18 December, 2012

In the spotlight

Student Abigail van Bercheyke found herself an internship in New York City, the very first student of the school of social work to do so (as part of her studies in Cultural Social Work / CMV). Although the road to New York was paved with obstacles, taking a lot of  time, it's obvious from the picture that it has been worth all the effort.
The following is a short post that was published in the BCS newsletter; may it inspire other students to take similar steps.
“I am happy to be at Brooklyn Community Services because it’s in Brooklyn, which is so vibrant and diverse. It reminds me of Rotterdam, where I attend University .” -Abigail
As a student at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands studying to be a social cultural worker, Abigail was seeking an internship in New York City. A Google search led her to BCS.
Abigail feels her connection with BCS is a perfect match. She has been to NYC twice before and Brooklyn is her favorite borough.
Abigail’s final research paper at Rotterdam University addresses youth issues, and she is excited to be working with the Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service. Abigail also enjoys being able to tap into her creative abilities by designing flyers for the volunteer program and helping out in the External Relations and Advancement Department.
“If you are a person who likes to do a lot of different things, BCS has a lot to offer. Because of the many of programs you can volunteer in different kinds of ways, which makes the work interesting and enjoyable” -Abigail.

12 December, 2012

Learning without boundaries after 2013

What does learning without boundaries after 2013 look like? This was the theme of a conference that was announced a few months ago by the Dutch National Agency for Lifelong Learning. Looking back, I am glad I persisted in my attempts to attend it. Due to circumstances I had to enroll later than I wanted to, only to find out that even the waiting list was full for this free event. Undauntedly, I decided to turn up any way, expecting not to be sent home as I had come all the way to the venue. And indeed thankfully I was admitted approximately half an hour after the start. Having missed the first inspirational presentation I landed immediately in the elevator pitches for the upcoming round of workshops. A new format that worked very well as it gave a better than usual insight into what the different workshops entailed. From prior experience at other conventions I know workshops do not always turn out to be as the abstracts or written announcements suggest.
The focus for me this time was on the latest regarding virtual mobility, virtual teamwork and open course ware and I took away a lot from the sessions. One of the sessions led by Willem van Valkenburg (from TU Delft) showed this self-explanatory video to demonstrate why open education matters:
Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

This reminded me of a video I saw about 5 years ago under the title of Shift happens and which has since been updated a few times, the latest version here:

Crucial message for the education sector : "We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist ... using technologies that haven't been invented ... in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."
One of the intriguing issues that came up during the workshop was: what is the surplus value of a university as we all know now that a university does not have the monopoly on knowledge any more....That really makes you think, doesn't it. Our workshop leader remarked that at the moment many boards of directors at universities are discussing the increasingly popular phenomenon of MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses and what impact that will have.
A recent blog even calls 2012 the year of the MOOC and puts the question: "“Will MOOCs spell the end of higher education?” Doomthinking like this however is not new. Already in 2003 I read somewhere that it would be game over for the higher education sector within the decade. I believe there is still plenty of room for play, but it's crucial to keep paying attention to the rules that are changing all the time, stay on top of the trends and adopt adaptive strategies. As an article in the Chronicle already seemed to suggest at the start of 2012: digital badges could well become the successor of  credits, fascinating !
The other workshop focussed on blended teamwork and dealt with practical points of attention to any team that collaborates at a distance, based on their own experience of working together as a European team on a virtual handbook. One of the questions that was put to us was: how do you build up trust in your online team ?
All in all, the conference was a pleasant experience, not in the least because it put the spotlight on the way young people view and experience education and life at the moment, and most of all because it meant chatting and discussing issues with like-minded people, who can look beyond boundaries, very refreshing.
More about MOOCS on Willem's blog here and a learner's reflective perspective here. And these are the recommended steps for students to make a MOOC count taken from Inside HigherEd.

