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Productive project meeting in Athens – Part Two: Common themes and working perspectives between two TACCLE projects

In my previous post I reported on my participation as a guest in the project meeting of the TACCLE VET project. As I mentioned, this project focuses on  promoting digital competences in the field of vocational education and training (VET). The  parallel project TACCLE 4 CPD (in which I am working) is developing models of continuing professional development (CPD) for different educational sectors. My task is to analyse and develop CPD models that are appropriate for the field of VET. As I have reported in my previous post, we found a lot of common points of interest and working perspectives. In this post I will have a closer look at the common themes and working interfaces.

Critical interpretation of the European DigCompEdu framework

The proposal for the TACCLE VET project had given a major role for the DigCompEdu framework and stated that the project seeks to extend it to the field of VET. The policy analyses of the TACCLE 4 CPD provided a somewhat more critical interpretation of the DigCompEdu framework. During the discussion the following points were made:

  • In general we all appreciated the framework and its integrative approach to bring together teachers’/trainers’ professional competences, digital competences and pedagogic competences – in order to empower learners.
  • We also appreciated the approach to develop a progression model for promoting digital competences and to formulate proficiency statements for different competence areas and levels.
  • However, the framework tends to focus on educational subjects or academic disciplines and take the digital competences as add-on aspects for enriching pedagogy and subject-based learning. Moreover, the progression ladder tends to atomize the promotion of competences.
  • Concerning VET it is important to take into account developments in working life and in education/training to create an appropriate picture on the needs for promoting digital competences.
  • Concerning VET providers it is essential to focus on holistic solutions for promoting digital competences in specific occupational fields and at the level of the whole organisation.

Consequently, the idea of ‘extension’ of the framework required also critical interpretation and adaptation in the light of specific requirements and working perspectives for the field of VET. Yet, as mentioned in the previous post, the competence areas andthe  proficiency statements provide an essential basis for developing evaluation tools. Below I try to recapitulate my points that outline, how to proceed with such adaptation.

Digital transformation and digitization as challenges for VET

A major point to be considered in the field of VET is to observe the two parallel processes:

  • The ‘digital transformation’ has an impact across work organisations, production processes, supply networks and service networks. These macro-level developments provide challenges for the role of skilled workers and for the redistribution of working and learning opportunities.
  • The ‘digitization’ at the level of working and learning tasks has an impact on the prospects of vocational learners to respond and to contribute to the macro-processes that have been mentioned above. However, this varies in different occupational fields and in different education/training contexts.

Innovation paths for promoting digital competences in VET

The set innovation paths that I had outlined in my research paper for ECER 2019 – and then as an adapted version in my presentation for the Athens meeting – try to take the above-mentioned  processes and different VET domains into consideraration. Below I will summarise the paths and their key characteristics briefly:

  • The “CARO path” refers to use of digital learning spaces to support interactive learning in nursing education and across the whole curriculum. This path stands for ‘whole curriculum’ solutions and for sensitive learning contexts.
  • The “Learning Toolbox path” refers to use of an integrative digital toolset to support project-based training and learning in VET. This path stands for the introduction of flexible toolsets that promote transparency and awareness of structures learning processes.
  • The “innowas path” refers to introduction of specific digital tools or software solutions to enhance the learners’ awareness of their experiential learning and/or to make transparent the hitherto non-transparent work processes.
  • The “smart OER users’ path” refers to initiatives in the field of VET that combine the use of OER, related digital tools and open access materials in the shaping of creative learning environments.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, the innovation paths were taken into account when the TACCLE VET partners extended their list of possible learning scenarios and related OER solutions.

The Routemap document as a strategic tool

Finally, it is worthwhile to note that the Routemap tool (that is being developed in the TACCLE 4 CPD project) has shifted the emphasis from the digital competences of individual learners to the ICT capability across the organisation. Also, it has aggregated the set of competence level to fewer levels – initial, e-enabled, e-confident, e-mature. Furthermore, the tool has formulated organisational proficiency statements for the organisational planning – how to enhance the ICT capability – and for the related training measures – what level do we want to reach.

I think this is enough of the Athens meeting and on the ideas and further thoughts that we shared. Now it is time to work further to make the best out of both projects working together.

