Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

25 years working with Graham Attwell – networking, social media and new challenges

March 15th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Some time ago it has crossed my mind that i should write some lines on my cooperation with Graham Attwell. Indeed, I have already written a blog post on my 25 years’ journey with European cooperation project and how that journey was continued when I was employed by our research insitute ITB. However, that post was written from my perspective – as a personal learning journey with interruptions and catching up with the momentum. Now I feel the need to take a fresh look from the perspective of working and learning together with Graham Attwell. I guess that the best way is to discuss three themes – networking, social media and facing new challenges.

Networking the networks: community-building across European projects

Our cooperation started in the beginning of the year 1996. I was working as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) and started an activity that was based on accompaniment of European cooperation projects. Graham had moved to Bremen to coordinate the newly started project Europrof – training of new vocational education and training (VET) professionals. The kick-off meeting of that project was the first one that I observed during my accomanaying visits. From the very beginning we saw that we were on the same wave length regarding the ideas on collaborative research, learning from each other and supporting community-building among European VET researchers.

Europrof took already some steps to mobilize a wider set of interested researchers into exchanges with its core partners. I did my part when launching the European seminars of my Cedefop project with partner institutes in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Portugal. In addition, we initiated several symposia at the European Conferences on Educational Research (ECER) in Sevilla (1996), Frankfurt (1997), Ljubljana (1998), Lahti (1999) and Edinburgh (2000). With these events we promoted learning from each other and joint knowledge development across parallel European projects. Some of the events gave an opportunity to have a closer look at national pilot projects and new initiatives to promote digital competences in the field of VET.  As such I remember the 1998 event with Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and the joint seminar in 2000 with the Portuguese national Agency Inofor in Sintra. Later on, a major arena for such network-based knowledge sharing emerged as the network-project Forum (funded by the EU 4th Framework Programme for Research). Furthermore, some of these community-building activities were taken up in certain VET-related conferences under the auspices of the current EU presidency. In this respect I remember conference of the Dutch EU presidency 1997 as well as the conferences of the UK and Austrian presidencies in the year 1998. But – all this had its time. The high season of ‘learning from each other’ and ‘networking the networks’ was soon over and the policy climate changed to other directions – and that had consequences for the funding of European projects.

Digital competences and social media in the field of VET

When some of the earlier themes of European projects started to fade away from the European policy agenda, it was important that Graham was active as an explorer on the theme ‘use of ICT in the field of VET‘. His pioneering contribution was the Cedefop-funded digital resource base “ICT in VET”. It was an outcome of intensive networking with other experts and a predecessor of several later community portals (some of which were rather short-lived and some more sustainable). At that time the discussion on promoting digital competences was heavily overshadowed by the hype around eLearning and by enthusiasm on informal ‘career spaces’ of ICT companies. At this phase Graham represented a well-grounded position that ICT competences are to be promoted in substantial vocational learning contexts.

However, at that time the European funding programmes did not focus that strongly on the field of VET. Instead, more overarching interests on ‘lifelong learning’ or on ‘human resources’ were pushed forward. Alongside these, some new priorities started to emerge – such as ‘open source software’ and ‘open educational resources’. Graham was one of the pioneers with these themes. Together with his fellow pioneers he launched network-based projects like SIGOSSEE (Special interest group for open source software in education in Europe) or the ‘Bazaar’ (for promoting open educational resources via the stalls of the Bazaar). At that time he was also a well-known blogger with his “Wales-Wide-Web’.

At this time I had had a career break after leaving Cedefop. Keeping contact with these initiatives helped me to get back on board – in particular when I was employed by the research institute ITB of the University of Bremen. At that time Graham was working closely with ITB (as a Visiting Fellow) and I could follow his new initiatives from a close distance. I also took my first steps as a blogger but that with some tumbling. Firstly I put an emphasis on project-specific blogging on project websites. These turned out to be short-lived activities – when the projects were finalised, the websites were archived and soon the domain-names expired. Another effort was to develop conference blogs for the VETNET network program at the ECER. This turned out to be a lonely job – also these faded away soon. With my personal blog on the Pontydysgu site (thanks to support from Graham) I had difficulties in keeping myself active. In the meantime Graham was roaming across a wider range of projects and had a lot to share and comment on his themes.

Facing new challenges – the Learning Layers project

All this comes together in my mind when I think of the period when we worked together in the EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012 – 2016) and its follow-up phase. The project was originally designed by educational technologists, computer scientists software and developers with whom Graham had worked together. For the EU FP7 (7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and Development) they had initiated a new project that sought to bring their expertise together to support the introduction of new ICT tools to support (informal) learning in SMEs. The initial idea was to focus on the healthcare sector – notably on networks of GP practices in the Leeds-Bradford region. But the aim was to scale up the innovations Europe-wide by approaching similar SME clusters.

