Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 4: Working with the LL exploitation model

January 22nd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I wrote a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported on the meetings of the ‘local’ LL teams of ITB, Pont, and Bau-ABC (in Bremen and Rostrup). In the third post summarised a video conference that discussed a set of themes for our next consortium meeting in Innsbruck (2.2.-5.2.2016). In this fourth post I report on the video conference of the ITB team with our LL colleagues Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink on the Exploitation model for the LL project.

In my previous blog I had already given the following characterisation of the work of Gilbert and Raymond with this model:

“… Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink have organised bilateral or trilateral conversations with LL partners to create a comprehensive model of exploitation activities.  The aim is to compress the pictures given by different exploitation stories and to create more transparency between different initiatives. In this way different partners can find their roles and possibilities in a joint group picture. And with the help of this model the partners can trace the changes from current project partnership to future partnerships (in follow-up projects) or future business relations (in commercial exploitation activities).”

Below I have copied the current draft of the Exploitation model:

Exploitation Model.v2.2

In our discussion in the video conference and after it we started a process of sensemaking, how to fit our exploitation initiatives into this landscape and how to grasp the zones of possible activities that we had not yet thought of. Here I try to interpret different areas of the exploitation model from this perspective:

a) The (peripheral) support area

Two fields in the model can be characterised as a (peripheral) support area for emerging follow-up activities with different intensity of support measures:

a1) “The Learning Layers Association” can be seen as a light-weight form to continue the cooperation across project consortium as an interest group that promotes the tools and ideas of the LL project in new contexts. For this purpose the interest group cam organise joint search conferences or workshops with new potential application partners. (Here the contacts of the LL partners at OEB with the UNHCR might serve as a clue for looking partners for such search conferences.)

a2) “The Learning Layers Cooperative” can be seen as a more committed service alliance – grouping of LL partners that are ready to support new initiatives with technical advice and facilitation in project creation. (Such cooperation has already been practiced between different partners to give shape for spin-off projects.)

b) The Research & Development area

The importance of this area is obvious, since we need to continue with R&D projects to develop the products and services of the LL project to more mature stage. Here we need to have a more differentiated look at the R&D agendas to pursue. Without going into details of specific initiatives it is worth taking into consideration the following type of R&D activities:

b1) Comprehensive follow-up projects (Horizon 2020 etc) that focus on further development of integrative toolsets for/with specific application partners – engaging different kinds of expertise from the LL project but linking it to new contexts.

b2) Specific R&D projects (e.g. within cluster initiatives) that link the further development of LL tools and similar toolsets to technical innovation programs.

Here the model emphasises that the R&D area needs to involve the application partners and the commercial partners as well (in order to take the products and services further).

c) The commercial exploitation area

We have already become aware of the fact that software development in research context may have different working patterns/perspectives than software development as customer service. This is reflected in the ‘commercial exploitation area’ by differentiating between three kinds of organisational entities:

c1) New enterprises (social/commercial) that dedicate themselves on further development of LL tools, software and services as their core business.

c2) Existing partners (private/public organisations) that continue working on the basis of their business models or institutional frameworks.

Here the model suggests that if new entreprises emerge, preferential ‘giving back’ partnership relations  should be agreed in the founding processes. (Also, new enterprises need advisory boards.)

c3) Third party organisations (SMEs, training providers, service providers, cluster organisations) need to be involved with appropriate partnership agreements.

Altogether, the model was shaped with an idea of an “Entrepreneurial symbiosis’. I am looking forward to our next phase of working with this model in our project consortium meeting in Innsbruck.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 3: Preparation of the consortium meeting in Innsbruck

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I started a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported on the meeting of the LL teams of ITB and Pont, and in the second post on our working meeting in Bau-ABC. In this third post I give an account on the video conference in which the Work Package Leaders of the LL project discussed the preparation of our next consortium meeting in Innsbruck (2.2.-5.2.2016).

Below I try follow the reconstruct the discussion based on the recording of the meeting (in which I could not participate). I try to put an emphasis on the thematic blocks (and on the specific accents) that were set for the preparation of future activities. I do not try to give a comprehensive report but rather limit myself to the points that we should take up in the construction pilot team.

