Tamsin tells us in her blog post, their ePoster showcase is an excellent example of the rich content and interactions that can be supported by the platform.

The look and sound of creativity

– – –

I guess that this is enough of the newest developments in using the LTB-powered ePosters to support online learning and (online) conferences. As I see it, such exemplary cases are important for the ongoing TACCLE 4 CPD project and its multiplier activities. I am eager to learn more from my colleagues at the company Kubify who have been involved in these activities.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

 

 

 

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Digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Occupations and Skills

July 27th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

The Taccle AI project on Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Education and Training, has published a preprint  version of a paper which has been submitted of publication to the VET network of the European Research Association.

The paper, entitled  Digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Occupations and Skills: What are the needs for training Teachers and Trainers, seeks to explore the impact AI and automation have on vocational occupations and skills and to examine what that means for teachers and trainers in VET. It looks at how AI can be used to shape learning and teaching processes, through for example, digital assistants which support teachers. It also focuses on the transformative power of AI that promises profound changes in employment and work tasks. The paper is based on research being undertaken through the EU Erasmus+ Taccle AI project. It presents the results of an extensive literature review and of interviews with VET managers, teachers and AI experts in five countries. It asks whether machines will complement or replace humans in the workplace before going to look at developments in using AI for teaching and learning in VET. Finally, it proposes extensions to the EU DigiCompEdu Framework for training teachers and trainers in using technology.

The paper can be downloaded here.

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Remembering Gerhard Zimmer

July 10th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday – after a long delay – I got the sad news that my friend of old, professor Gerhard Zimmer had passed away. As I read from the ‘In Memoriam’ text written by his former colleagues, this has happened already in March this year. At that time I had already left Bremen and was on my way back to Finland. Whatever the cause of delay, it is appropriate to dedicate some words to the memory of my dear friend and to pass my condolences to the ones who loved him.

Here, to be sure, I cannot give a comprehensive overview of Gerhard’s lifework. In this respect I am better off referring the text “Nachruf auf Prof. Dr. Gerhard Zimmer (19. Februar 1943 – 7. März 2020)” (see https://www.bwpat.de/in-erinnerung) and to Gerhard’s profile page at the author archive of the said journal (see https://www.bwpat.de/autor/zimmer). What I can at best do on this blog is to give a brief account on the way we got acquainted, on the time that we have had together in Berlin and on our later encounters. All this is flavoured with memories, how Gerhard supported me as a younger colleague, making contacts with German researchers, getting to know Berlin and sharing experiences of our contexts of work.

Visiting Germany as a an emerging researcher – Gerhard as a true supporter (1989 – 1993)

I learned to know Gerhard personally during my long study visit across West Germany and Berlin in October/November 1989. During five weeks’ time I visited quite a number of research institutes in the field of vocational education and training (VET) starting from ITB (University of Bremen) and ending with several institutes in Berlin, among others the Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BiBB). I knew quite a lot of the researchers and their institutes via literature, but of course it was a rich experience to learn to know them and their colleagues in person. This was also the case with Gerhard, of whom I already knew his involvement in the Projektgruppe Automation und Qualifikation. Now that he was based in the department for continuing vocational training (CVT) in BiBB, he could provide interesting insights into the development of qualifications (based on the field studies) and on the initiatives to enhance the competences of skilled workers (based on the newer pilot projects – Modellversuche).

One year later, during the days of German unification (October 1990) I was again in Germany, on the way to a West-German conference (Hochschultage berufliche Bildung) in Magdeburg (then East Germany) and had a stop-over in Berlin at Gerald’s place. At that time we were able to make plans for his forthcoming visit to Finland, to attend the Finnish Educational Research Association (December 1990) as a guest speaker alongside Ulrich Teichler (Higher Education research) and Gerald Heidegger (also VET research). In that context Gerhard also visited with me another Finnish conference on VET research – and to his great surprise realised that he could follow fluently the the presenter who spoke Swedish. Some time later I was again in Berlin with a delegation of VET teachers for business administration. This visit provided yet another opportunity for exchange of information and sharing knowledge.