Productive project meeting in Athens – Part One: Impressions on the work of the TACCLE VET

Last week I had the chance to participate as a special guest in the project meeting of the TACCLE VET project. This neighbouring project focuses on the prospects for promoting digital competences in different domains of vocational education and training (VET). I am working in the parallel project TACCLE 4 CPD with the task to develop models of continuing professional development (CPD) for the field of VET.
At this phase of work we found it important to share knowledge with each other and find ways to work together (instead of duplicating each others’ work). So, I attended the two-day meeting in Athens to learn more of the work of the colleagues and to report of my interim results. We had a very productive meeting that merits to be covered with several blog posts. In this first post I give an overall impression on the work in the TACCLE VET meeting. Below, I give – from a guest perspective – a nutshell description of some of the themes that were discussed in the productive and creative meeting. (See below the picture that was taken at the end of the meeting.)

Project team in Athens

Interviews with practitioners in different VET domains

The project partners had already completed their interviews with VET practitioners in different domains. Jorge Lizandra presented the general picture in the light of the interview results. In this context it was important that the project focused on enhancing the digital competences in different aspects of teachers’ work – contexts, resources, pedagogy and assessment. Here, the partners paid attention to their common approach to visualising the results in such a way that different domains and country-specific VET cultures can be compared. Also, the partners paid attention to the fact that the use of digital tools in assessment was underdeveloped. In this context there was some discussion, how the proficiency statements of the DigCompEdu framework can be used as a basis for assessment tools. (This issue will be discussed also in the next post.)

My report on interim results in the TACCLE 4 CPD project

In my report on the neighbouring project TACCLE 4 CPD I informed of the policy analyses, on the research paper for the ECER 2019 project, on the emerging ‘Theme Room training” handbook and on the Routemap for planning the training of teachers and trainers. Concerning the policy analyses, we had some discussion on the DigCompEdu framework and its limits vis-à-vis the field of VET. Here, the concepts ‘digital transformation’ (in working life) and ‘digitization’ (in working and learning tasks) played a role. My report on the ECER 2019 conference contributions brought into picture a set of parallel innovation paths in promoting digital competences in VET. Concerning training of trainers, I reported on the piloting with the ‘Theme Room’ training model in the Learning Layers project (in the year 2015) and how this approach is being updated. Concerning the Routemap, I took up the sections for institutional planning of updating/upgrading digital competences and for shaping the corresponding training measures. These aspects were taken up several times when discussing the subsequent points of the agenda. (I will get back to some of these discussions in my next post.)

Plans to shape Learning scenarios, Open Educational Resources and Exemplars of Best Practice

When discussing the subsequent themes,the partners noticed that they can be linked to each other more closely that they had thought originally. The learning scenarios had firstly been thought as more generic and transversal themes. In the light of my presentation the partners concluded that the innovation paths should also provide a basis for scenarios.

In the next phase, the partners concluded that the scenarios can be used as anchor points for presenting a collection of Open Educational Resources (OER) and as Exemplars of good practice. From this point of view the partners drafted a list of potential scenarios – taking into account the interviews in different domains, the propsed transversal themes and the innovation paths that I had presented. (I will get back to some of these discussions in my next post.)

Training of teachers and trainers

Concerning the theme ‘training of teachers and trainers’ we concluded that the TACCLE VET partners have access to different patterns of teacher education, training of trainers and continuing professional development – including online training. From this perspective the partners can provide evaluative feedback. Concerning the TACCLE 4 CPD project, it will provide a ‘handbook’ for training with Theme Rooms and take into account the patterns studied by the TACCLE VET partners.

I guess this is enough on the key points and on my impressions on the meeting. The partners have produced more detailed minutes for their internal use. In my next post I will have a closer look at some of the themes and on the collaboration between the two projects in the next phase.

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Three: Glimpses to presentations of which I want to learn more

This blog post is the third one of a series with which I wrap up my experiences at the ECER 2019 conference that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. In the first post I focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network that is the European umbrella network for research in vocational education andt training (VET).  I also gave some background information on the role of VETNET and other networks in the ECER conferences.
In my second post I focused on the two sessions that discussed the parallel TACCLE project – TACCLE 4 CPD (in which I am working) and TACCLE VET (in which my colleagues are working). With this post I want to discuss briefly three presentations that were of immediate relevance for our work in the two TACCLE projects. Here I limit myself to some first impressions – I want to learn more of the work that has been done and/or is still going on.