1) The integrated deliverable of the LL project of the Year 4

The idea of a single integrated deliverable was already discussed at the end of the Y3 Review meeting and it was agreed with great enthusiasm in the consortium. For our further work it is of importance that this deliverable is interpreted as the “Layers package of exploitables” (a comprehensive package of useful objects/resources to support exploitation of results). Now this idea is taking shape in different thematic blocks (see below).

2) Documentation of the impact of project with “Layers scorecards”

Tobias Ley had already in December presented a practical solution for documenting impact with the help of ‘scorecards’ that can be used in different field activities. The basic card has three main fields for describing a) the situation before the LL project, b) the contribution of the LL project and c) the situation after the project. In addition, the card has smaller fields for specifying different aspects of the impact. During the final year the project can collect booklets of scorecards within different activities and highlight ‘evidence of the month’. (See https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7vXuqBBjr9PX1RxUkpmZUt5Zkk/view .) This tool will be developed further in the Innsbruck meeting.

3) Collection of ‘training materials’ to support the roll-out of LL tools

Pablo Franzolini and Kai Pata presented the idea, how to include the component of ‘training materials’ into the deliverables. Already during the Y3 Pablo has supported the healthcare pilot team in preparing video material for webinars (with special emphasis on filming from different angles and making the presentations more lively). Whilst the use of webinars and videos have so far been rather tool-centered, the idea is now to shift the emphasis from single tools to combined use of tools in order to meet context-specific needs. (In this respect the demonstrations in the Y3 Review meeting were rehearsals for such materials.) As was mentioned in the discussion, we need to consider, when and how we can produce such material for different pilot sectors and spin-off initiatives.

4) Bringing together different evaluation agendas

The discussion on the evaluation activities – led by Ronald Maier and Stefan Thalmann – was inspired by the key question: “How to document changes  in the patterns of learning in the context of work in the pilot sectors (including the role of web tools/apps and mobile technologies?” It became evident that the more conceptual and context-oriented inquiries need to be supported by technical data collection (whenever it is possible) and these aspects need to linked to each other. In a similar way positive and negative findings regarding changes vs. obstacles to changes need to be discussed from the perspective of promoting innovations and marketing products and services.

5) Further discussion on the Dev-Ops model, Design patterns and Design-based research

One of the recommendations of the Y3 Review meeting was to enrich the Dev-Ops model with more elements of user engagement (that were presented in the sectoral reports). As a partial response to this, the meeting discussed the plan to prepare a comprehensive presentation on the Dev-Ops model, on Design patterns and on the LL approach(es) to Design-based research. It was agreed that the Confer Tool should be used to support this work. This work will be led by Ralf Klamma and John Cook.

6) Integrative group picture of parallel (mutually coordinated) exploitation initiatives

Already from the beginning of the year Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink have organised bilateral or trilateral conversations with LL partners to create a comprehensive model of exploitation activities.  The aim is to compress the pictures given by different exploitation stories and to create more transparency between different initiatives. In this way different partners can find their roles and possibilities in a joint group picture. And with the help of this model the partners can trace the changes from current project partnership to future partnerships (in follow-up projects) or future business relations (in commercial exploitation activities). Alongside this work the clarification of IPR issues will be continued as a sub-theme of defining these partnership or business relations.

I think this as much as I can report on this meeting. At the moment we (the ITB-team) are preparing ourselves for the bilateral/trilateral exploitation talks with Gilbert (and Raymond). We are looking forward to this useful milestone in the set of the ‘start-of-the-year meetings’.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 2: Catching up with the fieldwork in Bau-ABC

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The first post reported on the first meeting of the local LL teams of ITB and Pont in Bremen. This second post reports on our first working visit to Bau-ABC to discuss the current tasks in our fieldwork. From ITB Ludger Deitmer and I participated, from Bau-ABC Melanie Campbell and Kerstin Engraf. (A more detailed report on this meeting is available (in German) in the Learning Layers Google Drive document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lgL4hCjkaRZnrY17E0swQcvxWqR7XvrkmaK2fnUhh_s.)

