Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Ideas for the forthcoming Multiplier Event of the TACCLE4 CPD project – bringing Learning Toolbox and OER into practice

February 17th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I told that I will be travelling quite a while and get back to office at the end of May. But I also mentioned that we (me together with my colleagues Ludger Deitmer and Jan Naumann) are planning a Multiplier Event on using digital tools to enrich vocational learning culture. And we will be working together to develop our ideas further. Here I have put on paper our first ideas:

1. What kind of event are we planning?

We are planning a Bremen-based and German-speaking Multiplier Event of the TACCLE4 CPD project to be hosted by ITB on Friday 12th June 2020.

2. What is the title of the event? What is our key message?

“Digitale Wege in der beruflichen Bildung – Alibi-Ansätze oder Innovationen”

With this provocative title we want to stimulate critical discussion on halfway-thought reforms around digitization in the field of VET. As a contrast we want to give insights into practitioner-led innovations in vocational learning.

3. What kind of an event do we want to have and with whom?

We want to have an event for and with VET practitioners. We want to invite them to think of their own possibilities to shape new learning arrangements with digital toolsets (e.g. with Learning Toolbox) and open educational resources (e.g. with such learning designs that Jan has presented in the OER-report for TACCLE4 CPD).

As participants we want to invite teachers (from vocational schools) and trainers (from training centres) of whom we know that they

  1. have an interest in enhancing their digital competences and
  2. want to develop vocational learning with digital toolsets and OER.

In this respect we want to give them inspiring impulses and opportunities for hands-on training in terms of peer-to-peer support.

4. What contents for discussion and training have we considered?

From the perspective of TACCLE4 CPD project we discussed two main perspectives:

  • Use of Learning Toolbox as means to enhance vocational and workplace-based learning culture – in particular from the point of self-organised learning.
  • Use of Open Educational Resources (OER) as support for shaping-oriented learning and for combining different learning paths.

From the perspective of TACCLE AI and VET project we discussed some further perspectives that could be taken up:

  • The shaping of “Smart factory” competence centres in vocational schools and their contribution to the development of vocational learning culture.
  • The use of humanoid robots as “assistants” to teachers in large classes with  heterogeneous learners and diverse support needs.

5. What further ideas we want to emphasise in the event?

Promoting the readiness of participants to work with new tools:

  • Tools with which they can co-shape their own teaching/learning arrangements;
  • Tools that they can develop themselves and use in their teaching and learning.

Create an understanding for the unity of culture, structures and technology in order to achieve sustainable innovations in VET:

  • Culture – to bring into picture and spread the innovative spirit to develop learning and to engage colleagues and learners;
  • Structures – to ensure the acceptance of the new ideas and the readiness of the whole organisation to support new initiatives;
  • Technology – to use appropriate technology for working and learning tasks.

(Points from the perspective of unsuccessful practice:

  • You may have inspired teachers but if the structures do not provide any flexibility, the innovations remain isolated.
  • You may have up-to-date technologies, but if they are not linked to the learning culture, their potentials are not in full use.
  • You may have supportive structures and adequate technologies, but if teachers are not able/willing to take initiatives, the innovations do not take off.)

Provide insights into new learning concepts (enriched with digital tools and digital media) and how to work with them:

  • Micro-learning (adjusted to vocational and workplace learning with major time constraints)
  • Nuggets with max. 5 minutes digital media content to capture the concentration of learners and to stimulate further learning.

– – –

I guess this is enough for the moment. I will get back to this topic in due time.

More blogs to come …

Bye bye, Bremen – see you some time later in the year

February 16th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I am in the process of going to retirement (although having an extension to my part-time contract for the TACCLE4 CPD). So, this is a departure with three steps. Now, the first step has taken place. I have stopped working regularly at my office at ITB and kept an option to use it during my working visits back to Bremen.

Now I have taken time out for private reasons. In this context I am now in London and preparing for a week as a full-time grandpa when my grandchildren have school holidays, while their parents have to work. So, quite a difference compared to last week. And therefore, it will be rather quiet on this blog in the coming time.

