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Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Four: Shaping a new Theme Room Training framework

In my previous posts I have given an overview of the reports for our ongoing TACCLE4 CPD projects that I had completed so far. At the end I have mentioned that all the reports so far provide contributions to a new framework for developing training for teachers and trainers – with emphasis on promoting digital competences in the context of vocational learning. Already in the previous reports I had made the point that this should be based on the Theme Room training concept that was initiated and implemented in the Learning Layers project. During last week I have written a draft report to outline such a framework.  Below I will present some background information and the concluding section of the report. I think that they will give an idea, what kind of framework is taking shape.

The idea of Theme Room Training – oringins and new perspectives

This framework is being prepared as a final product of the EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD. The project has continued the work of earlier TACCLE projects in promoting digital competences of school teachers. However, concerning the field of VET, this project drawn upon the experiences of the EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). The LL project developed digital tools and training concepts to support workplace-based and vocational learning. The concept of “Theme Rooms” was developed as a part of the LL project to promote digital competences of vocational trainers.

The training in ‘Theme Rooms’ was initiated by the above-mentioned trainers who wanted to develop a more systematic training arrangement. With this approach they wanted to reach all training staff in their organisation. In this way they wanted to promote the use of digital tools in all areas of apprentice training.

The idea of Theme Rooms was based on the following pedagogic principles:

  • Combination of real and virtual learning spaces for focused thematic blocks for promoting digital competences;
  • Signing in into ‘theme rooms’ for completing the learning sessions with exercises and then signing out (with a flexible tempo);
  • Working together in teams in terms of peer learning and peer tutoring;
  • Rotating between different themes in order to reach common awareness of the subject matter and to develop a common competence base.

The concept of Theme Room training was put into practice as a staff training campaign during one month. This training campaign based on the Theme Room concept helped the trainers to become users of the LTB in their own training. Now, in the current situation, it is possible to identify many parallel approaches to introduce digital tools and new media into vocational learning. At the same time there are new qustions concerning the significance of digital technologies in the context of vocational education and training (VET). These are taken up in the new framework.

What does the new framework stand for?

The main elements of the framework are thematic blocks that can be used as a basis for the Theme Rooms of the updated training concept. The following set of thematic blocks is presented in the further sections below:

In the first thematic block the framework draws attention to digital transformation (as a major socio-cultural challenge) and to digitization (as a more specific development). This block invites to think, how VET provisions can prepare for such processes and/or provide co-shaping contributions.

The second thematic block discusses the readiness of older and younger learners to use digital media and tools in the context of vocational learning. This block invites to think, how older teachers, trainers and workplace mentors can find their own ways to use such tools to promote vocational learning. Also, it invites to think, how younger learners can best familiarise themselves with work processes, uses of traditional tools and digital tools in their own learning.

The third thematic block presents a set of parallel “Innovation paths” for introducing digital tools into vocational learning contexts and to enhance the digital competences of teachers, trainers and learners. Four of these paths have been named on the basis of specific projects or their final products – the Kompetenzwerkstatt, Learning Toolbox, Brofessio and CARO paths. The fifth path refers to smart uses of Open Educational Resources (OER). This block invites to think, what kind of vocational learning contexts are relevant for the user and what can be learned from the exemplary cases.

The fourth thematic block presents insights into the TACCLE4 CPD Routemap tool and its uses for organisational planning (of the use of ICT resources) and development of training (with focus on promoting digital competences). For both purposes the Routemap outlines levels of proficiency with corresponding criteria. In this way the tool invites to think, at what stage is the organisation regarding its use of ICT resources and what kind of steps can be taken with the help of training.

Altogether, the framework invites the readers to think of their own solutions and to find their own ways to promote digital competences in their field. Thus, the framework provides starting points and gives further impulses and references for further developmental work.

I guess that this is enough of the idea of the Theme room Training 2020 framework. I need to emphasise that it is still under construction. As I see it, the texts for the thematic blocks have already been shaped. Yet, each block needs a further layer for comments, questions, resources and impulses. So, there is still some more work to be done.

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Three: Reflections on using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

In my previous post I have given an overview of the reports for our ongoing TACCLE4 CPD projects that I had completed so far. At the end I mentioned that the next one to be completed would be Report3 on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). This week I have worked on this report. I have had the great pleasure to have my ITB colleague Jan Naumann with me as an expert in this matter and as a co-author. So, the best thing for me to do was to explore with him different contexts of vocational education and training in which he has been working with OER. Below I present the conclusions of our report.

Conclusions: Using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

Here it is worthwhile to note that this report has not the aim to give a comprehensive overview on Open Educational Resources (OER) that may have relevance for vocational education and training (VET). Such a task would no longer be manageable. Currently there is such a richness of OER – also ones that address explicitly the field of VET. As a contrast, this report has provided insights into exemplary cases of using OER to enhance vocational teaching/learning arrangements and to empower vocational learners.

