Archive for the ‘Informal learning’ Category

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Four: Discussions on vocational teacher education

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined a working agenda with themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. With this fourth post I try to give an overview on presentations that discussed reforms in vocational teacher education or issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. Here I am facing a multitude of presentations and sessions and I cannot even try to give comprehensive characterisations of them. Instead, I try to list the presentations below as thematic blocks and make some remarks on each block – with the hope that I get access to published 2017 Copenhagen presentations on the Vetnetsite and/or to full papers. At the end I will give links to our (ITB) projects of earlier years that can be read as background materials for the newer contributions.

Vocational teacher education in the light of recent reforms – Danish and Irish experiences

In this block I would like to discuss the two studies presented in the same session:

Vocational Teacher Education and Vocational Didactics – authored and presented by Henriette Duch from Denmark and

The Students’ Experience Of FE Teacher Education Qualification (TEQ) Programmes: A Study of FE Teachers Professional Development And Evolving Identity In Ireland: North and South – authored by Anne Graham Cagney, Carol Yelverton- Halpin, Ned Cohen and presented by Anne.

Both presentations gave a picture of reforms that were allegedly aiming to support pedagogic autonomy of vocational schools or to upgrade the level of vocational teacher education. In both cases the presenters brought into picture boundary conditions and side-effects that overshadowed the implementation.

Finding the ‘e’ in VET and the ‘researchers’ and ‘pedagogists’ in VET teachers

In this block I would discuss one single presentation with multiple messages:

What’s In A Name – VET Teachers Acting Upon The Meaning Of The ‘E’ In VET authored and presented by Lewis Hughes.

In this presentation Lewis gave us insights into a network of vocational teachers/trainers who were developing themselves as reflective practitioners. With the help of the frameworks (adapted from the Activity Theory group around Yrjö Engeström) Lewis had awakened these practitioners to perceive themselves as educators and to find an interest in reflection that takes the shape of research. Moreover, when making this experience as a collective, the teachers and trainers were able to position themselves as doing ‘research’ as means of continuing professional development.

I assume that I have picked a key message from Lewis’ presentation (among other important points). To me it was important that I manage to bring into contact with Lewis a group of Italian VET teachers who represented the institute Cometa Formazione and had established their Cometa Research program based on similar ideas.

Finding a role for ‘practicum’ in vocational teacher education

In the third block I would like to discuss the  presentations of the final session of the VETNET program at ECER 2017:

Development of practicum pedagogy to enhance VET teacher learning – authored by Ingela Andersson, Ingrid Berglund, Ingrid Henning Loeb, Viveca Lindberg and presented by Ingrid from Göteborg.

The practice of feedback in practicum periods in VET – case of Swedish-speaking Finland – authored and presented by Birgit Schaffar-Kronqvist from Turku/Åbo.

Developing novice VET teachers’ pedagogy: A work-based learning curriculum framework – authored and presented by Susanne Francisco from Australia.

Here the two first presentations by Ingrid and Birgit discussed the shaping of vocational teacher education programs by universities in Sweden and in (Swedish-speaking) Finland. These programs are special programs delivered by universities or by universities of applied sciences (independently of the Bachelor-Master structures. The volume of the program is in Finland 60 ECTS points and in Sweden __ ECTS points. Both programs can be studied as full-time students or as part-time students. The learning arrangements are appropriate for teacher candidates who were already acting as teachers (without formal qualification). Also, the schedules (with on-the-job learning and presence sessions) are attractive for adult learners who want to shift to teacher occupation. However, in both cases the presenters reported on tensions regarding the role of practicum (practice-based learning period) and challenges, how to implement these periods in a such a way that the VET teacher candidates have new learning experiences.

In this context Susanne Francisco brought into discussion theoretical insights (with reference to Steve Kemmis from Australia, who also attended the session) and selected examples from the practice. She also presented some exemplary ‘learning journeys’ that demonstrated, how teacher candidates’ learning processes in practicum can be kept at ‘ordinary’ level or enhanced or driven into dead ends. Altogether, we had an interesting discussion.

Revisiting ‘Vocational teachers and trainers’ and ‘Practice-based learning’ as prior European project themes

I am aware that I have only scratched the topics above and not really entered them. That is why I have presented them as thematic blocks that I want to revisit in due time. In this context I also want to revisit the materials of some earlier European projects in which I was involved in one way or another, such as:

  • The Europrof project and its follow-up activities (Training of new VET professionals; 1996 – 2001)
  • The UNIP network for developing an international framework for TVET teacher education (2004 – 2006)
  • The TTplus project in Europe (focus on trainers) and TT-TVET project in Europe and Asia (2006 – 2009)
  • VET teachers and trainers – Consultation seminars in six European regions (2008 – 2009)
  • The Euronet-PBL project (Practice-based learning in engineering, business management and VET teacher education (2008-2010)

I have collected the materials on ResearchGate to the following two Project spaces:

Workplace Learning/ Practice-Based Learning – Legacy of European projects 2005 – 2012

Teachers & Trainers in Vocational Education &Training – Legacy of European projects 1995 -2010

and regarding ECER conferences

My VETNET Journey – Archives of my contributions to ECER conferences and VETNET network (1992 – 2016)

– – –

I think I have made enough notes and taken plenty of homework for the time to come. In my next post I will report on a very interesting workshop at ECER 2017.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Two: My reflections on Accompanying Research in the Learning Layers project

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series of posts to wrap up my experiences in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. I presented a thematic overview and a working agenda to explore different aspects that came up in the sessions I attended. With this post I give insights into my own presentation.

