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)

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) …

Getting back to normal business …

March 26th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

The start of this year has been far from normal to me. At the end of January I had a complete computer crash. It took quite some time to get it repaired. I was working with a replacement computer (not with the same operating system, not with the same permissions to access Internet, not having my usual entries to password-protected websites, not with the usual e-mail program etc. etc.).

And when I got my repaired computer back, I had quite an effort catch up with the pending work. No time for blogging, not so easy to share thoughts via blogs, when the clock is ticking.

Now I hope that I have got myself over the worst. So, I will try to start using the blog as I have been using it during several years. I will share thoughts on the projects in/with which I am working. And I will put ‘work in progress’ into discussion. Final reports are matters of their own, discussion documents are there to be discussed.

And perhaps I will have a moment or two to look beyond the immediate contexts of work. After all – there is life outside the projects. And – to keep oneself fit for working and learning, you have to have capacity for life as a wider context of learning.

More blogs to come …

Historical Anniversaries 2018 – Part Two: Remembering the Finnish Civil War in 1918

January 28th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started blogging on historical anniversaries related to the date 27th of January. My first blog focused on remembering the victims of holocaust. In Germany the date of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau (27.1.1945) is the Day of Remembering of the Victims of the Nazi Regime (Gedenkstag der Opfer des NS-Regimes). With this post I discussed the importance of such remembering in the present times when antisemitism, xenophobia and racism tend to creep forward in the social media and in the everyday language. In this respect I brought forward contributions of German media with emphasis on learning lessons from the dark times. In a similar way I would like to deal with the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Finnish civil war (27.1.1918).

The Finnish civil war – what was it all about?

Last year and the year before I was pleased to blog on the special year in the Finnish history – the preparations for the 100th anniversary of the Finnish Independence Day – the day when the Finnish parliament approved the Independence Declaration. Shortly afterwards the independence was recognised by the revolutionary government of Russia, led by the Bolsheviks and V.I. Lenin. This was celebrated by all political groupings in Finland. BUT the political and social life was in turmoil and the conflicts escalated into a civil war.

Nowadays the studies in the Finnish history, complemented by investigative journalism, have provided much information on the developments that led to the national tragedy. Paradoxically, Finland had profited of the presence of Russian soldiers and navy during the World War I (whilst Finnish people were not recruited to the Russian army). The fortifying works and the supply of army had provided income and employment for Finnish people. When Russia collapsed in military and economic terms, this was a heavy blow to the Finnish economy – and suddenly the condition of working people became worse. At the same time the police forces (maintained by the Russian government) were abolished and this caused immense problems. As a consequence, both the bourgeois parties and the labour movement started to create their own guards – which then started to live a life of their own. Also, with the common goal – to gain independence – there were controversies between the political parties: Who is really promoting it and who is collaborating with the Russian elite?

In January 1918 the bourgeois-led Finnish government declared the ‘white guard’ as the government troops and ordered the disarmament of the remaining Russian troops and of the ‘red guard’. At the same time the government left Helsinki and reassembled in the city of Vaasa. The disarmament order  led to fighting and to the decision of the red guard of Helsinki to start an armed resistance. This was followed at different parts of the country – but soon it became clear that the red guards dominated mainly the southern (and more industrialised) parts of Finland whilst the white guards dominated the central and northern areas. In March and April the white guards with better military leadership and better resources got the upper hand. In the crucial battle of Tampere the military strength of the red guard collapsed. And the subsequent invasion of German troops to the Helsinki area strengthened the final offensives of the white guard.

As usual, transition from civil war to peace and to normality is not an easy process. And in Finland in the year 1918 this transition was far from peaceful. Already during the civil war there had been numerous atrocities in different parts of the country. Now, after the military victory, the revenge was merciless. Mass executions, catastrophic circumstances at prisoner camps and an atmosphere of mistrust and discrimination overshadowed the whole year. However, the fact that Germany lost the World War I, gave rise to changes in government and brought up more reconciliatory tendencies into government policies. Yet, the wounds were deep and it took long to heal them.

Coming into terms with the experiences of the civil war – how has that happened?

