Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 4: Implications for accompanying research)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the previous postings to this series of blogs I have characterised the transition phase that we (ITB, Pontydysgu and Bau ABC) are going through with our fieldwork for the Learning Layers (LL) project.  I have firstly given a general overview (part 1), then looked at the particpative workshops (part 2) and then at the ongoing design work and planning of training concepts (part 3). In this final article I put into discussion some thoughts on the role of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) in such a transition phase.

As I see it, the tasks taken up in the Rapid Turbine initiative give rise to a complex research agenda, in which pedagogic challenges and socio-technical design processes become interlinked with each other. In this context research work and development work are interacting with each other as mutually complementing contributions to a participative development co-process with the users – firstly with trainers and  apprentices. Later on the process will also involve  also skilled workers and  company representatives from construction sector as well as vocational school teachers.

Instead of seeing the R&D processes as linear and expert-driven processes in which the users are seen as informants (in the beginning) and as testers of prototypes and pre-final solutions (at the end), the Rapid Turbine is being shaped on a participative and iterative process. In such a process the design workshops and learning events serve that purpose of raising the users’ awareness on possible solutions and their own capacity to contribute. At the same time the researchers have the opportunity to analyse, how the growing awareness of emerging solutions makes it possible for the users to change their own working and learning culture. Parallel to this the designers get new insights into key issues concerning the acceptability and possible benefits of the proposed solutions.

Below some key questions are formulated for such R&D dialogue, in which researchers, developers and users are challenged to find the turning points that help to overcome obstacles and to make the proposed solutions work in practice:

  1. How can potential users’ attitudes to mobile technologies, web tools and apps/services be changed in the course of pilot activities. Is it possible to overcome general rejection or mere leisure-time oriented consumerism and stimulate creative use to support working and learning?
  2. How can the use of such technologies, tools and apps/services help to bring the real working life closer to the learning situations in training centre? How can impulses and innovations be shared in such a way that they enrich working and learning culture?
  3. How can wider access to information and learning resources be linked to better understanding on the uses and quality of information? How can use of internet and new media help the users to assess their own learning and professional growth (what they can do and what they can’)?
  4. How can improved access to information and communication resources and media from different locations be utilised to make communication and knowledge sharing across the organisation more effective (as support for working and learning)?
  5. How can improved possibilities to record and analyse learning experiences at work to support professional development of individuals and knowledge sharing in organisations?

As has been indicated above, such questions cannot be answered a priori on the basis of purely observational research. Instead, the answers have to be found in the context of the participative process – with reference to trials and errors in different phases. Therefore, the research work has to be carried out as accompanying research that takes into account the open options, intervening factors and the actors’ choices in the pilot activities.

So, the researchers have to work  in the participative process and have an insight into changing circumstances, different interests, optional choices and new technical possibilities that come into picture during the work. This is what accompanying research has to conceptualise and analyse in such processes while working together with the developers and users.

And the story goes on …

PS. This posting (as the other three of the same series) has focused mainly on the cooperation of ITB, Pontydygu and Bau ABC with focus on the Rapid Turbine initiative. At the same time other members of ITB team have been working with other technical partners and the application partner NNB/Agentur with focus on the design idea Captus for the ecological construction work. As I have not been involved in the recent events, I have not been able to cover these developments.

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

Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 3: Design process and training activities)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the first  post of this series of blogs I indicated that we (the ITB team together with our Pontydysgu colleagues and the application partner Bau ABC)  are going through a transitional phase in our fieldwork for the Learning Layers  (LL) project. In the second post I looked back at the shifts of emphasis that had characterised our field visits and workshops in Bau ABC since the first ones in winter to the latest ones before and after the summer holiday break. In both postings I made the point that we had moved from preparatory measures to work in the context of a participative design process. In this posting it is time to consider the implications of such process for the design activities themselves and for the necessary training activities to be planned and carried out.

