11 December, 2013

NL launch of Erasmus + at Media Plaza

An overwhelming interest for the event of the launch of the new Erasmus + programme: that's what took the National Agencies with surprise after opening up the event registration online. Especially for HEIs registration was full within a day, so each university was kindly requested to draw up a shortlist of three candidates to attend and I was one of the lucky ones to represent my university.
A plenary, two in-depth informative sessions as well as an opportunity to meet others and network, plus a number of short interesting pitches: a formula that usually works well if you approach the right speakers, as was the case.
It was the penultimate speaker that made the most impression, Nils Roemen. He introduced a new concept #durftevragen, translated into Dare to Ask, which is about social value creation and getting things done in a way that leaves money out of the equation more often than not.  The team is able to make things possible and manage to solve questions simply by way of their approach, which is also done on twitter. On their website he and his team put up wishlists to state the type of thing they need , and the response is usually quicker than you can imagine. Co-creation and sharing (knowledge, products, tips, approaches, networks etc.) are the core ingredients of the method they use. Definitely the most impressive and inspirational talk of the day. The final speaker was Jet Bussemaker of the ministry of Education, Culture and Science stating the importance of Erasmus + and the objectives and opportunities that were attached to this new EU programme. Appropriately, the event came to a festive end with minister Jet Bussemaker pushing the button to experience the fireworks of the launch and a glass of bubbly wine for all the participants.

06 December, 2013

LBTG - Let's Bridge the Gap , a YiA project !

Here's the video that was produced as the final outcome of the Youth in Action project that took place in Palermo, Italy on the topic of LBTG and was organised as a training course by CESIE in June, 2013, with the support of the action 3.1 of the Youth in Action programme.

I'm sure you'll notice the enthusiasm and inspiration that every participant put into the sessions, workshops and events. As such it's an interesting visualisation of a week's activities and demonstrates a YiA project in a nutshell: for 9 days, 42 youth workers from 15 different countries (Italy, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Netherlands, Ukraine) discussed issues and expressed their points of view on sexuality, discrimination, stereotypes and issues related to the LGBTIQ community(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Intersexual, Queer).

Moreover , the project was implemented at the same time as National Pride, to which participants contributed with different performances at the Pride Village, a flash-mob in the heart of Palermo, and their participation to the Parade with their own truck.
Have a look for yourself !

07 October, 2013

An American adventure in Rotterdam, preceding the H C 2013

The Honours Conference on October 3 and 4 was a great experience: that's the general comment from all who attended this get-together of honours students and honours lecturers. A one-off new event. New, that is to say : new at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Just by browsing / reading the Live Magazine below one gets a fairly good impression of what went on and how inspiring the event was. One thing is for sure: a missed opportunity for those who did not attend, such as myself.

Preceding the conference, there was a masterclass on October 2nd that was undoubtedly just as inspiring as the conference itself. It was announced as ROTTERDAM CITY AS TEXT™ - an American adventure in Rotterdam, the very first of its kind in the Netherlands.

Probably best described as a pedagogy that emphasizes the strength of experiental or active learning, the participants were invited to "read Rotterdam as a text" by having a walkabout through Rotterdam districts. Having studied the materials underpinning this approach, all of us ventured into the Afrikaanderplein market and later into specific inner district areas to explore and attempt to map the city areas as they came across at that particular moment in time: looking at Rotterdam with fresh eyes, observing and defining our own maps in order to share afterwards what we had discovered.

Apart from it being a fun experience to undergo, it was the collaborative and integrated approach that was fascinating: participants from diverse backgrounds shared their interpretations and perspectives, offering alternative explanations. In the debriefing sessions the participants' views came together and by reflecting on them there were many surprising insights. My overall impression was that for each and everyone who attended this event it had been a personally enriching experience. The masterclass was in the capable hands of two American professors: Dr. Bernice Braid and Dr. Sara Quay.
In case this has whetted your appetite, a succinct description of the City as Text pedagogy can be found here.
For international students coming to Rotterdam for a semester, this active learning experience could be just the kind of kick off  for any or all of the exchange or course programmes. It will engage students in a site specific experiential voyage of discovery that fosters critical inquiry and at the same time allows students to learn across many disciplines ! An advantage that they will benefit from for the rest of their lives.
As Umberto Eco puts it: The world is a book that demands to be read like a book.
(Pictures will be added at a later stage.)