In the light of the above it is understandable that the political climate remained very polarised through decades. From 1939 to 1945 the involvement of Finland in the World War II put the defence of the independence and the survival struggle of the Finnish people on top of everything else. In the post-war reconstruction there were tendencies towards consensus and towards polarisation. However, the recovery of the damages and the resettlement of a large population evacuated from the areas that were lost to Soviet Union – all this had the priority.

Once the reconstruction got further, there was firstly a need to deal with the more recent experiences of the World War II. On the one hand this happened via ‘war stories’, in which the bravery of Finns was celebrated. But on the other hand another kind of reflective literature emerged – something similar to Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ or to Hemingway’s ‘To whom the bells toll‘. The leading author of this wave was Väinö Linna with his taboo-breaking novel “Tuntematon sotilas” (The unknown soldier), published in 1954. As Linna himself said, he wanted to value the Finnish soldiers and their survival struggle but not the war itself. And as a result, there was a highly controversial debate, whether he did justice to his country and the struggle. At the end, he gained huge popularity and the film, based on his novel, is nowadays part of the national identity of the post-war Finland.

After this experience the country was ready to deal with the older wounds. And again it was Väinö Linna, who opened the discussion with his novel trilogy “Täällä Pohjantähden alla” (Under the North Star) in the 1960s. In this trilogy he reconstructs the Finnish history before the independence, the critical years of the independence movement and of the civil war, the tensed period of the 1920s an 1930s, the years of World War II and of the post-war recovery. The venue is the rural village of Pentinkulma that serves as the focal point for presenting what happened and what the local people thought of it. Given the success of his previous novel, Linna  presented a new perspective to the civil war and to the years after. With the help of his trilogy – and the films based on it – the new generations learned to overcome the ‘white’ and the ‘red’ myths of the civil war. It became apparent that it was not a war between ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ but both sides had blood in their hands. And it became apparent that the years after the civil war kept the suspicion and tension alive. In the long run, the nation learned to leave the hatred behind – although not much was done to find the truth and to ease the reconciliation.

What has happened later on – until the current anniversary?

In the decades after the 1960s the Finnish economy became prosperous, the Finnish society was adopting a variant of a welfare state -policy and the political life was overcoming polarisations. Thus, the antagonisms of the 1918 were now longer lived as a part of the actual political culture. Yet, it was only in the 1990s and after the year 2000 when professional historians took major efforts to clarify in depth, what all happened in the year 1918. More detailed studies were published on different aspects of the civil war and a comprehensive database was gathered on the victims – included the ones killed in action, by atrocities, by executions, by starvation or diseases in the prison camps.

Moreover, this also brought into picture new kinds of novels that researched the fates of particular personalities or – in a bigger picture – the role of women during the national tragedy. And this gave rise to theatre pieces that presented these aspects in different parts of Finland. Finally, with the help of the Finnish broadcasting corporation YLE, a new campaign for collecting memories of the tragic years – either those of eye witnesses or those of their children – has led to a richer picture of the dark period.

On top of this, the 100th anniversary (of the beginning of the civil war) coincided with the presidential election in Finland. It was remarkable to see that the candidates of different parties could discuss the tragedy of the past in an open way – and it appeared that the relatives of the candidates had been on different sides. Yet, in the present date Finland this didn’t trigger attempts to replay the old antagonisms. Instead, the discussion took the course towards learning the lessons from the difficult past. The conflicts of interest and different world views should never bring the people to such a situation again.

I guess this is enough of these historical anniversaries. I will now return to my usual themes.

More blogs to come …

 

Historical Anniversaries 2018 – Part One: Remembering the Victims of Holocaust

January 28th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I am writing on this blog about my work as researcher in vocational education and training (VET) and on learning experiences while working with practitioners in VET. However, as we all know, researchers and educators are not working in a societal vacuum. Therefore, issues of social awareness and social responsibility are always there to be considered and discussed. And historical anniversaries trigger such discussions in the media and in public debate. Yesterday, two historical anniversaries were ‘celebrated’ with such discussions – one at the international level and another one in my home country Finland. I will start with the Day for Remembering the Victims of Holocaust and the Nazi Regimes.

What does the the Day for Remembering (Gedenktag) stand for?