22 November, 2012

Capitalising on volunteer experiences

Sala Alessi, Palazzo Marino, in the heart of Milan: that was the venue for an open seminar that our Milanese partner Ciessevi had arranged as part of the 3rd partnership meeting of the INVEST project on November 12th. In this majestic location all eyes were first focused on the mayor of Milan who welcomed the many participants as well as the INVEST partners from Spain, Denmark, the UK and our country. An admirable way of underlining the importance of volunteering and supporting European cooperation !
Capitalising on volunteer experiences: that was to be our theme, we had decided, much in line with the INVEST project objectives (described here). The open seminar provided an ideal opportunity to disseminate the European experiences with competence development and portfolios for volunteers to local stakeholders.
A Grundtvig learning partnership makes EU cooperation accessible, focused and concrete, once you've drawn up a solid plan and got it approved. This type of European project facilitates face-2-face meetings, resulting in worthwhile talks and discussions enabling interaction that leads to new ideas and perspectives. During small scale workshops many issues can be discussed at a concrete and insightful level via focused and well prepared assignments, which is why everybody learns so much (see here what was learned at an event just like this).
Moreover, it also supports a European spirit of solidarity in these difficult times in the Eurozone.This time the two workshops were implemented by our Cibervoluntarios partner from Madrid and our own university. Finally, the visits to three volunteering organisations in the Milan area made the meeting an overall success among the 28 delegates.Here's a picture of nearly the whole group at the end of day 1.

On our way back to the airport we got confronted with one of the many protest marches taking place all over Europe that day; as it turned out, it was the biggest day of union-organised protests since the crisis in the euro first broke out three years ago, with trade unions from 23 European countries joining in this day of action.

 More photos of this 3rd European level meeting of the INVEST project on flickr via this link.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog post reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.

21 November, 2012


An interesting new development: graphics presenting complex information quickly and clearly, for example in journalism and on the web. These so-called infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge and appear to become more and more popular to communicate complex concepts and illustrate information that would be unwieldy in text form.
Here's one I saw this week about studying in Holland:

And here's another one I saw  appearing a while ago on opensite.org: about Wikipedia, may there be lots more to come !

08 November, 2012

Signing an MoU

It was Thursday October 18th when rector Glenn Thode of the University of Aruba and managing director Jeroen Oversier of our School of Social Work at Rotterdam University signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the presence of Juliet Chieuw, quality assurance officer, Peter Canrinus, educational manager, and Anja Stofberg, international coordinator.

The MoU establishes a common framework of cooperation, consultation and exchange of information to promote and facilitate exchanges. At the same time, it also underlines the importance of increasing international activity within our school of social work as well as within the department of Social Work and Development of the FAS (the Faculty of Arts and Science at UA).
The signature is a follow up of the talks and visits that took place over the last 12 months. Both in the Netherlands as well as in Aruba, talks always took place in a very positive atmosphere (see earlier blog posts here and here) and the closing statements usually expressed that future collaboration steps looked promising as both parties can benefit a lot from each other's expertise, approach and network.Interestingly, it was pointed out that small though the island of Aruba is, it can play a huge role as international hub in its surrounding area, a fascinating current development that is taking place in our increasingly globalising world that we are preparing our students for. So, now it's time to start planning in more detail !


13 October, 2012

Let's be inspired by a South African methodology !

This week the school of social work at Rotterdam University welcomed a visitor from South Africa: Adele Grosse. She had come here on the invitation of Trivium Lindenhof and FICE to share her evidence-based methodology.
Adele Grosse is founder of IN TOUCH PARENTING and founder the PROUD2B ME Foundation, a community development organisation that provides family preservation programmes.
As all (working) parents all over the world realise on a daily basis, it is a struggle sometimes to balance the priorities in your lives, especially if jobs are very demanding. But sometimes, no matter how important everything else feels, you have to take a step back and realise that parenting your child is more important than cleaning the house or getting some extra work done, Adele claims. And how right she is. By association, I can still remember the surprising and urgent appeal that a keynote speaker made at the end of his address at a major European social work conference in Parma, Italy (in 2007): "don't forget to be a social worker in your own family too !".
Although parenting means different things to different people, parenting is in fact a skill that needs to be learned and mastered by each and every parent.
It's exactly this issue that Adele Grosse addresses, "remember a responsible parent = a responsible home = a responsible child !" All too often we tend to forget that parents' behaviour has a huge impact on children: "children see, children do".