Also, concerning the range of occupational fields that these cases cover, the report is far from comprehensive. Yet, when looking more closely at the cases, there is a pattern variance and a gradual shift from rather simple cases to more complex vocational teaching/learning arrangements. In a similar way the degree of using OER grows from elementary engagement to specific interventions and to more complex incorporation of OER into vocational learning culture.

In a nutshell the key messages of the above-presented cases can be summarised in the following way:

  • Rather simple and elementary vocational learning exercises can be transformed into creative learning projects. This is the case, when the learners are challenged to think, what they can achieve with the results (products) they produce. The first case in which the learners produce their own tools underlines this point. Individual teachers who create such learning projects can become producers of OER.
  • Hitherto separate subject areas and learning projects can be linked to each other with the help of OER. This may happen with the help of hands-on exercises using Open Resources and quiz exercises using OER. The second case of integrated learning paths underlines this point.
  • Neighbouring occupations can be brought together with the help of OER to work with a joint learning project if it is sufficiently challenging and interesting to all parties involved. The third case with an integrated working and learning project with robotics serves as a demonstration.
  • Vocational learning arrangements can be made attractive to apprentices and to trainees in pre-vocational education (also with socially disadvantaged background). The fourth case with the complex teaching-learning arrangement around organising a series of Go-kart races provides an example of this. Here, by organising learners as occupational teams and bringing the contributions of teams to a common effort the learners worked for a common goal. This was facilitated by manifold use of OER and by documenting the whole concept as OER.

Altogether, the cases are selected examples and they do not provide evidence that the use of OER as such would guarantee successful learning. Yet, they have given insights into the prospect of shaping of vocational teaching/learning arrangements as creative learning spaces.

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Two: Insights into the completed reports

In my previous post I have told that this is the season for producing a short description on the ongoing project TACCLE4 CPD for the regular reviewing in our institute and for finalising the contributions to the project. I have also explained, why our contribution to the TACCLE4 CPD project has needed more research-oriented work that was anticipated in the project design. In general, the partners working with general and adult education have been able to rely more directly on the work of previous TACCLE projects. These have promoted digital competences of teachers in general education with focus on classroom teaching. Moreover, when developing strategies and models for continuing professional development (CPD) these partners have perceived school directors, local educational authorities and national educational authorities as their target audiences.

For the work of ITB – as the German partner in the project – the task to develop strategies and models for promoting digital competences in  the field of vocational education and training provides more complex challenges. The field of VET is not merely another educational sector (under educational authorities) but involves different learning venues, education and training providers and governance structures. Moreover, the promotion of digital competences of teachers and trainers is not merely a matter of digitization within education but requires understanding of digital transformation in working life. These challenges have been taken up in the following reports that have been produced for the TACCLE 4 CPD project.

Report 1 – Policy analyses: Raising awareness of multiple policies and initiatives

This report has been produced to cover policies and strategies at different educational levels and taking into account different governance models. The report draws attention to following characteristics of policies in the field of VET and to recent developments in innovation strategies to promote digital competences of different actors in VET:

  1. Distribution of power structures in different educational systems: The report makes transparent the differences between central and federal governance models in education.
  2. Distribution of functions and competences in dual systems of vocational education and training: The report presents the roles of different VET providers and stakeholders (companies, schools and intermediate training centres, chambers and governing bodies) and the regulations guiding different parties.
  3. Joint agreements, innovation programmes and strategic alliances: The report gives insights into joint agreements (between different bodies), innovation programmes (launched by central governments) and strategic alliances (at different levels for temporary actions in particular focal areas of VET development). In this context the report also informs of local initiatives.
  4. New frameworks at European and national level to promote digital comtences in education and training: The report discusses the key points of the European DigCompEdu framework as a general orientative framework for promoting digital competences in different educational sectors. In addition it discusses the more VET-specific accents that have been raised in the German study “Berufsbildung 4.0” (VET 4.0) that has outlined a future-oriented innovation programme.

Report 2 – Legacy of predecessor projects and finding new approaches to promote digital competences in the field of VET

This report has been produced to compare the training approaches that had been applied in the three prior TACCLE projects and at different phases of the Learning Layers project. In addition it gives an overview on more recent R&D projects in the field of VET. The report serves the following purposes:

  1. Creating awareness of the different project histories and process dynamics: In this respect the report gives brief overviews of the parallel project histories and different phases of work.
  2. Making transparent the role of co-design and piloting with new tools in the Learning Layers project: From this perspective the report analyses specific impulses that arise from this background in the project work.
  3. Providing insights into parallel R&D projects in education and training and their support for training of teachers and trainer: Here the report provides examples on support for teacher education, CPD measures for vocational teachers and CPD measures for trainers in enterprises.
  4. Providing insights into recent field interviews with vocational trainers (carried out as part of the TACCLE 4 CPD): Here the report presents trainers’ views on the prospects for linking the use of digital tools to vocational learning culture.