As an expatriate Finn living in Germany I have got used to the German culture of remembering the atrocities of the Nazi regime and showing solidarity to the victims. Many TV-channels show documentary films that give insights into the dark history and into the role of different societal actors who were involved. One of the peak points has been the 27th of January – the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – the very place where the industrialisation of genocide and mass murders was brought to perfection.

Indeed, years and decades have passed from those dark days. Therefore, some people may think that one could leave that sad past behind. Some people may think that one could take a different view on the German military past – as if it were something separate from the genocide and mass murders of civilians of that time. And furthermore, migrants are coming to Germany from such areas in which the remembering of holocaust is not present.

This all has now been brought into discussion – once again – by the news updates and commentaries on the Day of Remembering. Below I have selected some examples that emphasise, how and why we need to keep the culture of remembering alive and ready to respond to whatever challenges.

The Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau as an advocate for the cause of the victims (also in the Internet)

My first example is the report of the leading German TV-channel ARD on the different activities of the Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. Whilst the museum emphasises the importance making your own impressions there, on site, they also keep an eye on the discussions in the media and Internet. And, when they see something inappropriate (from the perspective of the victims), the intervene. Read more from the report:

Auschwitz-Museum in sozialen MedienAnwalt der Opfer im Netz

Insights into historical facts as means to challenge the present-date antisemitism

The reason why I emphasise the active engagement of the museum in Auschwitz is the worrying tendency in Germany and elsewhere towards antisemitic violence and hatred vis-à-vis Jewish people. To some extent this is connected to the right-wing populist movement in Germany but to some extent also to migration from the Middle East or from Eastern Europe. Here it is not my intention to make false generalisations. Instead, I want to emphasise the importance of a culture of remembering and solidarity for the victims. To me the following contributions of the radio channel Deutschlandfunk bring this to the point:

Letzte Briefe von NS-Opfern vor dem Tod (Last letters from the victims of Nazis)

This report informs of an exhibition of the last letters of holocaust-victims to their relatives. It makes transparent the human beings and human lives that suddenly became victims of a brutal terror regime.

“Hass bekämpft man durch Bildung” (We have to fight against hatred with means of education)

This is an interview with the leading Jewish rabbi in Paris. He reflects on newer tendencies towards antisemitism, xenophobia and racism in Europe. But he also emphasises the achievements of intercultural education in promoting solidarity and understanding between people with different cultural backgrounds.

I think this is enough of this historical anniversary. To me it is important that the message of remembering and understanding is passed forward. As the Prime Minister of the German Federal State Thüringen, Bodo Ramelow has formulated it: “Never again means never again!” The lessons from the history have to be learned.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

The end of the Obama era – the great Obama moments

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I wrote from a personal point of view on the coming of a new era. But, of course from a global point of view I have a stronger reason to use the expression ‘change of era’ when referring to the end of the Obama presidency in the USA. It is not my habit to comment the politics of other countries on my blog. Therefore, I will not make comments on Obama’s successor and what to expect of his presidency. What I want to do at this point is to celebrate the outgoing statesman and the special Obama moments during his years of service as the president. Much of this has been written and will be written elsewhere. So I limit my remarks to personal experiences and to observations on recent events.

Barack Obama gets elected and re-elected

Strangely enough, I find it difficult to retrieve my memories from the time when Obama was elected for the first time in 2008. Somehow there were too many things going on that I didn’t quite pick the momentum. Of course, Obama had impressed me with the “Yes we can” but yet I was waiting for him and his popular movement to show where this enthusiasm brings him and his administration. Yet, I do remember the politically correct gesture of the good loser, senator McCain when he announced that he had had the honour to congratulate Obama as the next president. (And already at that time the republicans showed that they are poor losers by greeting McCain with angry boo-shouts.)

Far more strongly I experienced the re-election of Obama in 2012. I was on other duties in Berlin and then continuing from there to Barcelona to attend the Learning Layers kick-off meeting. The elections in the USA took place on the very night that I spent in a hotel in Berlin before my morning flight to Barcelona. At this time there was much at stake and the result of the elections was not clear before the critical day. So, I just couldn’t get sleep and turned the TV on to follow the program of the German TV-channel ZDF. So the night passed, there were moments that I was nodding away and then getting wake. The race was tight and at the end there were the famous ‘swing states’ of which one was never so sure which side takes the votes.

