Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

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!

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) …

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Two: Insights into the completed reports

November 24th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I have told that this is the season for producing a short description on the ongoing project TACCLE4 CPD for the regular reviewing in our institute and for finalising the contributions to the project. I have also explained, why our contribution to the TACCLE4 CPD project has needed more research-oriented work that was anticipated in the project design. In general, the partners working with general and adult education have been able to rely more directly on the work of previous TACCLE projects. These have promoted digital competences of teachers in general education with focus on classroom teaching. Moreover, when developing strategies and models for continuing professional development (CPD) these partners have perceived school directors, local educational authorities and national educational authorities as their target audiences.

For the work of ITB – as the German partner in the project – the task to develop strategies and models for promoting digital competences in  the field of vocational education and training provides more complex challenges. The field of VET is not merely another educational sector (under educational authorities) but involves different learning venues, education and training providers and governance structures. Moreover, the promotion of digital competences of teachers and trainers is not merely a matter of digitization within education but requires understanding of digital transformation in working life. These challenges have been taken up in the following reports that have been produced for the TACCLE 4 CPD project.

Report 1 – Policy analyses: Raising awareness of multiple policies and initiatives

This report has been produced to cover policies and strategies at different educational levels and taking into account different governance models. The report draws attention to following characteristics of policies in the field of VET and to recent developments in innovation strategies to promote digital competences of different actors in VET:

  1. Distribution of power structures in different educational systems: The report makes transparent the differences between central and federal governance models in education.
  2. Distribution of functions and competences in dual systems of vocational education and training: The report presents the roles of different VET providers and stakeholders (companies, schools and intermediate training centres, chambers and governing bodies) and the regulations guiding different parties.
  3. Joint agreements, innovation programmes and strategic alliances: The report gives insights into joint agreements (between different bodies), innovation programmes (launched by central governments) and strategic alliances (at different levels for temporary actions in particular focal areas of VET development). In this context the report also informs of local initiatives.
  4. New frameworks at European and national level to promote digital comtences in education and training: The report discusses the key points of the European DigCompEdu framework as a general orientative framework for promoting digital competences in different educational sectors. In addition it discusses the more VET-specific accents that have been raised in the German study “Berufsbildung 4.0” (VET 4.0) that has outlined a future-oriented innovation programme.

Report 2 – Legacy of predecessor projects and finding new approaches to promote digital competences in the field of VET

This report has been produced to compare the training approaches that had been applied in the three prior TACCLE projects and at different phases of the Learning Layers project. In addition it gives an overview on more recent R&D projects in the field of VET. The report serves the following purposes:

  1. Creating awareness of the different project histories and process dynamics: In this respect the report gives brief overviews of the parallel project histories and different phases of work.
  2. Making transparent the role of co-design and piloting with new tools in the Learning Layers project: From this perspective the report analyses specific impulses that arise from this background in the project work.
  3. Providing insights into parallel R&D projects in education and training and their support for training of teachers and trainer: Here the report provides examples on support for teacher education, CPD measures for vocational teachers and CPD measures for trainers in enterprises.
  4. Providing insights into recent field interviews with vocational trainers (carried out as part of the TACCLE 4 CPD): Here the report presents trainers’ views on the prospects for linking the use of digital tools to vocational learning culture.

Report 4a – Research paper that draws conclusions for the development of CPD in the light of the analyses

This report has been produced to draw conclusions for a specific project contribution for the field of VET. The report serves the following purposes:

  1. Summarisation of the conclusions from the comparisons between predecessor projects: Here the report gives insights into the process dynamics, into the role of training measures and into the role of outreach activities.
  2. Raising awareness of different policy contexts for promoting digital competences in schools and in VET contexts: Here the report gives a brief overview of parallel possibilities.
  3. Drawing attention to the relevance of general frameworks or studies in the field of VET: Here the report reflects the role of the European DigCompEdu framework vis-à-vis the challenges in the field of VET – as outlined by the German framework study “Berufsbildung 4.0”.
  4. Raising awareness of different outreach approaches for innovations in school contexts and in VET contexts: Here the report draws upon experiences of the earlier TACCLE projects and on the outreach prospects identified after the Learning Layers project
  5. Drawing conclusions on the importance of TACCLE Routemap approach and the Theme Room training model (of the Learning Layers project) for shaping CPD concepts to promote digital competences in the field of VET.