Nächste Station: Berlin – Gerhard as a local guide

From 1994 to 1995 I worked as a national seconded expert at Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational  Training). At that time Cedefop was still located in Berlin, whilst Finland was in the transition process of becoming a  Member State of the EU. Moreover, BiBB was still located mainly in Bremen (but the clock was ticking for the relocation to Bonn. Anyway, at that time we were almost next door neighbours. So, there were several joint meetings and then we had also some cultural activities. From the latter ones I remember especially our joint visit to Bertolt Brecht’s summer residence outside Berlin.

During this period I learned to know more closely several of Gerhard’s colleagues in BiBB and in its partner organisations. A special highlight of that time was the conference in Köln (Cologne) on Accompanying research as contribution to VET research (Modellversuchsforschung als Berufsbildungsforschung). For me the participation in this conference was of great importance, having read quite a lot of reports of this genre of research and now being able to witness the discussions in person. Also, looking back, the conference proceedings that were published provide important insights into the development of such research as well as visions for future research. Here, among Gerhard, I need to mention his colleague Peter Dehnbostel as major contributors from BiBB and from the host oragnisation Peter Sloane and his team. Another highlight of that period was the inaugural event of the German activities of the EU action programme Leonardo da Vinci that took place in Berlin. (Little did I know, how much I would become involved with the implementation of that programme in the years to come.)

From Berlin to Thessaloniki and back to Finland – occasional encounters but of importance (1995 – 2004)

In the year 1995 Cedefop was relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece and I became a temporary EU official working there from 1995 to 2002. From that point on I was no longer a Finnish liaison officer based in Berlin (with main contacts with the German experts in the city). Instead, I was working for the European research community in the field of VET, facilitating collaboration and knowledge sharing among European projects. So, I was mainly engaged with colleagues who were preparing and managing EU-funded projects or facilitating them in national agencies. At this phase I was very much working together with colleagues at ITB.

During this period BiBB was also relocated to Bonn and some of the colleagues chose to leave BiBB. So, firstly Gerhard and then latterly Peter Dehnbostel took professor positions in VET research at the University of Armed Forces – latterly renamed as Helmut-Schmidt-University – in Hamburg. The challenge for the new professors was to set up new curricula with focus on VET beyond vocational teacher education. The professor chairs were allocated to curricula that provided civilian career options for young army officers after their contract periods in the army. Concerning their research activities, Gerhard engaged his team with Open Distance Learning (ODL) and with eLearning in VET and vocational higher education. Peter was busily involved with studies on new competence frameworks based on validation of non-formal learning and on trade unions’ initiatives to promote continuing professional development. Altogether, they created an intellectual neighbourhood that enriched the VET research culture in Germany.

During my time in Thessaloniki I had less chance to follow these developments in Hamburg. Yet, when I returned to Finland and sought for a new orientation, my contacts with Gerhard and Peter became important anchor points, alongside ITB in Bremen. This became apparent during the conferences in the year 2003 (ABWF-Quem Zukunftsforum in Berlin and ECER in Hamburg). In the next phase the study visit with vocational teacher educators from Jyväskylä to Hamburg and Bremen opened new doors to me. I am very grateful for Gerhard, Peter and their team members as well as for colleagues in ITB for their support during this period.

Letzte Stationen: Bremen & Berlin (2005 -2018)

As a follow-up of my re-established contacts with my German colleagues I started to work as a senior researcher at ITB in 2005. Once again, I was in the middle of European projects and international networking. However, this time I was busily involved also in preparing funding bids and jumping from previous projects to new ones (which were not necessarily direct follow-up activities). Thus, paradoxically, the contacts with my friends in Hamburg started to fade away. And also, both Gerhard and Peter went on retirement and stayed in Berlin and in Bonn.

