Archive for the ‘TEL’ Category

Highlights in the TACCLE 4 CPD project – Working with the theme “Open Educational Resources (OER)”

December 15th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts I have presented results that have been achieved in the EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. I have drawn attention to the reports that have focused on promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). With this post I want to shift the emphasis from the final products to the process of work that has led to results. Here I want to highlight the collaborative process that has made it possible to achieve genuine results with the theme “Using Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of VET”.

Before I go any further I need to make the point that I couldn’t have brought such results on my own – as a research in VET with researcher’s view on practice. To me it has been a highlight in this project to work together with my colleague Jan Naumann. Jan has a background in apprentice training for two technical occupations and then a long experience as trainer and as vocational teacher. Having completed his studies in pedagogics of VET he has joined us as a researcher in ITB. With his manifold experience in ‘training teachers and trainers’ projects we could focus on real use cases and teaching/learning arrangements. But we could also bring the documentation and promotion of OER further with our join efforts.

Preparing the report on uses of OER in the field of VET

When we started working with the report for the TACCLE 4 CPD project we made a decision that we will not try to give an encyclopedic overview on different kinds of OER. Instead, we tried to outline an innovation path (or learning journey) in using OER to shape and enrich vocational taeching/learning arrangements. From this perspective we presented exemplary cases – starting from simple ones and heading to more complex ones.

In the first exemplary case the use of digital tools was not highlighted. Instead – with the process in which apprentices were making their own tools – the pedagogic point was that the learners were producing tools for themselves. Thus, they were invited to think of the use of the tools and of the quality requirements. In the second example a learning path in robotics was enriched with the use of Open Resources (OR) into an integrative project that brought together different areas of vocational knowledge. In the third example the use of OR in a nodal point of hitherto separate learning path helped to link them into an integrated set of learning paths. In the fourth example the use of OER and OR helped to bring parallel learners’ teams (technical, administrative and catering) into a joint learning project – planning and organising go-kart races with self-planned project administration, self-made vehicles and self-organised catering services.

Preparing the supporting power point presentation on two exemplary cases

Whilst the report could provide rather lively summaries of cases that have been implemented in practice, it was necessary to give closer insights into the educational designs. Therefore, we prepared a power point presentation as an annex to the said report. In this presentation we could visualise the development, enrichment and integration of the learning designs in the second and third exemplary case. To us, this provided a basis for discussions, how to build upon such cases.

path1 path2

Preparing the ePoster  to share knowledge on the report and the exemplary cases

However, we didn’t stop working when we had finalised the report and the annexed power point presentation. We wanted to take a further step in using digital tools to promote knowledge sharing on such innovations. Therefore, we prepared an ePoster by using Learning Toolbox (LTB) – the digital toolset that had been developed in the earlier EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). For this purpose we created an LTB-stack that consisted of three screens (as they appear on the mobile app of LTB). The first screen presents an opening message and then provides access to the report, power point presentation and to a relevant web page for accessing OR. The second screen presents the exemplary case of the single integrative project with additional information and detailed presentation. In a similar way the third screen presents the integrated set of learning paths. Finally we prepared the stack poster that can be used as a mini-poster in conferences.

OER in VET 1 OER in VET 2OER in VET 3

With this process of work we have tried to demonstrate, what we mean with the concept ‘innovation path’ in the context of promoting uses of OER in vocational teaching/learning contexts. And with using LTB as means to share knowledge we have tried to work with our own tools to deliver our message.

I think this is enough of this highlight in our project work. Now it is time to take a break and to see what comes next.

More blogs to come …

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Six: The complete set of reports is available on ResearchGate

December 14th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks I have worked hard to finalise my deliverables for the EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. The project develops models for continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers. The acronym TACCLE stands for “Teachers’ aids on creating contents for learning environments”. The current project is already the fourth one in the series of TACCLE projects. The earlier ones have focused on classroom teachers and on organising training for interested teachers. The current project has shifted the emphasis to organisational level and to different educational sectors – including adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET).

My contributions (on behalf of our institute ITB have focused on the field of VET and made transparent challenges and boundary conditions for promoting digital competences as contribution to vocational learning. In my previous blogs I have discussed this with reference to the particular reports once I have got them completed. Now that I have the full set of  reports ready and uploaded on ResearchGate I want to present an overview, what all has been produced to support CPD initiatives and to draw attention to promotion of digital competences in the field of VET.