In principle, there has been an implicit agreement among the LL partner that our project is not a “technology push” project. Neither have we seen our application partners as clients in the supermarket – making choices between ready-made solutions that are on the shelf. Instead, the emphasis has been put on participative co-design processes. Yet, it has been quite a challenge to get such processes take off in the domains and in the locations where we want to carry out pilot activities.

In the case of the Rapid Turbine initiative Graham Attwell has given some insights into the first steps of the design work, into the plans to produce videos (the helmet camera) and into conceptual challenges (“closing the gap”). Much of this design work is still on the way and the demonstrators are yet to come. However, we already know that much of the messages of trainers and apprentices have been taken on board. The important thing is that the Pontydysgu colleagues try to provide real support for completing working and learning tasks without dropping the idea of self-organised learning. Thus, the web tools and the software solutions are there to enhance the learners’ awareness of their own learning. At the end of the exercise, the apprentices should have a picture what they can do, what the cannot do yet and what challenges they can meet in the next phase. This is being discussed between developers, trainers and us, the accompanying researchers.

This has also implications for getting the forthcoming Rapid Turbine designs work together with existing applications and software solutions (such as the Reflect application for the LL project and the software for the assessment procedures in Bau ABC). In this way the support for project-based learning of apprentices would be linked to a tool that enables audio recording of learners’ reports and trainers’ feedback – and to the assessment processes. This, as we understand, will take some time and requires further efforts in the design process.

Parallel to this we have made progress in our discussions, how to give shape for training activities that would support the Rapid Turbine initiative and enhance the general media literacy of trainers and apprentices. Whilst the design work and the discussion on appropriate workshops were firstly taking off as two different things, they seem to be getting closer to each other. It is obvious that the design of the Rapid Turbine gives rise to specific training activities. These can be seen as one part of a wider range of training options to be considered together with the application partners. Here, we are pleased to be able to share experiences with the EU-funded TACCLE projects that have a long experiences with such workshops for teachers to help them produce user-generated web content.

Here I need to stress that both the design work for Rapid Turbine and the development of the training concepts are at an early stage. Yet, we are carrying out this work via joint working meetings in which different parties are actively engaged. This, to me, is already aq good sign and I am looking for the next steps that are taken very soon.

To be continued …

PS. I have written this blog posting just before a series of working meetings with several LL partners and stakeholders that will bring these issues (and wider issues) further. As I will not be present in all these activities and since I will be travelling some time afterwards, it may take some time before we get updates. PK

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


Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 2: Participative workshops)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my introductory statement to this series of blog postings I indicated that we – the ITB team together with our colleagues in Pontydysgu and our are application partner Bau ABC) are  going through a transition phase in our fieldwork. Roughly, this transition can be characterised as a  shift from preparatory measures to active collaboration in participative co-design work. This might seem a bit bold statement but I think this is exactly what we are experiencing at the moment.

Looking back at our workshop reports and my early blog postings on the Learning Layers (LL) project, I see that we were  mapping the grounds for forthcoming pilot activities. During the winter months (before the Design Conference) and the Easter break we had collected quite a lot of interview materials and made several field visits. In this phase we were getting insights into the work of individual company representatives and full-time trainers of Bau ABC. This material was used for the initial User Stories for the Application Partner Days and for the Design Conference of the . In Bremen we tried to group this material into contextual maps – to identify emerging  design ideas. (Later on some of the ITB colleagues have produced summaries of the interviews and coded it with MAXQDA.)

After the Design Conference in March our key question was, how to get the initial design ideas well grounded in the working and learning contexts of our application partners. We felt the need to get a better and wider understanding on the working and learning contexts of apprentices (both at their companies and at the training centre Bau ABC). We also wanted to get a better picture how they were using mobile devices and web technologies – in particular as support for working and learning. For this purpose we firstly organised a conversational workshop and then some storyboard workshops. With the help of these workshops we got more holistic pictures of the working days of apprentices in companies and in Bau ABC. Furthermore, we got a glimpse of some trade-specific problem situations or challenges and ideas, what role mobile technologies, web tools and software solutions may play. Also, some ideas were raised for context-specific apps.

