Category Archives: Blog

Remembering Jenny Hughes – Part One: Personal memories on our cooperation

Last Sunday we got from Graham Attwell the sad news: Jenny Hughes has passed away. As we know it, Graham is a long-time friend of Jenny over decades. In his blog Graham has already given us a picture what all Jenny has been up to during the years they have known each other (see Graham’s recent blog post). I have also known Jenny and Graham quite some time – our cooperation dates back to the year 1996 when I started monitoring EU-funded cooperation projects as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). Little did we anticipate, what all we would experience together in the years to come and what kind of initiatives we could bring forward. Below I try to cover some of the main themes with which we have worked together in the field of vocational education end training (VET). In this context I will try to give a picture, how Jenny has contributed to European networking and community-development through all these years.

Jenny training the trainers in Bau-ABC

Professionalisation of teachers, trainers and VET professionals altogether

The first time I met Jenny (and also Graham) in Bremen in January 1996 in the kick-off meeting of the European cooperation project “Europrof”. The project was initiated by Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen, but they chose to employ Graham as the coordinator. Jenny was representing the UK (Welsh) partner organisation. I was representing Cedefop – as an additional accompanying researcher. The aim of the project was to shape a new integrative framework for VET professionals – to overcome the divide between teachers (in school-based education) and trainers (in workplace-based training). The conceptual starting point inspired many European colleagues to join in at a later stage – as affiliated expert partners. However, the project had difficulties in working its way forward from a critical ‘state of the art analysis’ to a realistic change agenda that could be adjusted to different VET cultures. Yet, the work in the Europrof workshops prepared the grounds for a Europe-wide ‘invisible college’ and community-building process that was continued in other projects. In the beginning phase I remember that Jenny was critical about the ‘European English’ terminology that we (non-native English speakers) were using. It took some time for us to understand that we were not disagreeing on the underlying ideas but instead we were not aware of the connotative meanings in British English – that made our message weaker or diluted it altogether. Once we understood this, we were happy to work with Jenny on our side.

The Europrof project had tried to outline an integrative change agenda for promoting education and training for new VET professionals (covering the school-based and workplace-based VET). The successor projects tried to develop a differentiated approach – addressing teachers and trainers in VET as different target groups. The TTplus project (2006 – 2008) was initiated by Graham (now representing Pontydysgu and bringing Jenny with him). I joined this project as a freshman in ITB, based in Bremen. In this project we looked at the instances of change and interests that we could trace in different countries – in order to draw common conclusions. In this project Jenny provided insights into the training practices in Welsh organisations and outlined a framework for continuing professional development (for countries that did not have strong established frameworks at place).

A third phase of such European cooperation took shape in the European Consultation seminars 2007 -2008. The European Commission had decided to launch a consultation process based on six ‘regional’ workshops involving EU Member States and EFTA cooperation partners. The workshops had the task to bring different stakeholders to joint discussion on the role of European policies in promoting the professionalisation of teachers and trainers in VET. The project was led by ITB and supported by Pontydysgu. In the light of the difficulties that we had experienced in previous projects it was of vital importance that Jenny was able to shape a set of interactive workshops that kept the participants busy in common discussion instead of getting stuck with institutional and systemic differences.

Here some of the key points of this workshop concept:

  1. Mapping of concerns of teachers and trainers: What are the issues – what are common to both, what are different? The issue cards were written and set on the wall – illustrating the sense of commonality or relative distance between teachers and trainers.
  2. Witness sessions: Participants reported of recent reforms in their countries and of current European projects that they perceived as innovative.
  3. Problem and Solution cards: Participants wrote on one side of the card a pressing problem and on the other side a possible solution. These were then discussed in groups.
  4. Mapping policies: On a matrix the participant groups were asked to indicate, what European policies do more and what less and what national policies should do more and what less.
  5. Taking a message home: Participants were asked to formulate their own conclusions as messages to take home.
  6. Self-evaluation of the workshop: Participants indicated on flipchart, what had worked well and what was less well in the workshop process – and the process could be improved.

During the workshops the participants worked mostly in mixed groups and language support was provided on demand. Also, at different phases of the process that participants changed groups. In this way the workshop stimulated cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge sharing on key issues and emerging initiatives. The participants emphasised the value of such process and hoped that it would be continued. Unfortunately the Commission services were expecting the process to deliver a Common European framework that would make such exchanges gradually redundant.