Report 4a – Research paper that draws conclusions for the development of CPD in the light of the analyses

This report has been produced to draw conclusions for a specific project contribution for the field of VET. The report serves the following purposes:

  1. Summarisation of the conclusions from the comparisons between predecessor projects: Here the report gives insights into the process dynamics, into the role of training measures and into the role of outreach activities.
  2. Raising awareness of different policy contexts for promoting digital competences in schools and in VET contexts: Here the report gives a brief overview of parallel possibilities.
  3. Drawing attention to the relevance of general frameworks or studies in the field of VET: Here the report reflects the role of the European DigCompEdu framework vis-à-vis the challenges in the field of VET – as outlined by the German framework study “Berufsbildung 4.0”.
  4. Raising awareness of different outreach approaches for innovations in school contexts and in VET contexts: Here the report draws upon experiences of the earlier TACCLE projects and on the outreach prospects identified after the Learning Layers project
  5. Drawing conclusions on the importance of TACCLE Routemap approach and the Theme Room training model (of the Learning Layers project) for shaping CPD concepts to promote digital competences in the field of VET.

Here it is worthwhile to note that the Report 3 – with focus on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in vocational learning contexts – is still under preparation. Then, on the basis of all above-mentioned reports it is possible to prepare the Report 4b – a reworked version of the Theme Room training model for promoting digital competences in the field of VET. (Initially the Theme Room model was developed in the Learning Layers project for training all trainers of a construction sector training centre.)

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part One: Composing a short description

At this time of the year our research institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – is busy preparing a report for the regular meeting of our advisory board (Beirat). At he same time I am having final run to complete my contributions to the ongoing TACCLE4 CPD project. Concerning the report for the ITB Beirat, I need to prepare a short description of the project and update the list of my publications. Concerning the delivery for the TACCLE 4 CPD project, I want to get my reports published as soon as possible. At this point I find it appropriate to give a short progress report on both accounts.

Finding a role for VET research in a development-oriented project on technology-enhanced learning

In general, the praparation of short description of an ongoing project wouldn’t appear as a major challenge – in particular since there is one from last year to be updated. However, the circumstances have changed, the work in the project has moved on and the instructions for preparing the project descriptions set new accents.

Looking back at the beginning phase of the project, I was struggling to find an appropriate approach to work in the project. In general, the project design was based on the earlier three TACCLE projects that prepared handbooks an/or online resources for classroom teachers to make them fit for introducing technology-enhanced learning in their teaching. The project work had close links to parallel TACCLE courses in which teachers were trained to use digital tools and to develop their own teaching/learning arrangements. After three projects of this kind, the promoters wanted to shift the emphasis to shaping of strategies and models for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers (and trainers) regarding their digital competences. As a distinction to the earlier projects, the fourth TACCLE project aimed to include adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET) as new educational sectors.

Whilst the field of VET had not been a target field in the earlier TACCLE projects, in the early phase of the Learning Layers project (and its construction pilot) we (ITB and Pontydysgu) had organised a multimedia training – similar to the TACCLE courses – for construction sector trainers. This was the point of reference for inviting ITB to join in the TACCLE4 CPD project. However, after that phase, the Learning Layers project had taken further steps in training activities, co-designing new digital tools to support vocational learning and in bringing these tools into practice. From this perspective, there was quite a lot of need to discuss, how to integrate the VET-specific challenges and working perspectives into the project. Finally, this require much more research-oriented work that was anticipated in the project design. From this perspective, the project description that was prepared for ITB Beirat one year ago, was not yet up-to-date concerning the role of VET research in the project.

Making the role of VET research in the TACCLE4 CPD project transparent

Now, when preparing the updated project descriptions we have been invited to make more transparent the research-oriented character of our projects – whether they are initiated by ITB or whether we are involved as partners. In this respect I can at best characterise the work of ITB with focus on VET as research-oriented contribution to a development project. From this point of view I can use the headings of the given template for project descriptions.

Problem statement: The successful work of three TACCLE projects to promote digital competences of teachers required a follow-up project to shape strategies and models for continuing professional development (CPD). The aim to cover a wider range of educational sectors made it necessary to launch specific research-oriented activities to cover the field of vocational education and training (VET).

Goal-setting: The aim of the VET-specific research activities is to raise awareness of the relations between digital transformation in working life, prospects for digitization in education and training and on the possibilities to develop proactive vocational learning arrangements.