The Paderborn-based project: Adopting apprentice training to digital transformation – the perspective of in-company training

The presentation of Bernd Gössling and Tina Emmler was in many respects one of the highlights of this conference. I had already become aware of the work of the research group of the University of Paderborn via the report “Berufsbildung 4.0” (Sloane et alia 2018). For me it had served as a rich resource in terms of conceptual work, empirical studies and conclusions for future-oriented innovation agendas. In particular the distinction between ‘digital transformation’ (technological and organisational changes towards networked production, marketing and service processes) and ‘digitization’ (introduction of digital tools into working, training and learning processes) was very helpful. Now the presentation of Gössling and Emmler provided a closer look into the empirical studies and findings. I do not want to summarise their results here – we need to discuss them more closely. Also, the reflections on the new roles of trainers that Emmler outlined (in terms of “vita activa”) were very inspiring and reminded me of our experiences with trainers working with the Learning Toolbox at the end of the Learning Layers project.

The Bremen-based project CARO: Digital cross-action spaces in interactive nursing education

Another highlight for me was the project CARO presented by Claudia Schepers from the University of Bremen. This interdisciplinary research & development project had shaped digital learning spaces to support interactive learning arenas in nursing education. Here we need to understand the delicate nature of learning in the context of real work and the necessity to support such work with simulations, videos and reflective learning. For me this case was particularly important since I had been looking at different innovation paths for introducing digital tools into vocational learning. To me, this project appeared as a paradigmatic case for introducing digital tools and digital spaces with a ‘whole curriculum’ approach. Furthermore, all my examples that I had used were referring to technical occupations. From this perspective a case from healthcare sector was most welcome.

The Aachen-based innowas project: Acceptance of a tutorial-creating authoring system for workplace learning in manual assembly

A third highlight for me was the Aachen-based innowas project presented by Marvin Goppold and Fabian Handl. Their project focused on the role of low-skilled or semi-skilled workers in manual assembly and their occupational perspectives in the context of digital transformation. The key point in the project was to capture the (informal) competences and (invisible) workplace-based learning and to make it visible via an authoring tool that generates individual tutorials. In this way the workers were better prepared to encounter changes that bring robotics into picture and to point out the limits of robotics. Here I do not want to go into details, I need to learn more.

As I am concerned, the innowas  project served to me as a paradigmatic case for an innovation path that uses digital tools to make visible the hitherto invisible and non-formal learning of semi-skilled workers. So far I had referred to a case of process industry, but the case of assembly work and the use of authoring tools is of particular interest.

I guess that this is enough of these sessions. As I have said above, I need to learn more of these projects to make appropriate use of their approaches, results and conclusions. There is more work to be done on this front.

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Two: Glimpses to sessions on the current TACCLE projects

With my previous blog I started a series of blog posts with which I try to wrap up my experiences with the ECER 2019 conference that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. In my first post I focused on the Opening session of the VETNET program at the conference. I also gave some background information on the VETNET network and its role in the umbrella organisation EERA and its contribution to the ECER conferences. This post focuses on the sessions that discussed the current TACCLE projects – the one in which I am working (TACCLE4 CPD) and the neighbouring project (TACCLE VET).

Presenting the TACCLE 4 CPD project at ECER

I have already blogged about my preparation for the ECER 2019 conference in an earlier post. Now it was the time to present the message that I had prepared and to link it to the discussions in the conference. As I had mentioned in the earlier blog, the title of the paper was “Strategies and Training Models for promoting Digital Competences in the field of Vocational Education and Training”. The paper and the presentation focused on our work in the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. This project was mainly based on earlier projects that worked with teachers and promoted their competences to use digital tools and web resources in teaching (the TACCLE1, TACCLE2 and TACCLE3 projects). Concerning the field of vocational education training, the Learning Layers project could be seen as a similar predecessor project. BUT now the challenge for the TACCLE4 CPD project was to develop models for continuing professional development (CPD) – to enable schools and training providers to shape their own training.

For me the main challenge was to link this approach to current developments in the field of VET – to digital transformation (in work processes and occupations) and to digitization (at the level of working and learning tasks). From this perspective I introduced four  parallel innovation paths regarding the focus on ‘whole curriculum’ solutions vs. introduction of particular approaches and new learning arrangements. As further illustration of my analyses and the resources I had used, I prepared an ePoster powered by the Learning Toolbox (see below).

PK_ECER-2019 ECER 2019 LTB-stack PK

During the conference I noted that some presenters introduced cases that also served as examples of the innovation paths that I had presented (see my next blog). Also, some presenters had done similar fieldwork on the role of trainers and had come to similar conclusions (see also my next blog). This was very rewarding and we were happy to share ideas. Here the fact that I had prepared the ePoster and that it could be accessed via mini-poster with QR-code (embedded into my presentation) and via direct link was very helpful.