Thanks to Graham, the plan was broadened by introducing a new pilot sector – construction industries and trades from Germany. And that brought our research institute (ITB) into picture as provider of research-based support for the sectoral partners in Germany. And – when working with training centres and SMEs in the construction sector – we were in the need to look closer, how to introduce new ICT tools to support work process-oriented learning. Thus, we were in the middle of promoting the development of digital tools to enhance apprentice training, organisational learning and continuing professional development. And in this context we were able to push forward the co-design process that led to the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB). And, as regular readers of this blog know, we were able to finalise the project with a viable end product that found new uses beyond the initial pilot context.

However – paradoxically – the real success story of the LTB  took off in completely different context. Here we need to thank the partners of the project who took the main responsibility of the development of the LTB and promoted it as a support tool for online conferences. a new But, also we in ITB could also draw important lessons from this experience with a major project. For me, the work in the project gave me the boost to become an active blogger. And because of my regular blogging, the progress in the construction pilot could be summarised and reflected on annual basis, in the final phase and during the follow-up activities.

I guess this is enough of our journey together with European projects, networks and challenges with digital tools. I have gone to retirement, whilst Graham keeps working with new projects. I wish him and his partners good luck!

More blogs to come …

 

 

Remembering Stavros Stavrou, former Deputy Director of Cedefop

February 26th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this month I received the sad news from Thessaloniki, Greece. Stavros Stavrou, the former Deputy Director of Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) had passed away. Many years have passed since we worked together in Cedefop, but the memories are still there.

We learned to know each other during the difficult period 1994 – 95, when Cedefop was to be relocated from Berlin (where it was launched in 1976) to Thessaloniki, Greece. I had just started in Berlin as a national seconded expert sent by the Finnish government (during the period when Finland was still a candidate member of the EU). Shortly after my arrival the new management – Director Johan van Rens and Deputy Director Stavros Stavrou started their term of office. From the earlier management only the second Deputy Director Enrique Retuerto continued during the transitional period.

As I remember it, the last year in Berlin was in many respects a turbulent time. The decision to relocate Cedefop (taken by the European Council – the summit of the EU in 1993) was a complete surprise for the Centre. In addition, the change of management caused a lot of uncertainty and anxiety – a major part of experts and other staff members were looking for other employment prospects in other EU services. Moreover, the decision to relocate Cedefop to Greece was a complete surprise for the Greek authorities.

At this point of time it was not easy for Stavros to step in as a newly elected Deputy Director. To be sure, he was already known to Cedeofp as  a prominent Greek expert in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Moreover, having studied in Germany, he had completed his doctoral studies in Berlin with a thesis that compared VET in Greece and Germany. But, the uneasy process of moving Cedefop from Berlin was surely very stressful for him – representing the Cedefop interests vis-à-vis the Greek authorities and explaining the Greek circumstances to other Europeans.

Somehow the difficult preparatory processes were managed and a considerably reduced contingent of Cedefop experts and staff members made the move to the temporary building at the American Farm School campus outside Thessaloniki. Moving from the centre of Brelin to such a peripheral location was quite a challenge. But the nice late summer weather in 1995 and the youth hostel -like intimacy of the temporary building brought the new settlers closer to each other. During this period Stavros and other Greek colleagues in Cedefop did all their best to help us settle down and become familiar with our new environment. Some of us were lucky with the search for a new apartment, others were not so happy and opted for alternative employment prospects in other EU services (in Brussels or Luxembourg).

The new start in Thessaloniki was difficult in many respects. Cedefop got firstly a temporary  building that was not so well equipped. (In the meantime the planning of the permanent building was on its way, but very slowly – siga siga, as the Greeks put it. The number of VET experts and administrative staff that moved to Thessaloniki was very small and it took quite a lot of time to recruit new ones. Therefore, Stavros had to stretch himself to multi-tasking – both regarding the supervision of the VET projects and regarding the monitoring of the contracting processes. So, during this time he may have sometimes appeared moody – launisch as the Germans put it. But, then we had several occasions to witness his sense of humour.

As I see it, Stavros was at his best when representing Cedefop and our work at other European arenas – like EU presidency conferences and the Advisory Forum of the European Training Foundation (ETF). He could then draw on the richness of the projects of that time and make use of his own VET-related expertise.

I personally had the chance to experience the human side of the friendly Stavros during the Kosovo war 1999. I and my daughter were worried of what was happening to the relatives of my son-in-law. Stavros contacted personally the Greek authorities to get information and found a contact person to keep us updated. I still remember the shining face of Stavros when we got the good news that the family had been safely evacuated to a third country.