And then – in between – came the announcement of the moderator Christian Sievers: “And the next president of the USA is – Barack Obama!” Indeed, Obama had won in Ohio and that already ensured the result. Then, with similar results from the remaining states the victory of Obama was clear. And I felt so relieved. At the airport I met some older American tourists who were heading to Barcelona. They were very disappointed and made it clear. I didn’t feel a temptation to enter a debate with them – after all, it was up to the US citizens to elect their president.

The farewell speech of Barack Obama – spelling out his legacy

Then time passed – and I had my attention mainly on the project work with the Learning Layers – and before long there was the time for the next US elections. And now it was about the successor of Barack Obama. Well, the results was what it was – the citizens had spoken (popular vote) and the election system had spoken (the result in terms of electors). One may speculate just as much one can – but the result remains. The Obama presidency will come to an end with a hand-over to a completely different presidency.

At this moment I prefer to focus on the farewell speech of President Barack Obama and how he has explained his legacy to his voters and supporters . To my great pleasure I found that the report of the leading German TV channel ARD on this event provides a link to Obama’s speech in full length (and not dubbed into German). So, let us give our full attention to Barack Obama making clear what has been achieved during his presidency and how to face the challenges of the American democracy in the coming times:

Other kinds of Obama moments to be remembered

But when speaking of Obama moments to be remembered, it is not only about Barack Obama as the president that we are thinking. Clearly, Michelle Obama has made something special of here role as the First Lady – by staying with the ordinary people and keeping her feet on the ground. And that has been appreciated – she has given the people their own Obama moments. When a popular TV show invited people to express their thanks to the outgoing First Lady, there were many volunteers with deep thoughts and deep feelings. And the TV-program and Michelle Obama had their special way to return the compliments to them. Let us enjoy these Obama moments as well:

Michelle Obama Surprises People Recording Goodbye Messages to Her.

I think this is enough of the Obama moments to be kept in memory. I will not continue with comments on American politics on my blog. But I am pleased to express my thankfulness and respect to the Obama couple now that they take the most important office in a democracy – that of a citizen.

More blogs to come … 

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Three: Themes raised by the teachers

July 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest blogs I started a series of posts to revisit the prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities in Germany and on the Politics Spring School 2011. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what kind of developments we have seen since then. In this third post I will have a look at the the themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project.

WikiLeaks, Netzpolitik and the NSA-affair

One of the vocational school teachers raised the issue ‘WikiLeaks’ as a new phenomenon in the international politices of those years. Although he couldn’t participate very intensively in the continuation of the project, he had drawn our attention to the new role of social media and new kinds of social networks in national and international politics. We firstly paid attention to the WikiLeaks network and its revelations. Then, we took note of the new role of social media and new kinds of protest movements in the revolutionary developments during the Arabic Spring. Finally, parallel to these developments, we took note of the new kinds of Netzpolitik networks that revealed plagiarism in the academic dissertations of some leading German polticians. At that time the abrupt fall of the popular conservative politician Guttenberg (then minister of defence) was the most striking case in which a politician had to resign because of plagiarism in dissertation.

Whilst these themes firstly seemed to refer to relatively separate phenomena, during the subsequent years they appeared to be more closer to each other and to concerns of ordinary citizens. Whilst the revelations on plagiarism had put the credibility of several politicians into question, a further episode around the WikiLeaks network had a major impact on the atmosphere of trust vs. mistrust on government policies. The whistleblower Edward Snowden (former agent of the NSA) had revealed to what extent NSA had got access to major servers and thus to private data. The most striking news was that of listening of the private phone of chancellor Angela Merkel by the NSA. All this raised the public interest in data privacy and concerns about data protection by national governments and major internet and telephone service providers.

Juniorvoting and participation of young people in elections

Another vocational school teacher was interested in the phenomenon ‘juniorvoting’ (Juniorenwahlen)  – an initiative to organise simulated elections in schools among youngsters who didn’t have the right to vote. Such events had been organised successfully before national elections in Germany during the recent years. In 2011 there was an increased interest to organise such preliminary voting arrangements for youngsters also before the regional parliaments. However, before the elections of the regional parliament in Bremen there was less interest to organise such simulated voting, because the voting age had already been brought to 16 years. Thus, the youngsters had become real voters. Therefore, the schools were less willing to arrange juniorvoting events. Nevertheless, the teacher had collected lot of information on the implementation of such events and their role as preliminary elections and presented this as input to Politics Spring School. Also, we could use this material for the German platform of the Politics project. Sadly enough, the lowering of voting age appeared to have little impact on the participation of young voters in the regional elections in Bremen 2011 and 2015.