Discussions on the neighbouring project TACCLE VET

In a further session my colleagues Graham Attwell (Pontydysgu), Fernando Marhuenda (University of Valencia) and Ludger Deitmer (ITB, University of Bremen) presented the work of the neighbouring project TACCLE VET.

Graham outlined a bigger picture of digital and ecological transformation in working life and possible implications for work, technology and occupations. He then continued to the work of UNESCO and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission to outline perspectives for promoting digital competences of educators. In particular he referred to the DigCompEdu framework of the JRC. Whilst these frameworks are in many respects helpful, they are very generic. From this point of view the project was doing fieldwork to get closer to the reality of vocational teachers and trainers.

Fernando continued by introducing the approach to fieldwork – the focus of different partners on their selected sectors and the mapping of interview partners’ digital competences. Based on the interviews the project is developing a framework that focuses on teachers’ competence areas – curriculum, pedagogy, resources and assessment. In this respect the project tries to develop a holistic and well-grounded view on promoting teachers’ digital competences.

Ludger gave specific insights into the challenges for promoting digital competences in the dual system of VET – with multiple learning venues (enterprise, school and intermediate training centre) and different actors. He illustrated this picture with results from a recent apprenticeship survey carried out by the trade union IG Metall in Bremen. This survey brought into picture gaps and shortcomings in teaching and training and a backlog in digitisation. As a contrast he then presented interim results from his interviews with vocational teachers and trainers who served as promoters of innovation in their organisations.

Here, in the discussion we could notice a complementary relation between the two TACCLE projects and their emphasis on innovation paths and addressing the competence areas of teachers and trainers. Also, when discussing the role of Open Educational Resources (OER) we noticed that a major need for training is related to copyright issues and to licensing. Whilst the tightened copyright rules are making teachers scary about using external resources, there is lack of knowledge on OER, different licenses and Open Access materials. From this perspective both TACCLE projects should address these issues.

I think this is enough of these sessions. In my next post I will discuss the sessions that gave me direct impulses for my work in the TACCLE4 CPD project.

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part One: The opening session of the VETNET network

Once again, the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) – has taken place. This time the venue was the University of Hamburg.
With this series of blog posts I try to cover different sessions in the program of the VETNET network – the research network for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and give some insights into developments in the network. In this first post start with the opening session of the VETNET program. Firstly I need to give some insights into the role of the networks of EERA in organising the conference and of the specific traditions of VETNET.

EERA and ECER as the common umbrella – VETNET as a community with its own identity

When the EERA was founded and started organising the ECER conferences on regular basis, the common umbrella was created in two ways. The EERA was shaped as the umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. For the shaping of the conferences EERA invited the member associations to propose thematic networks that would then be in charge of organising their section in the conference programs. The network for research in vocational education and training (VET) – from the beginning on known as VETNET – was accepted as the Network 2 of EERA. The number of networks grew rapidly and they developed their own patterns to run peer reviews, to organise social events and to disseminate the research in their area of specialisation.

As a contrast to this general picture, the VETNET network has been from the very beginning more than just one of the EERA networks and a small club for organising part of the ECER program. Already in the founding phase there was a sense of building a community of VET researchers under the EERA umbrella. Yet, we were aware that we had somewhat different discipline-based backgrounds and in some countries the institutional commitment to VET was a basis of special disciplinary structures. Therefore, we have also paid attention to openness and mutual learning across the network.

In this spirit the VETNET network has developed a tradition of common Opening sessions – starting from ECER 1999 in Lahti, Finland (initiated by the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen). These opening sessions have mostly been keynote speeches by prominent researchers from the host country – with comments by invited discussants. Sometimes they have been panel discussions on critical research issues or on future research agendas. In ECER 2007 the Opening session celebrated the 10 years’ milestone of VETNET as an active network (as organiser of its own program). In ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen the opening session got insights into VET development in the host region from different stakeholder perspectives (and from representatives of different lingual communities).

The VETNET Opening session at ECER 2019 – insights into apprentice training at Airbus sites in Germany

At the VETNET Opening session 2019 the invited speaker was Matthias Havekost, head of vocational training of Airbus commercial in Germany. He had been an active practitioner counterpart of several VET research projects of our institute (ITB, University of Bremen) and familiar with our research approach. From this perspective it was appropriate to invite him to discuss directly with the participants on the role of apprentice training and other training activities at Airbus sites in Germany.

