Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Learning Layers – How can we take our initial design ideas further? (Part 2)

March 15th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I presented some first impressions on the results of the Design Conference of  the Learning Layers (LL) project  in Helsinki in the beginning of March.  I was still travelling back and could only raise the question: How to take these ideas further and make them work “on the  ground”? Now we have had more time to digest the results and to develop our thoughts with both feet steadily on the ground.

This week the ITB hosted a joint meeting of the LL partners working with the North German construction sector (ITB, Pontydysgu, Bau ABC and the Agentur/ Netzwerk für Nachhaltiges Bauen. We discussed the results of the Design Conference and how to organise local design teams to get the design ideas properly grounded. Concerning the follow-up of the Design Conference the participants took note of two videos that had been prepared after the design conference:

  • The video prepared by Tobias Ley (TLU) and his team that presented the results of the design team Bits and pieces.
  • The video (and slidecast) prepared by Tobias Funke (Agentur) to develop the design idea of the team Captus further. (I now see that Tobias is reworking this video and has named this one as “Old version” – work in progress!)

In the discussion the following comments were made on the results of the design teams in the LL Design Conference:

a) The progress of the design team Sharing Turbine was appreciated since the group was able to make good use of the inputs coming from the application partner (Bau ABC) and the documents prepared by the ITB and Pont teams. The contextual map presented the learning cycles between formal training and workplace learning as a dynamic turbine. The group was approaching a common understanding of the challenges (and the application partners were pleased about this progress).

b) The work of the design team Captus had not reached a similar process dynamic. The abstract modelling of capturing knowledge and the illustration of particular applications could not outline a context for common work. Therefore, there was a risk of design ideas falling apart from user engagement (that was to be linked to the idea of Learning exhibition). From this perspective the video and slide share prepared by Tobias Funke has brought into picture the actual context of design activities and a strategy to address different user groups with different apps.

c) The work of the design team Bits and pieces focused mainly on the health care sector (and on the need to collect experience and evidence for the revalidation of health care professionals on regular intervals). Yet, the approach that was piloted by the group – to collect notes to a box file and then arrange the notes with the help of categories and learning paths seemed highly relevant for the construction sector as well. In particular the approach responded to the needs addressed by craft trade SMEs to develop a collector of problem cases or challenging jobs for further learning (Erfahrungssammler). For the sake of launching a parallel activity the pictures presented under this design idea and the video were helpful. However, to address the North German construction sector, German language versions would be needed.

Based on this situation assessment the following conclusions were made concerning local design teams to be launched for the North German construction sector:

1) The needs of Bau ABC provided the basis for the work of the “Sharing Turbine” team. Therefore, it is obvious that a local design team (in Bremen) is developing some key activities that are supported by a wider design team (involving technical partners). In order to link the work of the technical partners to local activities it is necessary to clarify, what occupational areas are to be covered and what kind of examples of apprentices’ projects can be provided (as scanned documents and translations). Also, to ensure a broad-based user engagement it is necessary to clarify, at what stage different target groups (apprentices, trainers and teachers, companies) will be involved.

2) The needs of the Agentur/Netzwerk für Nachhaltiges Bauen provided the starting point for the work of the “Captus” team. Now, the video and slidecast of Tobias Funke have brought the design ideas back into the working contexts of ecological construction work and addressed the possiblities to use ICT and Web within the forthcoming exhibition. These new perspectives need to be brought into discussion in the wider design team and on its wiki page. This provides a basis for linking the local activities and the involvement of the technical partners.

3) The needs of the Bremen crafts and trades companies provide a basis for a sub-team of the “Bits and pieces” team (working with the idea of the Erfahrungssammler for the companies and the trade guilds. Here, the approach needs to be developed in the light of the progress of the main team and the neighbouring teams.

I think this is enough in this context. The rest of our discussion was about planning the field activities and making sure that we are entering the phase of local design workshops with content-related issues and readiness to put the potential benefits of web technologies to the context.

Here it is worthwhile to draw attention to the need to maintain contacts between the technical partners and the “local” partners working with issues raised above. I see two possible traps that we need to avoid:

  • If we leave the technical design work floating in its own realm and expect it to come up with something useful we have the risk of putting the carriage before the horse (if I may use such old-fashioned metaphor). It is not likely that the carriage could pull the horse or that the horse would be willing to push the carriage.
  • If we go too hastily to the local design workshops with expected users without having a clear picture what our technical partners can deliver (or refer to) we have a risk of chasing the horse running without the carriage. It is not likely that the carriage could catch up the horse by itself or that a loosely running horse would like to get back to the carriage.

I have just spelled out the risks we have to keep in mind in our daily work and see that the work of our design teams (both at the local level and at the consortium level) take this into account. The good spirit at the Design Conference and the active involvement of partners in the follow-up gives ground for optimism.

Follow-up steps to be expected soon …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209),

Learning Layers – How can we take our initial design ideas further? (Part 1)

March 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

Earlier this week the Learning Layers (LL) project was assembled to its first Design Conference (DC)  in Helsinki, hosted by the LL team of Aalto University at Arabia Factory. The event was organised as a “creative space” (or – if you allow me the expression: creative spaceship) to work out initial design ideas to be taken further by design teams that will start their work in the coming period. Some of the design ideas had a specific local flavour, whilst others can be seen as more transversal. The challenge for the project is now: How to take these ideas further and make them work “on the  ground”?

