shaping of ICT, VET and work
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.
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.
are also significant changes in the technology, including devices for networked
configurations and software designed to facilitate knowledge intensive
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Brussels Nov 01