We got a lot of information on the development of apprentice training in the course of years – regarding the demographic factors (aging workforce), technological changes (balancing between manual work and robotics) and educational changes (developing vocational pathways to higher qualifications). In between we had glimpses to the actual contexts of working and learning on site – provided by videos that were prepared by apprentices and students in so-called dual studies (that are based on a combination of apprentice training and higher education).

An interesting part of the presentation of Havekost was the example of a particular workplace learning arrangement at an early phase of apprentice training. Instead of explaining the task and launching the group work with the task that trainer took considerable time for a ‘teaming up’ phase. At this phase all apprentices were invited to discuss their views on their occupation, their understanding on their tasks and on the requirements. These views were shared in the group and contrastive views were discussed to the point that mutual understanding was reached. In the beginning some of the participants were annoyed by such delay instead of going straight to the task. Yet, it appeared that the group had developed a culture of collaboration and it finished the tasks in shorter time and with better quality than earlier groups. Also, teachers of vocational schools and representatives of production units noticed the change in the performance.

Another interesting aspect alongside the above-mentioned cultural change was the career development of trainers. For Havekost it was important that the in-company trainers are experienced in the production and keep up to date. Therefore, the trainers should be trainers only a certain number of years and not for too long time. This kind of rotation has been successfully implemented and those trainers who went back to other business in the company entered real interesting and adequate jobs (e.g. production, quality, manufacturing engineering).

In the light of the above we had a rich and lively discussion that gave food for thought for different sessions in the VETNET program. Also, we had some discussion on the training culture on other Airbus sites and on the role of VET systems in the respective countries. These issues were also taken up later.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET Opening session. In the following posts I will first report on the sessions that were closely related to my ongoing project and then cover some other themes.

German top politician visits Bau-ABC Rostrup – Great praise for the training of apprentices

Earlier this week Ministerpräsident Stephan Weil (prime minister of the Federal State of Lower Saxony) made a field visit to the North-German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. As the readers of this blog know, Bau-ABC played a vital role in our EU-funded project Learning Layers (2012-2016) as the main application partner of the Construction pilot of the said project. During the project researchers, technical partners and trainers of Bau-ABC worked together to develop an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support vocational and workplace-based learning.
Now, some time after the end of the project, it was interesting to see, how the prime minister perceived the training and learning that was presented to him. Let us start with prime minister Weil’s comment on his Facebook page and then give more information on the visit.

Prime minister Weil on the training and learning at Bau-ABC Rostrup

On his Facebook page prime minister Weil published the following, highly inspired update (see below). And another picture shows that he was involved in hands-on training during the field visit (see below).

Weil Facebook 2019-08-28 Hands-on-training 2019-08-28

The comment that prime minister Weil made in his Facebook-update above was the following (translated into English by me):

“Today I have visited the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup and I can only say the following: They have a strong case – I have not seen anything similar before. They are training young people from all over Germany in two dozen training workshops and in very practical way to master 22 different construction trades, Digitization is solidly integrated in all curricula. And on top oft hat they have a broad-based provision of continuing training schemes. This is really impressive.”

And as we can see from the pictures, he took time to inform himself by trainers, apprentices and managers. And he also egaged himself in discussions and in hands-on training.

Reporting on the field visit in a journal article

The field visit was covered by the article of Christian Qapp “Ein Ministerpräsident als Azubi” published in NWZ Online. The article made the point that the prime minister took the role of apprentice (guided by an experienced apprentice) on the drilling grounds. And at different training sites the apprentices had a major role in presenting the training in their trades.

From the perspective of promoting digital competences in vocational education and training (VET) the article makes an interesting point (translated into English by me):

“The apprentices in carpentry, Vanessa Hermes, and in pipeline-building, Linus Köneking, explained the Learning Toolbox. The App for Smartphones and Tablet-PCs was developed in collaboration with Bau-ABC. Now it is being used there from the very first day of apprentice training on. On the one hand it contains practical information for apprentices on travel arrangements, Accommodation and on the daily menu of the canteen. But equally it presents learning tasks with three-dimensional models, digital measurements and with creating lists of necessary construction materials. With all this the apprentices can deal with by taking the gadget from their pocket. And, moreover, they themselves can  document their own work with the help of the app.”

