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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), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

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