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Issue Mutual shaping of ICT, VET and work
Outline [NB:] In most European countries there is a policy of encouraging small companies to form networks of innovation which are connected by ICT. Many large organisations are subdivided into smaller business units, and these are joining separate kinds of networks. So there is a substantial breaking up of large organisations into small ones which are then networked together using ICT.
The world of VET is also changing rapidly. There is a general shift in policy to place VET in the work place rather than in educational institutions. The customer is less and less the individual student and more and more a corporate student. A variety of people is taking responsibility for training. VET is now delivered by co-workers, by team leaders, by middle managers in the actual work situation. 
There are also significant changes in the technology, including devices for networked configurations and software designed to facilitate knowledge intensive networks.
Altogether, the boundaries between ICT, VET and work are dissolving. What we are dealing with are new configurations of learning, teaching, work and home life. Research and policies have got to get to grips with this paradigm of mutual shaping.
Debate [GA:] I am intrigued by this argument about the shaping or co-shaping of ICT, work and education and training. All this is of course connected, and I agree totally with this changing relationship between work and learning. The worry I have with that is that the concept of shaping has come into the English language through a rather barred translation of the German term 'Gestaltung' that won't translate. This concept was very strongly based on the idea that human beings would shape work and technology. Now what NB seems to be producing is the idea that VET as a thing shapes ICT, ICT as a thing shapes VET, work shapes ICT etc., but then you remove the human agency out of it.
[NB:] You can in fact see a great deal of human agency in this situation. A study that Norma Lammont and I did (see reference - SM) on a debt collecting agency in Manchester may illustrate this process. The job of the debt collectors is to phone debtors up and try to make them pay. Traditionally this work was done in offices with manual paper files, and each worker had a collection of these files and just worked their way through them. The competitiveness of this field resulted in computerisation. Computers were introduced to increase the productivity of these telephone debt collectors. The technology was an automatic direct dialler plus a central electronic record of all transactions between the debt collectors and the debtors. 
So when a call was allocated to a debt collector they then typed in a transaction of what they were discussing with the debtor. This resulted in a common memory of all the transactions. In order to understand each others' transcripts the debt collectors constructed their own set of concepts for categorising debtors into different categories, and they worked out their own language for typing in to this central electronic record. This is where the human agency comes in: they are shaping the software. Its successive design has to fit in with the way in which these people are doing their work.
Where is VET coming to this? In Britain there is no formal training for these workers. They just learn on the job. The company trains them by using the electronic database as a training environment. So here you have a piece of software and hardware which was designed to increase productivity as a kind of electronic treadmill which is now a very effective learning tool. So the community of practice has got its norms and its symbols and its ideas imbedded in the software. By training newcomers on that software the ICT is a very powerful learning tool.
Reference The study by Nick Boreham and Norma Lammont is going to be published in a book on work process knowledge related to the TSER project WHOLE (reference will follow!).
Event CEDRA: Brussels Nov 01
Descriptors D-CVT  EP09  EP04        V15
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO