Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

Hyvää Kalevalan päivää 28.2. – Happy Kalevala Day February 28th

February 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I have not made great noises about my Finnish nationality. And it has never crossed my mind to to start blogging in my own language – after all, I have been working several years as a European researcher (using English as the working language). However, this year – the year 2017 – is something different. Finland is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its independence (I have already blogged on this after the 99th Independence Day 2016).  And today, on the 28th of February we celebrate Kalevala – our national saga. So, this calls for a little explanation on the importance of Kalevala for our nation-building and on the circumstances in which it was created.

Finland in the 19th century – the search for Finnish national identity and Finnish national saga

During the Napoleon wars in the 19th century Sweden lost Finland to Russia. Since the wars were going on elsewhere in Europe, Russia was inclined to integrate the new province in a smooth way. So Finland was granted the status of an autonomous Grand-Duchy and the Russian Czar adopted the title Grand-Duke of Finland as well. Finland could keep the old Swedish legislation and govern itself as before – now showing loyality to the new rulers. This could be settled rather easily.

Yet, for the language, culture and national identity this transition was a challenge. So far the educated classes had spoken Swedish and tried to integrate with the elites of the Swedish motherland, whilst Finnish had remained as a language of uneducated. Now, Russian language came into picture as the language of the new rulers. The educated classes faced the question – how to position themselves in the new situation. A new movement emerged with the motto: “We are no longer Swedes, we don’t want to become Russians – let us be Finns!”

And as a part of this movement several hobby-folklorists started to roam around the rural areas to collect old folklore runes and songs to compile the new nation in making its national saga. The leading person in this movement was Elias Lönnroth who collected a huge amount of folklore and edited the national saga “Kalevala”. This saga tells of the arcaic ‘motherland region’ of Finland – Kalevala and of the ancient heroes of the past. Strangely enough, most of these heroes were tragic or tragicomic characters and this was explicit in the stories. (Perhaps the ancient Finns were kinsmen of Kaurismäki.)

The Kalevala runes

As usual with ancient folklore, the stories were told as runes or sung as songs, With Kalevala, the metrics were similar as Ilias and Odyssey: the Kalevala-trokee. Therefore, the obligatory Kalevala-reading at schools has been a challenge for the younger generations. So, it has been easier to pick the tradition via shortcut-versions of particular versions, modern-styled movies with ancient characters or cartoon-versions with dog-shaped humans portraying the Kalevala characters.

But enough with the explanations – let us give sample of Kalevala poetry! Below I start with an original quote (the first verses of Kalevala). Then I continue with a self-styled Kalevala Day greeting (bringing the main Kalevala characters and their contributions together). And to be sure – this all will be in Finnish. And to pick metric, I have hyphenated the first verses. Enjoy it!

Mie-le-ni mi-nun te-ke-vi, ai-vo-ni ajat-te-levi,
lähte-ä-ni lau-la-ma-han, saa’ani sa-ne-le-mahan,
suku-virttä suolta-ma-han, laji-virttä lau-la-mahan …

Väinämöisen kanteleista, Ilmarisen ahjoista,
joukahaisen jousesta, Lemminkäisen miekasta,
Kullervon kirouksesta, Aino-neidon kohtalosta …

Mutta toki muistanemme, mielessämme kantanemme
Ilmattaren aikojen alusta – Väinämöisen kantajan,
Pohjan Akan mahtavan – Kalevalaisten pelkäämän,
Pohjan Tytin kaunokaisen – Ilmarisen emännän,
Lemminkäisen äidin huolen – poikansa pelastajan,
Sekä meidän Marjatan, jolle poika puolukasta.

Näistä kertoo Kalavala, Suomen kansan tarina,
juhlapäivä tänään on, juhlavuosi verraton!

– – –

This was my contribution to the Kalevala Day celebration on this special jubilation year of Finland. I think I will get back to topics like this later on this year.

More blogs to come …

The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part Two: Impact of project activities in Bau-ABC Rostrup

February 22nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started writing about the legacy of our recently completed EU-project Learning Layers and its Construction pilot. With this post I completed on our behalf the homework given by the reviewers of the project to produce a more compressed summary that gives an overview what was tried, achieved and learned in project work. After finishing this overarching ‘legacy document’ I needed to take a more specific look at our achievements in joint project activities with the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. It appeared that our ‘Impact Cases’ on the web were short of the summaries on “Main Impact”. Now that I have completed these texts I found that they should also be presented as a more detailed account of the project work in, with and for a central application partner organisation.