But, I still have work to do in the project – and in particular I am inspired by the Multiplier Event of the project that we are preparing for next June. So, I will keep in contact with my colleagues to work further with our plans. So, there will be some updates every now and then.

More blogs to come … ( Watch this space!)

Notes on the Blogchat of February – ePosters powered by Learning Toolbox are not merely e-posters

February 5th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Some time ago I had a chat with my colleague Gilbert Peffer on the recent progress with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in our common project. I was so impressed that I wrote a blog post on our discussion.  Moreover, we agreed to continue these discussions and to introduce a new format of communication – Blogchat. This means that we agree on regular online sessions on agreed themes and that I will publish notes on our talks. So, here we go.

ePosters as a major spin-off of the Learning Toolbox (LTB)

Ever since our EU-funded Learning Layers project came to an end in the beginning of the year 2017 I have engaged myself in the follow-up activities with focus on the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In particular I have been interested in the success story of the ePosters (powered by LTB) that have become popular in many conferences. I have been writing blogs on the first pilots in conferences of medical educators and educational technologists. And I was heavily engaged in the pilot that we organised (together with the LTB-developers) at the ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen, Italy. That pilot could not be continued since the organising body – European Educational Research Association (EERA) was at that point tied up with other change agendas. So, afterwards my knowledge on the use of ePosters was rather sporadic. Indeed, I have become aware of many awards that the LTB-developers have received and congratulated them via my blog posts. Yet, I have not got an overview, how strongly our colleagues are making progress. So, it was high time to get a proper update.

Firstly, I was impressed when Gilbert told me about the conferences with which they are working. In the year 2019 the LTB-developers supported fourteen (14) conferences that used ePosters (powered by LTB) in their program. Most of these took place in Europe. For the year 2020 they have already fifteen (15) agreements, half of them taking place in Europe and the rest outside Europe. Moreover, they have agreements with biennial conferences that take place every two years. And, what is most interesting, is the fact that almost all conferences that have piloted with ePosters are now regular users. They have found their ways to integrate the ePosters to their conference cultures.

ePosters are more than mere e-posters

As I have seen it – from afar and from our joint experience – the ePosters made their breakthrough as alternatives to traditional paper posters. For many conferences that had struggled with the space needed for poster sessions and for accommodating the desired number of presentations on a limited number of poster sessions this was a relief. Moreover, some conferences had been frustrated with commercial e-poster software (that didn’t bring much added value). From that perspective the functionality of LTB-powered ePosters was a great step forward:

  • All ePosters could be presented as mini-posters on a poster wall or poster cubicle throughout the conference.
  • With the help of QR-codes all conference participants could download the ePosters they were interested in and access them whenever they had time.
  • It was possible to arrange informal meetings between presenters and participants in the vicinity of the poster walls in a flexible way.
  • The presenters didn’t need to use much time in poster discussion sessions – they could be shaped as actively interactive events (such as barcamps or ePoster arenas).

However, this is not the whole story of ePosters as an innovation in conference culture. Some conferences have become concerned about travel expenses, carbon footprints and travelling times due to presence sessions in conferences. In this respect  one of the forthcoming conferences is organising a pre-conference week that is based on the availability of ePosters on the web already one week before the presence conference. The organisers invite presenters and online participants to a Zoom meeting on the respective ePosters. Then, the recording of the discussion session will be added to the respective LTB stack. From this perspective the emphasis is gradually shifting from ePosters (to be viewed) to ePresentations (that can be discussed with the help of digital media).

Finally, a major asset with the ePosters is that they provide for conference organisers a domain, on which they can keep the legacy of ePosters in successive conferences. This is already the case with the pioneering conferences of healthcare educators. They can now give access to ePosters of their conferences during the last few years.

I guess this is enough of this Blogchat session. I got a much more comprehensive overview of what kind of enrichment the ePosters can provide for conferences. I think that there are some lessons to be learned.