Background, work plan and modification of the plan

This year all my conference presentations focus on revisiting and reconceptualising our experience with the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. In particular I want to highlight the particular role of our “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) approach in the complex projects. Initially I had planned to write three parallel research papers and to present them in three successive conferences (see my post of April “Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – A “ToDo List” for forthcoming conferences“). I could partly implement it by preparing the first paper for the Stockholm International VET Conference in May – with emphasis on Accompanying research as promoter of action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). Then, I could prepare a second paper that I intended to present in the Rostock International VET Conference one week before the ECER. In this paper the main emphasis was given on revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and linking it to newer innovation agendas – in particular to “Industry 4.0”. However, then – due to intervening factors – I neither had the chance to present this paper in Rostock nor to prepare a third paper for ECER. Thus, I had to postpone my work with the methodological development of Accompanying research in the Learning Layers project (compared with prior approaches in pilot projects and innovation programmes).

Looking back at Learning Layers project – and forward to the follow-up

As has been the case with some other presentations, I had to give some background information, how the Learning Layers project was shaped and how the two sectoral pilots (in Healthcare and Construction) worked. Then I had to give insights into the change in the design idea – from digitising learning resources to shaping of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to different iterations. Finally, I had to to draw attention to the complementary relations between co-design workshops, multimedia training and pilot testing with digital tools. Mostly, these activities were carried out in the training centre Bau-ABC of the North-German construction industries and trades. Here, the key achievement was the introduction of the LTB as a digital toolset to support (trade-specific) training and learning in Bau-ABC.

But I also managed to give insights into the follow-up activities that promote company-specific applications of the LTB (as contributions to overarching management of work-related knowledge processes) and similar uses of LTB in continuing vocational training (as support for integrative curriculum development and learning approaches). In addition, one follow-up process is shaping integrative approaches to ‘health and safety’  in construction sector. All these processes are taking further steps to reach real work contexts and users in work organisations.

Revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and analysing old and new innovation agendas

In the light of the above it was worthwhile recapitulating, what we had learned from studying the legacy of the “Work process knowledge network” of the years 1997 -2004. In particular it was important to compare the views on the role of VET and informal learning in promoting the acquisition of work process knowledge. Furthermore, it was important to take on board the recent analyses on three generations of innovation programmes in working life (‘Humanisation of work’, ‘Learning organisations’ and ‘Industry 4.0’). With the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ I explored the recent analyses of German sociologists and educationalists on the general frontiers in the debates (techno-centric v.s. socio-technical approaches) and efforts to develop spaces and facilities for learning within work processes or to shape complementary learning spaces.

– – –

I think this is enough for a brief introduction. The long version of my paper is available on ResearchGate (see ‘Begleitforschung’ as contributor to digitisation in vocational education and training (VET) for construction sector – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ to ‘Industry 4.0’. The short version will be published in the proceedings of the Rostock conference (see the forthcoming conference proceedings). And my PowerPoint presentation will be published on the website of the VETNET network (see the Vetnetsite/2017 Copenhagen Presentations).

Concerning the feedback that I got, I note that the issue ‘scientific status of accompanying research’ has been discussed recently when the research work of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) in Germany has been evaluated. Indeed, I need to continue my work with this theme and inform myself the points made in this evaluation.

In my next posts I will discuss some key themes that were discussed in several sessions.

More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox – Overview on current activities in construction sector

June 16th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

After the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (see my blogs from January and February) I have tried to report on the follow-up activities in North Germany and with our partners in construction sector. In my blogs in March, April and May I have reported on ongoing projects or new initiatives in which the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) has played an important role. As these blogs have been based on particular meetings or workshops, the picture may have remained somewhat fragmentary. However, this week we have had a series of meetings with different counterparts. This has made it possible to create a group picture of ongoing activities.

Below I will report on the discussions in the three first meetings of this week in which I was present. Here it is worthwhile to note that none of these meetings was focusing only on specific uses of LTB as a dedicated tool for certain uses. Instead, all these meetings were discussing more comprehensive ecosystems of knowledge processes and software solutions (Ökosysteme für Wissensvermittlung und Software-Lösungen). In this context our counterparts were looking for different roles for LTB – as a part of an integrative software ecosystem – in promoting learning, training and workin in construction sector.

1. Bau-ABC Rostrup: New uses for LTB in continuing vocational training (CVT) and projects

In the meeting in Bau-ABC we discussed the prospects of developing an integrative software ecosystem to address course management issues, continuing quality assurance and integration of innovative pedagogic designs to regular training provisions. Here the meeting of Bau-ABC training managers, software developers (including LTB developers) and ITB researchers was partly building on the progress in the project DigiProB (see my previous post). Partly it was building on parallel planning of software solutions for course management and quality assurance. The key point was in the shaping of a software ecology that is linked to traditional data management solutions and receives the ‘mature’ results from development platforms. This would be the case with the DigiProB platform that is being used by lecturers in continuing vocational training (CVT) to create integrated project-based learning designs for CVT participants). In such a software ecology the LTB would serve as the participants interface for accessing digital contents and communication channels in such projects.

