Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Three: Insights into special areas of learning

May 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET). In my two previous posts I have summarised some of the pedagogic points raised by the trainers and their general views on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for apprentice training. With this third post I want to draw attention to the role of LTB as support for two special areas of learning. Here I am reporting directly from an interview with an expert partner in health and safety and in supporting language learning on foreign apprentices. Here it is worthwhile to note that in both areas the use of LTB was started at the end of Learning Layers (LL) project and the trainers of Bau-ABC have been developing their own solutions.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support training in health and safety

Concerning the area of health and safety, trainers from different trades worked as an informal working group. This effort supported the creation of a coherent LTB stack and helped the trainers to prepare their domain-specific instructions in a coherent way. Now, that the trainers and apprentices in all trades are using LTB, it makes the health and safety material present in a new way – it is no longer info sheets in a folder. The LTB can be accessed by trainers and by apprentices at any time. This has helped to make the training in health and safety more creative and situation-adjusted – as lived practice.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support foreign apprentices’ language learning

The LTB-stack to support Spanish apprentices in learning occupational vocabulary has been created together with trainers and an external language teacher. It has been enriched with quiz tasks that have made the learning more exciting. Also, this stack has included health and safety terminology. The stack has been helpful in preparing the apprentices for their tests and it will be developed and updated regularly. The usability has been greatly enhanced by the fact that Spanish is provided by LTB as an optional language.

I think this is enough of these examples. Altogether these interviews have given me a good feeling that the main result of our joint LL project – the Learning Toolbox – has been used actively. Moreover, it has become clear that the LTB has not been whatever digital tool among others. Instead, in the context of vocational learning it has proven to be a strategic toolset to promote digital competences and to enhance vocational learning. But we need to work further with these themes.

More blogs to come …

Remembering Juhani Kirjonen and our cooperation – Jussin muistolle

November 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday morning I got from Finland the sad news that my former boss, professor Juhani Kirjonen – Jussi, as we used call him – had passed away. It so happened that his life span came to end just one month before Finland celebrates the 100th anniversary of its independence. To me, there is another striking coincidence with the news of Jussi. At the end of October I had just written out my memories of the period that I had worked together with Jussi at the University of Tampere in the years 1986-1987.

At that time Jussi took the initiative to develop a post-graduate Master programme with focus on ‘Work Sciences’ (interdisciplinary consortium for research on working life). This was an interesting pilot initiative to engage researchers into cooperation with practitioners – HRD professionals, Health and Safety professionals, Training professionals. The aim was to get the participants shape developmental projects with conceptual and methodological support. Jussi, who had a long track record in interdisciplinary research on health and safety issues in working life, was convinced that the time was ripe for such a novelty – at that time there were hardly any postgraduate Master programmes in Finland (except the worldwide spread MBA programmes).

Jussi had got funding for a planning project from the Ministry of Education and the rector of the University of Tampere had set up an interdisciplinary planning committee consisting of researchers from different faculties and of external experts from the competent bodies for Health and Safety. In the year 1986, just after graduating as an MA from educational and social sciences, I started as the curriculum planner for this initiative. That period – one and a half year – was quite an adventure for both of us. We didn’t take this just as a ‘local’ curriculum initiative but as an intellectual mobilisation to get a better institutional backing for research on working life. From this point of view I was exploring also international models and made a lot of use of the German innovation programme “Humanisation of Work” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Also I provided information on the German debates on integrative approaches to ‘work sciences’ (Fürstenberg: Konzeption integrativer Arbeitswissenschaft) and on the efforts to bring conflicting views from ergonomy vs. work psychology together. This work with literature was important for my further career development.

Alongside the planning work Jussi and I had several contacts with other interested researchers and with Social Partners. Also, after we had submitted the final report, we got involved in the discussion on launching a special research unit for research on working life. In that phase the initiative to set up a postgraduate Master programme got sidelined. Instead, the idea of a new interdisciplinary “Work Research Centre” got wide support and a this new centre was set up in record time bypassing all other earlier priorities of the university. However, in this final phase other researchers got the lead and Jussi retreated and took other duties. For me the new centre provided new opportunities to work in the research field “education and working life” and to create new international contacts – firstly in the joint initiatives of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) and then with German research institutes – in particular with ITB. And this then brought me deeper to European cooperation in the field of vocational education end training (VET). And from 1994 on I worked several years in Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training).