04 September, 2013

INVEST in Your Volunteers

That has become the title of a digital booklet that five European partners (from Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the UK) have been working on during the two-year run of the INVEST project. 
In a nutshell, the booklet outlines how to encourage and empower volunteers by creating special learning opportunities for them.
The focus of our European Grundtvig project was learning through volunteering. The main objective was to identify and apply different methods and tools for facilitating learning opportunities for volunteers and share the experiments and experiences among the wider European community involved in volunteering.
The rationale behind the booklet is: volunteers can be empowered by raising their awareness of the many competences and skills they are acquiring during their voluntary activities and by supporting them in identifying these skills as well as by providing other learning opportunities to them, such as workshops.
In order to support and encourage volunteers in their development 25 tools have been described and displayed in the booklet via a format. Among these there are also sample portfolios, as they provide unique opportunities to stimulate volunteers to reflect on their broad experiences and achievements and in this way get to grips with assessing their own capabilities, increasing their quality of life, connecting this to their ambitions and their level of commitment to learning from volunteering.
The booklet includes five chapters and four appendices with additional resources.

Here's it is :

Would you like to get a flavour of the project and see its many participants in action, why not have a look at this set of pictures on flickr.com  ?

21 June, 2013

Training Course in Palermo, day 2

The story of the training course in Palermo continues, from their base in the convent of San Giovanni Battista di Baida.
By guest blogger Alex Adriana:

Baida - getting to know the topic

So, we started the second day with one of the games we did on the first day. The facebook game. The people who didn’t have their picture drawn yet, got it today. The other energizer was massaging each other in a big circle. I noticed that it’s very common to touch each other in a lot of cultures. Sometimes I’m okay with that but other times it makes me a bit uncomfortable though.

Today was about the homo eroticus (his-story). It was about how many historical happenings are written from a male perspective and females are nowhere to be found. So, we talked a lot more about the women in this story. There was an assigment and we had to write down a few fictional characters (from fairy tales and myths) and divide them into three groups: virgin woman, fertile (sexually active) woman and the old woman. It was very funny and nice to see that many of the Slavic fairy tales are the same as the ones I know from Dutch culture.

After the coffee break we did a very nice energizer, called Mazinga! It’s very simple, yet very powerful. And we continued with the lecture, when our lecturer said something very inspiring I think: "Every  woman is a nun, even when she shows her nipples". To me it means there is nothing about a human (male nor female) body to sexualize. Everyone’s body is sacred.

After lunch we had time to prepare our presentation, but since the internet wasn’t working and we had other technical difficulties we couldn’t finish our powerpoint. We ended up making a poster, which was also very nice. But, due to lack of time we weren’t able to present this day, so it moved to the other day.

After dinner we had the opportunity to show the organisation we represent. In our case that’s our school, as well as the internship me and Ruby (one of my classmates) are doing. There were many other organisations, some of which I’m really interested in. For example, some of them work with the same method, but others are in a totally different field of work. In the late evening we had a party on the rooftop of the monastery, which has an amazingly beautiful view. I talked with a lot of nice people and I got to know some people a bit better.

Day 2 was a very nice day, but I was also a bit sleepy and I felt like the lectures were a bit too long here and there. But the people here are very, very nice!

A Training Course in Palermo, Sicily

This week three students from the CMV study programme went to Sicily for a training course under the title of Let's Bridge The Gap (or: LBTG for short). The programme was hosted and organised by CESIE, an international partner of our school of social work, under the Youth in Action programme which is funded by the EU.
One of the students was asked to act as guest blogger here.
Here's what Alex Adriana has written on her own blog, which was copied here:

Baida – getting to know each other

So, the first day here in Baida started off with a groupbuilding activity called Mission Impossible. We had to do all sorts of things within our group but we had limited time. We had to take the funniest group picture, interview 5 people about what identity means to them, find out the price of coca cola, a bus ticket and chocolate in different countries. We had to list 35 countries, sing happy birthday in as many languages as possible, make up a story of a few certain words and we had to make a sixties commercial for young people. After this we had a short break and then we wrote down our fears and expectations of this project. Not really sharing it, but putting it on post-it notes and hang them in the lecture hall. After lunch we did a game, called ‘Facebook’. We had an inner circle who were the models for the outer circle. The outer circle had to change seats every few seconds so everybody took part in drawing the person from the inner circle. It was very funny.
Then things really started. The concept of gender and sexuality was introduced and in pairs we had to answer questions and tell our findings to the group. I had to talk about what the difference is between sex and gender. For the rest of the day we worked on a big puzzle with all sorts of terms that can be divided into different groups. First we made the puzzle in small groups and then we made the puzzle with the whole group, so everybody could see what the level of knowledge of the group is. The exercise was also meant to have a common ground of the words we use and what they mean. 
We ended the first day with an aphrodisiac dinner where we presented our national food which is also kind of aphrodisiac. The other countries had many nice things as well. After dinner we went up to the roof with a few people and it was very nice, we socialized more than during the project I think.
In general, I really like being here. The people are very nice and open minded. All of the assignments really helped to get to know each other better and really make us a group."