Alongside the case of the DigiProB project we discussed parallel possibilities to work further with the Bau-ABC trainers’ group that has been developing more systematic approach to the theme ‘Health and Safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In a similar way we discussed the possibilities to use LTB to support context-specific language learning of the Spanish apprentices (in the Mobipro-EU project) and key issues preparing them for their workplace-based training at construction sites. For these themes the Bau-ABC participants and the LTB developers presented recently created or modified LTB stacks as means to support learning in these contexts.

2.  Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen in Verden: New software ecosystems for construction work

In the meeting at the agency for ecological construction work (Agentur) ITB researchers and LTB developers discussed with Thomas Isselhard on the new working perspectives from their point of view (Verden-based organisations and networks focusing on ecological construction work). As we remember, the LTB-use case in which Thomas demonstrated, how he can use the LTB as means to coordinate the work process at a construction site was well received in the workshop for construction companies in September 2016. Now, based on that basic stack we were looking at newer software solutions and mobile apps that can enhance the usability of LTB by craft trade companies. In this discussion a major role was given for construction process-oriented digital tools (Datenlogger) and for possibilities to develop Building Information Modelling (BIM) solutions from the the perspective of craft trades working together. In this context Gilbert Peffer presented the work of CIMNE with portable BIMtables and BIM screens as means to support knowledge sharing during construction processes. In this discussion we could link to a similar session in our previous meeting with Bau-ABC in which we had had a presentation on BIMtable and on a digital tool package (GreenHouse Koffer) for ecological construction work of carpenters. In our discussion in Verden the key point was that the integration of tools and software should support both construction processes and further maintenance. Therefore, the tools and software solutions should take into account planners, craftsmen and clients as the users. Here it is not possible to go into details but this meeting took further steps in planning of new projects with LTB as a key element in such software ecosystem.

3. Company H.: Rethinking the software ecosystem and promoting the competences of the staff

In the third meeting ITB researchers and LTB developers were discussing with representatives of the company H. In one of my previous blogs I have given a rather detailed picture of a workshop in which we discussed the preliminary findings of a mapping tour that the colleagues had done by visiting different sites of that company. Now in this meeting the colleagues presented a draft report on work flows, support systems, eventual gaps and risk zones and their recommendations. We had a rather detailed discussion – both in terms of situation assessment and possible improvements.

Here it is not relevant to give a detailed picture of the discussion. However, at a more general level it is worthwhile to note that the company representatives were looking at a holistic ecosystem for steering work processes, supporting real-time interaction and reporting as well as enhancing knowledge sharing within the company. From the organisational and pedagogic point it was interesting that the company was interested in the potentials of LTB, both from the perspective of process optimisation as well as enhancing the learning processes of apprentices. Moreover, the company was interested in supporting free spaces for exchanges among the apprentices and for organising events to take up their ideas, concerns and wishes. However, with all these interests the company was looking for improvements that could be implemented with the agreement of the staff and with a perspective to integrate different staff members to common processes.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these meetings. For me this series of discussions was inspiring as I could observe clear steps forward on several fronts. Moreover, this experience gave me a new perspective to ‘digital transformation’. As I now see it, such transformations are not just matters of pushing new technologies upon users (or to substitute a great number of users). Neither can such transformations be characterised as equipping of users with magic tools that radically enhance their powers. Instead, the innovative tools – in order to contribute to digital transformations – have to fit into emerging ecosystems of knowledge processes, steering, sharing and reporting as well as co-design processes in which developers become aware of such requirements. In all these meetings I saw signs of such processes. I am looking forward to observe the next steps.

More blogs to come …

Shaping digital tools for continuing vocational training in construction sector – the DigiProB workshop in May

May 23rd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Friday (19th of May) I visited a workshop hosted by my ITB colleagues for yet another follow-up activity of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time the German-funded DigiProB project had a workshop on preparing digital tools for continuing vocational training (CVT) in the construction sector. The participants (in addition to my ITB colleagues) were training managers from the training centre Bau-ABC, guest lecturers of their CVT schemes and the software developer supporting the project. I have had several encounters with the DigiProB project but this time I could witness that the participants were making progress in shaping digital tools to support their training activities. But let us first recapitulate what the project is about and what it tries to achieve.

The DigiProB project – Pedagogic challenges for CVT trainers and participants

The aim of the DigiProB project is to support the successive CVT schemes in construction sector (Vorarbeiter, Werkpolier, Geprüfte Polier) with digital tools. In this context the project has to cope with several pedagogic challenges:

a) Limited presence training time: The above mentioned CVT schemes are supported by very short course periods with face-to-face training. Most of the learning has to take place as self-organised learning alongside the work of the participants in construction sector. (These schemes are targeted as upgrading schemes for skilled workers in construction sector and prepare them for management responsibilities at different level.)

b) Subject-based curriculum framework vs. action-oriented learning goals: The main pedagogic challenge for developing the above mentioned CVT schemes was the tension between the subject-based curriculum contents and the action-oriented learning goals. Thus, the presence training is based on subject areas covered by guest lecturers that have been invited as subject specialists (e.g. for construction processes, construction techniques and personal management). Yet, a central role in the curriculum has been given for complex learning tasks and an integrative project report.

c) Providing support for self-organised learning by dispersed part-time lecturers: A further challenge was the fact that the lecturers were recruited individually to cover their subject areas during the course period. Thus, they did not have a collective responsibility on promoting the participants’ learning beyond the course period. Yet, the lecturers were interested in providing further support inasmuch as they possibly could. Therefore, they were interested in working with digital tools for themselves and for their participants.