From ‘distance learning’ and ‘e-learning’ to the TACCLE projects

Another key theme for Jenny has been the promotion of teachers’ and trainers’ competences in e-learning – remote learning, open distance learning, multimedia learning, e-learning, technology-enhanced learning – whatever it has been called at different times. The major flagship projects in this context have been the TACCLE projects (I will get back to this in my next blog) and the related TACCLE courses. In these projects and in the supporting courses Jenny had the chance to shape handbooks, web-based support materials and workshops that brought the e-learning competences ‘home’ to the work of different teachers and trainers. As a personal memory I can refer to the Multimedia Training workshops that Pontydysgu and ITB organised together for the full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in Germany. The lively approach that Jenny radiated throughout the training made the construction sector trainers do their best to get something useful for them in their own work. At a later phase of the Learning Layers project these pioneering trainers served us the champions in introducing the digital toolset Learning Toolbox to their training. And later on they have served as peer tutors in their own organisation and multipliers in a wider context.

Networks, communities and real life wisdom

One important aspect in Jenny’s career has been her role in European networks and community-building processes. She may not have pushed herself into the representative positions but yet her contribution has been vital. I still remember the start of the European “Forum” network that was launched in 1995 as a ‘learning community’ for European researcher. This network tried to avoid premature institutionalisation. Instead, it developed a culture of regular thematic workshops – and included specific workshops for emerging researchers. Gradually, it became necessary to apply for funding and to develop a formalised structure for thematic knowledge development – and in this way the project-specific goals for producing publications in each work package took over the process dynamic. During this development Jenny was trying to maintain the culture of ‘learning community’ and resist the atomisation of the network.

Throughout her career Jenny has been remembered as an advocate of ‘real life wisdom’. She took seriously the challenges of academic knowledge development but at the same time she always work together with practitioners and supported their development. We have lost Jenny but her legacy inspires us from now on.

The TACCLE4-CPD project takes further steps in its work – Part One: Reflections on our project meeting

As I had told in my earlier blog of December 2017, our institute ITB is involved in a new European project TACCLE4-CPD. This project is the fourth one in the TACCLE project family that supports teachers and trainers in integrating the use of digital tools and web resources into teaching and learning processes. Our project is developing tools and concepts for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. (For further information on the background and on the earlier TACCLE project see my blog of the 9th of December 2017.)

Now we had our second project meeting and we were able to see, how we can bring our activities with different educational sectors and with different “Intellectual Outputs” together. As I had mentioned in my previous blog, the earlier TACCLE projects had been working with general education – with primary and (lower) secondary schools. In our project some partners continue the work with focus on these educational sectors whilst others bring into project insights from adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET). In our kick-off meeting we had a first look at the work program and on the starting points of different partners. Now we were  having reports on activities of different partners – both concerning the fieldwork and the conceptual work. In this way we were able to take further steps in adjusting our activities to each other and in including different contributions to the Intellectual Outputs. Below I will firstly discuss the progress with our work program and then some specific issues from perspective of the German team and of the VET sector.

Progress with ‘streamlining’ the work program and the partners’ activitities

In our meeting the dynamics was as follows: We had firstly activity reports of one or two partners, then we noticed that they served as a lead-in to some of the Intellectual Outputs. We had a brief debate with some challenging issues – and then ended up with a common conclusion that ‘streamlined’ the work for all of us. Below I will take up some topics that illustrate this:

  • Analyses of current policies to promote digitisation and digital competences: With the activity reports we were caught with the contrast between countries that have centralised educational policies (driven by the National Curriculum) and others with more fragmented power structures and policy processes. This led us to a brief debate on what is merely ‘local/regional’ and what counts as ‘policies’. With a little help of mindmaps and diagrams from other project we found a good formulation for streamlining our mapping and analyses: “Policies looking for appropriate practices – innovative practices and R&D initiatives looking for policy support”. In this way we could provide a European group picture without giving too much emphasis on explaining different policy contexts and instead draw attention to the ‘implementation realities’.
  • Developing a tool for quality assurance: In this context the responsible partner informed of their ongoing qualitative study with schools participating in the eTwinning programme. This triggered a discussion, whether other partners should replicate a similar study or not. However, in the course of discussion we noted that the study is shaping a matrix for analysing quality issues and in this way contributing to the project.
  • Developing a Routemap for promoting digital competences and Planning tools for institutional managers: In this context the responsible partner presented earlier versions of such Route Maps. They had been successfully implemented in earlier TACCLE projects and in national follow-up activities. Another partner presented a somewhat simplified and more condensed version (developed in another predecessor project) that could be taken as a basis of the planning tool. We agreed to merge the tasks and work with both variants of the tools.

I guess this is enough as reporting on our meeting. We had several other points to discuss in the meeting. I will get back to them in due time. In my next post I will discuss the mapping and analysing of policies from the German perspective and with emphasis on the VET sector

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part Three: Mapping the approaches and contributions of parallel ITB projects

With my two latest blogs I have been started a series of  posts with which I want to take further steps with the ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. In the first post I gave a nutshell description, how our institute (Institut Technik & Bildung, ITB) positions itself in the current TACCLE project as the partner responsible for the field of vocational education and training (VET). With the next post I summarised the legacy of the predecessor project Learning Layers (LL), and how we have been able to continue the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – the main result from the LL Construction pilot – in its successor activities. With this post I will give a brief overview on the neighbouring ITB projects that focus on introducing digital media and web tools in the field of VET and on training of teachers and trainers.

Mapping the neighbouring projects – what for?

We started our discussions on the approach that ITB should take in the TACCLE4-CPD project with the question, how we could at best support for continuing professional development (CPD) activities in the field of VET. Our earlier activities in the LL project had brought us quite far in a strong multiplier-organisation in the construction sector (the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup). Also, in the follow-up activities we had been able to witness, how practitioners in VET are ready to use the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in different contexts. Yet, we were short of an overview, what else is going on in projects that promote the use of digital media and web tools to support vocational learning and/or (informal) learning in organisational contexts. In order to fill this gap I interviewed several of my ITB colleagues and prepared a similar moodle-based overview as I had done on the training activities in the LL project and on the shaping and further use of the Learning Toolbox. The newest overview has the title “Digital Media, Web Tools & Training of Trainers – Overview of current projects alongside TACCLE4-CPD” and can be accessed via the following link (using the guest login):

http://moodle.itb.uni-bremen.de/course/view.php?id=14

Below I will give brief characterisations on the projects that I have explored and on their neighbourhood relations with the ongoing TACCLE4-CPD project.

Research-intensive projects with focus on the pedagogy of VET and workplace learning

The exemplary projects for this theme are in particular the following ones:

  • The DieDa project studies empirically, how patterns of self-organised learning are developing in continuing vocational training for ecological construction work (and in parallel cases of CVT provisions in other sectors).
  • The INTAGT project studies vocational learning and issues on health & safety in companies that introduce ‘Industry 4.0’ and draws conclusions for the development of VET provisions.

With these projects I experienced the closest neighbourhood relation to TACCLE4-CPD and also the greatest interest to work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for training the trainers.

Support for digital strategies and creative learning designs in vocational schools

The exemplary projects for this theme are in particular the following ones:

  • The STRIDE project supports the development of digital strategies in partner schools in Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Poland. The partners from Germany (ITB) and Spain serve as expert partners that coordinate the studies and the training workshops.
  • The RISE project promotes Design thinking and creative learning arrangements in vocational schools. The three partner schools and three expert organisations from Germany (ITB, Wilhelm Wagenfeld Schule), Spain and Slovenia develop concepts of ‘social enterprises’ and ‘innovation hubs’ to promote such concepts and validate the ideas in several workshops.

With these projects the working concepts are somewhat different but there are common interests – also concerning the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

Support for learning and knowledge processes in specific occupational contexts

The exemplary projects for this theme are the following ones:

  • The NABUS project for supporting training in ecological construction and renovation work.
  • The MeMoApp project for supporting the use of mobile apps and digital tools in the logistic and transport occupations.
  • The LiKa 4.0 project for promoting innovation transfer from the previous Kompetenzwerkstatt projects to craft trades.
  • The LaSiDig project for promoting health and safety awareness in the logistic and transport occupations.

Here the projects were rather heterogeneous and some of them were at the beginning stage, whilst others had very dedicated software solutions. Therefore, further talks were needed to clarify the cooperation prospects.

I guess this is already enough for a first look at the neighbourhood. I will get back to most of the projects in April to specify, how we can develop further cooperation.

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part Two: Revisiting the legacy of the Learning Layers project

With my latest blog I started a series of blog posts with which I want to take further steps with the ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. Already in December I had posted of our kick-off meeting and shared some links to videos that presented the work of earlier TACCLE projects (that equipped teachers with capability to use digital tools and to create online content for their teaching).
Now, the current TACCLE project – the fourth one – is focusing on continuing professional development (CPD). The partners from different countries focus also on different educational sectors (general education, adult education, vocational education and training (VET)). Moreover, the partners bring into the project different background experiences in introducing digital tools and web resources as well as enabling the practitioners to reach e-maturity in their own context.