Use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) by Bau-ABC Trainers and Apprentices

The Learning Toolbox grew out of the co-design process of an earlier prototype called Sharing Turbine.  The initial design idea was based on the digitisation of training and learning resources for apprentice projects during their initial training. This design idea evolved during the co-design process into an integrated toolset to provide access to tools and web resources and supports real-time knowledge sharing via mobile devices.


The Learning Toolbox was then developed as an integrative toolset (mobile app container and toolkit) to support learning in the context of work. It was piloted firstly in the North German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup to support apprentice training in the construction sector. The piloting was based on stacks created by Bau-ABC trainers for short training projects in their trades (carpentry, bricklaying, well-building, metalworking, pipeline-building). The main impacts of the pilots were the following:

  • The trainers could shape their training project in a more flexible way. Some trainers developed joint projects for neighbouring trades (to highlight working interfaces). Some developed stacks with common patterns for parallel trades.
  • The trainers could make more prominent use of trade-specific online resources (e.g. their own trade-specific blogs).
  • The trainers could set their own accents for promoting self-organised learning among the apprentices. Some trainers emphasised problem-solving with a wide range of web resources to be searched. Others emphasised interest- and achievement-based expansion of resources that were made available in the course of learning process.


A more detailed picture of the pedagogic accents in the apprentice training is given in the Scenario document“Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Action-Oriented Learning in the Apprentice Training of Bau-ABC – Instances of Change”.

Multimedia Training for and with Bau-ABC trainers

In the Learning Layers Construction pilot the project organised two Multimedia Training schemes for the training staff of the North German training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. The first scheme was a generic Multimedia Training to support the trainers’ capability to create their trade-specific digital training and learning environments. The second scheme (the Theme Room Training) was initiated by the trainers to support wider use of digital media and web resources (and of Learning Toolbox) in Bau-ABC. The main impacts of the training schemes were the following:

  • As a main result of the first Multimedia training scheme the participating core group of Bau-ABC trainers created their trade-specific blogs (Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog) that they used as repositories for digital training materials.
  • In the preparation of the Theme Room training the members of the core group developed themselves as peer tutors and multimedia trainers for construction sector professionals.
  • In the Theme Room training all Bau-ABC trainers developed their capability to use social media, digital learning contents and digital learning tools.
  • In the transition to piloting with the Learning Toolbox the members of the core group made focused use of digital learning tools (e.g. GoConqr) in their trade-specific stacks.


A more detailed insight into the Multimedia Training schemes is provided by the Methodology document “Training Interventions as Capacity-Building for Digital Transformation in Vocational Education and Training”.

– – –

I think that these short summaries (with pictures) give an overview what we achieved together in our project activities in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. Based on this legacy we can work with further initiatives.

More blogs to come …

The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part One: The project experience in a nutshell

February 22nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last four years (2012-2016) I have mainly been writing on our ‘ongoing EU-project Learning Layers’. And during the last few weeks (since November 2016) I have been writing on the final reporting of the project. My latest series of posts was about the Final Review Meeting in January 2017 in Verden. Someone might think that I have said everything that there is to be said about the completed project. Yet, I do not share that view. As a matter of fact our reviewers challenges us to do some more homework. They asked us to prepare more compressed summaries (on the work packages) on what we tried to do, what we achieved and what we learned during the project. And they asked us to link the web documents on our ‘final deliverable’ website Also, the reviewers asked us to present some self-critical reflections on things that we could have done otherwise. (In my latest post I started thinking loud, what kind of answers we can give.)

Now that I have done my part of this extra homework I find it useful to present this ‘nutshell picture’ as a blog under the heading ‘Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot”. I think that the following paragraphs give a genuine picture of what we tried to do and what we achieved – and what we learned in the Construction Pilot of the Learning Layers project.