Habits die hard and there's always a reason to continue things the way they are. Making changes is not easy, so realising that, Adele set out  to develop a tool kit and a unique 5-week programme based on four pillars, each pillar being covered within a week. The focus of the four pillars is on:
  • role & responsibility (as youth/parent/educator)
  • self-esteem & affirmation
  • effective communication skills
  • values & discipline
This preservation programme bases itself on the assertion that: a responsible me = a responsible home = a responsible school = a responsible community = a responsible nation.
By approaching the tasks of parenting from 3 different angles (youth, parents and educators) simultaneously and by working in support groups, a longer lasting change can be achieved. Moreover, by this joint effort these 3 parties learn to speak the same language of transformation, making the change more sustainable in the communities as well. As this methodology was seen to bring change and hope to the communities and townships in South Africa, interest in this unique model grew in different parts of the country.
With appealing posters and short videos, the message was spread : "Each of us has the ability to change things around us by becoming the change WE wish to see in this world. Come on SA, let's demolish the bad habits in our communities! "
In her heart-felt, inspirational presentation Adele made the audience realise more than anything else that our societies desperately need wholesome and responsible parents who empower their children to reach their full potential by creating a loving, nurturing environment that strengthens the family and society. 
"Change starts with me .... everything starts with me .... Don't think it, ink it" ! Get up and get started, why wait any longer ? That's how Adele Grosse has done it and achieved so much.

14 September, 2012

What's so special about social work ?

By coincidence I stumbled on this intriguing question during one of my surfing expeditions on the web. Intriguing for social work professionals, you might say ? Well, to be honest, often in your day-to-day routines you get bogged down with a heavy workload and tend to forget the importance and essence of social work.

And luckily, you stumble on  Malcolm Payne's article , making crystal clear what is so special about social work and why it matters.

"Social work makes three main contributions to social justice, which are very distinctive.
First, it is concerned with the 'social': to improving social relations between people. Doctors deal with illness, lawyers with crime and individual injustices, teachers teach their pupils: social work uniquely sets out to improve relationships between people individually and collectively. Teachers or counsellors might help a child think through their worries, but it's social workers who visit the house, sit down and join with other members of the family to help sort out home problems.

Second, it focuses on people who lose out because they need housing or financial support but don't fit the criteria. Social workers try not to give up on people just because they don't fit in with the bureaucratic categories. Research over several decades shows that the people using their services value social workers trying to understand their problems and sticking with trying to get the best for them.

Third, social workers have always been prepared to intervene in social relations. It doesn't make them popular. Nineteenth century campaigners complained about early social workers interfering in other people's lives with their own moral agenda (or at least the moral agenda of the churches and the middle classes who funded early social work).

Complaints about social workers not intervening with an abused child, or a violent mentally ill man, or an isolated disabled or elderly person without family support just shows how useful it is to have a profession around prepared to have a go at helping to sort things out. In this way, social work helps to maintain the social fabric. That's why most countries have a social work profession."

Along these lines (and more) Payne held a presentation during the Stockholm Global Social Work Conference in July 2012. Here's a link to that 30-minute presentation, paving the way for 21st century social work.

My tip is: have your students listen to this easily understandable talk to the global social work community !

For those of you who don't know Malcolm Payne: he is a writer, blogger, consultant, educator on social work and end-of-life care. Here's a link to his tweets.

13 July, 2012

My Erasmus learning experience in Rotterdam

By guest editor Rosemary from Ireland
Although there are clear educational benefits to be gained from going on student Erasmus exchange, it is not the only reason to take part. The course in itself, gave me a different perspective. It was more European and it was interesting to compare two countries. Holland is a very modern and multi-cultural place so you really get to see how they established their state and constitution in a very open minded and liberal manner. We studied subjects such as Global Citizenship and Multiculturalism, which really helped open our minds to modern thinking and understanding of the future’s Education System.
The Erasmus Programme’s origins: Formalised in 1987, the programme was named after the Dutch Renaissance philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, who was a keen proponent of pan-European study as a means to ensure that education did not become dogmatic. By offering European students the opportunity to experience a different education system, the Erasmus programme hopes to encourage a pluralistic approach to learning and, consequently, improve the education available to all EU citizens. I agree that the Erasmus experience certainly improved my understanding of education and has helped me in my approach to my third year of study in Montessori Education with confidence.
Hogeschool Rotterdam is one of the best colleges in Europe, so the standard of teaching and the standard of the students were really great, so I have improved greatly in critical thinking and essay formatting. Nevertheless, it was outside the lecture environment that I felt the biggest gains were made. I feel much more comfortable now than I maybe would have perhaps before X-mas because you really do have no choice but to come out of your shell a bit more and take part in putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. This personal development side of Erasmus is certainly something that I benefited from the programme. I feel I have matured and gained better independence. Basically I have learned how to do things independently for the first time by myself; I didn’t have my normal support structures such as friends and family to rely on. A lot of the students in my class also had some great travel opportunities. While in The Netherlands, you’re only a short train ride away from another country and so a lot of my classmates have gone home with some great travel stories. My fellow student and I visited other Erasmus students from our class to Leuven, Belgium which was so much fun and easy to do.
I cannot express enough how valuable this experience was both for me personally and educationally. I have made some really great friends who have all left me with open invites to come visit them when I would like. I have grown so much in such a short amount of time which leaves me to appreciate that I am capable of so much as a future teacher and Montessorian. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity and for believing in me to successfully complete and appreciate the Erasmus Programme. It was really “Prima.!”

