Supporting Student Practica with wikis

By grahamattwell | 11th Jun 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

In this German language interview Pekka Kämäräinen talks with Sebastian Bornemann (Münster University of Applied Sciences) about using Wikis to support students’ Praktikum projects.
The music track is called “mongo” and is composed and played by QUETAL. It can be found on the Creative Commons music web site Jamendo.

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Practice based learning in Higher Education

By grahamattwell | 28th May 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

This slidecast has been made by Pekka Kamarainen for a Euronet PBL project workshop held in Norway on 28 May, 2010.

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Interview with Lars Bo Henriksen

By Jo Turner-Attwell | 6th May 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

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Thoughts from Barry Nyhan after the 4th Euronet PBL meeting in Limerick

By Jo Turner-Attwell | 28th Apr 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

Here my brief comments on the European ERASMUS euronet practise based learning Project after attending its 4th international meeting at Limerick University.

1. I feel that you have very strong but very different European partners representing different work oriented educational cultures. As I mentioned at the meeting, I am not sure about the exact target group (see this addressed below) for your final product of the project and as well the method for producing this final product. Is it going to be a web -based product or/and an academic paper or policy oriented ‘paper’ product? The advantages of the web is that you can treat the delivery of your product initially in summary fashion and then providing links for those who want to get into greater depth.

2. Because of the radical difference between the partners, I think it would be a mistake to try to come up with too generalised conclusions or recommendations. The heart of your product should be a well written presentation of each partner’s unique and culturally shaped project, and drawing lessons, under some of the following heading| :

– Rationale for the PBL project: What are the strategic curricular arguments for the project with a bit of history ? What evaluations have taken place?

– How the project was implemented: What and who inspired the PBL project ? What challenges/difficulties had to be overcome (university policy, curriculum design issues, financial demands, legitimacy issues such as Lara Bo is experiencing in Denmark)
– The curriculum and learning strategy underpinning the project – in continuity or not with national cultural traditions; imported theoretical models such as the Turkish case and also the Limerick model which as far as I know was inspired by an American university and imported to Limerick by the first President of the university, an Irishman who had worked for a lot of his career in the US.

– Methodologies and Tools used and Guidelines for universities, companies and students:

– The interviews of students and companies could be built into the above to illustrate the issues being dealt with.

Perhaps the above could also be presented in the form of a grid outlining the shape/stories of the different projects

3. Coming back to the issue of who is your main target group, it appears to me that the university policy makers have to be central. The main focus of the Erasmus programme is universities and the central argument for PBL is a better and more rounded education curriculum for university students. The main drivers for more and better PBL have to be on one hand the universities and professional associations like teacher association or engineering associations. Obviously not all universities are the same either as some are going to be more committed that others and the quality is also bound to vary and one of the goals of your PBL project is to persuade those universities who are thinking about introducing PBL or persuade those to persist who are thinking of decreasing their commitment to PBL. Having said the above, this does not mean that the needs of companies and students need not be addressed in terms of guidelines and tools etc

4. Perhaps at earlier meetings or presented in earlier papers, the arguments/justification for PBL, dealing with the intrinsic benefits of learning through ‘practice’ were outlined. The main line of argument for me is that many competences/practical knowledge skills can only be learnt through experiencing them/living them in a real life/practice environment. It is difficult to simulate practise within professions like coming-up medical doctors or teachers or engineers. This is the premise underlining the concept of ‘work-process knowledge’.
5. Countries with a more or less stronger apprenticeship traditions (such as on the job learning or the practical route to learn an non-academic profession) such as Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland are more or less convinced of the value of practice based learning in real work situations, but many countries argue that the emphasis should be based on academic technological education and training first, which they incorrectly argue in my view can be applied in practice contexts. PBL is the key to enabling students to ‘walk the talk’ and not just ‘talk the talk’. If you have not done so, I feel that your introductory section of your final product ‘document’ should be comprised of solid research based arguments for the distinctive benefits of the PBL learning tradition – apprenticeship learning, practise learning, problem based learning,, understanding importance of work-process knowledge, entering community of practise, forming professional identity etc.

I hope that the above reflections may be of some use to you. Comments are very much welcome.

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Being an Intern in Pontydysgu

By Jo Turner-Attwell | 9th Mar 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

My internship with Pontydysgu has taught me more than I ever could have imagined. The diversity of the company has worked in my favour as it has allowed me to develop professional interests I didn’t know I had, such as working with Multimedia or social networking in education.

The most important thing I have learnt from my internship is to reflect on the things I learn and do. This isn’t really something I feel I experienced in school, particularly at the higher levels as my aim was to pass my exams and to jump through the necessary hoops to do so. Graham Attwell’s very different ideas on PLEs, social learning and reflective learning have led me in a completely different direction and in the process of learning about these things I feel I have begun to use them without even realising.