With the trainers of Bau ABC we also had a storyboard exercise to illustrate their working day alongside apprentices’ projects. Then, during later working visits  we have continued to review the results of apprentices’ workshops but on top of that we have had further discussion on the points of intervention for the first year pilot activities. With these discussions we have got more comprehensive picture of needs to facilitate training and learning processes (with the help of digital media and web) and of the limits of current software solutions and web applications. Moreover, in these sessions the colleagues from Bau ABC have increasingly worked as a local LL team with regular cooperation with researchers from ITB and developers from Pontydysgu. (In this context we have also identified some spin-off initiatives for which we need to find additional resources.)

In this way we are reaching thew phase in which the workshops need to include demonstrations of emerging tools, applications and web designs. Then, the workshops could give focused feedback of the usability or shortcomings of the tentative solutions and/or the possibilities to use complementary apps and solutions. This has further implications for the development process, for supporting training activities and for our research agenda.

To be continued …

PS. With this series of blog postings I am focusing more closely on our cooperation with Bau ABC in the context of the Rapid Turbine initiative. This doesn’t imply that our work with our other application partners would have gone quiet. On the contrary – quite a lot of steps forward have been taken by in the fieldwork and design processes of the Captus team that focuses on the ecological construction work (represented by NNB/Agentur in Verden). However, since I have not been present in these events, I am not in the position to give detailed reports. PK

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


Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 1: Transitions on many fronts)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

Quite some time has passed since my latest blog postings on the Learning Layers (LL)  project. This doesn’t mean that the project would have gone quiet or that there would not have been anything interesting going on in the fieldwork. On the contrary – there were a lot of activities going on before the holiday break and the same has been the case after the holiday break. Thus, we (from the ITB team) have had to put a lot of effort to get the events and the activities and events documented with internal notes and reports. At the same time our Pontydysgu colleagues have been busy with development work and with documenting their work processes. (See the recent blog postings on Rapid Turbine and Reflect by Graham Attwell and his colleagues on the Wales-Wide-Web.)

Looking back at the my earlier postings from May and June I see a gradual transition in the way that we have worked. In our workshops and joint meetings with apprentices, company representatives and trainers we were looking for possibilities to launch participative design processes. We were working with storyboards and user journeys, getting insights into critical situations or everyday life innovations in which use of digital media and web can play a role. In the interviews, working meetings and reflection sessions we got feedback on the uses of web tools and applications by professionals in construction sector.  This all has been very valuable for getting a better understanding, how to get participative co-design processes working. (And we are not necessarily saturated with such material yet.)

However, from a certain point on our work started to have other characteristics. The collaboration of ITB, Pontydysgu and Bau ABC started to focus more closely on using digital media and web resources in selected working and learning projects. This was the step forward from the overarching design idea “Sharing Turbine”  – digitalisation of the White Folder (see the earlier blog of Graham) and the related training/learning processes. Whilst this overarching perspective needs to be kept on the agenda, it was necessary to start more focused pilot activities on the ground. For this purpose a particular area of construction work was chosen, – building pipelines for water supply and sewage (Rohrleitungsbau). This initiative was named “Rapid Turbine” to emphasise that it is a quicker pioneering exercise within the larger agenda.

With the following blog postings I try to give some insights into our recent fieldwork activities during the period that we have been working with the Rapid Turbine initiative and with complementary activities. My own impression is that we have been going through a transition from preparatory measures towards a real participative co-design process. Indications of such transition can be seen in our workshops with apprentices and trainers, in the design work itself and in related preparation of training models and in the rethinking of our research agendas in the LL project.

I think this is enough for an opening statement. There are a lot of issues to take up in the forthcoming postings.

To be continued …

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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