In my previous post I gave a nutshell description, how our institute (Institut Technik & Bildung, ITB) positions itself in the project as the partner responsible for the field of VET. With this post I try to give an idea, how we worked in the predecessor project Learning Layers (LL), and how we have been able to build on the legacy of the project and its successor activities. In particular I will highlight the training activities and the piloting with the digital toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

The role of training campaigns in promoting e-maturity – the case of Bau-ABC

Initially the Learning Layers (LL) project was launched primarily as an ambitious co-design project – with a Europe-wide consortium and with multiple development agendas to be implemented in the pilot sectors Construction and Healthcare. The key impulses were given in the first Design Conference in Helsinki, in which also the idea of digitisation of training and learning materials of Bau-ABC was taken on board. However, in practice the co-design process turned out to be more complicated than expected (see below).

In the light of the above it was of vital importance for the Construction pilot that we started the Multimedia training activities in Bau-ABC at a relatively early phase – with a smaller number of pioneering trainers who volunteered to participate in training workshops that took place on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In the first phase of these training sessions the participating trainers got an overview on the most important digital tools and enhanced their skills in producing and editing videos. For a short interim period they continued to engage themselves with digital media in Friday afternoon sessions. Then, at a crucial phase in the project work the trainers initiated a training scheme for the whole organisation – based on the idea of “Theme Rooms” to be visited in a series of workshops. This idea was put into practice at the end of the year 2015 as a joint effort of ITB researchers and the pioneering trainers. In the final phase of the project we knew that these training campaigns were of vital importance for the co-design process and for the pilot activities. Therefore, I produced already in 2016 a digital overview on the evolution of the training activities – using a moodle ‘course’ as the means of presenting the different phases and respective actions. Below I share the link to this moodle overview:

The “Theme Room” training in Bau-ABC Rostrup – from the origins to the implementation in 2015

(Please use the guest login to access the overview.)

Learning Toolbox – from digitisation of training materials to a flexible toolset with many applications

As has been mentioned above, the co-design process in the Construction pilot (and in particular in the Bau-ABC) started with the idea to digitise the training and learning materials – hitherto collected into the “White Folder”. However, after a rather short explorative phase, the process took a new course – to develop a digital toolset (that can be used with mobile devices) – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Here, it is worthwhile to not that the explorative phase helped to put an emphasis on supporting workplace-based learning of the users. This process was carried out – parallel to the training campaigns – and completed with a viable product that the Bau-ABC trainers could use.  Primarily they presented working & learning tasks, share relevant knowledge resources and managed training-related communication. Parallel to this, the first applications were developed, in which LTB was used to support the coordination and management of construction work and related communication on a construction site.

Based on this founding phase, Bau-ABC has continued with its internal follow-up activities, whilst new challenges have come to picture in projects that extend the use of LTB to construction work in decentralised work organisations (and decentralised training and learning within continuing vocational training).

Moreover, a very different context for using LTB has been discovered in the conferences of former LL partners. In the Helsinki conference of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) in 2017 the LTB was used to reshape the poster area and to shift the emphasis from paper posters to ePosters that were shaped with the LTB. In some other conferences in 2017 a different approach is introduced with a limited number of hybrid posters or hybrid presentations that are linked to LTB-stacks. In this way the use of LTB is spreading to other contexts.

For our present discussions in the TACCLE4-CPD project I have prepared a similar moodle-based overview on these developments. Below I share the link to this latter moodle overview:

Learning Toolbox (LTB) pilot and follow-up (2014 – …)

(Here again, please use the guest login to access the overview.)

I guess this is enough of the legacy we bring to the TACCLE4-CPD project from the predecessor project Learning Layers. In particular the latter overview shows that the Learning Toolbox (LTB) is not only viable but also transferable – in the original contexts and in new ones. Therefore, I have to keep my eyes open to see, what all we can learn from the transfer activities.

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part One: Setting the scene for project activities in the field of VET

In December 2017 I wrote a blog on the kick-off meeting of the EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project that took place in our institute ITB at the University of Bremen. In that blog I described the background of TACCLE projects and presented the achievements of the pioneering TACCLE1 and TACCLE2 projects. I also drew attention to the legacy of the recently completed EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016) upon which our institute can draw in the present project. As we see it, the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot was in many respects a predecessor of the present project in the field of vocational education and training (VET).

Now it is time to have a closer look at our context of work and make more specific plans for the forthcoming activities. I will start this with an updated description of the TACCLE4-CPD project that I prepared fro the ITB website and then move on with the stock-taking (with focus on the Learning Layers’ successor activities and with the project neighbourhood that I have found from our own institute).

TACCLE4-CPD in a nutshell: What is it about?