Reflective commentary

For us, who had been involved in the project work that led to the development of the Learning Toolbox, it is very rewarding to hear such comments from a top politician and to read such news reports. They deliver to us the message that the use of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox has become lived practice. Moreover, it is clear that the apprentices are in the best position to tell, how thwy can benefit from using it. We are happy to follow the progress of Bau-ABC Rostrup and others who are working with the Learning Toolbox. It is very inspiring to learn more from the users.

Preparing for forthcoming TACCLE project meetings

In my previous post I wrote about preparing for the forthcoming ECER 2019 (beginning of September in Hamburg). For a conference of educational researchers one needs to work with research papers and related presentations – that is obvious. However, later in the Autumn I will have two TACCLE project meetings for which I have had to prepare from another perspective. The two parallel TACCLE projects are working to promote digital competences of practitioners.
The TACCLE-VET project focuses directly on teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). The TACCLE-CPD project shapes models for continuing professional development (CPD) in different educational sectors (general education, adult education, VET). I have been working only in the latter project – but as responsible for the sector of VET. Now, at this point, it is high time to share experiences between the two projects and to present some interim results for the neighbouring project.

To be sure, I have worked a lot and produced a lot. That all has contributed to the research paper, powerpoint presentation and ePoster (as a wider digital resource). BUT now it is necessary to prepare materials that support continuing professional development of practitioners – teachers and trainersand related planning in their organisations. Indeed,  I have written of  challenges with digital learning culture and on different innovation paths – that all gives food for thought. But now it is not just about delivering text and presenting it in attractive packages. What is also needed, is the inspiration and encouragement to take new challenges and try something hitherto unknown. And it is this spirit that I hope that we can grasp from our predecessor projects – the earlier TACCLE projects and the Learning Layers – and their training activities. Below I want to illustrate this with two videos.

Training in TACCLE3 project – Brussels meets Dillingen

The video “Unplugged coding in Dillingen” gives an impression, how three TACCLE trainers engaged the participants during their training visit. With such an approach the working with digital tools is brought into lived practice. (Many thanks to Angela Gerrard for sharing this video! And our deepest respects to Jenny Hughes who played an important role in

this event as well!)

Putting digital competences into practice after Multimedia training – the Carpenters’ blog takes off

The other video demonstrates, how a full-time vocational trainer (working in a training centre of construction sector) made rapid use of his newly acquired digital competences. In a couple of weeks after the training session he had developed a remarkable resource base powered by a WordPress blog. In the Learning Layers project this was a major step forward in developing digital learning culture.

 

In both videos we can sense the joy of learning and of becoming owner of one’s new competences. In the Learning Layers project this interim phase was crucial to push the co-design process further – to the phase in which the Learning Toolbox (LTB) became a toolset for trainers and learners.

It is this creative spirit that we want to promote with our projects. Let us see what we can achieve in the coming time.

Preparing for the ECER 2019 conference – paper, presentation and ePoster

The period before and after the summer holiday is usually characterised by preparation for conferences. For me, the highlight of the conference season is the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA). The ECER 2019 will take place in Hamburg, so not that much travelling from Bremen. But this conference will be something special, since I will go on retirement in the year 2020. So, the tradition of participating in ECER conferences – that started in 1992 and continued regularly since 1996 – it is coming to an end. But, let us leave the memories to a later date! At the moment I am busy preparing my/our contributions for the conference. So, let us have a look, what is going on!

Conference paper and VETNET proceedings

This year I am contributing with only one submission – a joint paper with Angela Gerrard (Pontydysgu) and my former ITB-colleague Werner Müller (now representing stack.services). The (modified) title of the paper is “Strategies and Training Models for promoting Digital Competences in the field of Vocational Education and Training”. This paper focuses on our work in the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. As the acronym tells, it is based on the work of prior TACCLE projects.  These have prepared teachers’ aids for creating (digital) content for (web-based) learning environment. The challenge for the current project was to shift the emphasis from direct teacher training to shaping models and patterns for continuing professional development (CPD). And, with this task the project is looking at different educational sectors – including vocational education and training (VET).

The paper gives insights into the development of the TACCLE approach through different projects and changes in working patterns (working with hard copy handbook, shifting to different subject areas and shaping parallel online resources). As a another root project the paper presents the work of the Learning Layers project (co-design of digital tools to support vocational and workplace-based learning). Based on these backgrounds the paper reflects the transition to digital learning culture in the field of VET – including risks, opportunities and hurdles. Taking into account different VET-specific challenges the paper outlines three exemplary ‘Innovation paths’, how to to introduce digital learning culture into vocational curricula and learning arrangements. Then – concerning the promotion of digital competences of teachers and trainers – the paper discusses the European DigCompEdu framework and the local “Theme Room” training model that was developed in the Learning Layers. Altogether, the paper gives a picture, how VET research can contribute to a development-oriented project.