The DigiProB workshops – finding ways to provide support for integrative projects

During the last few months the DigiProB project has managed to establish a working group of active lecturers who serve as a pioneer group for developing integrative learning projects (and for introducing digital tools to support action-oriented learning in the CVT schemes). This working group has come together on monthly basis and now had its fifth meeting. I had visited their meeting only once – quite some time earlier – so I could now see the progress that the group had made. Below I try to sum up key achievements and working issues of this working group:

1. Working on two tracks to develop digital tools: Already at an early phase the working group took the course to two-track development of digital tools: a developmental platform for lecturers and a user-interface for participants. In this way the group avoided the risk of rushing to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ or ‘one-design-fits-all’ in introducing digital tools. For the moment the group is working primarily with the developmental platform to shape an integrative project that serves as a model for shaping further projects (and complex learning tasks). The shaping of user-interfaces can draw upon the progress with the work with this platform.

2. Shaping a model project to cover a wide range of content areas in an integrative vocational learning environment: Instead of using the developmental platform as a mere collector of training materials for different content areas the group has worked towards more integrative solutions. As a model project the group has chosen the construction of  a motorway service area (Autobahn Raststätte) with different sub-projects (including construction of  a kiosk-building with toilets, construction of special parking bay for trucks and lorries etc.). With such an overarching  theme the lecturers were challenged to incorporate their training contents as contributions to sub-projects of the whole project. Moreover, the real challenges in coordinating such project became transparent in the mutual adjustment of the sub-projects. This led to cross-cutting questions like the following ones: “Can the construction of the kiosk-building be started before the groundwork for the parking bays has been completed?” “Can the building materials for the kiosk-building be stored properly at the construction site when the groundwork is still going on?”

3. Working towards project-related and integrative learning goals: In general the digital learning platforms tend to shape such learning environments with reference to (atomistic) content areas and (atomistic) learning goals. The working group took a course towards project-oriented and integrative learning goals. In this respect the lecturers maintained the curriculum document and its main learning areas (construction techniques, construction processes and personal management) as reference points. Yet, instead of proceeding to a patchwork-like layout of learning units, the group insisted on keeping the projects and sub-projects transparent on the platform. Furthermore, the group insisted on formulating such learning goals that link the above mentioned learning areas to each other.

Interim observations and reflections

I guess this is enough of the main themes of the workshop. In addition, some lecturers presented their own ideas on specific apps (to be found on the learning platform H5P) as support for individual learning. Others introduced ideas for serious games that could be used in the context of these training schemes. Altogether, these ideas envisaged to support the self-organised informal learning of CVT participants (before or after the limited course periods).

Furthermore, the process in the working group reminded me of the Multimedia training schemes that were implemented during the Learning Layers project in Bau-ABC. This working group was going through a similar learning process as the voluntary Bau-ABC trainers in the earlier phase of Multimedia training. However, the Bau-ABC trainers could focus on the project-based learning periods and vocational learning tasks in their trades – and use their blogs as repositories for training materials. They were not challenged to develop integrated projects. For the working group in the DigiProB project it was essential to bring different content areas together in an integrative project – in order to make progress with shaping digital tools for the CVT schemes. Just as it was in the Learning Layers project, it is important that this pioneering group makes progress with the model project – then to be able to share experiences and know-how with other colleagues.

Finally, the process reminds me also of the introduction of the Learning Toolbox in the apprentice training in Bau-ABC (as a user-interface for vocational learners to support work process-oriented learning). Just as in the Learning Layers project,  the shaping of user-interfaces for the CVT participants needs to draw upon the pedagogic idea that are being developed by the DigiProB working group – then to be put into practice in the CVT schemes. From this perspective the earlier work in the shaping of the Learning Toolbox (for the apprentice training) serves as an advanced preparatory phase for the user-interfaces to be developed for the CVT participants.

– – –

I think this is enough of this DigiProB workshop. To me the participation as a visitor was a rich learning experience. And here I mean both regarding the development process of the DigiProB working group (as such) and the general picture of the learning Layers follow-up activities in construction sector (altogether). We (ITB and our partners) are building on the legacy of the Learning Layers project and its construction pilot. And we see new tasks and opportunities coming into picture.

More blogs to come …

Introducing Learning Layers tools to construction companies – Insights and working issues

May 17th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Once again I am taking a look at some of the follow-up activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the construction sector. As I have mentioned in my earlier blogs, my ITB-colleagues and the developers of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) have started cooperation with some German construction companies to launch company-specific pilot activities. In the first phase they agreed to start with feasibility studies. Last week the LTB developers were in Bremen and made some field visits to different sites of our partner organisations with ITB colleagues. At the end of the week we had a wrap-up meeting with one of the companies in ITB (and thus I could attend as an observer).