Here it is worthwhile to note that the Report 3 – with focus on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in vocational learning contexts – is still under preparation. Then, on the basis of all above-mentioned reports it is possible to prepare the Report 4b – a reworked version of the Theme Room training model for promoting digital competences in the field of VET. (Initially the Theme Room model was developed in the Learning Layers project for training all trainers of a construction sector training centre.)

I guess this is enough for a progress report at the moment. During the next week I will be working with the report on the use of OER in VET contexts. Then we will see, how I can make progress with the report on the reworked Theme Room training model.

More blogs to come …

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part One: Composing a short description

November 24th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

At this time of the year our research institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – is busy preparing a report for the regular meeting of our advisory board (Beirat). At he same time I am having final run to complete my contributions to the ongoing TACCLE4 CPD project. Concerning the report for the ITB Beirat, I need to prepare a short description of the project and update the list of my publications. Concerning the delivery for the TACCLE 4 CPD project, I want to get my reports published as soon as possible. At this point I find it appropriate to give a short progress report on both accounts.

Finding a role for VET research in a development-oriented project on technology-enhanced learning

In general, the praparation of short description of an ongoing project wouldn’t appear as a major challenge – in particular since there is one from last year to be updated. However, the circumstances have changed, the work in the project has moved on and the instructions for preparing the project descriptions set new accents.

Looking back at the beginning phase of the project, I was struggling to find an appropriate approach to work in the project. In general, the project design was based on the earlier three TACCLE projects that prepared handbooks an/or online resources for classroom teachers to make them fit for introducing technology-enhanced learning in their teaching. The project work had close links to parallel TACCLE courses in which teachers were trained to use digital tools and to develop their own teaching/learning arrangements. After three projects of this kind, the promoters wanted to shift the emphasis to shaping of strategies and models for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers (and trainers) regarding their digital competences. As a distinction to the earlier projects, the fourth TACCLE project aimed to include adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET) as new educational sectors.

Whilst the field of VET had not been a target field in the earlier TACCLE projects, in the early phase of the Learning Layers project (and its construction pilot) we (ITB and Pontydysgu) had organised a multimedia training – similar to the TACCLE courses – for construction sector trainers. This was the point of reference for inviting ITB to join in the TACCLE4 CPD project. However, after that phase, the Learning Layers project had taken further steps in training activities, co-designing new digital tools to support vocational learning and in bringing these tools into practice. From this perspective, there was quite a lot of need to discuss, how to integrate the VET-specific challenges and working perspectives into the project. Finally, this require much more research-oriented work that was anticipated in the project design. From this perspective, the project description that was prepared for ITB Beirat one year ago, was not yet up-to-date concerning the role of VET research in the project.

Making the role of VET research in the TACCLE4 CPD project transparent

Now, when preparing the updated project descriptions we have been invited to make more transparent the research-oriented character of our projects – whether they are initiated by ITB or whether we are involved as partners. In this respect I can at best characterise the work of ITB with focus on VET as research-oriented contribution to a development project. From this point of view I can use the headings of the given template for project descriptions.

Problem statement: The successful work of three TACCLE projects to promote digital competences of teachers required a follow-up project to shape strategies and models for continuing professional development (CPD). The aim to cover a wider range of educational sectors made it necessary to launch specific research-oriented activities to cover the field of vocational education and training (VET).

Goal-setting: The aim of the VET-specific research activities is to raise awareness of the relations between digital transformation in working life, prospects for digitization in education and training and on the possibilities to develop proactive vocational learning arrangements.

Research approach: The set of VET-specific research activities has consisted of the following analyses and field studies:

  • Policy analyses: Here the task has been to give an overview on different national, regional and local initiatives for promoting digital competences in the field of VET. Also, these analyses have given insights into the European DigCompEdu framework and the German framework study “Berufsbildung 4.0”.
  • Revisiting the legacy of predecessor projects and examining newer R&D projects in VET: Here the main thrust has been to describe the evolution in the predecessor projects regarding the shaping of digital learning cultures – and implications for updating the training approaches. In this context impulses from newer R&D projects in VET have been discussed.
  • Analyses on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in VET: Here the task has been to make transparent the uses of in the context of vocational learning arrangements and for empowering vocational learners.
  • Drawing conclusions for flexible CPD approaches in VET: Here the task has been to revisit the “Theme Room” training model that was used in the Learning Layers project and to reshape a future-oriented approach.

Results: The results of the work of ITB will be presented in five reports: Report 1 – Policy analyses; Report 2 – Examination of prior and parallel projects; Report 3 – Analyses of OER in VET; Report 4a – Research paper on conclusions; Report 4b – Revisited Theme Room training concept.