Climate change as challenge for policy makers and individual citizens

The third vocational school teacher had engaged himself intensively with the theme ‘climate change’ and managed to make use of this theme in his teaching. Therefore, we could use primarily his material as a basis for the respective ‘learning pathway’ of the German platform. This material had awareness-raising exercises (with YouTube videos), basic information on international policy processes to control/prevent climate change (Kyoto protocol and Copenhagen conference) and tasks that brought climate change close to the vocational area of his apprentices and to their individual behaviour as consumers. The grande finale was the competition for the apprentices to calculate the CO2 footprint of their designed holiday trips. Based on this material the teacher also prepared an input for the Politics Spring School and to work with several other participants on this theme.

Looking back, the theme ‘climate change’ gained weight in the German politics and at the international level. In particular the fact that the Copenhagen conference couldn’t reach major results, gave pressure to the next international climate summit – in Paris 2015. This time the conference managed to reach an result – a binding document that replaced the Kyoto protocol. Now the international community had made commitments to keep the climate change in limits. And the ecologically oriented NGOs had points of reference for monitoring, whether the policy-makers keep their promises.

– – –

I think this is enough of the themes that were raised by the teachers and how we worked with them – and what kind of actuality these themes have had afterwards. As we felt it at that time, our German team worked separately from the other national teams with clearly different contents. However, during the Politics Spring School we could all bring some of our themes forward in the group work – young people’s participation, climate change and integration of migrants/intercultural understanding. (I will have a closer look at the last mentioned theme and how it was taken up in the Spring School and in the follow-up.) And it it is worthwhile to mention that the the two German teachers who participated in the Spring School have worked together to develop their teaching in the subject politics.

More blogs to come … 

 

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Two: Hot issues in 2011 and now

July 29th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog I started a series of posts to revisit the prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities in Germany and on the Politics Spring School 2011. In this second post I will have a look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what kind of developments we have seen since then. From this perspective I will have a look at the themes that we discussed in 2011 due to their centrality for German and international politics. Below I try to group some of the themes together.

Protest movements (on nuclear power and Stuttgart 2010) and elections of regional parliaments

During the Autumn and Winter months Germany experienced a series of protest movements with strong ecological message. Most prominently the German environmental activists were protesting against transports of nuclear waste to interim deposits that were not sufficiently secure. At the same time there was a strong ecologically motivated local movement to stop the project to replace the functioning overground railway station in Stuttgart with a new underground station. This rebuilding would require major construction work in the central park area (Schlosspark) of the city of Stuttgart. These protests were of importance because in 2011 Germany had several elections of regional parliaments – and it was not clear, what the outcome would be.

Concerning the project Stuttgart 2010, the conservative-led regional government of Baden-Württemberg tried to settle the conflict with a Round Table process led by an independent mediator (former conservative politician Heiner Geissler). The process was a special experience of democratic dialogue between decision-makers, the railway company DB and different representatives of citizens, including protest groups. Once the arguments had been collected, the conclusion was that the project has to be continued but the regional government and DB had to modify their plans to take into account certain ecological factors and safety issues. In addition, the Green party and the Social democrats agreed to arrange a referendum on this result.

Concerning the protests on nuclear power, they received a great echo due to the tsunami and meltdown at the Japanese nuclear plant Fukushima. This triggered a sudden political consensus to call for a moratorium in the operation of nuclear plants (until additional security checks are carried out) and to a gradual exit from nuclear power within a given time frame.

As a result, the conservative party (CDU) made losses in several elections but remained relatively strong. The majority in the state of Baden-Württemberg (around Stuttgart) shifted to the green-red coalition (Greens as major partner) whilst in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz the red-green coalition got the majority. Thus, there had been a clear movement in the political climate due to the protest movements. Five years after, the Green popularity in Baden-Württemberg had sustained but the Social democrats had heavy losses. Now, the new regional government was based on a green-black coalition.