Then, after several years of silence, I took the initiative to arrange a “Klassentreffen” with the friends of old from the Berlin period of BiBB. I was attending a concert in Berlin and alongside that trip I wanted to meet Berlin-based friends. In this context I had a lengthy session with Gerhard at his place – revisiting our shared experiences and memories of different phases of our careers. Now, we had also new topics to discuss, based on my work at ITB and the projects working with digital tools to support project-based vocational learning. And – looking back – we could also value the work of the Projektgruppe Automation und Qualifikation as an early representative of social shaping of work and technology. At the end of the day we then had an inspiring dinner near the old premises of Cedefop in Berlin with several friends from the early days.

I guess these memories give an impression of Gerhard Zimmer as a colleague and friend – a person with whom I had shared interests and shared values. Now he is gone but good memories are there.

Rest in peace, Gerhard!

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Artificial Intelligence for and in Vocational Education and Training

June 30th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

Last week the Taccle AI project organised a workshop at the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) Annual Conference. The conference, which had been scheduled to be held in Romania, was moved online due to the Covid 19 pandemic.There were four short presentations followed by an online discussion.

Graham Attwell introduced the workshop and explained the aims of the Taccle AI project. In the next years, he said “AI will change learning, teaching, and education. The speed of technological change will be very fast, and it will create high pressure to transform educational practices, institutions, and policies.” He was followed by Vidmantas Tulys who focused on AI and human work. He put forward five scenarios for the future of work in the light of AI and the fourth industrial revolution. Ludger Deitmer looked at the changes in the mechatronics occupation due to the impact of AI. He examine dhow training was being redesigned to meet new curriculum and occupational needs and how AI was being introduced in the curriculum. Finally, Sofia Roppertz focused on AI for VET, exploring how AI can support access to education, collaborative environments and intelligent tutoring systems to support teachers and trainers.

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Remembering Kerstin Engraf

June 10th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this week we received the sad news that Kerstin Engraf, our friend and colleague from the Learning Layers project, had passed away. This was very shocking to us, because we had always learned to know her as a very lively and energetic person and we were expecting her to keep healthy. None of us could have expected this to happen. Below I try to summarise some of my memories of her in a nutshell.

Rembering Kerstin as a key actor in developing continuing vocational training at Bau-ABC Rostrup

We (researchers of ITB, University of Bremen) learned to know Kerstin Engraf at the beginning of the Learning Layers (LL) project when Bau-ABC Rostrup, the North-German training centre of construction centre joined in the project as an application partner. During the project most of our work focused on the apprentice training that was managed by full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and coordinated in Bau-ABC by Melanie Campbell. However, Kerstin, as the head of continuing training (CVT) of Bau-ABC, was interested in being involved in the development work and participated throughout the lifetime of the project. Moreover, she was supporting the launch of a follow-up project that focused on developing digital tools for training and learning in the CVT schemes of Bau-ABC. During this period we came to understand the complexity of the CVT schemes and the management of the sets short-term courses provided by external lecturers and trainers. And we realised that Kerstin had a complete overview and she knew how to manage the system through and through.

Remembering Kerstin as a contributor to the Construction pilot of the LL project

Looking back, I remember that Kerstin was keenly interested initial workshops with which we started to give shape for the Construction pilot activities. At the earliest phase we discussed the prospect of developing a digitized version of the “White Folder” of the apprentices of Bau-ABC. In these discussions we learned a lot, what the trainers expected of the digital support for a culture of action-oriented learning and self-organised learning. These ideas were taken on board, when the co-design work started to shape the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a digital toolset to support working and learning processes in the construction sector.

Once the design idea had got its shape, Kerstin was eagerly promoting the idea at special events of construction professionals. I still remember her active support for the LL project activities at the national conference of well-builders and borehole builders (Brunnenbauertage) at Bau-ABC in May 2014 and at the North-German trade fair Nordbau in August 2014. In between we had had the LL project consortium meeting at Bau-ABC. Alongside the meeting we had a demonstration space for Bau-ABC apprentices and trainers. At each corner of the meeting room we had demonstration tables with laptops or tablet PCs to present particular digital tools, toolsets and platforms that we were developing. Thanks to Kerstin’s organisational talent we could manage a carrousel event in which over 100 apprentices and trainers rotated through each demonstration table as small groups whilst members of project team presented briefly the work with the tools.