Co-design approach and process dynamics

In the construction pilot the leading initiative in co-design work was started with the design idea of digitising training and learning materials in the training centre Bau-ABC (“Sharing Turbine”). This initiative was perceived as a key step to digitise vocational education, training and learning processes across the apprentice training in construction sector. In several iterations this design idea was transformed into the shaping of an integrative toolset (mobile app) that provides access to web resources, project documents and work- and learning-related contacts (“Learning Toolbox”). This process was shaped as a strongly user-oriented R&D dialogue that involved construction sector trainers (from Bau-ABC), technical partners (RayCom, CIMNE, Pontydysgu) and accompanying researchers (ITB).



References: The dynamics of the process and the contributions of different parties have been reported in the Methodology document Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Pilot Activities with the Learning Toolbox (LTB)”.

Capacity-building and training model

In the construction pilot the initial interviews brought into picture a scattered landscape of separate digital tools and apps that were not considered appropriate as support for work-related learning. Alongside co-design workshops the project organised a generic Multimedia Training Scheme to support the Bau-ABC trainers’ capability to create their trade-specific digital training and learning environments. The key results of this phase were the trainers’ blogs (Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog) that they used as their trade-specific repositories for digital training materials. Later on, a broader and more construction-focused training model – the Theme Room Training – was initiated by the trainers to support the use of digital media and web resources (and of Learning Toolbox) in Bau-ABC. The Theme Room Training was implemented in 2015 by the project team and it engaged all training staff of Bau-ABC.


References: The development of the capacity-building approach and training activities has been reported in the Methodology document “Training Interventions as Capacity-Building for Digital Transformation in Vocational Education and Training”. The impact has been presented in the Impact Case “Multimedia Training for and with Bau-ABC Trainers”.

A detailed report on the planning and implementation of the Theme Room Training is provided in the Master Thesis of Jaanika Hirv for the Tallinn University:

Hirv, J. (2016). Digital Transformation: Learning Practices and Organisational Change in a Regional VET Centre. Master’s thesis, TLU.

A detailed documentation on the development of the training schemes and a digital archive of the training materials is provided in the moodle-application ITB-Moodle. The “Theme Room Training 2015”.

Piloting with Learning Toolbox and peer tutoring

As a result of the co-design and tool development work in the construction pilot the Learning Toolbox was introduced in Bau-ABC to be used in their apprentice training in selected trades. For this purpose the responsible trainers created their own stacks for the respective training projects. When the apprentices moved to training periods in neighbouring trades, the trainers created further stacks for these projects. The following trades were covered: well-building (Brunnenbau), metalworking (Metalltechnik), pipeline-building (Rohrleitungsbau), carpentry (Zimmerer), bricklaying and masonry (Maurerwerk). Trainers of carpenters and bricklayers decided to create stacks for a joint project the draws attention to a working interface of the two trades. In addition, the shop steward for health and safety (Sicherheitsbeauftragte) started to develop a specific stack for training in this field.


References: The measures to introduce the Learning Toolbox into apprentice training in Bau-ABC and the immediate impact have been reported in the Impact Case Use of Learning Toolbox by Bau-ABC Trainers and Apprentices”.

Insights into pedagogic approaches of trainers and learning behaviour of apprentices are provided in the Scenario document Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Action-Oriented Learning in Vocational Education and Training (VET)”.

Outreach activities and engagement of further users

Alongside the co-design and pilot testing activities the construction pilot has organised outreach activities to engage further users of the Learning Toolbox. Most of these contacts have led to very focused trade- and company-specific negotiations. A generic use case has been documented on the basis of Thomas Isselhard’s work as a construction site manager in Verden. Based on a workshop for craft trade companies (and on the presentation of Thomas Isselhard) the construction pilot outlined a scenario for craft trade companies and their collaboration with planners, authorities and parallel trades.


References: The model of using Learning Toolbox to coordinate the work of planners and different craft trade teams has been presented in the Scenarios and Models document Learning Toolbox as Support for Organisational Learning and Cooperation at a Construction Site in Verden – Instances of Change”.