More blogs to come …

Thoughts about Brexit – Part Three: The negotiations and decision-making

February 3rd, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous posts I have started to write down my thoughts about Brexit. As I have said, I didn’t really want to take up this theme on my blog. And indeed, I haven’t had the least intention to present myself as a historian or as a political analyst. In my first post I have written about the difficult pre-history – the rocky road of the United Kingdom to membership and the uneasy years of the British membership. In my second post I wrote about the campaigning before and during the referendum and about the polarised atmosphere. Now, it is time to say something about the policy processes after the referendum – of the negotiations and of the decision-making.

The negotiations on the “Brexit-Deal” – the first phase

Once the result of the referendum was clear and there was a new government, the hard work for preparing a mutual agreement on future relations started. This pointed out to be a long period with many issues to be settled and to be considered anew. After all, the United Kingdom (UK) was during that time a Member State and could not declare its obligations null and void just on the basis of the referendum. Equally, as long as there was no clarity of the future relations, there was an immense uncertainty on the practical implications of Brexit.

The situation was not improved when the prime minister called new elections and the government lost its majority. From that point on the government had to struggle to keep the government party and the supporting party united behind a deal to be made with the European Union (EU). And the situation was not improved when the prime minister brought a deal that was once rejected time and again to the parliament with some modifications.

The (prospect of) change of government and (of) the new negotiations

During the period when the government tried to get support from the parliament, very specific dynamics emerged. The opposition and the opponents in the government party were not debating the substance of the agreements. Instead, they declared themselves to be more competent and capable to negotiate a better deal. So, whatever was put on the table by the government was bound to be rejected. Time passed by and the risk of a chaotic No-Deal Brexit was becoming a real threat.

The (prospect of) elections and (of) the final decisions under time constraints

Then, after the unsuccessful prime minister had stepped down, a new phase started with negotiations and playing poker with procedural questions. The parliament wanted to prevent a No-Deal Brexit by legislation. The government wanted to extend the autumn break of the parliament. And it was difficult to reach a fair agreement on the timing of new elections. Finally, the elections took place and the government got a clear majority. And the decisions were made within the time frame to reach a basic agreement on the general terms of Brexit.

What comes next?

Now, after the departure of the UK from the EU has been confirmed, there is a transition period. During this period UK is a third country vis-à-vis the EU and its partner countries with framework agreements (such as Norway or Switzerland). The new relations have to be negotiated. And these negotiations will not be easy. From the UK side we hear expectations that the EU should give up its basic principles for common market (that it has created as a union) just because the UK (now as an outsider) doesn’t want to comply with them. And – given the history of Brexit negotiations so far – there is not much time to reach and agreement.

So, time will tell what comes out of these negotiations. I do not want to speculate on the result. It is better to wait and see with patience what negotiators can work out. For the moment I want to leave this theme for the future. I hope that those who want to continue good cooperation between EU and UK will find their ways forward.

More blogs to come … (but preferably on other topics)

PS1. Disclaimer: These are merely thoughts of the author – an observer from the European continent. Pontydysgu as an organisation is not responsible for the views presented above.

PS2. What could be a better musical theme for leaving this topic for a while than Auld Lang Syne as it was sung by the Members of the European Parliament together with the British MEPs leaving them?

Thoughts about Brexit – Part Two: The campaigning

February 2nd, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to spell out my thoughts about Brexit. As I said, I didn’t really want to take up this theme on my blog. And, moreover, I didn’t have the least intention to present myself as a historian or as a political analyst. What I have written in my first post about the pre-history of Brexit is mainly based on what I have learned from German media. Now, when we get to discuss the campaigning before and after the referendum 2016, I am able to bring into picture my own observations of the time when I visited UK twice during our project meetings. So, I was there and following the British media as well as the German media. And I had several conversations with our UK colleagues. Below I try to sort out my impressions of that time.

The dynamics of the campaigning

A specific feature of the campaigning was that the two leading parties were divided between those who wanted to remain in the EU and those who wanted to leave. The party leaders wanted to avoid splits in their parties and left it to the opinion leaders of the fractions to lead the campaigns. They themselves kept a low profile. Thus, their position vis-à-vis the achievements and benefits of the EU membership was ambiguous. Later on a resigning British Member of the European Parliament formulated it in this way: “They did not take ownership of what had been achieved with common European policies and never explained this to their voters.”