I guess this is enough for the short description. In my next post I will discuss the three reports that I have completed so far.

More blogs to come …

Remembering Hans-Dieter Höpfner

November 20th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today we heard the sad news that our former colleague (and long-time Visiting fellow of our institute ITB) Hans-Dieter Höpfner has passed away. To me this is striking, since I have just blogged about the historical events of 1989 (when the political system of former DDR collapsed) and of 1990 (when the two German states were unified). To me, my first encounter with Hans-Dieter was very much linked to these events. I first time met Hand-Dieter at the conference Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung in October 1990 in Magdeburg and got immediately acquainted with him. Then, with several irregular intervals our paths crossed time and again – and we were always happy to meet again and to catch up since the last time. Now, it is my turn to summarise my memories and to pay my respects to the nice colleague whom we have lost.

Meeting during the turbulent times of the year 1990

My first encounter with Hans-Dieter was a chance meeting. We were both participating in the Cedefop-led workshop at the conference in Magdeburg 1990 (Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung). I ended up being a last-minute addition to the program – as a speaker coming from the Nordic Countries, recommended by my earlier acquaintances from the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BiBB) of West Germany. Hans-Dieter attended as one of the comparative and international researchers of the East-German Central Institute for Vocational Training (ZIB).

I was taking my first steps towards a career as a European and international researcher (coming from the remote Finland that was not yet an EU Member State at that time). Hans-Dieter was experiencing a rupture period – knowing that the institute for which he had worked would be closed and that he would not be one of those to get transferred to BiBB. So, there we were – two people with such different life situations – sitting next to each other during the workshop and then getting acquainted with each other. Already at that time I knew that Hans-Dieter would overcome the hard period and get along with the transition. What he told me about his background – being a specialist in psychology of work and work-related learning (and coming from the well-known Dresden-based school led by Winfried Hacker), I knew that he has the kind of expertise that is needed during the societal transformation of East Germany. This all turned out to be very true.

Meetings during the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe

Our next encounters were no longer such chance meetings but rather something to be expected. I had made further steps on my career path and had been sent in 1994 as a national seconded expert to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) – at that time located in Berlin. In the meantime I had had cooperation with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) and I had learned of their involvement in an experimental innovation project (Modellversuch – MV) with dually qualifying apprentice training at the brown coal site Schwarze Pumpe. With this background knowledge I was eager to participate in the annual Workshop of the MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995. And there I met once again Hans-Dieter, who was part of the accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team together with Gerald Heidegger and Rainer Bremer who were old acquaintances from ITB. This event was inspiring since the apprentices from two trades were invited to present their joint working and learning project – constructing a fully working miniature model of the bricket-producing machine. This was a clear demonstration of participative, collaborative and shaping-oriented learning of the apprentices.

At a later phase Cedefop had been relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece and I had got a temporary contract as an EU-employed project manager. In this capacity I had taken the task to monitor (or accompany) parallel EU-funded R&D projects with similar educational ideas and working concepts. From this perspective I was happy to include the projects Post-16 strategies and Intequal (both dealing with dually oriented qualifications) into my list of projects to be accompanied. And indeed, ITB was a partner in both projects with the MV Schwarze Pumpe as a national case (to be examined from different perspectives. So, I had the chance to visit the site Schwarze Pumpe time and again. Once I visited an interim conference that assembled several German innovation projects with focus on dually oriented qualifications. And the then with the concluding conference I had brought a European delegation to attend the conference and to have an international workshop on the theme of the innovation project. Every time I was pleased to catch up with Hans-Dieter.

Meetings as researchers affiliated with the  ITB

Later on, our paths went to somewhat different directions. During my last years in Cedefop I had less field visits and in 2002 I returned to Finland. Then, after some time, in 2005, I got a new chance to engage myself in European and international projects – now as a contracted researcher of ITB. In the meantime Hans-Dieter had found his way to international development aid projects as an expert on vocational education and training (VET). He had a remarkable experience with the societal transformation in East Germany and in adjusting the VET provisions to market economy.  With this know-how he was considered as a prominent expert by the development aid agencies of German-speaking countries that had projects in former Soviet republics.  And strangely enough, we had both been acknowledged with the status of Visiting fellow of ITB. (For me, this was only an interim phase, since I got employed by ITB, whilst for Hans-Dieter this was a matter of maintaining the working relation with ITB.)