The presentation of Thomas Isselhard’s has been recorded on two videos:

Video 1: LTB at Use on Construction Site in Verden – Thomas Isselhard’s Presentation

Video 2: LTB at Use by Companies – Discussion after Thomas Isselhard’s Presentation

Lessons learned

Concerning the strategic choices regarding co-design processes (to develop new tools to be tested and deployed during the project) vs. diffusion processes (to select existing mature tools to be piloted as a alternative or complementary action) the construction pilot team has concluded:

  1. The needs and expectations of the application partners could only have been met via participative co-design processes. Likewise, the capacity-building measures alongside the co-design were crucial to equip construction sector users with necessary digital competences.
  2. The co-design approach (to develop a flexible and integrative toolset “Learning Toolbox”) would have enabled earlier piloting with existing multimedia tools (to be integrated to the Learning Toolbox). Such complementary piloting in Bau-ABC would have been useful in the intermediate period between the two training schemes and as a preparation for the introduction of the Learning Toolbox.
  3. Complementary piloting with existing tools (alongside co-design of Learning Toolbox) could have been used as bridging measures to involve interested construction companies in pilot activities. Now the engagement of companies started only when the Learning Toolbox was ready for piloting.

– – –

I think this is enough of the general picture of Construction pilot and of the legacy of the intensive project years 2012-2016. However, in this context I have had a special chance to review the cooperation of our project team with our application partner organisation Bau-ABC Rostrup and the impact of our activities. I will focus on this in my next post.

More blogs to come …

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Four: Questions, Challenges and Concluding Reflections

February 1st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have been writing a series of posts on the concluding event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – the Final Review. In the first post I explained how we came to the idea to organise the event primarily at the Norddeutsches Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen ((NZNB) – North-German Centre for Ecological Construction Work in Verden, near Bremen). In the second post I focused on the contributions of the Construction Pilot – on our topics and how we presented our message (with poster wall, exploitation tables and presentation session). In the third post I focused on the comparisons between the Construction pilot and Healthcare pilot that I and Tamsin Treasure-Jones presented as tandem-presenters. In this fourth and concluding post I will discuss the overall picture of the meeting in the light of questions from the review panel, challenges posed for us regarding the finalisation of our work and further reflections to be presented in this context.

1) Questions on the contributions of the sectoral pilots and technical support activities

I start with the questions posed for Construction pilot team. As I see it, we were able to present a coherent story of participative co-design process, training activities and pilot testing that led to actual use of Learning Toolbox in the training of Bau-ABC Rostrup. Also, we could show that our partners in the ecological construction work are developing their own applications. The questions from the review panel were mostly posed to the practitioners – the Bau-ABC trainers Markus Pape and Stefan Wiedenstried. Markus and Stefan could inform of cases in which their trainers’ blogs and the Learning Toolbox were real support for the learning of apprentices. Concerning the conceptual interpretation of the pedagogic accents of trainers we had clarify a terminological confusion due to translation. (The metaphor ‘Learning toolbox as “well”‘ gave a different connotation as ‘source’ – two alternative translations for ‘Brunnen’.) Altogether, we could make the case that the use of pedagogy that promoted holistic view on the occupational tasks of the trade and empowerment of self-organised learners. Concerning the contribution of Bau-ABC and Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen we got questions on the role of infrastructure, on the readiness of partner companies to work with internet and on the commitment to work with the tools. We could refer to several topics and to initiatives with which the organisations are already working.

Concerning the Healthcare pilot, the reviewers were keen to know more, what kinds of difficulties the pilot groups (with their respective tools) experienced, what kind of learning effects could be documented and how the integration of one of the tools (Living Documents) into widely used commercial software (Intradoc) is taking place. Also, the review panel was interested, how the transfer of Learning Toolbox from Construction pilot to healthcare education and to conferences is taking place.

Concerning the contributions of technical partners, the review panel was mainly interested to know. to what extent the overall infrastructure (WP 6) and the Social Semantic Server (WP5) were used by the pilots. Here, some examples could be mentioned that demonstrated that the tools were used in a common working environment. As regards the Learning Toolbox, Raymond Elfereink made the point that it was developed as a minimum viable product for active use. Therefore, the further steps of integration can be reached only at a later date.

