Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Learning Layers – How do we take our “lessons learned” with us to design activities? (Part 2)

February 28th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I mentioned that the Learning Layers (LL) projecte is heading from an active phase of fieldwork to the joint start of design activities. I also told how the LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu had reviewed the user stories from North German construction sector and put them into wider contexts.  In this post I prefer to discuss, how the emerging design ideas would best meet the needs and interests of our partners in the construction sector. In this context I want to draw attention to the wider contexts that they have outlined for discussing eventual design ideas, web applications, software solutions or internet services. I see them as two strategic frameworks for pooling design ideas and linking them to their own developmental initiatives.

a)  “The learning exhibition”: Our partner organisations in the ecological construction work are expecting that their new building with an exhibition area will be ready next year. For the inaugural event they are preparing a new kind of exhibition to promote general awareness, professional interest and design ideas in ecological construction work. They want to combine the possibilities of a real exhibition with physical artefacts (with possibilities to touch, sense and feel) and the potentials of web technologies. Moreover, they want to be able to address interested laymen, young apprentices, experiences craftsmen and architects as well as policy makers and other stakeholders. All this requires a differentiated approach, how to present advance information, real-time participation via web and follow-up possibilities.

Here it is worthwhile to note that the target groups are very heterogeneous and their readiness to make use of web-based information varies to a great extent. From this point of view the work with the exhibition may serve as an important preparatory step for wider use of specific web applications, services and community support.

b) The “e-laboratory” (open learning centre/ self-learning space): Our partners working for a major training centre that supports initial and continuing training in a wide range of ( industrial and craft) occupations in construction sector have also developed similar thoughts. Their concern is that some occupational fields are strongly supported regarding uses of ICT, mobile technologies and web, whilst others are lagging behind. If the training activities were complemented by an “e-laboratory” (including an open learning centre and a web space for self-learning) they could better stimulate the integration of uses of web and internet into the culture of learning and professional development across the range of industrial and craft occupations – including different levels of qualifications.

Here it is worthwhile that such a learning facility and a related web space (if well organised) could open new possibilities for self-organised learning, making transparent one’s own capabilities and sharing knowledge. Moreover, they could make it easier to explore the multitude of existing web resources and to make transparent professional forums for knowledge sharing knowledge developments. Here again, the idea needs to be taken up by the responsible organisations and communities to make it work.

I have mentioned these two frameworks for pooling the design ideas before going into the detailed ideas. What strikes me here is that our partners have wanted to draft their own contexts for presenting new solutions or informing of new ideas. Thus, when discussing specific design ideas, there is a frame of reference – how to fit it into a bigger picture, how to present it in a wider context. In this way the design ideas do not appear as one-to-one solutions to individual problems (although these need to be taken into account as well). But these represent a bigger agenda, into which the work with certain key ideas needs to be linked. Therefore – the ideas of an exhibition and e-laboratory need to be brought to a mature phase and the particular design ideas should have a role in it. Equally, this provides a possibility to develop patterns for presenting design work done by others and developmental work in the LL project itself.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Learning Layers – How do we take our “lessons learned” with us to design activities? (Part 1)

February 28th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

So far the Learning Layers (LL) project has been working with initial interviews, drafting user stories and with field visits that validate the picture – the Application Partner Days (see my prvious posts). Now it is time to take further steps to design activities. The opening event will be the Design Conference in Helsinki next week.

The LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu have prepared this step with reviewing the material that has been used for the user stories that focus on construction sector. We have tried to put the individual cases into wider contexts and look, how particular design ideas would meet the needs and interests emerging from these wider contexts.

In the first phase we have done some contextual mapping to identify sets of working and learning contexts (Entwicklungszusammenhänge) that are not necessarily visible in individual user stories but become transparent when you construct a group picture of several stories and exemplary situations. Below I give some insights into working  issues and challenges that arise from such wider contexts:

 a) Contexts of induction, counselling and further qualifying: When studying the stories from ecological construction work, we have noted that the leading organisations have to take wide responsibilities in the induction and further qualifying of the new staff. In the same way they have to act as counsellors and advisors of new crft trade companies that want to speacialise in this field. The lack of institutions and resources in research and (higher) education and training requires more efforts from actors in the field. This is a major challenge for mentoring, tutoring and continuing professional development. Here, we have several design issues coming up regarding the use of web.

b) Contexts of sharing information and knowledge – from particular construction sites to wider forums: Other exemplary stories have drawn our attention to rather simple gaps of communication and to limited access to (digital) documents at construction sites. This may cause problems between planners and skilled workers who carry out the tasks. Whilst these could be helped with simple applications, our partners have warned us that knowledge development may not be a matter of collecting experience from individual cases. One of the challenges in ecological construction work is to clarfy, which solutions may be appropriate for certain sets of cases and inappropriate for others. Such level of knowledge sharing and mutual critique requires forums that are characterised by mutual trust and commitment to common cause. Here again, we have several design issues coming up.