One of the things discussed in the Pontydysgu meetings was how I would compare my learning in Pontydysgu with the way I learnt in school. After much reflection I think the lack of official assessment contributes a great deal. My motivation to learn has changed. I am not trying to learn the necessary facts and methods to pass a certain exam, I am trying to best use the opportunity I have been given to expand my knowledge and experience. Much of the work I find I do in Pontydysgu is more valuable to me than the company. For example I am encouraged to blog and share my ideas so people can add and contribute to them or even upgrade my video editing competences from iMovie to Final Cut. It certainly improves the quality of my work for Pontydysgu but it has a far deeper value for me as an individual in the longer term.

This in my opinion is what is so essential about internships or the German Praktikum. It teaches you how to cope with that change of motivation from passing single exams to personal development.

One of my tasks within Pontydysgu was to attend a two day meeting on a current European project. This project was the Euronet PBL project on the development of a toolbox to help with the process of a Praktikum for university students. This inadvertedly made me assess the value of my own internship experience, and the value that it holds for me. I think what makes these practical work experiences so important is that taste of the real world. All the support levels that the universities wanted to provide to make this transition easier showed me that this transition from pure learning to work can be a very big step whatever age the student is and work experience if properly managed can help bridge this gap.

It also provides an opportunity to bridge age gaps. Often students have a fresh perspective, particularly within the area of education. Having student interns work on projects for students seems so logical. They add a new but essential view point to the table for such projects. At the social of this meeting it was said to me how pleasant but unusual it was to have someone of such a young age socialising with the project members as an equal, and that many adults are afraid to take a gamble on young people. However I think internships do have the potential to provide valuable contributions not just for the student but for companies as well, if not just because we are cheap labour.

In addition I find that working with under the name ‘intern’ makes my life far easier, because of my lack of experience people provide me more room to make mistakes, when consistent standards are expected from full time more experienced employees. I am not trying to claim that this is necessarily a good title to hide behind, but rather it for me has held less pressure and will mean I feel more prepared when entering a full time job after I finish my studies, whatever area this may be in.

Internships can vary a great deal and I feel very lucky that mine has turned out so well and that I am learning so much.

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Report on the Erasmus coordinators’ meeting in Brussels (1.2.-2.2.2010)

By Pekka Kämäräinen | 3rd Feb 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

As a representative of the Euronet-PBL coordination team I attended the annual Erasmus coordinators’ meeting in Brussels. The two-day meeting was mainly dedicated to issues that are relevant for project development and project management. In addition, the meeting provided an arena for discussing the importance of Erasmus projects for European policies and for the shaping of future European cooperation. Below I give some insights into the highlights of meeting and reflect upon the lessons for Euronet-PBL project.

1. The opening session on the role of Erasmus projects in European policies: Here I would like to emphasise the openness of the DG EAC representatives for dialogue with the projects. The presentation on the European policy context for the period 2010-2020 was  overshadowed by the second generation of framework processes (“Bologna 2.0” and “Education and Training 2020”). Yet, when the discussion shifted to the shaping of the next generation of Lifelong Learning Programme, there was a clear appeal to get feedback from blind spots and grey zones in policy-making and in implementing trans-national cooperation. In this context I drew attention to the conceptual differences and policy controversies that we have observed concerning the status of practice-based learning arrangements in Higher Education. The DG EAC representatives Mr Filip van Depoele and Mr Endika Bengoetxea welcomed my offer to provide them more feedback information (as issues arising from our fieldwork and comparative analyses).

2. Discussion on dissemination and exploitation of results: The Executive Agency had invited a presentation by Mr Gareth Long, an  experienced e3valuator/assessor and former project coordinator. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear him emphasise the need of meaningful dissemination – not actions for the sake of appearance. He strongly recommended to consider the questions “Who can be reached?” and “What impact can be achieved?” instead of “What kind of impression this gives to the funding and monitoring bodies?”. In the subsequent workshops the project coordinators seemed to be in very different positions – some had to wait for formal OK for their interim results, others were more free to make work in progress available. Also, the readiness to introduce blogs, wikis and social networking tools varied greatly.

3. Networking across parallel projects: Throughout the meeting the participants were given opportunities to share knowledge on the project concepts, emerging results and lessons learned. For the Euronet-PBL the most important task is to establish a cross-project dialogue with our sister project “Q-PlaNet” (Quality Placements Network). This project tries to develop common quality criteria for workplaces that want to host transnational students’ placements. In this respect the Q-PlaNet project is looking more closely at the workplaces as host organisations. In or discussion with the project coordinator, Mr Edmund Zirra from Karlsruhe, we agreed to share results with the help of blog postings, podcast interviews and (eventually) with mutual working visits.

Also, I noticed that we have some common areas of interest with the projects of the EUCEN network of Universitary Continuing Education Centres in Europe. For our policy-related conclusions it is essential to study the lessons of the BeFlex Plus -project (Promoting Flexibility in the Bologna Process). Also, our ideas on common frameworks and toolboxes have similarities with their training materials and training concepts. This is to be followed up with the project coordinator, Mr Oliver Janoschka.