The approach

In the “Exploitation report” of the LL project we (in ITB) had already outlined our approach to such feasibility studies in the following way:

“Development of a framework for ‘Betriebsbezogene Analysetage’ for identifying company-specific points of intervention (for introducing tools and web resources), working interfaces (for identifying staff involved) and feedback processes (for specifying the benefits of tools etc.) to be supported with Learning Toolbox and affiliated tools and web resources.”

For me the point of interest was to learn, what kind of insights these field visits would bring into discussion regarding

  1. the use of digital media and web tools (in general) in the companies and in their trades, in particular
  2. as support for organisational and cross-organisational cooperation (specific to their trade) and
  3. as means to enhance process optimisation, learning and knowledge sharing across the organisation.

Getting an overview

Our counterpart in this discussion was the medium-sized company H. that is a major regional player in pipeline-building (Rohrleitungsbau) especially supply circuits (Versorgungsleitungen) and service pipes (Hausanschlüsse). It works together with the major electricity providers, water and gas suppliers and telephone and cable providers. Given the wide regional range of activities the company has in addition to its main office several branch offices and installation teams allocated to these offices. The company has framework contracts with its clients that include ordinary orders as well as procedures for emergency repairs. As a result, the company had adopted a ‘federative’ lean organisation that gives a lot of autonomy to the branch offices and to the teams that are working in the region. However, a major constrain for the organisation was to get the reporting of the work of the installation teams (and the clearance of ‘mission completed’) arranged in a smart way.

Given this complexity the LTB developers and my ITB colleagues carried out a series of interviews with the manager and the central IT specialist (in the central office) and with representatives of branch offices and skilled workers at different sites. With reference to the interview grid they then prepared a flow diagram that made transparent the work processes (including working interfaces), information flows (including interfaces with different forms for work orders and reporting) and points of intervention (where use of digital tools and web resources can contribute to process optimisation)

Insights and working issues

In the wrap-up meeting the representatives of the company H. discussed the preliminary findings with the LTB developers and my ITB-colleagues. Here I do not want to get into very specific details but highlight some of the main results:

a) Readiness to use digital media and web technologies: Firstly, already regarding the interaction with client organisations, there is a considerable variety between the ones that use up-to-date digital media (and web technologies) and others that rely on paper-based orders and printed reports. Inside the company the use of digital media and web technologies is generally accepted. Yet, in reporting from the field (with smartphones) there are still some teams that prefer using paper-based reporting.

 b) Multiple dependencies and a variety of digital documents: In this trade (Rohrleitungsbau) it is typical that for one installation job the company has parallel orders from an energy provider, gas provider, water supplier etc.  Typically these organisations use different software solutions, templates and forms. Also, the framework contracts include emergency repairs that need to be started without a separate order – but to be reported with yet another form. As a result the company H. has to deal with several types of digital and analogue documents that are not compatible with each other.

c) Engagement of different parts of the organisation in reporting: The installation works of the company are rather short-cycled ‘projects’ with one or two days’ duration. Yet, given the above mentioned diversity of software solutions and documents (and the varying readiness to use digital tools) there is a tendency towards duplication of reporting work at the construction site and in the office.

d) Autonomy of units/teams and knowledge sharing across the organisation: As has been mentioned, the organisational units at different branch offices – and the teams working in the field – have a great deal of autonomy. Also, their capability to find their own solutions is appreciated. The same is also the case with their way to handle the administrative reporting. However, the management is interested in encouraging knowledge sharing and exchange of experiences across the organisation. Yet, it appears that it is easier to arrange traditional training events (with frontal presentations by external experts) rather than events for shared learning within the organisation. The manager was looking for arrangements to support knowledge sharing among the skilled workers and with focus on improvements in work processes.

Working perspectives and lessons learned

The team of LTB-developers and ITB-colleagues will produce in a short while a brief report with further working perspectives and recommendations. However, already at this stage the flow diagram and the opportunity for joint reflections was appreciated – in the final meeting and during the field visits. Below I make some brief remarks, how (on the basis of the experience with the Learning Layers) the problems can be dealt with and how the organisation needs to engage itself in the next phase:

Concerning the multiple dependencies, different software solutions and document templates there is a possibility to introduce technical solutions – by introducing a company-specific database that communicates with the other kinds of documents (and manages the conversions). This requires some coordination in the central office, whilst the branches and the working teams should get their own documents, which they can at best handle. Furthermore, for the workers in the field it is possible to provide optional choices for reporting via typed documents or scanned documents (that can be converted in the central office). Such solutions would offload the administrative work from the teams and speed up the reporting for the clients. Here the manager emphasised the need to offload skilled workers from unnecessary administrative tasks. To him this would increase the attractiveness of craftsman careers.