Instead of political parties taking the major role in the campaigning, specific campaign organisations were built and self-appointed opinion leaders stepped up to lead the debates. In this way the political debate around the referendum was decoupled from substantial issues – of the benefits and limitations due to the membership vs. on the consequences of leaving the membership. Instead, the campaigns became image campaigns.

The atmosphere during the campaigning

In the light of the above the debates during the campaign became very heated. The Leave campaign was successful in promoting the idea that the Brexit is mainly about ‘getting control back’ and getting rid of financial obligations to Brussels. The slogan that was painted on the campaign bus told that the money that was paid for membership fees could be invested into the National Health Services. The importance of the EU support for the agriculture and for the regional development in the UK was plaid down. The issues on getting back customs between the UK and the outer borders were not the lead issues.

Altogether, the atmosphere during the campaigning got polarised and heated. The worst incidence was the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox at a market place when she was campaigning for remaining in the EU. She had been a moral instance in the Remain campaign and spoken for decisions to be made on the basis of valid arguments. She was stabbed by a fanatic who called her as a ‘traitor’. The funeral of Jo Cox and the memorial service that was sent by BBC was a touching moment – but the voters had made up their minds.

Facts, myths and manipulation

Afterwards the campaigns – in particular the Leave campaign – have been analysed from many perspectives. It appeared that blunt lies could be told and repeated without fear of being caught. All fact-checks were late and had no impact. People tended to believe the arguments that addressed their interests and wishes. Also, the campaign organisations could use big data for targeted messages. Furthermore, during the campaigning period fake profiles in social media were used to multiply the impact of some messages. I don’t want to go into details but this was part of the picture.

The impact on the political parties

Since the main parties were divided when preparing for the referendum, the result was no relief. The prime minister who had promised the referendum had to resign and the Conservative party had to choose a new leader. However, the situation was not easier in the Labour party. Both major parties had to cope with the fact that their supporters were divided on the Brexit issue and that there were vehement supporters of the Leave campaign and of the Remain campaign among the MPs. Furthermore, whilst the result of the referendum gave a clear message that majority wants to leave the EU, it was not clear on what terms. At this point it was symptomatic that opinion leaders of the Leave campaign stepped aside and gave the floor to others.

So, the debate seemed to be have been concluded. The hard work for preparing the terms of departure and making the decisions started. Thoughts on that period will be presented in a further post.

More blogs to come …

PS1. Disclaimer: These are merely thoughts of the author – an observer from the European continent. Pontydysgu as an organisation is not responsible for the views presented above.

PS2. What could be a better musical theme for reflections on this period than “Let it be“?

 

Thoughts about Brexit – Part One: The difficult pre-history

February 1st, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

I thought that I could just have a good night sleep and then go on with everyday life. I didn’t want to take up this theme on my blog. But apparently my thoughts are still caught with the departure of the United Kingdom from the membership of the European Union – Brexit, as we have known this for years. Now that this has happened I need to put down some thoughts and then try to leave this topic with some lessons learned. I do not claim to be a historian or a political analyst – by no means. I have just been an observer – most of the time from afar but every now and then from a closer distance. So, there are observations based on European media and some personal memories mixed in the thoughts that I am writing below. It seems that I need to write a couple posts. Let us start with the pre-history, then to the campaigning and then to the negotiations and decision-making processes after the referendum of the year 2016 until the final departure.

The difficult process of becoming a Member State

Looking back, the process of becoming a Member State was not that simple and pleasant for the United Kingdom (UK). In the initial phase – as I have recently learned it from media – the six founding members tried to get the UK into the club. Due to the illnesses of the crucial government members the decisions were postponed and the membership as well.The six founding members formed the European Economic Community (EEC) and the UK joined a parallel organisation – the European Free Trade Area (EFTA).

Then, later on, when the UK government was willing to join the EEC, the membership was blocked by the French president Charles de Gaulle. Only after de Gaulle had stepped down, the French government was ready to accept the membership of the UK. This was already a bad omen – the UK had to prove that it qualified for membership. This was reflected in the fact that shortly afterwards a new government organised a referendum whether to go on with the membership. The majority voted for remaining.

