Yesterday, (11th of May) we experienced an important milestone in the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular in the construction sector pilot in North Germany. A group of LL team members from ITB and Pontydysgu visited the annual Training Days of the training centre Bau-ABC. During the first Training Day we had three workshop sessions to present the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to organise further pilot activities with LTB in Bau-ABC.
1. Background and preparation
Looking back to the year 2014, a demonstration of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) might not sound as a great step forward – we had had such sessions on various occasions. Yet, there was a great difference between the earlier ones and one implemented yesterday. Since September 2014 the LL project had tried to mobilise forces across the consortium to develop software solutions for LTB. And – what is more important – the developers were working towards scalable solutions. Thus, applications and system solutions for Bau-ABC would not remain insular innovations but provide a basis for wider roll-out of innovations. In this spirit the developers at different locations were working with the architecture of the LTB, the linkage to the installation package “Layers Box”, the linkage to Social Semantic Server (to get services for users and hosts) and the linkage to the community platform Baubildung.net. These all were seen as parts of a comprehensive solution that provides the basis for scaling up.
This all was promising – but for the programmers this was complicating. Therefore, several design sprints and an Alpha Beta Camp were needed to coordinate the efforts. Yet, in the light of the difficulties of the programmers, it was necessary to to run the Training Day with a simulated online demo. Our colleagues in CIMNE – Fabio and Andy – managed to produce an online demo that gives insights into the tile structures and into building stacks (sets of tiles) to develop and share contents with LTB. We were lucky to have this piece of work completed just in time for the event.
2. The event and our sessions
Altogether the Training Days (as I have translated the name in English) are an internal training event for the staff of Bau-ABC Rostrup, for the parallel training centre ABZ Mellendorf and for Bauakademie Nord (the joint umbrella organisation for Continuing Vocational Training). During these days both training centres and the office of Bauakademie are closed, whilst the staff is participating in training sessions. As we saw it, there were several parallel strands of training – for the trainers in initial training (Lehrwerkmeister) for the organisers of continuing training and for the providers of supporting services. The Learning Layers project was invited to organise three workshop sessions during the first day. Two of these sessions for trageted for different groups of trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and the third one for the coordinators of continuing training (including also the system administrator and the ICT support staff).
In all these sessions we had the same opening contributions. Werner Müller gave a brief overview on the LL project as a whole, on the Learning Toolbox as the central ‘tool’ for our pilots in the construction sector. He also gave insights into the supporting software solutions and into the technology package “Layers Box” that makes it possible for the local users to work with their own tools and to keep control over their data. After this overview I gave a brief explanation how these elements had become parts of the ‘big package’ solution that our developers need to get working and why we cannot reduce our pilot to a purely local solution. Then, Dirk Stieglitz from Pontydysgu navigated us through the online-demonstration and showed how the functionality of the Learning Toolbox will work in the matured version.
3. The power of the online-demonstration
Werner had already given the first impression, how a tile structure of Learning Toolbox could look on the surface of a mobile device (smartphone or tablet PC). However, when Dirk started his presentation, the whole design was brought alive from a standstill. We were logged in and we got an overview of the tiles with different functionality – static contents, embedded videos, RSS feeds, App links, navigation and QR-reader. Then we started our journey through the existing demo stack that had been composed for the LTB pilot – with special attention to possible contents and multimedia products relevant for Bau-ABC.
We had examples of uploaded learning materials (selected from trainer Markus Pape’s Zimmererblog, we viewed the emerging collection of documents on health and safety (Arbeits- und Gesundheitsschutz) and we scrolled through the collection of the earlier videos on uses of LTB that were recorded in Bau-ABC last year. Then, we got insights, how new tiles and new stacks can be created (and what kind of programming tool will be used for these operations). Finally, we also saw, how the toolbox can be used for sending/receiving messages either individually or within a group. At the end of the presentation we were happy to find out that the software that was used for the demo is the real one to be used with the mobile devices.
4. The way forward
In the light of the above we were happy to kick off the workshops for which the trainers had selected thematic projects that they use in apprentice training. Now, that we had got a common picture of the current phase of development, we agreed that it is high time for the trainers in Bau-ABC and for us (as the R&D partners) to work together to enable a good start of the pilots. We shared the feeling that quite a lot of preparatory work can be done with contents and videos to be used via the Learning Toolbox. And we used the workshop sessions as an opportunity to get our ideas clear – with the help of creative group work.
I think this is enough of the event as such and on our contributions. In the next post I will discuss some issues that were raised and the results of the working groups.
More blogs to come …
PS. Some photos and a video recording of Werner’s presentation can be found in the Facebook group “Learning Layers Photos”, https://www.facebook.com/groups/700976103294824.