– – –

Looking back, I could not have dreamed of making such career steps without the pioneering work with the curriculum planning initiative with Jussi. Also, during that period I enjoyed his strong support. Surely – there were also periods when we were not quite on the same page. But, what was more important, we got over those periods and we were happy to conclude our work with a good spirit. And, although the launch of the Work Research Centre was not a direct follow-up of our initiative, something of the good spirit was taken over during the ‘golden’ pioneering years. Therefore, I feel the loss of my former supervisor, but at the same time I am thankful for having experienced that interesting period of work with him.

Jussin muistoa kunnioittaen

 

New stacks for new users of the Learning Toolbox – Two cases in Bau-ABC

June 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blogs I have reported on the pilot activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the intermediate training centre for construction sector Bau-ABC. Therefore, I have focused on the intermediate part of apprentice training (between learning in the companies and in vocational schools) carried out in the training halls and outdoor training areas of Bau-ABC. In this post I focus on efforts to open up the use of the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) for other users. This was the aim of our teamwork in Bau-ABC this morning. Below I report on the creation of new stacks for LTB that take explicitly into account wider range of users than the current groups of apprentices.

Stack to promote awareness on Health and Safety in construction sector

Already in February  we had our first talks with the Health and Safety specialist (Sicherheitsfachkraft) of Bau-ABC, Thomas Weerts, on the prospect of using LTB for thus special area (see my blog of the 22nd of February). Already at that time we gathered several ideas, how to make essential reference materials and practical tools accessible for users with the help of the functionality of LTB. Now we had found time to put these ideas into practice.

Firstly, we considered it important that this stack should not be exclusively for trainers and apprentices in Bau-ABC. Therefore, we named it as ‘Health and Safety in construction sector’ (Arbeitssicherheit in construction sector).  Thus, it should also be relevant for  in-company trainers (betriebliche Ausbilder) and shop stewards for health and safety (Sicherheitsbeauftragten).

Secondly, the first collection of materials provides links to web-based reference materials of Berufsgenossenschaften (public trade-specific bodies for hazard prevention and social insurance in industry and crafts & trades). In addition, this collection provides links to their mobile apps and to compendia that are available as CD-ROMs in companies and training centres.

Thirdly, another collection provides links to tools with which individual users assess health and safety risks in the context of work tasks (Gefährdungsbeurteilung). In apprentice training this is a mandatory task and it is supported by special worksheets provided by the respective Berufsgenossenschaften. (In the near future these will probably be transformed into mobile apps – which could then pave wider use for such tools beyond the initial training.)

The points above can be summarised quickly. Yet, it requires a special effort to decide, what kind or resources can be made available with different tiles and how to support the work of users with such resources. At the moment we stopped after having produced the welcome message and two collection tiles with the above mentioned resources. Thomas had made a good start and was prepared to continue with the next steps that would bring more interactivity into picture. Here, the prior work with trade-specific stacks (e.g. for carpenters, bricklayers and well-builders) could give some clues, how to integrate special tools and apps to this theme.

Stack to support learning and social integration of apprentices from foreign countries

Parallel to the work with the above mentioned stack Melanie Campbell was preparing a stack for a European mobility scheme. Bau-ABC is coordinating for the North-German construction industries and craft trades the Mobi Pro EU project that promotes mobility of trainees and apprentices from South-European countries – mainly from Spain – to get trained in German companies within the dual system. The first cohort of apprentices has already spent over a year and a new one is coming in a short while. As the experience has shown, the newcomers face many open questions and challenges – not only in their working and learning processes but even more regarding their socio-cultural integration and well-being. Here, the functionality of LTB could provide an easier access to information – but also communication channels between the apprentices and their peers of earlier cohorts.

With these thoughts coming up in our discussion Melanie started to give shape to the stack of the Mobi Pro EU project. After the welcoming message she started to prepare placeholder tiles for different kinds of information resources (general, domain-specific and local) to be accessed and for communication channels to be provided (different groups and chat channels). At the moment the format is still in the process of making, but it provides a possibility for involving different parties in further steps of the design process.

– – –

I end my report here – at the point when we ended our joint session. Both Melanie and Thomas will work further with these stacks and involve other colleagues as well. I am looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

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