The ErasmusPlus project TACCLE4-CPD promotes strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes. From this perspective the project supports teacher trainers and organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. The project builds upon the digital tools, web resources and training concepts that have been created in prior TACCLE projects or other predecessor activities. From the ITB point of view, this project provides an opportunity to work further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB), a key result from the Learning Layers project.

TACCLE4-CPD in a closer look: What is it trying to achieve?

The TACCLE4-CPD project is funded by the ErasmusPlus programme as a ‘strategic partnership’.  It promotes educational strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes in different educational sectors. From this perspective the project puts the emphasis on supporting teacher trainers and/or organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. When doing so, the project builds upon the digital tools,  web resources and training concepts that have been created in earlier TACCLE projects and other predecessor projects.

Regarding the earlier TACCLE projects the current project can make use of the TACCLE Handbook (that will be updated), the TACCLE2 websites and the separate TACCLE courses. Regarding the Learning Layers project the current project can build upon the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and on the Multimedia training schemes (that were organised with construction sector partners).

Whilst the previous TACCLE projects have been working directly with pioneering teachers, the TACCLE4-CPD project addresses now the training of trainers.  In the same way the emphasis is shifted from particular teaching/learning innovations to shaping models for continuing professional development. In this respect the partners promote community-development among professionals and organisations that support the delivery of digital competences and their integration into learning culture. Regarding ITB, it has a specific possibility to develop cooperation and synergy between ongoing European and German projects – in particular between TACCLE4-CPD and the parallel projects STRIDE and DMI.

I think this is enough of the starting points of the TACCLE4-CPD and how I interpret our task in the project. In my next blogs I will continue by looking more closely what we can bring into the project from the Learning Layers’ follow-up and from the neighbouring projects.

TACCLE 4 CPD – Developing continuing professional development for teacher trainers

At the end of November we had the kick-off meeting of the new Erasmus Plus project “TACCLE 4 – CPD” hosted by ITB at the University of Bremen. This project is a new kind of follow-up of a series of projects with the brand name ‘TACCLE’. So, let us firstly have a look at the development of these projects.

The TACCLE projects as support for teachers who are developing online learning

TACCLE 1 took the pioneering task to prepare a handbook as “Teachers’ aids for creating content for e-learning”. The result was a generic handbook that informed of basic web tools and online learning resources and equipped teachers to use them.

TACCLE 2 shifted the emphasis to work with online handbooks that were targeted for teachers in different subject areas as well as to primary school teachers.

These projects were also supported by specific TACCLE courses funded by the Comenius and Grundtvig programmes.

TACCLE 3 shifted the emphasis to teaching programming and coding for school children and worked mainly with the project website.

More information on the two first generations of TACCLE projects is availble on the video interviews with Jenny Hughes (recorded for the Coop-PBL in VET project in 2012):

Jenny Hughes on TACCLE 1 project: Getting teachers to produce their own web content (Part1)

Jenny Hughes on TACCLE 2 project: Reaching out to new teacher groups and subject areas (Part2)

TACCLE 4 project as support for teacher trainers with focus on technology-enhanced learning and online resources

Looking back, the earlier TACCLE projects have been successful and even more the TACCLE courses. This had created a demand for courses, workshops etc. based on the projects and their materials. This gave rise to a new project that focuses on practitioners who are developing  Continuing Professional Development (CPD) initiatives for teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. From this point of view the TACCLE 4 – CPD project was shaped to draw upon the prior experiences and to expand the work from school-based education to other educational sectors – Adult Education (AE) and Vocational Education and Training. From this perspective the project was based on a limited number of partner organisations, some of which had been involved in the previous ones and some bringing new countries and/or educational sectors into the picture.

For our institute – ITB – this project is an opportunity to draw upon the experiences of multimedia training and co-design of digital tools (mainly for construction sector) in the Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016). In the kick-off meeting we presented the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and the follow-up activities in different contexts:

  1. In the initial VET the HAKS project with craft trade companies and by the informal working groups of Bau-ABC trainers;
  2. In the continuing vocational training by the DigiProB project that is developing a new software ecology that links together the course management and (via moodle) the trainers’ curriculum design platform (WordPress) and the learners’ interface (LTB):
  3. In the designed project ProBauKo and in a prior feasibility study the ITB team and the LTB developers have explored the possibility to link the use of LTB to company-specific knowledge processes and learning opportunities.

In the TACCLE 4 – CPD project we have to see, how to link these working perspectives (and the role of vocational schools) to the way in which the TACCLE projects have supported training of teachers and trainers. I am looking forward to an interesting period of work.