Concerning the enhancement of learning and knowledge sharing across the organisation the experience of Learning Layers opens interesting prospects. Firstly, work process-oriented and technology-supported multimedia training can increase the readiness for knowledge sharing. Moreover, linking such training to shaping new stacks for Learning Toolbox can bring into picture practical solutions for such sharing. Here it is important to start from such tools and technologies that offload the participants from unnecessary burdens and make it possible to improve one’s contribution. Here the “Theme Room training” and the co-development of Learning Toolbox in the training centre Bau-ABC can serve as examples.

– – –

I think this is enough of our discussion in the wrap-up meeting. The LTB-developers and my ITB-colleagues will finalise their conclusions and recommendations in a short while. What strikes me in this discussion was the fact that we looked far deeper into learning in organisational contexts (and into process-optimisation in cross-organisational cooperation) than during the LL project. Moreover, it is difficult to find similar cases in the literature that we have been using. So, we have been dealing with an inspiring and challenging case. We hope that we can continue working together.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

The future of learning is social?

May 16th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

In the stream of tweets passing by on the top of my screen I noticed a link to a article called ‘The end of Formal Learning Content’ by Juliette Denny on the elearningindustry.com web site.

“Since formal learning content takes up so much time, and is often hit-and-miss, what would happen if we got rid of it completely? Is it possible to have a content-free learning program?”, asks Juliette.

She goes on to say the first casualities of such a change would be training managers. But “a new post of ‘training facilitator’ has just opened up. Although it has similarities to the dusty old ‘training manager’ role, the purpose is quite different. Instead of trying to make people learn, it’s the training facilitator’s job to let people learn. Rather than prescribe a rigid structure, it’ll be up to them to create the right environment and focus on keeping the learners engaged.”

Juliette points to small learning bites for what would still be formal learning but user generated content, discussion and interchange on a social learning platform as the answer for the future.

Nothing wrong with any of this. However, I think it underestimates the degree of culture change and the amount of work in organising social learning. In the EmployID project we have been experimenting with social learning and in particular with the role of participants as learning facilitators themselves. The evaluation results are pretty impressive, especially as people who say they never liked ‘traditional elearning’ but love our courses. But promoting the discourse required for social learning takes some considerable effort. We have been using different MOOC platforms (albeit with limited numbers – the largest had around 400 signed up. The MOOC platforms do not really support social learning and we are casting around for an alternative. And if we were to get truly massive numbers participating, I thing we would need some numbers of moderators to properly support learners.

So I am heartened that the elearning industry is recognising the potential of social learning – if only in a blog article. But I think there is more work to be done in understanding how such learning can be facilitated.

 

What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Four: Further steps with Bau-ABC trainers and ‘health and safety’

May 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

One month ago I wrote the third post on follow-up activities of our completed EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL).  In the three posts I informed on our initiative on digital media in the area of ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). Before the Easter break I had had two meetings with full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) of the training centre Bau-ABC. I reported on the starting points of the initiative, some positive surprises and some challenges to modify the approach already after the first two meetings. Then we had a few weeks’ break due to the Easter holidays and the major conference and trade fair Bohrtechniktage (the former Brunnenbauertage) on Bau-ABC premises in Rostrup.

Now I was back from my holiday trips and some of the trainers in Bau-ABC were also available. This time we didn’t have the whole group assembled. Instead, we came together last Friday as a smaller team drawing conclusions from our previous meeting. With Thomas Weerts (the shop steward for health and safety in Bau-ABC) and Josh Dreyer (responsible for health and safety in his trade) we had a productive brainstorming session and we came up with a working agenda  for continuing the process with the wider group of trainers. Below I try to give a picture of the key points (and the slight reorientation of the approach):

1) Collection of key contents for ‘health and safety’ training in different trades

Our first conclusion was about the way we should go further with the mapping of key contents for training of apprentices regarding the theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). So far we had collected all kinds of exemplary documents – both overarching documents for all construction trades and specific documents for particular trades and risk situations. From now on we set ourselves the task to identify key content areas and key documents that function well in apprentice training. As a next step we asked the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in different trades to identify such content areas and documents in their trades. (Josh Dreyer already presented his favourites for machine- and metal techniques.) Based on the proposals from different trades we will gather a collection of key contents/documents in domain-specific folders in Google Drive.

2) Shaping a common core and format for ‘health and safety’ training across  the trades

Based on the above presented approach Thomas and Josh proposed that the trainers from different trades should agree on common core contents (and standard presentation) for the entire field of health and safety. Here they also emphasised the role of visualisations and the use of standard symbols as means to draw attention to the central messages.

3) Production of a set of videos to introduce the ‘health and safety’ contents (general and trade-specific)

Our third conclusion was related to the use of videos. Here I referred to the positive role of the Bau-ABC videos produced by Bau-ABC staff for the Learning Layers project (on possible uses of ‘Learning Toolbox’ in training and at work). Therefore, I proposed that we should produce similar videos when we have made progress in selecting the key contents (for different trades) and the common core contents (for all trades). However, here Thomas and Josh emphasised that we should try to develop a similar collection of exemplary videos that are available in the net.

4) Use of moodle as digital media to present the core contents and software solutions to support them

Our fourth conclusion was that we should firstly use the moodle ‘course’ that I had created for the theme ‘health and safety in construction work‘ as a platform to present the results of the above mentioned tasks. Then, in addition to this, we should present briefly other software solutions to be used in the training – such as the Learning Toolbox that was developed in the Learning Layers.