So, once again we had our chances to catch up with Hans-Dieter, mainly during the annual meetings of the advisory board (Beirat) of the ITB. On such occasions we had the chance to refresh our memories of earlier times and inform each other of our newer activities. Hans-Dieter had experienced all kinds of things in the faraway countries in which he had worked and we were keen to learn more of his experiences. Also, he was interested to find out what we were doing and how we were doing – in Germany, in our EU projects and in our international projects.

And most of all, Hans-Dieter was popular as a story-teller – whatever the subject matter. For me, as a Finn, it was interesting that one of his favourite authors was the Finnish humourist Arto Paasilinna. It was such a pleasure to share impressions of Paasilinna’s writings – be it the Year of the Rabbit or the Nine Buildings or whatever.

Now we have lost the fine colleague, but his memory lives with us.

More blogs to come (with newer topics, I hope) …

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Klassiker-Blogger Wilfred Rubens – Reflections on knowledge sharing, networking and smart commentaries

October 24th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday I got the message from my Dutch blogger-colleague Wilfred Rubens that he has a special working anniversary: He wrote his first blog exactly sixteen years ago (here the link to Wilfred’s blog post announcing the anniversary). I immediately congratulated him on his Facebook account, where he had shared his blog post. But this incident also triggered quite a lot of thoughts about the sense of ‘history’ in blogging, on learning by logging, learning from others’ blogs and on networking via blogs and social media. Moreover, it triggered thoughts about my path to become a blogger and what role Wilfred (whom I have never met in person) has been an important reference person. This is related to my rocky road to learning more about technology-enhanced learning. And finally, it is the magic, how to become an internationally well-known blogger when using Dutch as the main communication language (quite fascinating for a native Finn, who has learned also Dutch). So, here we go with all these thoughts that can be brought together with the headings ‘searching’, ‘lurking’ and ‘working the way through’.

Searching: How it all started long ago (and before we had the blogs)

Here I need to go back to end of 1990s when I was working with a temporary contract as a project manager at Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) in Thessaloniki. At that time I was working closely with a number of European research cooperation projects in the field of vocational education and training (VET). I and my colleagues among the project promoters tried to develop patterns of ‘networking the networks’. This included joint seminars for parallel projects with common interests, joint symposia in European conferences and joint initiatives to promote knowledge sharing with the help of ICT resources. Here Graham Attwell and his friends in Wales played a pioneering role. There was a great enthusiasm of knowledge sharing, active interactivity and expectation to get powerful platforms to be used for community development and learning from each other. Indeed, something was reached, but it was ahead of its time and technically fragile. So, the enthusiasm started to fade away. Yet, already at that time I was trying to learn from ‘neighbouring’ intiiatives. So, I was also a subscriber of the weekly updates of the Dutch BVE-net (where Wilfred was working at that time) and of the German innovation programme “kolibri” (with a similar approach as the BVE-net).

However, very soon the winds of European policies changed. The European intergovernmental frameworks emerged as the main thrust of cooperation. Based on the model of the Bologna process (and the European mobility in Higher Education) a similar solution was sought for the field of VET with the Copenhagen process (and the European Qualification Framework). Also, there were expectations to find alternative educational initiatives with commercial eLearning providers and with the company-led “Career space” initiatives of ICT industries. And finally, the idea of ‘networking the networks’ was brought down to hosting ‘virtual communities’ that were supposed to be self-movers.

All this led to the phase in which my time in Cedefop was over and I had to look for a new start back in Finland. Now, after all these years, It is difficult to find traces of many of those initiatives and activities that I have mentioned. Some of them had their time. Some of them never really took off.

Lurking: Becoming aware of new ideas, networks and community-building processes

In the next phase I was back in Finland and had a temporary contract as a visiting researcher attached to the Vocational Teacher Education College of the Jyväskylä Polytechnic (latterly Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences). During that period I was trying to get my feet back on the ground in my home country and also trying to find new ways to contribute to European cooperation in VET research. It wasn’t a very easy period. The European cooperation was overshadowed by the new framework processes (EQF, ECVET, setting up new units for monitoring quality assurance …). Experienced researchers were allocated to evaluation projects rather than invited to promote new initiatives.

In the light of the above it was important that the theme ‘technology-enhanced learning’ provided a creative niche that soon generated creative spaces and provided the basis for genuine community-building processes. Here it is worthwhile to note that this creative movement was opposing the one-sided commercial eLearning approaches and the ICT industries’ efforts to monopolize technology-enhanced learning for their products. In this context the early applications of social media became important. Powerful bloggers and community blogs emerged and achieved high popularity. Critical studies on the use of ICT for learning in SMEs showed that the ready-made solutions are not taken up. New solutions were sought with Open Source software and OSS communities. To some extent this radiated to the field of VET with emphasis on new portfolio concepts in order to empower learners. Yet, the community processes were more looking to conferences like OEB, Alt-C and the events of JISC and SURF.