This year – once again – the coordinators of the VETNET network of EERA have invited us to submit out papers before the summer holiday so that they can edit the VETNET proceedings by the conference. This has put us under pressure (to finish the papers before the holiday period) but finally it is rewarding to receive the proceedings by the conference.

Conference presentation and the ePoster

After the summer holiday I have done some other work for the TACCLE 4 CPD project (to be covered in another blog post) and then prepared the conference presentation. This has helped me to take some further steps in the conclusions. However, the major effort was not so much the traditional powerpoint presentation but the ePoster, powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

Last year, before the ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen we had a mini-project of the VETNET network (supported by EERA) to explore the use of ePosters in the VETNET program of ECER. Together with the LTB-developers we arranged that the authors delivered their poster contents via LTB-stacks and used them to present in the VETNET ePoster session. Also, we had a general introductory session for other EERA networks (see my blogs of September 2018). This year we couldn’t continue in the same way but I wanted to keep the idea alive and add new content to the EERA showcase of ePosters. Therefore, I prepared a new stack to present the powerpoint, the full paper and other supporting resources.

ECER 2019 LTB-stack PK ECER-stack Screen2ECER-stack Screen3

This ePoster can be accessed directly via its web link or via the QR-code of the related mini-poster, see below:

Mini-poster PK ECER 2019

So, this is how I have been preparing our contribution to the ECER 2019 together with my co-authors and supported by the LTB-developers. We are looking forward to the conference in Hamburg in a short while.

Finding strategies to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers – Part Three: Examining innovation paths in the field of vocational education and training

With my two previous blog entries I started a series of posts with which I have linked my work in our EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project (with focus on vocational education and training (VET))  to the work of other partners in other educational sectors (general education, adult education). As a starting point I presented  the Four-Step Model of the TACCLE4-CPD project that was developed in the recent project meeting in Bucharest. I found this model very helpful for finding and developing strategies to promote digital competences.  In my second post I discussed, how the model can be adapted to the field of VET.
In this post I referred to different strategic options for promoting digital competences in the context of vocational learning arrangements. In this post I will illustrate them in the light of my interviews. Below I will firstly recapitulate my starting point and then discuss four parallel innovation paths.

Strategic options for promoting digital competences in vocational learning arrangements

As I mentioned in my previous blog, there are different options for linking the introduction of digital tools (and enhancement of digital competences) to the development of vocational learning arrangements. Below these options will be discussed as parallel innovation paths:

1) In some cases the main thrust of innovation is the shaping of a new curricular framework for a new occupation or occupational field. In such contexts the introduction of digital tools and web resources is adjusted to the curriculum processes.

2) In other cases the main thrust of innovation is to introduce integrative toolsets that provide tools for managing training and learning processes and provide access to web resources. In such contexts the use of the tools supports the curriculum implementation.

3) In some cases innovation projects are launched to shape off-the-job learning arrangements to support work process -oriented learning arrangements at workplaces that do not provide opportunities for learning alongside working. In such contexts the main thrust of innovation is to shape a simulated or virtual learning arrangement that makes the real work process accessible for learning.

4) In some cases the starting point of the innovation is the enrichment of ‘ordinary’ vocational learning arrangements by introducing digital tools and web resources to support action-oriented learning. In such cases the innovations can be limited to particular occupational fields or they can be promoted across different domains.

Illustrations of different innovation paths

Below I will present specific projects or innovative approaches that can be considered as exemplary cases for particular innovation paths. All these cases have been described in my overviews on parallel projects or in my recent interview reports (see also my earlier blogs).