23 May, 2013

Social Work Brugge visits Rotterdam with more than 100 students

A contribution in Dutch by guest blogger: Johan Bertels from Belgium

Het eerste jaar Sociaal Werk uit Brugge trok van 6 tot 8 mei naar de Hogeschool Rotterdam om er samen met Nederlandse studenten te werken rond Inter Cultural Learning (ICL).  Dit aan de hand van interactieve en ervaringsgerichte  Non Formal Education Methoden.  Zij werden vergezeld door 5 docenten en een collega van de University of South Wales (UK) .  Vlaamse en Nederlandse studenten die daarvoor kozen, konden de module dan ook in het Engels volgen.   De groep werd ook vergezeld door een onderzoeker  die participerend observeerde.  Daarnaast werden ook alle studenten bevraagd over hun ICL ervaring, dit in het kader van het onderzoek “Visies, concepten en drempels in het intercultureel leren” van het Thucydides fonds.
De opleiding Sociaal Werk koos voor Rotterdam als locatie om het ICL verhaal te brengen omwille van de meerwaarde van de grote diversiteit in de stad en aan de Hogeschool.  Voor toekomstige sociaal werkers is het zeer belangrijk om met diversiteit te kunnen omgaan.  Op de laatste dag namen de Nederlandse studenten de HOWEST studenten in kleine groepjes met het openbaar vervoer mee naar de multiculturele wijken en buurten.   Ook het verblijf in Maritime hotel – het vroegere zeemanshuis – droeg bij tot de ontmoeting met andere culturen.   Met deze  “massa-mobiliteit” proeven de eerste jaars voor het eerst van een korte, maar intense internationale ervaring.  De gemeenschappelijke taal zou hierbij een drempelverlagend effect moeten hebben, maar toch bleken we vaak een “anders soort”  Nederlands  te spreken, wat regelmatig tot grappige  misverstanden aanleiding gaf.      

18 April, 2013

Impressions from a Finn in Rotterdam

By special guest blogger: Juha Makkonen
I did my Erasmus teacher exchange at Hogeschool Rotterdam from April 10 to 16th, 2013. During the first two days of my visit I took part in the INVEST project meeting and had a possibility to participate in workshops and interesting visits. We had great discussions about how to encourage volunteer workers, what kind of funding possibilities there exist and how we can create more networks in Europe. It was also a really eye opening experience to see how much voluntary work is done in the Netherlands and what a large impact it has on the whole society.

On Thursday I also had my own lessons with two different student groups. The content of my first lesson was about the history of Finland and how it currently affects the social situation of Finland. I also I made a comparison of the situation of Finland and the Netherlands and heard several good points of view from the students. The other lesson I had was about youth policy and a specific youth guarantee in Finland. The students of both groups were very active and the civic knowledge of them appeared to be of a high level.

During the weekend I participated in the "10 KM LOOP" which was part of the Rotterdam Marathon event. The event itself was a good example of the huge number of arrangements which were made in a short time. And mostly done by volunteers.

On the last days of my visit there were professionalisation days for the staff. I was in the group which visited RadarUitvoering. We heard about the new concepts and plans they have concerning both the financing and managing the activities. We also met former students of the School of Social Work and realized how much they have managed to change their approaches and practices while working for RadarUitvoering.

Overall, I had a most pleasant visit in Rotterdam. I heard that several lecturers in the School of Social Work have been thinking about a visit to Finland during the next school year. I am looking forward to welcoming guests from Hogeschool Rotterdam and provide them as fruitful visit in Finland as possible.

Senior lecturer mr. Juha Makkonen
Humak University of Applied Sciences, Finland

25 March, 2013

Celebrating World Social Work Day 2013

Here's a 15-minute video showcasing how a number of social work departments have celebrated World Social Work Day around Europe and how their students benefited. This event usually takes place mid-March and it's an ideal opportunity to draw attention to the bigger social picture beyond our borders.
May this inspire you for the coming years !