Firstly we took up some issues that were already discussed in the ITB-Pont meeting, in particular the situation in the development of Learning Toolbox and the timeline for pilot testing and evaluation. Our conclusion was that it is crucial to get the interactive communication channel and the group functionality (in addition to some other improvements) for the pilot version to be tested from March on. The active period for pilot testing in Bau-ABC will be from March to the end of May. The optimal period for evaluation measures will be the end of May and beginning of June. This year the summer holiday will start in the middle of June and and by 24th of July.

Secondly we noted the situation with the new projects and in the preparation of new proposals. Considering the new project on continuing vocational training (CVT) we discussed the need of some bridging measures already in the context of the ongoing LL project (see the next point on User Survey). Concerning the cluster-initiative “Bauen 4.0″ we noted that colleagues from Bau-ABC cannot attend in the first meeting (on the coming Friday) but ITB will be represented and discuss some joint project ideas that were agreed earlier. We also agreed to cooperate with the preparation of a proposal for Horizon 2020, Topic “Technologies for Learning and Skills”. As a specific possibility for Bau-ABC we discussed the funding program of the German Ministry of Education (BMBF) to support digitisation of intermediate training centres. We agreed to get back to this once Bau-ABC has internally agreed on its priorities (in the light of two alternative funding priorities).

Thirdly, we discussed the continuation of the User Survey (on mobile technologies and web apps/tools as support for learning). In this context the Bau-ABC colleagues emphasised the urgency to collect data from the participants of the continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes that are present in Bau-ABC during the January and February months. We checked the questionnaire that had been developed last year and agreed to use it (with one minor amendment). We also agreed that it is useful to start again a User Survey with apprentices when they come in March.

Fourthly, we discussed the continuation of the training campaign based on “Theme Rooms”. In general, this had been viewed positively, but continuity would have been needed to sustain the learning gains. However, due to the heavy workload provided by the CVT schemes, it was not possible to start immediately in January. Therefore, we concluded that we should also carry out a mini-survey on the use of digital media and web tools/apps among Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister). Based on the results we could then see the need for some ‘refreshing the basic skills’ sessions. These should take place in February before starting a new full cycle of Theme Rooms in March. When preparing the next cycle of Theme Rooms we should also introduce Learning Toolbox (LTB) to the Bau-ABC trainers who are engaged as tutors of the Theme Rooms.

In addition we discussed an interesting new initiative to develop mobile apps and web resources for construction sector – in particular for the well-builders (Brunnenbauer). This topic merits a blog of its own a little later (once the start-of-the-year meetings have been reported). Finally, we discussed shortly our preparation for the LL project consortium meeting. On this topic we got new information from the video conference of the  Work Package Leaders of the LL project (that took place when we were having our meeting).

I guess this is enough on this meeting. The next challenge is to summarise the results of the WP Leaders’ video conference (and to draw conclusions for the construction pilot).

More blogs to come …

 

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 1: Catching up with ITB/Pont team

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year I had a longer winter break, so I have started my working year with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the middle of January. As a consequence, my first working days have been filled with catch-up meetings in the local and regional contexts and as video-conferences at the level of our European project. I try to sum up the results, challenges and impressions with a series of blogs. In the first one I give a brief report on the first meeting of our local LL team involving colleagues from ITB and Pontydysgu. (A more detailed report is available in the Learning Layers Google Drive document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lgL4hCjkaRZnrY17E0swQcvxWqR7XvrkmaK2fnUhh_s.)

In our first joint meeting of this year we started with a situation assessment on the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). My colleagues had taken some time to test the latest version and discovered several points that needed improvement. They had reported them with Trello cards and with an e-mail to the LTB developers – which were well received as precise feedback that is being taken up. On the whole, we are happy that both Android and iOS versions are available. Yet, the fundamental challenge is to introduce interactive communication channels and group functionality. These are the key requirements of the users in training centres and construction companies. Since our main application partner Bau-ABC is now hosting short-term continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes in January and February, there is some time before the apprentices will return, Yet, we (the developers and we as the facilitators) need to get ready to start active piloting in March. We were happy to note that we have a German version of LTB Manual (thanks to Jaanika Hirv from TLU) and an English translation (thanks to Martina Lübbing from Pont). Yet, we need to do more work with training to support the roll-out. (For this purpose we had scheduled a working meeting with Bau-ABC for the next day, see my next blog).