5) Preparation of proposals to develop learning units and learning designs in funded projects

Our final conclusion was that we should try to identify some simple exemplary cases to demonstrate the use of digital media in learning units (Bau-ABC training projects) and learning designs (modes of implementing them). Here, we should be looking for ways to continue their development with funded projects. Also, in this respect we should be looking at such innovations like serious games that focus on health and safety in construction work.

– – –

I think this is enough on the results of our meeting. Thomas Weerts has sent out a group message to Bau-ABC trainers responsible for training in health and safety to collect their proposals for key contents and documents. After the meeting I had a discussion with Melanie Campbell who emphasised the need for similar mapping exercise with focus on the training of Spanish apprentices in Germany (supported by the project Mobipro-EU). We will get back to these issues in a short while.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – A “ToDo List” for forthcoming conferences

April 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

It just happened so that I had little chance to blog during the April month. Obviously this is due to the fact that I and my colleagues are still in a transition from our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project to successor activities. And as I have written in my previous posts, these follow-up activities need quite a lot of time for preparation – they are not merely continuation of the LL activities. I have experienced this in my initiative with the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) of the training centre Bau-ABC on the theme ‘health and safety’ – it needs more groundwork than I expected. My ITB colleagues have experienced this in the ongoing projects and funding bids with partly new application partners and priority themes. However, we are not through with the key themes of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot – although we have finished the final reporting quite some time ago. Now, we have a chance to revisit the project experience and draw conceptual and methodological conclusions of our work in the Construction pilot. And I have booked myself in to three conferences to have a closer look at our achievements and how review them from a conceptual point of view. Below I give brief insights into the conference papers that I am preparing at the moment.

The Stockholm International VET conference “Vocational Education and Training – Emerging Issues. Voices from Research” 8. – 9.5. 2017

The series of conferences starts with the traditional Spring conference of Stockholm University – organised on a ferry that cruises from Stockholm to Finland (the Åland island) and back. For this conference I am preparing a paper on the theme “Begleitforschung as mediator between action-oriented learning and digital change: On the role of accompanying research and training interventions in the Learning Layers Construction pilot“.

With this paper I am trying to give picture on our contribution as ‘accompanying researchers’ (Begleitforscher) in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot – with a special emphasis of the pedagogic development of vocational training when introducing digital media. Here I make comparisons to some earlier cases of accompanying research in German pilot projects (Modellversuche) that focused on vocational schools and emphasised self-organised learning when introducing new curricular framneworks and digital media.

The Rostock International VET Conference Crossing Boundaries in Vocational Education and Training: Social Dimensions and Participation 16. – 18.8. 2017

The next milestone is the second international ‘Crossing Boundaries …’ conference (two years after the first one), now organised by the University of Rostock. For this conference I am preparing a paper on a similar theme: ‘Begleitforschung in the context of digital transformation in vocational education and training (VET): Linking work process knowledge to Industry 4.0.

With this paper I try to follow the thread that leads from the earlier ‘Humanisation of Work’ (HdA) and ‘Work and Technology’ (AuT) programmes (with pilot projects supported by accompanying research) to present date. Here the German and European research on ‘acquisitition of work process knowledge’ and on ‘social shaping of work, technology  and organisations’ played a major role. Concerning the newer research I will explore some cases of ‘shaping-oriented’ (gestaltungsorientiert) projects that focus on ‘Industry 4.0’ as parallel cases to Learning Layers.

ECER 2017 “Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and the role of educational research” 21. – 25.8. 2017, Copenhagen

The third milestone is the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in Copenhagen – directly after the above mentioned conference in Rostock. For this conference I am preparing a paper on yet another similar theme Begleitforschung revisited – Reflections on the role of accompanying research in the Learning Layers project, Construction pilot (2012 -2016)’.

This paper takes a closer look at the in-built methodological tension in accompanying research – what role is to be given on practical support for the developmental activities and what role for conceptual knowledge development beyond the particular case. Here the paper revisits the methodological self -reflection within German Begleitforschung in the 1990s and examines the process of Learning Layers’ Construction pilot with reference to frameworks and distinctions of that time – taking into account the conclusions of the two earlier papers.

– – –

I think this is enough content for a ‘ToDo-List’. Luckily enough, I am already making progress with all of them. However, there is that much reflection and rethinking involved that this work is not mere reporting in the same way as preparing ‘deliverables’ for the review panel. Therefore I am not intending to prepare a series of blogs to cover the papers in the same way as before. Each paper and conference is a case of its own and I need to take time in between. Moreover, with each conference we have different arrangements for publishing and therefore I need to find out what are the policies regarding ‘pre-publishing’ individual papers. But we shall see – time passes quickly and the first conference is already in the coming month. So, I will get back to these papers very soon.

More blogs to come …

What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Three: Getting deeper with vocational learning, ‘health and safety’ and digital media

April 3rd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I referred to the fact that our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had come to an end and that we (the ITB team involved in the construction sector pilot) are working with follow-up activities. I then described briefly, how I came to start a joint initiative on digital media in the area of ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) with trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC. In my previous post I sketched the initiative roughly. Now – after our second meeting – I can give more information and I need to reflect on lessons  learned already at this stage.