  1. The “Kompetenzwerkstatt” path: The Kompetenzwerkstatt project tradition grew from vocational curriculum development projects in which the project team mobilised vocational teachers and trainers to analyse their occupational field and to shape curriculum structures. Later on, the project tradition was enriched with digital tools for managing learning situations, checking prior competences and presenting learning achievements. In the current phase the Kompetenzwerkstatt approach is being implemented in an occupational field that is developing holistic curriculum structures for initial and continuing training (the occupations for sanitary, heating and air-conditioning technologies).
  2. The “Learning Toolbox” path: The Learning Toolbox (LTB) was developed as the main product of the EU-funded innovation project “Learning Layers” and its Construction pilot. After a complex iterative process the partners involved in the Construction pilot developed an integrative toolset to support vocational and work process -oriented learning. From the trainers’ and apprentices’ point of view it was essential that the toolset supported a holistic view on working and learning tasks and a culture of self-organised learning.
  3. The “Brofessio” path: The Brofessio project was launched to support work process -oriented learning processes in such industries in which it is not possible to provide learning opportunities alongside working. In particular this is the case with sealed processes with major time constraints. For such industries the Brofessio project developed the concept of agile learning – based on SCRUM project management techniques, inquiry-based learning strategies and interactive learning culture. Thus, the learning arrangements were organised as a series of learning sprints with key questions and with responsible coaches. In such an approach the use of digital tools and web resources is dependent on the policies of the partner enterprise.
  4. The Smart OER-users’ paths: The fourth type doesn’t refer to a major project but instead to parallel initiatives of responsible teachers and trainers.  The key point is to integrate the use of domain-specific Open Educational Resources into vocational learning arrangements. Due to the pattern variance it is more appropriate to to refer to paths (in plural) rather than to a single path. Also, it is worthwhile to highlight the creativity of the users in finding the appropriate learning resources (rather than celebrating the existing OER communities and their products).

I think this is enough of this topic. I am aware that I have only presented a rather vague outline and I have to do some further work with this theme. Yet, I believe that the above presented set of innovation paths is important for the efforts to develop continuing professional development for vocational teachers and trainers. In particular it is important when we try to get a deeper understanding on the role of digital tools and web resources in vocational learning contexts.

Finding strategies to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers – Part Two: Adapting the Four-Step Model for vocational education and training

With my previous blog entry I started a series of posts with which I try to link my work in our EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project (with focus on vocational education and training (VET))  to the work of other partners in other educational sectors (general education, adult education). As a starting point I presented  the Four-Step Model of the TACCLE4-CPD project that was developed in the recent project meeting in Bucharest (in which I couldn’t participate). I found this model very helpful for finding and developing strategies to promote digital competences.
However, my critical point was that it focused primarily on schools, adult education providers and (general) educational authorities. In this post I will discuss, how the model can be adapted to the field of VET. Below I will follow the steps and make some comments from the perspective of VET.

The starting point: The education and training contexts in the field of VET

As I have mentioned, the Four-Step Model has been developed to support school managers, adult education providers and educational authories – to promote the digital competences of teachers. When shifting the emphasis to the field of VET, it is essential to take into account education and training partnerships between vocational schools, enterprises and intermediate training centres. In such contexts the schools are contributing to the enhancement of digital competences together with the other partners. Moreover, the introduction of digital tools for learning is part of the enhancement of digital competences in the occupational domain.

Identifying policies: educational, occupational and wider societal perspectives

When discussing with my interviewees in the field of VET I have come to the conclusion that there are multiple policies that have an impact on promoting digital competences in the field of VET. In this context it is worthwhile to mention government policies at the national (federal), regional (federal state), sub-regional and municipal level. In addition there are public innovation policies and sectoral stakeholder -led initiatives as well as local partnership-oriented initiatives. From this perspective it is appropriate to look at the VET-specific policy constellations that are being followed.

Identifying strategic initiatives and shaping action plans

In addition to the above-mentioned diversity, it is worthwhile to consider, what kinds of strategic initiatives are available for enhancing digital competences in the field of VET. From the perspective of curriculum design/development it is possible to specify the following options:

  • Introduction of vocational curricula to new occupational domains or reshaping the existing training with a new (whole curriculum) approach;
  • Enrichment of existing vocational learning arrangements with integrative digital toolsets;
  • Enrichment of particular vocational learning arrangements with domain-specific digital tools and web resources;
  • Incorporation of simulated learning opportunities into workplace contexts that do not provide opportunities for on-the job training.

In the light of the above, the educational actors can have very different starting points and strategic options.

The role of a “Routemap” and a “TACCLE handbook” in the field of VET

Considering the above presented comments, it is appropriate to take a closer look at results of the interviews with teachers and trainers and with the working perspectives that they have outlined. Once this has been completed, it is possible to discuss, how these products can be adapted to the field of VET. In my next blog post I will take a first step towards interpreting the findings from my interviews in terms of ‘innovation paths’