Finally, when my time in Cedefop was coming to an end, Stavros invited me to a private send-off dinner. We wished each other all the best. It so happened that that was the last time that we met each other on privat terms.

Rest in peace, Stavros!

 

TACCLE4 CPD website presents the end products of the project

February 5th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few years most of my blog posts have dealt with my contributions to the EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. As I have told it several times, the project has developed models and resources to support continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers with focus on promoting their digital competences. In this respect the project has built upon earlier TACCLE projects that worked directly with active teachers and organised courses for them. The fourth project sought to equip education and training managers and teacher trainers with tools to develop CPD measures and trainingmodels. Moreover, the project extended the scope beyond school-based education to include also the field of vocational education and training (VET).

As I have explained it time and again, our institute ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung) from the University of Bremen was invited as a new partner to the project to cover the field of VET. For this purpose we were well positioned since we had been working with vocational teachers and trainers – in particular in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. However, during the work it appeared that there was a need to provide separate outputs that focused on the field of VET – in particular when considering the dual system of apprenticeship. From this perspective my blog posts have given insights to this VET-specific work and how it has been received by teachers and trainers in Germany. As I have gone to retirement during the project, I was not so well informed by the progress of the work for other educational sectors. Now I am happy to give an overview on the results of the entire project as the have been published on our website http://taccle4cpd.eu/.

The Webinars – insights into the project

The opening of the website is provided by the webinar section. Our project coordinator Angela has recorded two webinars. The first one gives a quick overview on the project idea and on the achievements.

The Intellectual Outputs – Mindmaps, web resources and supporting reports

The second webinar gives a more detailed overview on the final results and how they have been presented on the website. In this way it becomes transparent that some of the IOs are presented as mindmaps, others as interactive handbooks or collections of web resources, whilst others have been presented as written reports.

The CPD- and VET-related blogs

In addition to the sections that present the results and resources that have been produced the website gives access to blog posts that have documented the work during the project.

So, now we have all the results nicely presented on the project website. Congratulations Angela and the partners!

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

Celebrating Martin Luther King – Revisiting a German radio program of January 2017

January 19th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday, on Monday 19.01.2021 our American friends celebrated  Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. This reminded me of a blog that I wrote four years ago on the important travels of Martin Luther King Sr and Jr (father and son) to Germany. Both visits had consequences and it is worthwhile revisiting the memories of these trips – once again.

Four years ago I happened to listen to the German radio program “Am Sonntag morgen” (on Sunday morning) – provided by the German Lutheran church. And came to follow a special program about the travels of Marin Luther King Sr and Jr in Germany. Inspired by the program I wrote a blog entry in which I wanted translate the content of  that program into English. So, the following section of this blog article is a compressed English version of the text provided by the German priest Andrea Schneider for Deutschlandfunk. The original text is available here:

http://rundfunk.evangelisch.de/kirche-im-radio/am-sonntagmorgen/eine-folgenreiche-reise-8611

Eine folgenreiche Reise. Martin Luther King in Deutschland (A travel with consequences. Martin Luther King in Germany)

Let us start with the father – Martin Luther King Sr. He was originally called Michael – and so was his son. But in the year 1935 he and some other baptist preachers attended an international baptist conference in Berlin. The Nazis were already in power and tried to make an image as tolerant rulers allowing such events to happen. But this was not the point of this story. King Sr (still called Michael) took the opportunity to visit the home places of the reformer Martin Luther (Wittenberg and Eisenach). There he got very much impressed of the spirit of Martin Luther – civil courage and self-determination – and he wanted to convey this spirit to the American civil rights movement where he was already involved. So, after returning home he renamed himself and his son as Martin Luther King – Senior and Junior.

The son – Martin Luther King Jr – follows in the footsteps of the father and continues his work as a preacher, intellectual and activist in the civil rights movement. By the year 1963 he had become world famous as the leader of the non-violent civil rights movement of black Americans – the man who gave the speech “I have a dream …” in the largest demonstration for civil rights. One year after – in 1964 (nearly 30 years after his father) he travels to Europe to participate in the international conference of baptists (this time in Amsterdam). And just like his father, he has his own extension program to explore Germany – but his target is the divided Berlin.

Little is known of this part of the travel of Martin Luther King – and mostly we thank for our knowledge a Berlin school pupils’ documentation project “King Code”. What this project has found out by interviewing witnesses and tracing documents makes us clear, why the details of this visit were kept secret.