Looking back – the achievements with the Learning Layers project

Firstly I need to remind myself how this initiative drew upon the achievements of the LL project. During the project some of the trainers had created WordPress blogs to present their training contents (Project instructions, support material and worksheets) to apprentices in their trades. Then, we had piloted the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) that had been developed during the project to support learning in the context of work. The trainers had found their ways to create stacks and tiles to support the apprentices’ projects (based on working & learning tasks). However, the transversal learning area ‘health and safety’ had not yet been covered during the project. And – moreover – from the perspective of promoting the use of LTB and digital media in construction sector, this area is important both for training centres and for construction companies. So, we started working together to conquer this terrain.

Mapping learning materials for ‘health safety’ – filling the gaps and reflecting on pedagogy

I had initially thought that we could proceed rather quickly by mapping the existing material that is being used and by analysing some options for learning software – then to start working with appropriate learning designs. But it struck me that I  had not thought of a necessary interim step – pedagogic reflection on the applicability of existing materials for the learning processes of apprentices and skilled workers. When discussing the potentially applicable learning materials the trainers informed me of several gaps to be overcome. Firstly, a lot of the reference materials are lengthy documents with detailed references to norms, standards and regulations. These, obviously, are not very easily usable in action-oriented learning (supported by digital media. Secondly, several checklists and work sheets for risk analysis (Gefährdungsbeurteilung) are designed for real work situations (involving skilled workers). However, for apprentices who are learning and working in the training centre the trainers need to develop adjusted versions. So, therefore, our initiative needed space and time – and digital tools – for such pedagogigic reflection. Furthermore, the trainers saw a possibility to shape an integrative approach that proceeds from general starting points through the main areas of construction know-how (Tiefbau, Hochbau, Ausbau) and special areas (Brunnenbau, Maschinen- und Metalltechnik) to specific trades (carpentry, bricklaying etc.) and to specific work processes (welding, sawing etc.). So, instead of taking this as an easy ‘packaging content to digital media’ exercise, we are in deep discussion on vocational learning and on appropriate ways to introduce digital media and know-how on ‘health and safety’ into working and learning processes.

– – –

I think this is enough for the moment. I have learned a lot and the trainers are pleased to work in this direction. And as far as I am concerned, this kind of process confirms once again the fundamental principles that we applied in the LL project – orientation to ‘work process knowledge’ and to ‘action-oriented learning’. Now I will have a holiday break but I am looking forward to continuing my work with the Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Two: Bau-ABC trainers working with digital media and ‘health and safety’

March 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I referred to the fact that our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had come to an end and that the final review has already taken place. For us – the ITB team that had worked in the construction pilot this has meant a change of perspective from developing and testing new digital tools to a phase of adaptation of these tools and setting them to new contexts. In my previous post I mainly focused on the cooperation initiatives with interested construction companies that wanted to test Learning Toolbox (the integrative digital toolset) for their purposes. These initiatives have started from mini-pilots with the option of working into something better. At the same time we wanted continue with the trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup with a small-scale initiative that helps us to find a way to work further with the use of digital media in construction sector. For this purpose we selected the theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz).

Why this new small-scale initiative?

Looking back at the work of the Learning Layers project in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup we need to highlight that the co-design, development and pilot testing of Learning Toolbox (as support for apprentice training) became the core process. It was important to get the toolset ready for use and to find out, how it could at best be used once it had become a viable product. For this purpose it was necessary to focus on a limited number of trades with trainers who had become fit to introduce new tools in their training projects. This all worked, but there were several hurdles that couldn’t be overcome during the active period of the project. Also, the training schemes with digital media (the Theme Room training) couldn’t be continued parallel to the piloting. Finally, after the end of the project some other initiatives regarding the use of digital media came into picture. So, there was a need to see, how the Learning Toolbox could be put into a group picture with other web resources and/or other ways to use digital media.

In addition to the above it is worthwhile to note that the pilot testing of Learning Toolbox focused on apprentice training in selected trades – and on trade-specific projects. To some extent this effect could be bridged with joint projects between two neighbouring trades or by similar learning designs for a group of apprentices moving from its main trade to complementary projects from neighbouring trades. Yet, quite a number of trades remained in an outsider-position. From this point of view it was of interest for several trainers to join in a shared learning exercise that promotes the use of digital media and web resources (including the Learning Toolbox) within the common theme ‘health and safety’.

How are we working with the theme ‘health and safety’?

We have started by collecting (digital) learning materials that are being used for the theme ‘health and safety’ in a shared Dropbox folder and grouping it roughly into several sub-folders. Then we have started to develop a joint Moodle ‘course area’ (shared learning area) with the following ‘courses’ (focal areas):

  1. General learning materials (overarching web resources and/or cross-cutting themes)
  2. Domain-specific learning materials for the trades represented in the group
  3. Learning software options for training/learning in ‘health and safety’
  4. Learning designs to be developed with software favoured for specific purposes.

We have started only quite recently, so it is not appropriate to go any deeper at the moment. I will get back as soon as I can give a fresh update. But I can already report that I find the trainers’ engagement very positive and very encouraging. We are making progress in bringing the results of the Learning Layers project further to practice.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

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