During this period I was clearly a lurker, trying to get a picture, what is going on and trying find my way to participate. My key informer was Graham Attwell, who was already fully engaged in these processes and debates. And thanks to Graham’s recommendation I started following Wilfred’s blogs on technology-enhanced learning as best I could. To Wilfred’s style in blogging was (and has always been) something special – he is carrying out mini-studies, presenting explorations, providing overviews on debates and making reflective commentaries. They are contributions to knowledge sharing and knowledge development – not primarily engagement in debates between opposite opinions. This was very valuable for me at that time and has been since then.

Working the way forward: The rocky road to become a blogger (who is working & learning via blogging)

The crucial turn for me was the new start as a project-based researcher at ITB, University of Bremen – the institute that I had known for many years (and with which I had mostly cooperated during my years in Cedefop). I was a team member in a major institute that was highly respected and a strong player in the European cooperation. Yet, it is worthwhile to note that many of the projects were overshadowed by pressure to provide a basis for standards or regulative frameworks, whilst the projects were more interested in promoting ‘learning from each other’. This was clearly the case with projects on teachers and trainers in VET, but also with projects on workplace learning partnerships and practice-based learning in higher education. We also had some ‘niche projects’ that were not so centrally involved in VET issues but provided opportunities to pilot with new platforms and with blogging.

Concerning my own development as a blogger, this phase was characterised by a strange contradiction. In some projects I managed to work with a project blog and contribute regularly. BUT this was all about working issues, progress and achievements of the said progress – without really reaching out to wider discussion. At the same time my efforts to start a personal blog never got further than sketching some general ideas for the European VET research community  – without providing a real perspective, how to work with those ideas. As a consequence, I had lengthy gaps in my personal blogging history. And my contributions to blogs on project websites tended to get lost in cyberspace once the domain names got outdated and were not renewed.

Gradually, the themes ‘digitization in education and training’  and ‘digital transformation’ in working life and through the society became central issues for all innovation programmes. For us in ITB the decisive step forward was the beginning of the Learning Layers project and our entry to the project consortium as late newcomers (with the construction sector partners). Our role was somewhat unspecific and we had to work ourselves into the project idea while working with the practitioners alongside us. For me this provided the critical challenge for using the blog as a creative space for working and learning (and for reflecting what has been achieved). Also, the Europe-wide project consortium was a clear audience to be addressed and the process dynamic brought into picture new issues to be shared. Once I had got the habit of blogging regularly, I understood that the blogs laid foundation for the reporting in the project and for my further conceptual work. And alongside this, I found it appropriate to blog on historical events or on other interesting themes (such as music) but yet keeping the main focus on innovations in vocational and workplace learning. And with the Learning Layers project we were there – with the challenge to work with shaping appropriate digital toolsets to support learning in the context of work. And with the Learning Toolbox we are now promoting an innovation that has been shaped for the practitioners, with the practitioners and by the practitioners.

I guess I have said enough of my rock yroad to become a blogger. During this latest intensive phase I couldn’t follow that closely the work of Wilfred Rubens. Yet, being a subscriber to his blog I have been bombarded with news feeds that inform, what he is up to. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed of his productivity and sad that I cannot follow all what I am getting from him. But even if my following is at a superficial level, I have some glimpses of that richness of knowledge that he is sharing. And therefore, with my background development that I have described above, I feel that I am in a position to congratulate Wilfred as a “Klassiker-Blogger” and celebrate his anniversary: Years and more, blogs an more – we are with you!

More blogs to come … (also on my side)

 

Celebrating ePosters powered by Learning Toolbox – The Kubify team nominated for a major award

October 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

The readers of this blog may remember that the Learning Toolbox (LTB) was a major outcome of the EU-funded Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. During the project idea of the Learning Toolbox emerged as a toolset to support workplace learning projects. It provided support for instruction, planning, access to resources, communication and documentation. By the end of project our colleagues in the Learning Layers Healthcare project had discovered the potential of Learning Toolbox as support for the poster sessions of healthcare conferences.

