Thursday, 27 November 2014

A great visit to further strengthen our collaborations

Between the 17th and 21st November I spent a week with many colleagues from TAMK using an Erasmus + Training exchange. As part of an ongoing collaboration where we have been discussing a variety of opportunities, my visit was specifically based around improving my knowledge of how TAMK (where Erasmus exchanges are successfully embedded in the university culture) implements the Erasmus programme and how they administer it. At Staffordshire University, we have always participated in Erasmus exchanges but have lacked a central overview and direction due to a variety of reasons and contextual issues. The central administration of Erasmus + exchanges has recently moved under my remit so it provides an ideal moment to learn key lessons surrounding the implementation of the programme to allow us to further build on the way in which we engage with Erasmus.

Before I had even arrived, I was already learning signs of good practise with the professional and efficient communication provided by Matti Pietila in explaining my proposed schedule, hotel and travel advice and some history regarding Tampere. When I did arrive, Matti came to meet me with a warm welcome and we continued where we left off with our conversations when we recently met in Prague at the EAIE conference.

The schedule involved meetings with all the key people involved in providing an excellent service to both incoming and outgoing students and staff through Erasmus exchanges at TAMK.

Overall, the visit has been excellent and particularly useful for me to learn good practise in Erasmus administration. We have many areas of common ground; one in particular is either ends of the issue of attracting UK students to engage in exchange. It seems we can both work together to show these students the benefits of exchanges which will hopefully lead to a balanced and sustainable exchange in the future. The visit has helped to validate areas I was already implementing whilst also giving me some new ideas. I hope also that I was able to add a slightly different perspective to your work which you may have found useful and hope to maintain this mutually beneficial exchanging of experience and knowledge into future work.

More than anything, it was a great pleasure to meet such nice people who gave up their time when I know how busy they are. You are all a credit to TAMK and I look forward to welcoming your staff to Staffordshire in the future.  

In particular I would like to thank Matti for developing an excellent schedule for my visit and for ensuring I found my way to each meeting.

Thank you all again. 

Text: Adam Hall, International Progression Partnerships Manager, Staffordshire University
Picture: Matti Pietilä

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Busy time for TAMK Global Education

Mark and Julia present at Bangkok Educa Conference

TAMK Global Education has had a busy few weeks promoting the programs of the university and raising its international education profile.

The month of October started with a trip to Tallinn, Estonia for a visit to Tallinn Technical University to discuss and explore possible areas of collaboration. There are several areas of follow up and we are optimistic about the possibilities ahead.



Next stop was Bangkok, Thailand for Bangkok Educa Exhibition and conference. Thanks to some excellent preparatory work by Her Excellency Kirsti Westphalen, the Finnish Ambassador and her team at the Finnish Embassy in Thailand and Kai Tuorila from FinPro, this was a very worthwhile trip. The trip was notable for the genuine collaboration among the Team Finland delegation. Julia Sergeeva from TAMK Global Education gave delegates an insight into the range of education services that TAMK could provide to help support Thailand in its development. There is currently a lot of interest in vocational education which is currently under developed in the country. Julia’s presentation highlighted the areas where TAMK could help improve this. 

Mark Curcher, program director of 21st Century Educators presented the program to an interested audience who were keen to hear about this established international teacher development program. A high level meeting with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Education Ministry discussed how Finland could support teacher professional development. Over the months ahead TAMK Global Education will be working with the Embassy and FinPro and a Finnish commercial E-Learning enterprise, Skilltize, to explore the market. TAMK and Skilltize have also been invited to co-author and present a paper at The Eleventh International Conference on eLearning for a Knowledge-Based Society in Bangkok in December.

Team Finland at Bangkok Educa with Her Excellency Kirsti Westphalen, the Finnish Ambassador

A meeting with Her Excellency the Ambassador and the Bangkok Ministry of Education
New Orleans

With almost no time to repack the team were then off again, this time heading West to New Orleans (or ‘Norleans’ as it is pronounced by locals) for the AACE E-Learning 2014 conference. This annual international conference brings together around a thousand delegates from 60 countries to present and to discuss innovations and developments in educational technology and E-Learning.

The first task faced by the team was when Mark was asked at very short notice to introduce the opening keynote speaker for the conference. The first presentation session for the team was a showcase session where a poster developed by Julia, Mark and Essi Kannelkoski was displayed and discussed with conference delegates. Later the same day Julia and Mark co-presented the range of programs that TAMK can offer to the international education community. The next day saw Julia present a paper she had written on the adoption of E-Learning in Russia based on some research that she undertaking. She was excited to have some high profile attendees in the audience such as Prof Jon Dron of Athabasca University, Canada. The extended question and answer session following Julia’s presentation was a reflection of the interest and engagement she had engender in the audience. Prof Dron was complimentary about her presentation. 

Mark introduces the Keynote speaker on the first day of the E-Learn conference in New Orleans


Julia presents her paper at E-Learn New Orleans
Mark also presented a paper co-written with Esther Carvalho, Head Principal, Colégio Rio Branco, our partner for the Brazilian cohort of 21st Century Educators. The paper examines how a Finnish online teacher education program is impacting Brazilian teachers and their practice.

The conference also saw Mark being invited to join the Executive Committee for E-Learn conferences for a three year term and so he will be playing a major role in the planning and organisation of future conferences. Julia’s abilities were recognized by her joining the Special Interest Group (SIG) which is focused on E-Learning in emerging and developing countries.

Raising TAMK Profile

Having travelled thousands of kilometers across time zones and airport transfers, it has been a pretty intense few weeks for the team. This continues at the time of writing with Dr. Carita Prokki represents TAMK in the Middle East in Oman and Qatar. Information on that trip will be provided in a future blog blog post.

It is true to say that the name and reputation of TAMK as an international provider of high quality education programs has been raised from Bangkok in the East to Hawaii (there was a large delegation from Hawaii in New Orleans) in the West. The stress of travel has brought the team members a few coughs and colds, but there is no doubt that this is a small price to pay for the very real promotional work being undertaken. Look out for future updates.

Mark Curcher, Program Director, 21st Century Educators