The bargaining for British opt-outs and discounts

These tensions became part of the everyday life in the British EU membership. The governments were reserved about deeper integration of the Community into a Union. The processes that paved the way for deeper integration and introduction of new fields of common European policies were not easy. For European observers this phase of the British membership appeared as constant bargaining for British opt-outs or discounts. The famous quote of the (then) prime minister was: “I want my money back.” To be sure, changes in the British government brought also changes in the climate of European participation. Yet, due to many opt-outs there was a clear distance that prevailed.

The road to the 2016 referendum

In the light of the above it is no surprise that – in spite of the governments’ commitments to European cooperation – it was easy to blame the EU as a scapegoat or as the source of all evil. In the media and later on in the social media such reporting flourished. In both major parties there were euro-sceptic fractions and a new political party started campaigning for the departure from the EU membership. The hard years of economic and financial crisis – and in particular the hard measures to prevent state bankruptcy in some of weaker countries of the euro-zone – nurtured increasingly sceptical views on the European Union. At this point the government party leader made a promise to organise a referendum on the membership if the party wins the elections. The calculation was that with the new majority government the prime minister is powerful enough to negotiate new concessions with the EU and then have a strong position when organising the referendum. As we know, the history took a different course. But that is to be discussed in the next post.

More blogs to come … 

PS1. Disclaimer: These are merely thoughts of the author – an observer from the European continent. Pontydysgu as an organisation is not responsible for the views presented above.

PS2. What could be a better musical theme for reflecting this pre-history than “The Long and Winding Road“?

 

Learning Toolbox going strong to the year 2020

January 29th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

 

Starting the new year with many changes and new challenges

January 26th, 2020 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yes, the new year 2020 has started already some weeks ago – I hope you all have had a good start of the year.

For me this year will be different from all of what I have experienced so far. I have returned to Bremen as has been the case for so many years before. So far I have always started working further from what I had left behind when going on the holiday break. This time it is not the case.

Concerning my employment status, I am waiting for the decision that settles my terms of retirement starting from the 1st of January 2020. Once I have got the related paperwork settled I will leave Bremen and move back to Finland. However, there are several matters of private nature that keep me moving around before I settle back to the home grounds.

In addition to the above I still have a minor contract for finishing the final duties with the EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. This contract will come to end at the end of August this year. However, as I have already delivered my reports for the project, I have a limited number of duties to take care of. So, I am preparing myself to go on retirement via a transitional period. I will be around in Bremen in the beginning of the year and then return for some working periods.

Concerning this blog, I will not be writing that frequently as I have used to. I am no longer in the middle of an active project that keeps me busy with working issues and with lessons learned. Right now I need to give more attention to all kinds of practicalities that need not be discussed on the blog. But, every now and then I will come up with some new issues or with memories. There is still time to reflect on working and learning.

More blogs to come …  (every now and then)

Work based learning

January 24th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

“Will US universities be made redundant by the employability agenda?’, asks the Times Higher Education. It is a bit of a curious article. THE says that student debt and doubts by companies that college graduates are “job-ready” is leading to “increasing numbers of companies are taking the training of their workers in-house.”

Companies provide classroom and on-the-job training, ‘students’ get paid. But this just seems to be an apprenticeship to me, albeit an unregulated version. And in most European countries higher level (i.e. degree equivalent) apprenticeships are fast growing – Spain and the UK being two examples. In Germany there is also a growing tendency for young people to undertake an apprenticeship before or after going to university.

It should be noted that in none of the European countries has apprenticeship  led to universities becoming redundant.  however there are problems with the so called “employability agenda”. Is the definition of ’employability’ a broad curriculum designed to equip people for employment in the future or is it a narrow training programme to slot workers into the role requirerd by the company who has hired them. In European countries, wider social partners are involved in the planning and regulations of apprenticeship programmes, in order to ensure that a broader curriculum is followed. Indeed, repeated studies have pointed to the short termism of companies when designing their own training programmes.

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

December 15th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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