23 March, 2013

the importance of an international perspective

 "Whether we like it or not the world is more globalised and we have to adapt to that." And: "seeing how things are done in a different country can really open your mind." Just two quotes taken from an article posted by the Guardian journalist Mary O'Hara in the Social Care section  here .
This week World Social Work day was celebrated around the globe. It also prompted a flurry of posts and articles on the web. This particular article caught my eye: it focused on the benefits of an exchange programme between social work students from Northern Ireland and their counterparts in India. Especially, the stress that was placed on global professional development struck a chord with me.
As a university of applied sciences educating the future workforce it is crucial that students are well prepared for a global society once they enter the labour market.
"Within social work, it is particularly important to try and understand other contexts as the social work project is one with a global vision. When we do not engage with others, we become trapped in our own ways of thinking." Another quote and how true !
Learning how issues and problems in social work can be tackled and resolved by different interventions around the world can open up new perspectives. "The reality is that [in social work] you can no longer work in your own little world," say academics Janet Carter Anand and Chaitali Das from Queens University, Belfast, the driving forces behind the exchange programme. "Social workers need to be comfortable with diversity and also be able to deal with uncertainty."
International exchanges where students observe everyday social work practices in other countries for one or two weeks have distinct benefits. "Once students are taken out of their own environment they begin to examine their assumptions about social work." This is an essential step, it is the start of true critical reflection. Naturally, there are other ways of attaining such a much-needed international outlook, but going on an international exchange is a particularly enriching and effective way: it provides hands-on experience, face-to-face contacts, opportunities for sharing thoughts and surprises, for developing international competences but above all an unforgettable experience."  There is such a lot to be learned from studying and discussing the various responses to different problems (or different degrees of problems in other countries). This practice (not yet fully integrated in the social work curriculum in Belfast) instills an "internationalist" view of social work that is going to be essential in the future, as one of the participants in the programme stated.

22 March, 2013

International week in Rotterdam

Last week had an international flavour: all year 4 students of the programme in social work & services focused on the global theme of human rights.
The week kicked off with lectures by Hilary Jenkinson Lydia Sapouna and Mary Wilson from our partner university, the Applied Social Studies programme at University College Cork, Ireland.

All week discussions of articles from the universal declaration of human rights took centre stage, in relation to the contributions a social worker can make. All this inspired by the global agenda.
The week was rounded off by individual one-minute elevator pitches in which students expressed their personal views on the value or the principles of human rights.
Here's one example of such an elevator pitch: (posted and shared on a tumblr site kept by one of the lecturers involved) : http://socworkrotterdam.tumblr.com/post/45699975857/glenda-roseval-on-social-work-and-human-rights
or to be watched here:

16 January, 2013

Transparency through a grading table

Through a white, white landscape I travelled by train to the Nuffic in the Hague to learn about an instrument that can solve the issue of disputes about the interpretation of grades received here in the Netherlands and abroad. Most people familiar with international student mobility know that grading varies considerably from one country to another. Students returning from a study abroad experience hand over a transcript of records or a list with credits gained at another university and expect to see these credits registered. It is at this point that difficulties arise: what is the exact equivalent of a particular grade in the home country? what is a fair conversion of grades gained in another institution abroad ?
And that's where the grading table comes in. With each country and each higher education institution having different approaches to assessment and applying different grading scales, it is vital to become transparent and produce a grade distribution table at the degree programme level (and/or the faculty level) and demonstrate what percentage of students received e.g. grade 6 out of 10, grade 7 out of 10 etc. This enables partner universities to interpret the grades awarded in your specific context. And then the next step is to compare the grading tables of the home and host university and identify the corresponding grades.
This procedure not only indicates the academic performance of a student with reference to the group, but also provides transparent data on how grades are actually applied in a specific context. The result: a fair interpretation of grades, the advantage: this is widely applicable across Europe and the globe.
A crucial issue in this process is identifying the reference group for which the grade distribution table is calculated. Another is collecting all the grades of the identified reference group over a period of time of at least three years. The resulting grading table can then be stated on all transcripts of records and diploma supplements for easy reference. For this workshop a number of Bologna experts were invited as speakers, both from the Netherlands and from Flanders.
The message was abundantly clear: to bring about transparency in higher education grading tables are a must and prove to be an invaluable tool.
(And yes, once again we heard how "economical" the grading culture in the Netherlands is. Remember the old adage: on a scale of 10, 9 is for the teacher, 10 is for God, so 8 is really good. Not easy to explain to your international contacts.)

13 January, 2013

Most Popular USA Study Areas

Want to know what the most popular majors in the USA are?  
Here's your answer:

Based on the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics (from 2009 - 2010), this recent infographic demonstrates how men and women keep making different choices when it comes to university studies. No real surprise that among female students social studies, health and education are still most popular, just like here in Rotterdam. Just walk around at our location and you'll see ;) 
Similarly, more women than men graduate in the USA, at the undergraduate as well as at the graduate level (which turns out to be an even higher percentage).