Overview of the VET-related reports for TACCLE4 CPD project

Below I just present the titles of the reports and the links to ResearchGate. For further information I refer to the previous blogs and to the abstracts on ResearchGate:

Report One: Policy analyses as background for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.24915.73762

Report Two: Finding new approaches to promote digital competences – Legacy of past projects and new inputs from R&D projects in vocational education and training (VET).  DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.13171.68649

Report Three: Role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of Vocational education and Training (VET) – Insights into uses of OER in vocational teaching/learning arrangements.  DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.23552.58880 (co-authored with Jan Naumann)

Annex to Report Three: Using Open Resources (OR) and Open Educational Resources (OER) in Vocational Education and Training (VET). Two examples of teaching/learning designs. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.10969.67684 (co-authored with Jan Naumann)

Report Four a: Strategies and Training Models for promoting Digital Competences in the field of Vocational Education and Training – Reflections on Policies, Conceptual Frameworks and Innovation projects. (Co-authored with Angela Gerrard and Werner Müller)

Report Four b: The Theme Room Training 2020 framework – Promoting digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers Report 4b for the TACCLE4 CPD project.  DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.16783.33447

Annexes to The Theme Room Training 2020 framework (Report 4b for the TACCLE4 CPD project) 

As I see it, I have completed a coherent work program starting from policy analyses, continuing with explorations on R&D projects and use cases on introducing OER and then landing to a synthesis report and to framework for shaping CPD measures. I hope that this has been useful.

I thing this is enough of presenting my contributions to the TACCLE 4 CPD project. Now it is time to shift to more specific themes and working issues.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Five: Working with the annexes to the Theme Room Training 2020 framework

December 13th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I was happy to announce that I had completed the text to my final deliverable for the TACCLE 4 CPD project – the Theme Room Training 2020 framework for promoting digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers. At the same time I made the point that the mere drafting of such a framework on the basis of the given thematic blocks is not enough. I made it clear to myself and to the readers that I still have to prepare Annexes to the framework – as coordinates, how to work with it. Now I have prepared a set of Annexes and I think that I have done my job to answer the question “so what“. Below I try to give a picture, what the annexes are and what they stand for.

Annexes to the Framework text – what do they stand for?

The first annex that I have prepared is an annotated list of reference materials  to the Theme Room Training 2020 framework. As it is the case, not all thematic blocks have been based on publications. To some extent there are publications that can be referred to. But equally, there are field interviews and working documents and emerging educational resources. I have tried to do justice to all these as relevant reference materials to the framework.

The second annex provides an overview, how the German framework study has interpreted the concepts ‘digitization’ (in education and training) and ‘digital transformation’ (in working life) – and what implications they have on vocational education and training (VET). In addition, the annex presents a selection of thought-provoking theses, with which the research team challenged practitioners and stakeholders to reflect the ongoing and future changes.

The third annex is a seemingly simple interview guideline to discuss the readiness of older and younger learners to take up the use of digital media and toolsets in the context of vocational learning. However, these questions were not the ones that I originally posed in the beginning of my field interviews with vocational trainers. Instead, they were the ones that I identified on the basis of our discussions – I had posed narrower questions, the trainers broadened and deepened the scope.

The fourth annex presents the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) for preparing ePosters to promote knowledge sharing and transfer of innovation. So far I had promoted the use of ePosters in research conferences and prepared my own ones on the basis of my research papers for the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). This week I had the pleasure to work with my colleague Jan Naumann to prepare an ePoster on the theme “Use of Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training (VET)”. We were happy to complete our work and to insert the related mini-poster to the annex document. The ePoster can be accessed via the following link.

The fifth annex presents the TACCLE 4 CPD Routemap as a tool for planning the use of ICT resources in education and training and for developing training (or CPD) initiatives for teachers and trainers. I hope that the selection of power point slides gives a picture, what all can be achieved when working with the Routemap.

Altogether, I think that the annexes have given an appropriate push to work further with the themes that were raised in the Theme Room Training 2020 framework. After all, we didn’t aim to provide cookboks with ready-made recipes. Instead, we have tried to raise key themes and give impulses, how to work as innovation leaders and change agents.