This led to an amazing spin-off innovation – the ePosters that are accessible via QR-codes that lead to the LTB mobile apps. Thus, the conference participants can inform themselves of the poster contents before scheduled poster sessions, during the conference and after the conference. As a support for accessing ePosters the LTB-developers shaped small mini-posters with the title, an image, brief text and the QR-tag. These mini-posters were then presented on a poster-cubicle that was placed at a central place near the registration desks and equipped with tables that enabled different kinds of round table talks (Barcamp, ePoster Arna etc.). With all these elements the time was ripe for the success story of the Kubify team.

Poster cubicle for ePosters Working with round tables

From start-ups to innovation leaders and award winners

As I mentioned, the Learning Toolbox (LTB) was developed as a digital toolset to support learning and knowledge sharing in the context of work organisations and workplaces. That provided a basis for an innovation path of the start-up company stack.services. The use of LTB as support for conferences and events was another path – for which the start-up company Kubify was created.

In the beginning the Kubify team was present at conferences that focused on healthcare sector and on educational technology. But in a short while they have expanded the range of their activities and reached new users in different contexts. And what is more encouraging – they have become highly appreciated. Last year (2018) the Kubify team won the Tech Watch Award 2018 at the international event of conference organisers.

Award winners 2018 The IBTM World Tech Watch Award 2018

This all came back to my mind now that we got the message that the Kubify team has been nominated for yet another award. As we have been told, Kubify – Learning Toolbox for ePosters is part of the EventTech Live LaunchPad competition this month. The web page of the LaunchPad page presents all competitors’ 1 minute pitch videos (page 1) and then provides an opportunity for giving your vote for your favourite. Please have a look what all is available:

http://tiny.cc/LaunchPad

We have been working with the developers of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) both in the context of workplace learning and in conferences that have used ePosters for interactive poster sessions. Therefore, we encourage everyone to have a look at the LaunchPad website and support the Kubify team’s case for a richly deserved recognition. Good luck!

More blogs to come …

 

Productive project meeting in Athens – Part Two: Common themes and working perspectives between two TACCLE projects

September 30th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported on my participation as a guest in the project meeting of the TACCLE VET project. As I mentioned, this project focuses on  promoting digital competences in the field of vocational education and training (VET). The  parallel project TACCLE 4 CPD (in which I am working) is developing models of continuing professional development (CPD) for different educational sectors. My task is to analyse and develop CPD models that are appropriate for the field of VET. As I have reported in my previous post, we found a lot of common points of interest and working perspectives. In this post I will have a closer look at the common themes and working interfaces.

Critical interpretation of the European DigCompEdu framework

The proposal for the TACCLE VET project had given a major role for the DigCompEdu framework and stated that the project seeks to extend it to the field of VET. The policy analyses of the TACCLE 4 CPD provided a somewhat more critical interpretation of the DigCompEdu framework. During the discussion the following points were made:

  • In general we all appreciated the framework and its integrative approach to bring together teachers’/trainers’ professional competences, digital competences and pedagogic competences – in order to empower learners.
  • We also appreciated the approach to develop a progression model for promoting digital competences and to formulate proficiency statements for different competence areas and levels.
  • However, the framework tends to focus on educational subjects or academic disciplines and take the digital competences as add-on aspects for enriching pedagogy and subject-based learning. Moreover, the progression ladder tends to atomize the promotion of competences.
  • Concerning VET it is important to take into account developments in working life and in education/training to create an appropriate picture on the needs for promoting digital competences.
  • Concerning VET providers it is essential to focus on holistic solutions for promoting digital competences in specific occupational fields and at the level of the whole organisation.

Consequently, the idea of ‘extension’ of the framework required also critical interpretation and adaptation in the light of specific requirements and working perspectives for the field of VET. Yet, as mentioned in the previous post, the competence areas andthe  proficiency statements provide an essential basis for developing evaluation tools. Below I try to recapitulate my points that outline, how to proceed with such adaptation.

Digital transformation and digitization as challenges for VET

A major point to be considered in the field of VET is to observe the two parallel processes:

  • The ‘digital transformation’ has an impact across work organisations, production processes, supply networks and service networks. These macro-level developments provide challenges for the role of skilled workers and for the redistribution of working and learning opportunities.
  • The ‘digitization’ at the level of working and learning tasks has an impact on the prospects of vocational learners to respond and to contribute to the macro-processes that have been mentioned above. However, this varies in different occupational fields and in different education/training contexts.