Debates on multi-cultural society and the consequences of the ‘Arab Spring’

At the same time the German media was busy with debates on the sustainability of a multi-cultural society in Germany. The former civil servant and social democratic politician Thilo Sarrazin had published a book in with he stated that the Germans will become minority in their own country. He also claimed that ethnic minorities with Muslim religion are establishing isolated parallel societies with their own language, culture and justice (independently of the surrounding society and its laws). This ‘doomsday scenario’ was heavily debated in the press and in the TV talkshows. There was also much speculation, whether Sarrazin wants to create a new political party around these themes.

Shortly after the peak point of these debates a series of revolutions or revolutionary movements broke out in several Arab countries – old regimes collapsed in Tunisia and Egypt, whilst the tensions in Libya and Syria transformed into civil wars. In 2011 there was more optimism in the air but the post-revolutionary developments in these countries turned out to be harder than expected. In particular the civil war in Syria and the post-war chaos in Libya gave rise to instability and to the movement of greater masses of refugees to Europe.

In the year 2015 this movement (via Turkey and across the Mediterranean) reached such dimension that the coastal countries and the neighbouring countries gave up and let the masses proceed further North to their desired countries of destination – in particular to Germany. Whilst the first newcomers were often received by voluntary helpers who welcomed them, practical problems (in accommodating them) and cultural prejudices became soon apparent. And this situation gave rise to new political movements (Pegida, AFD) that were characterised by xenophoby and attempts to keep the refugees out. In this way the ‘domestic’ and international issues had come together and given new dimensions to debates on multi-cultural societies, integration of migrants and intercultural understanding.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these themes. It appears that many previously separate issues and processes have got woven together – in particular the previously ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ issues in the recent political climate.  Thus, the task ‘to learn about politics’ has become more complicated. (This can also be demonstrated  with the themes raised by the German vocational school teachers that I will discuss in my next post.)

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Learning Layers – Socio-technical fantasy and learning in everday life situations (Part 2)

April 17th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my introductory post I told how I was pushed to write a series of blog posts about the value of learning from everyday life situations in different work organisations (including our own ones). This was posed as a challenge for the research partners and technical partners of the Learning Layers (LL) project. After some hesitation I got the point and came to the motto “Socio-technical fantasy and learning in everyday life situations”. (I owe much to C. Wright Mills and to Oskar Negt.)

Here, I want to report of a strange story that we experienced when we here at ITB (Bremen) tried to complete some administrative duties for the LL project and for that purpose sent a letter quickly to CIMNE (Barcelona).  This is how the story went on:

1. Episode: We had to provide documents with  signatures of the authorised persons of the University of Bremen and to send them by post (not only as scanned copies) to CIMNE. We were among the first to obtain the signatures and were ready to send the letter long before the end of November. I was about to engage a courier service (DHL) but colleagues from our administration convinced my that DHL is only the other part of the German post and that a registered letter would be delivered just as quickly.

2. Episode: One week passes and another week has started and the letter has not arrived in CIMNE. Most of the other partners have sent their ones and we are in the rearguard. The web monitoring service of the German post only tells us that the letter has been delivered to a foreign partner. The website of the Spanish post could not inform of the adventure of the letter. So, since we got concerned, we sent an official inquiry to the German post (date 30.11.2012) to find out, what had happened to the letter. We received an automated answer that the German post will promptly examine, what has been the cause of the delay and inform us asap.

3. Episode: Immediately after sending the inquiry we received the good news that the letter had reached CIMNE and that the finalisation of main contract between European Commission and CIMNE could be completed immediately. So, the big problem was no longer there. Nevertheless, we wanted to keep the inquiry going on to find out what had happened (and to see how it will be explained to us).

4. Episode: Just before the Easter holidays we get an official letter from the German post (dated 18.3.2013)  informing that the letter has unfortunately not been delivered to the recipient (CIMNE). There is no explanation what might have happened. Instead, there is a helpful advice, what to do to get a compensation for eventual damage.