10 July, 2012

Meanwhile: in Stockholm, day 2

A busy day, lots of impressions, lots of information to digest and make sense of, many short chats with people I never met before. Loads of inspiring examples and presenters, stimulating initiatives and innovations as well as intriguing presentations of research results. And then there are also a lot of poster presentations worth studying ! Also a few disappointments as workshops were fully seated when I arrived at the workshop room, which meant that within moments you need to take a quick decision where to go instead. All in all it was a lot to take in, but an exhilirating experience ! Then off to Stockholm's city hall for the reception and above all to admire the amazing interior of the first floor hall. That in a nutshell was the experience of a conference delegate on day 2 of the Global Social Work conference. This is just a random selection of photos of the day.

08 July, 2012

Meanwhile: in Stockholm, day 1

And there we were, a small delegation of five from Rotterdam, arriving to the conference venue with many, many others on Sunday July 8th. It was the 2nd joint Global Social Work Social Development conference: Action and Impact that was about to start in Stockholmsmässan/Stockholm International Fairs that had drawn us there in big numbers.
Queuing up for registration seemed to become an endless affair, so in we went to the opening ceremony without the official entrance name tags and materials to hear a warm and thought provoking welcome from a group of young people. The purpose of the conference was made crystal clear to us by David Jones: we are here to plan the future, not just talk ! Of course we meet colleagues from all over the world, and of course we'll build our networks and of course we will listen and talk, but all people involved in social work have a global agenda now which needs to be implemented, starting right here in Sweden. Here's a visual impression of day 1.

04 July, 2012

A Final Goodbye

Last week we said goodbye to the last group of international students who participated in this year's edition of the International Class in Bridging Cultures in Multicultural Rotterdam. These were the students who had decided to stay on for an additional two-month period to do independent studies, either an internship type of study programme or a survey based on literature study. Here are some photos of that final get-together where also the certificates were handed out.
Shortly before this final goodbye, news had reached the coordinators that next year there will be no International Class. Internally, our university needs some time to reconsider the concept of international education offered to students from our partner universities. Whether that will mean an end to the collaboration between the School of Education and the School of Social Work, nobody knows. So for now, all we can say is: last week was also goodbye to the international class for the coordinators.

03 July, 2012

Wikipedia is research, or not ?

Wikipedia, the free, collaboratively edited and multilingual internet encyclopedia, is not only among the top 10 most-visited sites, but it has also grown to be the number one source for students. In fact, for many students it is more or less a one stop shop for information and students are said to stop research and change topics if it’s not on Wikipedia. Studies have shown that Wikipedia is almost as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica, all due to the efforts of the millions of volunteers who write, edit, and check its entries. This infographic by OpenSite highlights how Wikipedia has revolutionized research and how it has become an increasingly reliable fountain of knowledge over the years. Wikipedia
Interested in knowing why so many volunteer to contribute to Wikipedia? Listen to the founder Jimmy Wales:

04 June, 2012

Meanwhile: in Copenhagen

Having the best of both worlds: that was the driving force behind the decision to have the 2nd INVEST partnership meeting in May organised in conjunction with the CEV conference. The theme of the Copenhagen conference was in fact very much in line with the path that had been trodden in the run-up to the Grundtvig project application of INVEST, namely: cross-sector collaboration. The backdrop: the beautiful location of the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) at Christiansborg Palace, on the island of Slotsholmen in the centre of the Danish capital. After enjoying the CEV conference, its workshops,seminar sessions and opportunities for networking and disseminating, the INVEST partners met on Friday May 9th to hold two workshops in the company of their volunteers, volunteering coordinators and colleagues. The workshops were a first try out in a European setting, leading to stimulating dialogue and exchange of experiences. The overall mission and goal of the INVEST project is to strengthen volunteering interventions by training volunteers on a regular basis in order to increase motivation for volunteering, encourage the quality and continuity of volunteer involvement and empower volunteers themselves in their competence development. In the workshops given by the UK partner (Roehampton University)and the Italian partner (Ciessevi) the focus was in fact on those issues. Having been identified as a major component of any learning activity, reflection took centre stage in the discussions and debriefing moments after the workshops. Many times you could hear participants saying: "come to think of it , I now realise that .....". Another interesting reflection was expressed during the finishing round of remarks: "it was so good to talk to people involved in volunteering within the wider scope of Europe; there is so much common ground but we've never realised this up to now in this European setting by sharing these thoughts with European counterparts". Mission completed ? Not yet, but we are well underway ! The Grundtvig Learning partnership that started its activities in September 2011 is more or less midway by now, so it was time to take stock of the progress made during the first project year. This was done on the morning preceding the general opening of the CEV conference. Taking the opportunity to finetune further steps in the project, the partners outlined more detailed plans for the coming months and the 3rd partnership meeting in November, in Milan. Hopefully, by the end of June we'll have finished a number of chapters of the digital booklet we are to produce, so that from September onwards the focus can shift towards volunteer portfolios.

Posted later, a short videoclip of the INVEST meeting:

27 May, 2012

Exploring identity through a short study abroad experience

Recently an innovation award was granted to the University of Kentucky and the German Fulbright Commission for their twin programmes Discover USA and Discover Germany. These twin programmes share a common mission, namely to provide an opportunity to students from underrepresented groups in both countries to reconsider their own concepts of identity through an international experience at each other's academies. Students of diverse backgrounds from the University of Kentucky (minority, Appalachian, or first-generation college students) go and study in Berlin, and German students who are immigrants or first-generation citizens are sent to study at the University of Kentucky. What are the success factors one may well ask ? Briefly put, the overarching goal is to allow students to reflect on the concept of "otherness" in local, national, and global contexts. As they bond with each other and acknowledge their differences, they also affirm their German identity, and compare their feelings of inner versus outer identity with the ways that they are perceived by U.S. students. Similarly, the American students on the Discover Germany programmes are members of a racial, ethnic, or cultural minority or are first-generation college students. Whereas they see primarily their differences before the travel experience, once they are in Germany they also grapple with the dissonance between how they see themselves and how others perceive them. In other words, their study-abroad experience, alongside their own personal circumstances, turn them into keen observers of how citizenship, identity and nationality are defined and how cultural, racial, ethnic and religious diversity is experienced in other countries. The Germany—Discover USA programme is fully-funded, takes five weeks and is an authentic academic experience for these students. As educators across the globe agree that developing an international perspective is essential to students’ educational goals and their potential to become thoughtful, contributing members of our interconnected society, not many universities actually succeed in fulfilling this noble ambition. This is an inspirational example demonstrating how this can be achieved. For the American university involved in this programme it is an essential part of their strategy to implement internationalisation on their campus. Found through the website of University World News.

23 May, 2012

12 May, 2012

Mapping Stereotypes within and outside Europe

From London-based designer Yanko Tsvetkov come these Mapping Stereotypes in the shape of calendars, mousepads, prints on t-shirts etc. etc. 

And, just in case you are wondering, here's how he introduces himself:
"My name is Yanko Tsvetkov and I’m a freelance graphic designer and a visual artist. I am known as alphadesigner, a pseudonym that usually makes people think what I do is really important. That’s why I chose it."
A series of amusing, often tragicomically true maps of Europe based on various subjective perceptions and ideologies, states Maria Popova on Brainpickings. 
Here is the world seen through the eyes of the USA, for example:

Recently returning from a stimulating and inspirational European spirited conference on volunteering, I wouldn't dare to display an image map of European stereotypes, amusing though they would be for the beholder .... so I suggest you check these out yourself .... and snigger.