The initial design ideas will soon be presented in detail on the LL wiki. Therefore, it is not worthwhile to recapitulate them here. I would rather raise the question: What can we learn from the whole set of design ideas and from the process of developing them in the parallel working groups at the DC? Below some preliminary observations and remarks on the design ideas as they were presented by the respective working groups:

 a) “Learning funnel – Making sense of bits and pieces”

This working group focused on the process of preparing an e-portfolio for health professionals to collect evidence of their learning and professional development. The driving force is the fact that these professional have to go through a regular revalidation to be authorised to continue in their profession. From this perspective the group simulated the present pattern of the professionals to file experiences and useful bits of information to boxes. Then, with the help of the prepared storyboard, the process of making use of such information (filed digitally) was reconstructed. Much emphasis was given on the ideas of “protected learning time” and for the phase of “sensemaking” in order to structure the bits and pieces as evidence within different learning paths. This all was happening with a focus on health care but every now and then the relevance for construction sector was discussed (e.g. in terms of  “Erfahrungssammler” for SMEs and their trade guilds).

b) “Captus – capturing knowledge and experience”

This team took as its reference point the plan of the Network for sustainable construction work (NNB) to prepare a “learning exhibition”. The working group drafted frameworks for the mapping the knowledge to be brought together by such approach. In addition, the group discussed specific ideas, how to use new media for capturing the essentials of practitioners’ experience to be presented. As an extension to the topics of the previous group, this group raised the issue, how to overcome cultural barriers and reservations regarding the use of new media.

c) “The sharing turbine – the learning cycles across training and workplace learning”

This team took as its reference point the idea of Bau ABC to develop specific “open learning centre” or “self-learning space” to support the domain-specific training and professional development with support for using multimedia. The group developed s contextual map, how the training centre could serve as “turbine” for learning and knowledge sharing in several cycles (including initial and continuind training as well as personalised learning). Here it is also worthwhile that the group discussed different kinds of learning curves and the implications for scaffolding.

d) “Pandora – the living local guidelines”

The fourth working group discussed the need to complement the nation-wide guidelines of the National Health Service (NHS) with “living local guidelines”. The working group had a similar exercise as the previous one and it raised several questions, how its approach to “local guidelines” could be relevant for the construction sector.

I think this is enough for the moment. (I probably need to make some amendments after all the results of the working groups are presented on the wiki.) However, I hope that this is helpful for the further work. In my next post I try to present some thoughts, how the preliminary ideas can be “grounded” and adjusted to our working agendas on our home grounds (in the case of the ITB in North Germany and in the cooperation with our application partners).

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209),

Learning Layers – How do we take our “lessons learned” with us to design activities? (Part 3)

March 2nd, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous two posts I discussed the current transition of  the Learning Layers (LL) project  from fieldwork to  design activities. I raised the question, how the emerging design ideas would best meet the needs and interests of our application partners in the construction sector. In  this respect I drew attion to two strategic frameworks for pooling design ideas and linking them to their own developmental initiatives. In this post I want to draw attention to more  specific design design ideas and to challenges we need to take into account:

a) Digital learning logs or e-portfolios for apprentice training (and workplace learning)

One of the observations during the fieldwork was that the documentation of learning progress in the apprentice training for German construction industries and trades is carried out manually (the white folders). Likewise, there is a lack of good models for presenting evidence on prior experience-based learning in the context of regulated continuing training (e.g. the Meisterschulungen). In a similar way, companies have difficulties in ducumenting their organisational learning. All this speaks for development of e-portfolios and learning logs. Given the multitude of existing models, ther is a need for overviews that make transparent different basic models, criteria for using them (e.g. for assessment, recognition and professional development) and institutional and organisational boundary conditions for implementing them.

b) Software solutions for harvesting informal learning

Current software development brings forward solutions tham make large-scale collection of evidence on (informal) learning possible, e.g. the so-called Tin Can API or Experience API. These would provide a basis for learning analytics and datamining on work-based learning across different databases. Although this discussion is at present at an early stage, it is necessary to pay attention to this prospect (either as a spin-off development or as a neighbouring field of work). At any rate it is essential to consider, how complex action-oriented learning (based on occupational standards) can be made transparent with such software solutions. Likewise, it is essential to analyse, how current methodologies for analysing and measuring holistic competences could be linked to such software development prospects.

 c) Linking physical artefacts with learning applications

One of the observations was that there is a rapid progress in using QR tags to share information on physical artefacts in construction work. Yet, there are several communication gaps and logistic problems that demonstrate that such potentials have not been exhausted. Therefore, there is a need to develop complementary models (such as image recognition apps) that could more direcly be linked to (digital) learning resources that inform of appropriate tools and materials in the respective jobs. Here, it is necessary to draw conclusions of the unsuccessful piloting with earlier equipments and applications (e.g. the digi-pens for construction sector). Moreover, there is a need to get an overview of emerging technologies (QR-tags and complementary apps).

 d) Support for user-generated learning materials and multimedia resources

This prospect came up during several field visits. Many problem situations could be overcome and many communication gaps could be bridges with short videos or other multimedia contents. Many training centres, professional networks and supporting bodies could be in the position to produce, collect and enriuch such contents. However, it is one thing to enable a wider range of users to produce such user-generated contect and another thing to integrate such contents into well-organised, well-checked and updated knowledge resources.

I stop here although the list is not exhaustive. My point is to give a picture of some design ideas that emerge from the working and learning contexts that we have studied and can be discussed alongside the overarching  ideas of “learning exhibition” or “open learning centre”.

The discussion needs to be brought forward in the forthcoming Design Conference and in the next phase of work of the LL project.

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209),

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.

    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time

    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”

    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.

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