I think this is enough of these annexes and how they complement the framework. Let us hope that these have been useful pieces of work. Time will tell.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Four: Shaping a new Theme Room Training framework

December 8th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts I have given an overview of the reports for our ongoing TACCLE4 CPD projects that I had completed so far. At the end I have mentioned that all the reports so far provide contributions to a new framework for developing training for teachers and trainers – with emphasis on promoting digital competences in the context of vocational learning. Already in the previous reports I had made the point that this should be based on the Theme Room training concept that was initiated and implemented in the Learning Layers project. During last week I have written a draft report to outline such a framework.  Below I will present some background information and the concluding section of the report. I think that they will give an idea, what kind of framework is taking shape.

The idea of Theme Room Training – oringins and new perspectives

This framework is being prepared as a final product of the EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD. The project has continued the work of earlier TACCLE projects in promoting digital competences of school teachers. However, concerning the field of VET, this project drawn upon the experiences of the EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). The LL project developed digital tools and training concepts to support workplace-based and vocational learning. The concept of “Theme Rooms” was developed as a part of the LL project to promote digital competences of vocational trainers.

The training in ‘Theme Rooms’ was initiated by the above-mentioned trainers who wanted to develop a more systematic training arrangement. With this approach they wanted to reach all training staff in their organisation. In this way they wanted to promote the use of digital tools in all areas of apprentice training.

The idea of Theme Rooms was based on the following pedagogic principles:

  • Combination of real and virtual learning spaces for focused thematic blocks for promoting digital competences;
  • Signing in into ‘theme rooms’ for completing the learning sessions with exercises and then signing out (with a flexible tempo);
  • Working together in teams in terms of peer learning and peer tutoring;
  • Rotating between different themes in order to reach common awareness of the subject matter and to develop a common competence base.

The concept of Theme Room training was put into practice as a staff training campaign during one month. This training campaign based on the Theme Room concept helped the trainers to become users of the LTB in their own training. Now, in the current situation, it is possible to identify many parallel approaches to introduce digital tools and new media into vocational learning. At the same time there are new qustions concerning the significance of digital technologies in the context of vocational education and training (VET). These are taken up in the new framework.

What does the new framework stand for?

The main elements of the framework are thematic blocks that can be used as a basis for the Theme Rooms of the updated training concept. The following set of thematic blocks is presented in the further sections below:

In the first thematic block the framework draws attention to digital transformation (as a major socio-cultural challenge) and to digitization (as a more specific development). This block invites to think, how VET provisions can prepare for such processes and/or provide co-shaping contributions.

The second thematic block discusses the readiness of older and younger learners to use digital media and tools in the context of vocational learning. This block invites to think, how older teachers, trainers and workplace mentors can find their own ways to use such tools to promote vocational learning. Also, it invites to think, how younger learners can best familiarise themselves with work processes, uses of traditional tools and digital tools in their own learning.

The third thematic block presents a set of parallel “Innovation paths” for introducing digital tools into vocational learning contexts and to enhance the digital competences of teachers, trainers and learners. Four of these paths have been named on the basis of specific projects or their final products – the Kompetenzwerkstatt, Learning Toolbox, Brofessio and CARO paths. The fifth path refers to smart uses of Open Educational Resources (OER). This block invites to think, what kind of vocational learning contexts are relevant for the user and what can be learned from the exemplary cases.

The fourth thematic block presents insights into the TACCLE4 CPD Routemap tool and its uses for organisational planning (of the use of ICT resources) and development of training (with focus on promoting digital competences). For both purposes the Routemap outlines levels of proficiency with corresponding criteria. In this way the tool invites to think, at what stage is the organisation regarding its use of ICT resources and what kind of steps can be taken with the help of training.

Altogether, the framework invites the readers to think of their own solutions and to find their own ways to promote digital competences in their field. Thus, the framework provides starting points and gives further impulses and references for further developmental work.

I guess that this is enough of the idea of the Theme room Training 2020 framework. I need to emphasise that it is still under construction. As I see it, the texts for the thematic blocks have already been shaped. Yet, each block needs a further layer for comments, questions, resources and impulses. So, there is still some more work to be done.

