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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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