A very special contribution to the project was the preparation of the Bau-ABC videos (August-September 2014). These were designed give the project consortium an idea, what the trainers and apprentices were expecting of working and learning with the Learning Toolbox. This was of vital importance, since the design work was at a very early stage and the we only had a mock-up version of the toolset to be programmed. In the production of these videos Kerstin was eagerly involved and demonstrated her enthusiasm when editing the videos. Below you see exemplary video that presents the work with trainers’ blogs (predecessors of Learning Toolbox stacks). Here the handwriting of Kerstin is clearly visible (the speed and the music).

Later on, Kerstin was actively involved in developing and implementing a new kind of training concept – the Theme Room training – for all training staff of Bau-ABC. The idea came from the trainers themselves and they had already discussed some key principles, how to put it into practice. Kerstin and Melanie Campbell brought this into discussion in the LL project and it was implemented as a local training campaign during November 2015. The aim was to provide all Bau-ABC trainers basic multimedia competences with focus on vocational learning. The training was run by a pair of peer tutors (one from the trainers and one from the researchers). The training was shaped for four themes (that were covered by respective digital learning space) and the training took place on Friday afternoons. Kerstin was involved in the planning but chose to take the role of learner – and enjoyed it greatly.

Remembering Kerstin as a participant in the consortium meetings

Because of her primary duties Kerstin was not always able to participate in the transnational consortium meetings. But when she had the opportunity, she was very present in many ways. In particular she was actively covering the meetings with photos that were uploaded into the Facebook group “Learning Layers”. And she was also interested in covering the social and natural environments of the meeting venues. Some of these photos she shared on her Facebook page. Thus, we can refresh our memories of the meetings, the sites and extra-curricular activities in Graz, Innsbruck, Tallinn and Espoo. And of course, the project consortium meeting at Bau-ABC Rostrup and the social events at the nearby Bad Zwischenahn (including the lake cruise on the Zwischenahner Meer) were highlights to her and to all of us (as the photo below shows).

These memories have only been glimpses to the time when we worked together and to the activities that we carried out together. I hope that they have given a picture of a friend and colleague whom we learned to appreciate. Kerstin has gone but the work that we have done bears fruit and the good memories bring us forward.

Rest in peace, Kerstin!

 

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New instructions for (new) users of Learning Toolbox

June 8th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent posts on this blog have focused on the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project to support vocational and workplace learning. At this point it is worthwhile to mention that the developers of the LTB have made good use of the quiet period when they have not been able to travel to visit interested partner organisations and run face-to-face workshops with new users. So, instead, they have prepared new introductory web pages and demonstration pages for the time when they can activate their contacts again. Below I want to give insights into the main introductory page (available in English, German and Spanish) and into a demonstration page (available in German).

Support page for new users of the Learning Toolbox

As I see it, the new support page for new users speaks for itself (see below two screenshots and links to the respective pages):

Here you have the link to Support page in English: https://support.ltb.io/

And here is the link to the Support page in German: https://support.ltb.io/wie-konnen-wir-ihnen-helfen/

Insights into the demonstration page on uses of Learning Toolbox (in German)

In a similar way the demonstration page – “Introduction to the Learning Toolbox in one minute” speaks for itself. Below you find four screenshots of the introductory texts (the one minute information package) and then a longer video presentation (slideshow with audio introduction and subtitles in German).

Here is the link to this demonstration page: https://support.ltb.io/learning-toolbox-kurz-und-knapp/

The video presentation gives more detailed information on the use of Learning Toolbox in vocational and workplace learning with an audio slideshow. Here we have four screenshots that give insights into the contents.

I think this is enough of these introduction and demonstration pages. In my next post I will discuss further videos that demonstrate innovative use cases of Learning Toolbox in specific construction trades.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

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