More blogs to come …

 

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Three: Reflections on using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

November 30th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I have given an overview of the reports for our ongoing TACCLE4 CPD projects that I had completed so far. At the end I mentioned that the next one to be completed would be Report3 on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). This week I have worked on this report. I have had the great pleasure to have my ITB colleague Jan Naumann with me as an expert in this matter and as a co-author. So, the best thing for me to do was to explore with him different contexts of vocational education and training in which he has been working with OER. Below I present the conclusions of our report.

Conclusions: Using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

Here it is worthwhile to note that this report has not the aim to give a comprehensive overview on Open Educational Resources (OER) that may have relevance for vocational education and training (VET). Such a task would no longer be manageable. Currently there is such a richness of OER – also ones that address explicitly the field of VET. As a contrast, this report has provided insights into exemplary cases of using OER to enhance vocational teaching/learning arrangements and to empower vocational learners.

Also, concerning the range of occupational fields that these cases cover, the report is far from comprehensive. Yet, when looking more closely at the cases, there is a pattern variance and a gradual shift from rather simple cases to more complex vocational teaching/learning arrangements. In a similar way the degree of using OER grows from elementary engagement to specific interventions and to more complex incorporation of OER into vocational learning culture.

In a nutshell the key messages of the above-presented cases can be summarised in the following way:

  • Rather simple and elementary vocational learning exercises can be transformed into creative learning projects. This is the case, when the learners are challenged to think, what they can achieve with the results (products) they produce. The first case in which the learners produce their own tools underlines this point. Individual teachers who create such learning projects can become producers of OER.
  • Hitherto separate subject areas and learning projects can be linked to each other with the help of OER. This may happen with the help of hands-on exercises using Open Resources and quiz exercises using OER. The second case of integrated learning paths underlines this point.
  • Neighbouring occupations can be brought together with the help of OER to work with a joint learning project if it is sufficiently challenging and interesting to all parties involved. The third case with an integrated working and learning project with robotics serves as a demonstration.
  • Vocational learning arrangements can be made attractive to apprentices and to trainees in pre-vocational education (also with socially disadvantaged background). The fourth case with the complex teaching-learning arrangement around organising a series of Go-kart races provides an example of this. Here, by organising learners as occupational teams and bringing the contributions of teams to a common effort the learners worked for a common goal. This was facilitated by manifold use of OER and by documenting the whole concept as OER.

Altogether, the cases are selected examples and they do not provide evidence that the use of OER as such would guarantee successful learning. Yet, they have given insights into the prospect of shaping of vocational teaching/learning arrangements as creative learning spaces.

I guess that this is enough of our report on the use of OER. What remains to be done for the project is a final report on shaping continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers. There I need to highlight the challenges, ideas and ways forward that have been discussed in the previous four reports.

More blogs to come …

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 …

AI, education and training and the future of work

November 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Last week was the first meeting of a new Erasmus Plus project entitled ‘Improving skills and competences of VET teachers and trainers in the age of Artificial Intelligence’. The project, led by the University of Bremen has partners frm the UK (Pontydysgu), Lithuania, Greece and Italy.

Kick off meetings are usually rather dull – with an understandable emphasis on rules and regulation, reporting and so on. Not this one. Everyone came prepared with ideas of their own on how we can address such a broad and important subject. And to our collective surprise I think, we had a remarkable degree of agreement on ways forward. I will write more about this(much more) in the coming days. For the moment here is my opening presentation to the project. A lot of the ideas come from the excellent book, “Artificial Intelligence in Education, Promises and Implications for Teaching and Learning” by the Center for Curriculum Redesign which as the website promises, “immerses the reader in a discussion on what to teach students in the era of AI and examines how AI is already demanding much needed updates to the school curriculum, including modernizing its content, focusing on core concepts, and embedding interdisciplinary themes and competencies with the end goal of making learning more enjoyable and useful in students’ lives. The second part of the book dives into the history of AI in education, its techniques and applications –including the way AI can help teachers be more effective, and finishes on a reflection about the social aspects of AI. This book is a must-read for educators and policy-makers who want to prepare schools to face the uncertainties of the future and keep them relevant.”

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)

 

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 …