On 13.09.1964 a well-known person from the German Democratic Republic (DDR) tries to escape to West-Berlin and is shot at just before he reaches the other side. An American sergeant risks a lot by dragging the wounded person to the Western side and takes him to the hospital. Martin Luther King gets to know of the incident, visits the place of shooting and visits the victim at the hospital. In his famous speech at the Waldbühne he predicts that the wall – the symbol of inhumanity for him – will fall down. But he wants to do more – he insists to visit East Berlin as well. The American authorities wanted to prevent this and confiscate his passport but he managed to get through the border control with his credit card as a travel document.

Thanks to the above mentioned school project we can listen to witnesses and an audio recording of the speech of Martin Luther King in the crowded Marienkirche (and memories of another speech in the nearby Sophienkirche). King presents his audience greetings from America and from all over the world. He then emphasises that people on both sides of the Berlin Wall ar e children of God and thus alike as human beings – and therefore, no regime can take that quality away from them. He speaks of justice, equality and civil rights – determined that that the path leads to freedom. Three months later he receives the Nobel Price for Peace and continues his work in the civil right movement.  Sadly, King was murdered some years later but his life work became know everywhere. And so, for the civil rights movement in DDR his message was present when they demonstrated for freedom and justice with the message for non-violence: “Keine Gewalt!” And in November 1989 the Berlin Wall and the borders of DDR were opened – another dream to come true.

In 2013 the activists of the school project “King Code” had the pleasure to witness the visit of the first black president of the USA to Berlin and to listen to his speech. Barack Obama spoke for open-mindedness between different religions as well as between residents and migrants. And in the spirit of Martin Luther King he emphasised that injustice at one place on earth is a threat to other places as well. In this respect he passed the message further to the young generation.

– – –

So, this was in a nutshell the message of the radio program that I listened to four years ago. I think it is really worthwhile to revisit the legacy of Martin Luther King in general and to consider the impact that his example had on the peaceful revolution in East Germany (DDR) in the year 1989. And now, thinking of what all is going on in our world, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the message that was promoted by the Ameican civil rights movement of the 1960s, here presented by Joan Baez:

I guess that this is enough of this theme. I am looking forward to seeing that this ‘some day’ is getting nearer.

More blogs to come …

 

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

January 13th, 2021 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

December 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

Sharing news and views of prominent persons

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

Engagement with Finnish expatriate communities

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

Engagement with musicians (whom I have met in Finland)

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

 

 

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

December 9th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

Research & development work in action vs. observation from afar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

 

 

 

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

November 28th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

25 years work with European projects in the field of VET

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

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

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

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

During those years (1994/95 – 2002) blogging was not available as an option to reflect on the activities. At that time I could at best write down my experiences and thoughts into my mission reports (Dienstreiseberichte). After my time in Cedefop I compiled them into several thematic logbooks that gave a picture on my accompanying activities (with projects) on my involvement in conferences and on my contributions to the VETNET network (in the context of ECER-conferences).

15 years work with European projects of ITB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

Thanksgiving auf deutsch – in the Universität Bremen style

November 26th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

I need to start this post with a disclaimer. To be sure, Thanksgiving is the special holiday that takes place today in the USA. It is part of the American history and is celebrated due to specific tradition. This tradition has not crossed the Atlantic ocean. What has crossed, is the Black Friday shopping season – but that has nothing to do with my topic. So, let us get to the story that I wanted to share via my blog.

A letter in a thick envelope

Yesterday I was surprised to find a thick brown envelope from the University of Bremen  in my mailbox here in Jyväskylä. I opened it and found a letter from our Kanzler (Head of administration). He thanked me for the work that I have done for the University of Bremen during my years of service. I was pleased to read that my work had been appreciated as a contribution to the success of the University of Bremen.

Normally, when researchers of the university have gone to retirement, they have been invited to a special event by the management of the university. This year, due to pandemic, such an event will not take place.

Instead, I (and others who have left the university service) have got this letter and two special gifts – as tokens of appreciation and as souvenirs from the years in Bremen. Firstly, there was a box of Bremen-based Hachez chocolate (with the logo of the University of Bremen and a picture of the Bremen Town Musicians). Secondly, there was a bag of coffee produced by the company ‘Utamtsi’ – founded by former students of the University of Bremen.

As I have mentioned above, this was a complete surprise. I appreciate the nice words with which the management of our university thanks the former employees who have gone to retirement. And it was nice to have such souvenirs from my years in Bremen transported to Central Finland – to keep the memories fresh.

So, I guess that this friendly gesture merits the characterisation as “Thanksgiving auf deutsch – in the Universität Bremen style”. At least this made my day.

More blogs to come (but from a different perspective) …

 

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

November 19th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

The background of the TACCLE4 CPD project

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come (but from different perspective) …

 

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