4. Bilateral talks between the Executive Agency and the Euronet-PBL project: In the final phase of the meeting the Executive Agency offered an opportunity for bilateral talks on project-specific issues. I presented the Minutes of the December Meeting in Bremen, an exemplary catch-up plan, the updated monitoring table on the progress with pending work packages and informed of the recent development of the project website. The project officer, Ms. Katarina Smalova considered that the documented decisions and the follow-up measures showed that the project had taken up the recommendations of the external assessor. In particular the active use of the website was considered positive. Concerning the administrative aspects, it was considered appropriate that project invests more on the work of coordination team. If the project needs an extension, it should be requested in such a phase that most work packages have been completed and in which the extra months will provide added value for presenting the results for wider audience (and ensuring better utilisation of the results).

This  document has been written as my personal report on the meeting based on my notes on the discussions. The persons mentioned in the report are free to correct me if I have not quoted correctly our discussions and working agreements.

Written in Bremen 3.2.2010

Pekka Kämäräinen

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Materials of the third project meeting available on the website

By Pekka Kämäräinen | 30th Jan 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

This is just a quick note to announce that the essential materials of the third international project meeting of the Euronet-PBL project are available on this website in the section “project documents”.

The meeting took a major step from harvesting individual partners’ results into producing common results. From this perspective it is essential that the meeting discussed the work packages “Comparative analyses”, “Common framework” and “Common toolbox”.  It is also remarkable that the discussion on pending case studies, stakeholder interviews and self-evaluation workshops took a major step forward. The partners were thinking aloud, how their particular results contribute to a European group picture and how they can learn from the common pool of results.

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Podcast with Masriam Bukit from the Indonesia University of Education and Jo Turner-Attwell from Pontydysgu

By Jo Turner-Attwell | 21st Jan 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

This is a podcast with Masriam Bukit and Jo Turner-Attwell. Masriam Bukit talks about how he feels the Euronet PBL project is relevant for his university and Jo talks about how the Euronet PBL project can be relevant in many different faculties.

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Some questions for discussion from Tim Hall the Irish Partner

By Jo Turner-Attwell | 21st Jan 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

PBL – Practice Based Learning/Problem Based Learning What is it? What is not it?
1. Practice Based Learning and Problem Based Learning are not the same, but they do have shared aims and objectives.
2. EuroNetPBL is primarily interested in Practice Based Learning.
Practice Based Learning: a top level definition: Experience of future professional activity carried out in the work place by learners who are normally based in an academic institution.
Learners here are primarily third level students or their Life Long Learning equivalent.
Professional activity is activity that will be pursued by the learners when their programme of study is completed successfully and they are employed in their profession, it is characterised as a holistic pursuit not primarily focussed on one (academic) aspect as would be typical in college. Conversely, Problem Based Learning aims to bring the holistic professional approach to work into the academic/college environment by challenging students with tasks that echo their future professional activity intellectually and organizationally.
The shared aims and objectives are threefold:
1. Enabling learners to experience a normal professional working environment (or a near analogue of it).
2. Expecting learners to apply academic knowledge from several subjects or fields to the task (holistic approach).
3. Enabling learners to improve their life or transferable skills (communication, team-working etc.)
The variables between PracticeBL and ProblemBL relate to details such as: the structure and formalisation of the episode of practice, the location (workplace or college), the duration (short or long), the place within the programme of study, and additional objectives associated with specific professions.

Some activities are clearly Practice Based Learning and enable us to characterise its core requirements. For example: Teaching Practice carried out by student teachers/trainers. [The Practicum of the Bremen cases or the technical teaching practice from Limerick fall into this group.] Activity is done in the future workplace, particular skills are to be demonstrated, specific experience to be gained and a close supervision and assessment is carried out.
If we look at other less clear examples then it’s hard to define the edge of PracticeBL, for example, is the “work experience” undertaken by many second level students PracticeBL or is it something else?
Here’s an attempt to list some PracticeBL examples in order from classic outwards, where do they stop being PracticeBL?
Teaching practice
Medical/pharmaceutical internship
Engineering/technology/science co-operative education/UK sandwich course placement
Business School company based projects/ trading floor activity
Work experience/community based projects
ProblemBL (done in college)
Professional skills updating/renewal
Learning-by-doing/informal learning.

How much prescription of the Practice?
How much supervision (from the profession, from the college)?
How much assessment, who does it, and what form does it take? …….

Comments, discussion, requested.

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Podcast with Ludger Deitmer from the German Partner

By Jo Turner-Attwell | 7th Jan 2010 | Filed under Uncategorized

Ludger Deitmer talks about his involvement in the Euronet PBL project and the benefits of practical learning.

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