Our second major point was the situation assessment, where we stand with the acquisition of follow-up projects to Learning Layers. Here, several things had happened by the end of the year and were in process in the beginning of the year. Firstly, the pending final assessment on the Learning Layers follow-up project in CVT (support for work-related training and learning of general construction site managers – Geprüfte Polier) is being prepared. Also, the estimated start time has been announced (provided that the assessment is positive). Secondly, the recently approved cluster initiative “Bauen 4.0″ (Construction 4.0) has been approved and the consortium (involving among others Bau-ABC and ITB) has been invited to submit a set of mutually linked project proposals that focus on digital transformation in construction sector (including consequences for training). Thirdly, we have started the preparation of a project proposal for Horizon 2020, Topic “Technologies for Learning and Skills” (taking into account the work of the ITB-project Kompetenzwerkst@tt and of Learning Layers). In addition to this, we (ITB) have been invited as partners to some other proposals that may have a role in the follow-up of the LL project.

In addition to this we discussed about participation in forthcoming conferences and (related) publication plans. Both of these topics will be taken up more systematically in our next meeting.

I think this is enough of our first meeting. On the next day we had a working meeting with Bau-ABC.

More blogs to come …

 

Yishay Mor talks about Design Patterns

January 14th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

At Online Educa Berlin 2015, I had the opportunity to interview Yishay Mor (see podcast below). I was keen to talk to him as he has been one of the people pushing the idea of Design Patterns in technology enhanced learning. And in both the two EU research projects in which I am involved, EmployID and Learning Layers, we are adopting patterns as a design tool or methodology. Both projects from their inception were committed to user centred design. But that left major issues of how to do it. It is not just a matter of getting a group of potential users together and talking with them. We need a language to structure conversations and a language which can describe practice. We have experimented with Personas which I suppose can be described as ideal types. However, all too often the persona ceased to correspond to any reality – or contained a mix of practices from multiple people – rendering them extremely problematic for design purposes.

Design narratives, design patterns and design scenarios seem to offer a potentially richer process for designing for learning, furthermore they may have considerable value in describing innovations in technology. Despite releasing applications as open source, they fail to be picked up on – especially for occupational learning, as the potential uses are opaque.

The following notes are taken from Yishay Mor and Steven Warburton’s paper, ‘Assessing the value of design narratives, patterns and scenarios in scaffolding co-design processes in the domain of technology enhanced learning.

Design narratives provide an account of the history and evolution of a design over time, including the research context, the tools and activities designed, and the results of users’ interactions with these

Design narratives offer thick descriptions of innovations, but they are often too specific to lend themselves to efficient transfer to novel challenges. Design patterns fill this gap by offering a “grounded abstraction” of design knowledge distilled from design narratives. Design patterns originate in the work of Christopher Alexander and his colleagues in the theory of architecture (Alexander, 1977).

A design pattern describes a recurring problem, or design challenge, the characteristics of the context in which it occurs, and a possible method of solution. Patterns are organized into coherent systems called pattern languages where patterns are related to each other. The core of a design pattern can be seen as a local functional statement: “for problem P, under circumstances C, solution S has been known to work.

There are many different ways of describing patterns. In EmployID, reflecting its status as a research project we have adopted the following template:

Problem: What is the learning problem that has been addressed? This encompasses a sufficiently generalized version of a learning scenario

Analysis: Interpretation of the problem from a theory perspective

Context: What are the relevant contextual factors that determine if the proposed solution is actually (and maybe allegedly) successfully applicable?

Solution: What is the (socio-)technical solution?

Evidence: Accumulated evidence that the solution is a solution to the problem when the contextual conditions are met, e.g., examples in a specific context, but also feedback from external stakeholders that problem-solution pairs appear applicable in other contexts.