c) Contexts that require new information and solutions for making learning gains available for further use: Some of the user stories gave examples of problem situations in which new information was needed on new materials or new regulations for special installations. In such cases the craft trade companies had to carry out searches and to make the results available across the company. In some cases there appeared to be a general pattern that could be identified and made available for a more generals service across companies (e.g. by training organisations or by joint associations or umbrella organisations). Here we see design issues and questions on responsibility for joint services.

 d) Specific challenges in the field of borehole-drilling and well-building: The field of borehole-drilling and well-building (Brunnenbau bzw. Spezialtiefbau) is characterised by specific risks both regarding health and safety and regarding possible damages caused for the environment and materials. Therefore, the industries are engaged in developing applications and web services. Yet, the examples reflected in user stories and APD workshops show that there are possible gaps and needs for double-chacking (that require attention from the craftsmen). Another aspect is that the health and safety traininf is very well regulated but follows a traditional pattern. Therefore, use of web services and new media could enhance the training and the required health and safety awareness. Here again, we see several design issues coming up – linked to the question of responsibilities and conformity with given regulations.

These remarks give insights into the challenges that the LL project is facing in the next step. In my next posts I try give some answers, how the challenges could be responded by our work with design ideas and with the developmental strategies that our application partners have brought into discussion.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Learning Layers – What have we learned during Application Partner Days in Bremen (Part 4)

February 1st, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

I hereby complete my reporting on the Application Partner Days (APDs) of the Learning Layers (LL) project that were organised this week in Bremen and in the neighbouring areas. My two previous posts gave an overview on the site visits to the training centre area of Bau ABC (Rostrup) and to the premises of Agentur für nachhaltiges Bauen (Verden). I also reported on the workshop events that were organised in the context of these site visits. This blog article focuses on the issues that were raised and observations that were made during the talks in these workshops. As the digestion of  the rich documented material will take some time, I only want to provide a bridging step to further analyses and conclusions.

Below I will sum up some issues and remarks across the discussions during both on-site visits:

1. Who were the ‘users’ whom we met and/or whose interests and problems were discussed?

At the Bau ABC the ITB team members had earlier met senior trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) of the Bau ABC staff and got some of their views documented in the “User stories”. Now these persons were already ‘old acquaintances’ when participating in the event. However, this time there was an opportunity to widen the circle and to engage several senior craftsmen who were completing their continuing training to become certified team leaders/on-site supervisors (Werkpolierer). In a similar way the spectrum of trades was widened to cover different fields of construction work (including the building of houses, construction of roads and the special construction areas of borehole builders).

At the Agentur the ITB team had mainly talked with architects and on the core activities of the Agentur and the supporting network on ecological construction work. Now the workshops set the accent to outreach activities towards craft trade companies (represented by two entrepreneurs) and to apprentices (discussed as a major target group for the forthcoming  exhibition).

 2. What kinds of problems and challenges brought ICT and Web into picture?

On both site visits the discussion was triggered by coordination problems and communication problems at different construction sites. Various examples were presented of gaps of information, gaps of communication, lack of shared information and hurdles in knowledge sharing. Much of this could be helped with simple apps (which were also becoming widely used), some problems appeared to be more deeply rooted into divisions of labour, hierarchies and to cultural boundaries between different trades and companies involved.

3. How are these issues related to learning and knowledge development?

Firstly,  some of discussions might have seemed to be somewhat remote of the theme “learning”. However, in a closer analysis it is possible to discover different instances of learning or instances of professional development when the construction specialists addressed needs for ICT and web support (or proposed possible solutions). Here, it was possible to observe a movement from passive expectations to participative co-development and co-design.

Secondly, it is worthwhile to consider, to what extent is use of web and digital media embedded into the working and learning culture of construction sector. At the moment some of the main documentation is still paper-based and the transition is only taking place (e.g. the apprentices white folders are paper-based and some of the software solutions for planners have not really made a breakthrough). Here, issues of trust and practical benefit are very present.

Thirdly, it is worthwhile to consider the cooperation culture at the construction sites and between different parties involved. The traditional mode of thinking and working emphasised the division of labour (each party being responsible of their task) whilst nowadays new holistic solutions (package offers) may change the picture.

4. What can be considered as “hot issues” or factors that keep the discussion going on?

 Firstly, it is obvious that the construction industry and trade want to attract new workforce and to influence the public image of construction work as low-tech area. Secondly, in many special areas the high risks with costly equipment require more attention to risk management by different parties. Thirdly, trainers have a major concern in improving the quality of training in safety issues and to raise awareness of safety risks (e.g. using video simulations and intelligent games). Fourthly, young professionals who are working their way through via vocational progression routes are interested in acting as change agents (and in being recognised as such).

After all these remarks I find it appropriate to bring my reporting to an end at this point. As I mentioned above, I am not suggesting any conclusions for the LL project but making some remarks that help us to step to the next phase of work.

The discussion will be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

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