2) Challenges for critical self-reflection on the process and results

On top of the specific questions on particular parts of the project the review panel had more overarching questions on the overall results of the project consortium. The way we had presented our results with an integrative website and supporting reports seemed to leave gaps of interpretation and unanswered questions. The reviewers wanted to get a deeper understanding on the reasons, what were the limits to our success (although the project made a serious effort) and what lessons should be learned for project work (on our side) and for terms of funding (at the level of funding policies). Here – without trying to give a complete answer – I would address the following points in the light of the Construction pilot:

a) Developing new software for, with and by the users: For the sake of argument some of the reviewers raised the question, whether it was realistic to introduce co-design and software development processes within the process? Could the project had worked on the basis of existing software solutions (by shaping IKEA-like package solutions)? Here all our experiences from the fieldwork speak for a user-oriented and user-engaging co-design process.  Commitment to such process and the engagement of users was crucial to the success with Learning Toolbox. During different phases of the process there was sufficient user engagement  to make sure that the toolset to became appropriate for the users.

b) Big software house or SME as the software development partner: Originally the Construction pilot was supposed to be supported by a big software house. However, after changes in the staff involved in the project, the software house was not willing to allocate developers that would engage themselves in the project. Instead they were insisting on using their ready-made products or getting specifications for piecemeal coding work (to be handed over to outsourced programmers). This was not compatible with the process dynamics with application partners. When the software house left the project, it was replaced by a an SME that was prepared to take a participative role in the co-design process. However, this change happened only after major administrative delays. Yet, only due to this change the Construction pilot got a flexible and integrative toolset that can be used in different contexts.

c) Was the time frame (in)sufficient for such of project or was the approach of the project (un)realistic for the time frame: To me these questions cannot be answered independently of the two above discussed points. As I see it, the given time frame would have enabled the Construction pilot team develop the Learning Toolbox to far more advanced stage. However, a considerable part of working time passed without effective technical support.  And after the change the Construction pilot had go through a ‘catching up’ period. In the meantime other partners involved in the process had been developing their ideas and requests. Yet, in the remaining time the Learning Toolbox could at best be developed into a viable product only by the beginning of the last year.

3) Questions on transfer processes and scaling up innovations

During the Review meeting the reviewers posed questions concerning the processes of adaptation, transfer and ‘scaling up’ of innovations? We were challenged to reflect in a self-critical ways what we had achieved and what not. Also, we were challenged to work harder with the lessons learned.  Here the reviewers were keen to understand, how the analysis of our experiences could help to develop future projects and funding criteria. Therefore, the issue was NOT,  what we should have known better already in the beginning phase. To me the important push was to reflect on the factors that have had influence on the transfer processes and on the aim to scale up innovations. Here, from the perspective of Construction pilot I raise the following points:

a) Getting out of the primary pilot contexts: In Construction sector the primary pilot context was an intermediate training centre and its training projects at their premises and outdoor areas. In this context we reached clear results that demonstrated the usability of the Learning Toolbox and positive impact on the learning of apprentices. Yet, based on this experience (alone) we could not see much takeup in enterprises. On the contrary, the interested companies were looking for a more overarching approach to use Learning Toolbox to coordinate their work plans, logistics and mutual adjustment of different trades’ work processes (+ related informal learning). Such processes do not happen as ‘transfer’ of prior practices but need intensive customisation. At present there are several negotiations going on with companies who want to start their own mini-pilots with Learning Toolbox.

b) The role of multiplier-organisations in the ‘scaling up’ of innovations: In Construction sector the best known showcases for using Learning Toolbox refer to training activities in Bau-ABC and to coordination of a construction site in Verden. In both types ‘champions’ of application partner organisations play a central role. However, getting beyond such cases (and the company initiatives mentioned above) requires further motivational assets for the craft trade companies to get interested. In this respect the NNB (Network for ecological construction work) has drawn attention to the competition Grüne Hausnummer (and its marketing value). Likewise, Bau-ABC is in a good position to promote awareness of health and safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) at workplace and with user-friendly tools and web resources. Both these examples show that we are proceeding via narrower ‘exploitation corridors’ rather than stepping on broad avenues during our exploitation journeys – but as I see it, there are no alternative ways forward.

– – –

I think this is enough for the moment. We have got some homework from the reviewers and we want to complete our working and learning process in this project properly. As we see it, we were promoting genuinely innovative processes that developed tools worth using. And our application partners got their hands on the tools and confirmed that they were worth using. This gives us a basis to look forward.

More blogs to come …

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    News Bites

    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.

    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
      Sounds of the Bazaar Radio LIVE
      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

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