Innovation paths for promoting digital competences in VET

The set innovation paths that I had outlined in my research paper for ECER 2019 – and then as an adapted version in my presentation for the Athens meeting – try to take the above-mentioned  processes and different VET domains into consideraration. Below I will summarise the paths and their key characteristics briefly:

  • The “CARO path” refers to use of digital learning spaces to support interactive learning in nursing education and across the whole curriculum. This path stands for ‘whole curriculum’ solutions and for sensitive learning contexts.
  • The “Learning Toolbox path” refers to use of an integrative digital toolset to support project-based training and learning in VET. This path stands for the introduction of flexible toolsets that promote transparency and awareness of structures learning processes.
  • The “innowas path” refers to introduction of specific digital tools or software solutions to enhance the learners’ awareness of their experiential learning and/or to make transparent the hitherto non-transparent work processes.
  • The “smart OER users’ path” refers to initiatives in the field of VET that combine the use of OER, related digital tools and open access materials in the shaping of creative learning environments.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, the innovation paths were taken into account when the TACCLE VET partners extended their list of possible learning scenarios and related OER solutions.

The Routemap document as a strategic tool

Finally, it is worthwhile to note that the Routemap tool (that is being developed in the TACCLE 4 CPD project) has shifted the emphasis from the digital competences of individual learners to the ICT capability across the organisation. Also, it has aggregated the set of competence level to fewer levels – initial, e-enabled, e-confident, e-mature. Furthermore, the tool has formulated organisational proficiency statements for the organisational planning – how to enhance the ICT capability – and for the related training measures – what level do we want to reach.

I think this is enough of the Athens meeting and on the ideas and further thoughts that we shared. Now it is time to work further to make the best out of both projects working together.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Three: Glimpses to presentations of which I want to learn more

September 8th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

This blog post is the third one of a series with which I wrap up my experiences at the ECER 2019 conference that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. In the first post I focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network that is the European umbrella network for research in vocational education andt training (VET).  I also gave some background information on the role of VETNET and other networks in the ECER conferences. In my second post I focused on the two sessions that discussed the parallel TACCLE project – TACCLE 4 CPD (in which I am working) and TACCLE VET (in which my colleagues are working). With this post I want to discuss briefly three presentations that were of immediate relevance for our work in the two TACCLE projects. Here I limit myself to some first impressions – I want to learn more of the work that has been done and/or is still going on.

The Paderborn-based project: Adopting apprentice training to digital transformation – the perspective of in-company training

The presentation of Bernd Gössling and Tina Emmler was in many respects one of the highlights of this conference. I had already become aware of the work of the research group of the University of Paderborn via the report “Berufsbildung 4.0” (Sloane et alia 2018). For me it had served as a rich resource in terms of conceptual work, empirical studies and conclusions for future-oriented innovation agendas. In particular the distinction between ‘digital transformation’ (technological and organisational changes towards networked production, marketing and service processes) and ‘digitization’ (introduction of digital tools into working, training and learning processes) was very helpful. Now the presentation of Gössling and Emmler provided a closer look into the empirical studies and findings. I do not want to summarise their results here – we need to discuss them more closely. Also, the reflections on the new roles of trainers that Emmler outlined (in terms of “vita activa”) were very inspiring and reminded me of our experiences with trainers working with the Learning Toolbox at the end of the Learning Layers project.

The Bremen-based project CARO: Digital cross-action spaces in interactive nursing education

Another highlight for me was the project CARO presented by Claudia Schepers from the University of Bremen. This interdisciplinary research & development project had shaped digital learning spaces to support interactive learning arenas in nursing education. Here we need to understand the delicate nature of learning in the context of real work and the necessity to support such work with simulations, videos and reflective learning. For me this case was particularly important since I had been looking at different innovation paths for introducing digital tools into vocational learning. To me, this project appeared as a paradigmatic case for introducing digital tools and digital spaces with a ‘whole curriculum’ approach. Furthermore, all my examples that I had used were referring to technical occupations. From this perspective a case from healthcare sector was most welcome.

The Aachen-based project: Acceptance of a tutorial-creating authoring system for workplace learning in manual assembly

A third highlight for me was the Aachen-based project presented by Marvin Goppold and Fabian Handl. Their project focused on the role of low-skilled or semi-skilled workers in manual assembly and their occupational perspectives in the context of digital transformation. The key point in the project was to capture the (informal) competences and (invisible) workplace-based learning and to make it visible via an authoring tool that generates individual tutorials. In this way the workers were better prepared to encounter changes that bring robotics into picture and to point out the limits of robotics. Here I do not want to go into details, I need to learn more.

As I am concerned, the Aachen-based project served to me as a paradigmatic case for an innovation path that uses digital tools to make visible the hitherto invisible and non-formal learning of semi-skilled workers. So far I had referred to a case of process industry, but the case of assembly work and the use of authoring tools is of particular interest.