Research approach: The set of VET-specific research activities has consisted of the following analyses and field studies:

  • Policy analyses: Here the task has been to give an overview on different national, regional and local initiatives for promoting digital competences in the field of VET. Also, these analyses have given insights into the European DigCompEdu framework and the German framework study “Berufsbildung 4.0”.
  • Revisiting the legacy of predecessor projects and examining newer R&D projects in VET: Here the main thrust has been to describe the evolution in the predecessor projects regarding the shaping of digital learning cultures – and implications for updating the training approaches. In this context impulses from newer R&D projects in VET have been discussed.
  • Analyses on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in VET: Here the task has been to make transparent the uses of in the context of vocational learning arrangements and for empowering vocational learners.
  • Drawing conclusions for flexible CPD approaches in VET: Here the task has been to revisit the “Theme Room” training model that was used in the Learning Layers project and to reshape a future-oriented approach.

Results: The results of the work of ITB will be presented in five reports: Report 1 – Policy analyses; Report 2 – Examination of prior and parallel projects; Report 3 – Analyses of OER in VET; Report 4a – Research paper on conclusions; Report 4b – Revisited Theme Room training concept.

Visiting the “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Vocational Education and Training (VET)” project

At the end of the week I had a chance to give a guest input at the kick-off meeting of the new Erasmus Plus project “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Vocational Education and Training (VET)”. The project is coordinated by our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen – and in person by my colleague Ludger Deitmer. The partners come from Greece, Italy, Lithuania and the United Kingdom/Wales. All partners are known to us from previous European cooperation activities, so the project team was in a good position to have a rapid start. My role as a visitor was to give an overview of some predecessor projects and their recent/ongoing work. In addition I had a surprise input to deliver on top of my presentation. (This time I didn’t  need to travel elsewhere, since the meeting took place at ITB.)

Looking at the work of earlier and parallel projects

As I mentioned above, the partners were all old acquaintances to ITB, but they had not all been working in the same projects for promoting digital competences. Therefore, Ludger asked to give a presentation of the immediate predecessor projects – the TACCLE projects and the Learning Layers project and their achievements. In particular the point of interest was, how these projects have contributed to training of teachers and trainers regarding digital competences. For this purpose I could use my presentation that I had given when visiting the recent meeting of the TACCLE VET project in Athens.)

In my presentation I gave brief historical overview on the development of TACCLE projects, starting with the shaping of a generic e-learning handbook for teachers (TACCLE1), in shaping a differentiated set of online handbooks for selected subject areas (TACCLE2) and then shaping online resources for teachers who teach coding and programming in primary education (TACCLE3). Whilst these projects were directly addressing particular teacher groups, the ongoing TACCLE4-CPD has the task to analyse and develop models for continuing professional development (CPD) for different educational sectors – including general education, adult education and vocational education and training (VET).  From the perspective of VET and workplace learning I added to the picture the work of the Learning Layers project, in particular the shaping of the Learning Toolbox (as a digital toolset to support work process -oriented learning).

Based on the overview I drew attention to several points with which I am currently working in the TACCLE4-CPD project:

  • Policy analyses that draw attention to measures and initiatives to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers  in VET (at schools, training centres and work organisations);
  • The role of the European DigCompEdu framework and the adapted TACCLE Routemap as support for CPD;
  • The need to pay attention to digitization in education/training contexts and to digital transformation in working life;
  • The impulses that are given by particular exemplary projects for specific ‘innovation paths’;
  • Revisiting the “Theme Room training” that was piloted in the Learning Layers project with the training centre Bau-ABC (in North Germany).

We had a lively discussion and then I left the project team to continue its planning of the work to be carried out during the working period that had just started. (Below some photos of the previous session that I observed.)

 

My special input: the citizens’ course in Artificial Intelligence in Finland

As I mentioned above, we had a lively discussion after my presentation. Yet, it was not so much about the predecessor project or on the points with which I am currently working. The partners who have been working in the said projects (and attended the recent Athens meeting ), had already become familiar with these contents. To others, these were new impulses. However, I had also a special input that was immediately interesting and relevant for all participants.

On the same morning I had listened to the German radio channel Deutschlandfunk and its program “Europa heute”. At the end they had a special report from Finland – presenting a course on Artificial Intelligence that had been designed for a wide audience. (See the transcript of the report “Digital-Vorreiter Finnland: Künstliche Intelligenz fürs Volk.)

I then visited the website of the course “The Elements of AI“, designed by the University of Helsinki and the special agency Reaktor. And in the meeting we then had a closer look, what kind of civic knowledge the course delivers for wide audiences. These impressions triggered a lot of thoughts and comments. (Below some screenshots on different chapters of the course.)

I guess this is enough of my visit and of my guest input. I was happy to share some information on past/parallel projects and to provide an interesting example of a an ongoing online course that is reaching wide audiences in my home country. We will follow, how this course is being developed in the coming times.

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.