Concerning our theme, “learning from everyday life situations in work organisations” we can draw several lessons and locate them on different levels (or – if you insist –  layers):

a. Lessons learned by the individuals involved: We at ITB have drawn our own conclusions on the question, which means of delivery we can rely on in our international correspondence. We also noticed the limits of the web-based monitoring services.

b. Lessons learned at the level of ‘knowledge sharing’ in the organisation: At the moment this story is being shared as a joke that is being told to colleagues as a part of informal chatting. However, there is a far more important lesson that needs to be learned across the organisation. This time a threatening problem situation was avoided but one should be prepared.

c. Lessons learned at the level of ‘knowledge sharing’ in a wider international community: Looking at this story from a wider international perspective, it is again one of those stories of things that have gone (almost) wrong because of practicalities (like sending the letter securely). In some cases huge consortia have lost the chance to submit bids because letters of commitment have not reached the coordinators in due time. This raises a question, whether someone should create a knowledge sharing tool (“Erfahrungssammler”) to raise awareness of such problems and to give recommendations for appropriate practice.  …

I stop my story here before the fantasy carries us too far away from the realities of everyday life. Of course I have put a bit of exaggeration into  my last point. Indeed, it is easy to try to push others to examine their everyday life situations (with the hope that they find the episodes as stimulus for learning). It is a bit more difficult to get inspired of one’s own experiences with everyday life situations as described above. However, this is the motivational hurdle that the LL project and the partners try to overcome.

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

 

Learning Layers – What can we learn during on-site visits? (Part 1)

December 20th, 2012 by Pekka Kamarainen

My latest blog postings on Learning Layers focused on lessons to be learned from predecessor projects. We still need to follow that track. There is surely something to be discussed when we get statements from colleagues who have been involved (and taken the opportunity to think aloud about their learning gains).

However, now the current phase of the Learning Layers is pushing forward the on-site visits and the work with interview materials. At the moment we are just making the very first interviews and the editing of recordings and the detailed analyses are on the agenda in January 2013. Yet, already at this point it is worthwhile to consider, what we (as researchers) can learn during the on-site visits when talking to people who know their trade (and the issues  to be studied)  via their own practical experience.

Three members of the  ITB team visited earlier this week our Application Partner organisation “Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen” in Verden near Bremen. We didn’t have much time to look around at their exhibition areas or at their test sites. Yet, we got interesting insights into the wide area of  ‘ecological construction work’.  Here some points as starters while waiting for the analyses and the Application Partner Days (that provide an opportunity for more partners to make such on-site visits):

 1) Who are our counterparts and what do they represent: We were told that we would be having interviews with a student (doing his Praktikum at the Agentur) and with two architects. During the discussion we learned that they all seemed to have a background as skilled workers (and eventually as master craftsmen – Meister) in the construction sector before starting their studies. Thus, their learning histories and occupational careers combined practical work experience and academic studies.

2) What is “ecological construction work” about: Another issue to be considered was the diversity of approaches to ‘sustainability’ and ‘ecological construction work’. Some approaches emphasise sustainability without thinking that much on ecological impact of preparatory processes, logistic chains etc. Some approaches are very thoroughly committed to ecological materials and to construction tehniques with minor ecological consequences. These different positions may also have implications on the use and acceptance of mobile devices and ICT in general.

3) What is the relation between ‘competitiveness’ and ‘knowledge sharing’: Our counterparts gave us a colourful picture of constraints to share knowledge (and make the construction site work together) and to keeping one’s professional secrets to themselves. Both pressures are there – at the individual level and at the level of organisations. It was interesting to discuss, what kind of experiences and observations our counterparts had made about readiness to share knowledge (and with whom, in particular).

4) What works in knowledge transfer and what doesn’t: Each of our counterparts had made experiences of the use of different media to support knowledge transfer.  They drew our attention to personal trust and to social relations (how to get good communication work) above any ranking of possible (old or new media). Yet, they had interesting views on, what kind of media are OK for certain target groups and what might not be considered OK.

5) Cultural changes – readiness or resistance: The pioneers of ecological construction work had made a lot of experiences with changes in construction techniques – both regarding the resistance and regarding the readiness to accept new ideas once you had tried. This was also important for the discussion on usability of web tools and services.

I could go on with this list but prefer to stop here. As I said before, these were just first impressions and rather vague answers to the question, what we as researchers can learn during on-site visits.

The story will be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

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