I guess that this is enough of these sessions. As I have said above, I need to learn more of these projects to make appropriate use of their approaches, results and conclusions. There is more work to be done on this front. However, with my reporting on ECER 2019 I have more points to cover – in particular concerning developments in the VETNET network.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Two: Glimpses to sessions on the current TACCLE projects

September 7th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog I started a series of blog posts with which I try to wrap up my experiences with the ECER 2019 conference that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. In my first post I focused on the Opening session of the VETNET program at the conference. I also gave some background information on the VETNET network and its role in the umbrella organisation EERA and its contribution to the ECER conferences. This post focuses on the sessions that discussed the current TACCLE projects – the one in which I am working (TACCLE4 CPD) and the neighbouring project (TACCLE VET).

Presenting the TACCLE 4 CPD project at ECER

I have already blogged about my preparation for the ECER 2019 conference in an earlier post. Now it was the time to present the message that I had prepared and to link it to the discussions in the conference. As I had mentioned in the earlier blog, the title of the paper was “Strategies and Training Models for promoting Digital Competences in the field of Vocational Education and Training”. The paper and the presentation focused on our work in the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. This project was mainly based on earlier projects that worked with teachers and promoted their competences to use digital tools and web resources in teaching (the TACCLE1, TACCLE2 and TACCLE3 projects). Concerning the field of vocational education training, the Learning Layers project could be seen as a similar predecessor project. BUT now the challenge for the TACCLE4 CPD project was to develop models for continuing professional development (CPD) – to enable schools and training providers to shape their own training.

For me the main challenge was to link this approach to current developments in the field of VET – to digital transformation (in work processes and occupations) and to digitization (at the level of working and learning tasks). From this perspective I introduced four  parallel innovation paths regarding the focus on ‘whole curriculum’ solutions vs. introduction of particular approaches and new learning arrangements. As further illustration of my analyses and the resources I had used, I prepared an ePoster powered by the Learning Toolbox (see below).

PK_ECER-2019 ECER 2019 LTB-stack PK

During the conference I noted that some presenters introduced cases that also served as examples of the innovation paths that I had presented (see my next blog). Also, some presenters had done similar fieldwork on the role of trainers and had come to similar conclusions (see also my next blog). This was very rewarding and we were happy to share ideas. Here the fact that I had prepared the ePoster and that it could be accessed via mini-poster with QR-code (embedded into my presentation) and via direct link was very helpful.

Discussions on the neighbouring project TACCLE VET

In a further session my colleagues Graham Attwell (Pontydysgu), Fernando Marhuenda (University of Valencia) and Ludger Deitmer (ITB, University of Bremen) presented the work of the neighbouring project TACCLE VET.

Graham outlined a bigger picture of digital and ecological transformation in working life and possible implications for work, technology and occupations. He then continued to the work of UNESCO and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission to outline perspectives for promoting digital competences of educators. In particular he referred to the DigCompEdu framework of the JRC. Whilst these frameworks are in many respects helpful, they are very generic. From this point of view the project was doing fieldwork to get closer to the reality of vocational teachers and trainers.

Fernando continued by introducing the approach to fieldwork – the focus of different partners on their selected sectors and the mapping of interview partners’ digital competences. Based on the interviews the project is developing a framework that focuses on teachers’ competence areas – curriculum, pedagogy, resources and assessment. In this respect the project tries to develop a holistic and well-grounded view on promoting teachers’ digital competences.

Ludger gave specific insights into the challenges for promoting digital competences in the dual system of VET – with multiple learning venues (enterprise, school and intermediate training centre) and different actors. He illustrated this picture with results from a recent apprenticeship survey carried out by the trade union IG Metall in Bremen. This survey brought into picture gaps and shortcomings in teaching and training and a backlog in digitisation. As a contrast he then presented interim results from his interviews with vocational teachers and trainers who served as promoters of innovation in their organisations.

Here, in the discussion we could notice a complementary relation between the two TACCLE projects and their emphasis on innovation paths and addressing the competence areas of teachers and trainers. Also, when discussing the role of Open Educational Resources (OER) we noticed that a major need for training is related to copyright issues and to licensing. Whilst the tightened copyright rules are making teachers scary about using external resources, there is lack of knowledge on OER, different licenses and Open Access materials. From this perspective both TACCLE projects should address these issues.

I think this is enough of these sessions. In my next post I will discuss the sessions that gave me direct impulses for my work in the TACCLE4 CPD project.

More blogs to come …

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