Thinking about Practice and Design

January 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Sometimes writing reports for European projects can be a chore. Long, boring and nobody reads them. At the moment I am writing sections for the EmployID project second annual report. Instead of writing individual work package reports, as is the normal convention, we are writing a single report in the form of a book. And that provides more incentive to get it right. Plus the sections I am writing are all difficult – social learning, Learning Analytics and Labour Market Information tools, but are making me think. So I am quite enjoying it – I think. This last two weeks I have been working on design – or more specifically design for learning. How can we develop designs for tools to support informal learning in public service organisations. I am going to publish here a short series of posts outlining the way I am thinking. I am not sure if this stuff is write but would appreciate any feedback. The first post, today is about practice. Tomorrow I iwll look at the idea of Design Patterns and follow that up on Friday with a draft of a design pattern for Labour market Information tools.

Social Learning

EmployID aims to support and facilitate the learning process of Public Employment Services (PES) practitioners in their professional identity transformation process. The aims of the project are born out of a recognition that to perform successfully in their job they need to acquire
a set of new and transversal skills, develop additional competencies, as well as embed a professional culture
 of continuous improvement. However it is unlikely that training programmes will be able to provide sufficient opportunities for all staff in public employment services, particularly in a period f rapid change in the nature and delivery of such services and in a period with intense pressure on public expenditures. Therefore the EmployID project aims to promote, develop and support the efficient use of technologies to provide advanced coaching, reflection and networking services through social learning. The idea of social learning is that people learn through observing others behaviour, attitudes and outcomes of these behaviours, “Most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura, 1977). Facilitation is seen as playing a key role in structuring learning and identity transformation activities and to support networking in personal networks, teams and organisational networks, as well as cross-organisational dialogue.

Proposals and initiatives to utilise new technology for learning and professional development in organisations is hardly new. However, a critical review of the way information technologies are being used for workplace learning (Kraiger, 2008) concluded that most solutions are targeted towards a learning model based on the idea of direct instruction. Technology Enhanced Learning initiatives tend to be based upon a traditional business training model transferred from face to face interactions to onscreen interactions, but retaining the standard trainer / learner relationship and a reliance on formal and to some extent standardised course material and curricula.

Research suggests that much learning that takes place in the workplace and through work processes, is multi episodic, is often informal, is problem based and takes place on a just in time basis (Attwell 2007; Hart, 2011). Rather than a reliance on formal or designated trainers, much training and learning involves the passing on of skills and knowledge from skilled workers (Attwell and Baumgartl, 2009). In other words, learning is both highly individualized and heavily integrated with contextual work practices and is inherently social in its nature.

To succeed in supporting identity transformation it is not enough merely to develop or deploy technologies which support training and information transmission. Rather, EmployID needs to develop approaches and pedagogies which can support social facilitation services within PES organisations and which empower individuals to engage in peer learning and facilitation around their own practices.

Although there is much research around the use of technology for learning, far less attention has been paid to informal learning and facilitation processes in the workplace. Research around social practice has largely remained the preserve of social science with different approaches based on structuralism, phenomenology and intersubjectivism amongst others. In his paper on theories of social practice, Reckwitz (2002) draws attention to the dual meaning of the English word practice in German.

“Practice’ (Praxis) in the singular represents merely an emphatic term to describe the whole of human action (in contrast to ‘theory’ and mere thinking). ‘Practices’ in the sense of the theory of social practices, however, is something else. A ‘practice’ (Praktik) is a routinized type of behaviour which consists of several elements, interconnected to one other: forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, ‘things’ and their use, a background know- ledge in the form of understanding, know-how, states of emotion and motivational knowledge. A practice – a way of cooking, of consuming, of working, of investigating, of taking care of oneself or of others, etc. – forms so to speak a ‘block’ whose existence necessarily depends on the existence and specific inter-connectedness of these elements, and which cannot be reduced to any one of these single elements.

Likewise, a practice represents a pattern which can be filled out by a multitude of single and often unique actions reproducing the practice (a certain way of consuming goods can be filled out by plenty of actual acts of consumption). The single individual – as a bodily and mental agent – then acts as the ‘carrier’ (Träger) of a practice – and, in fact, of many different practices which need not be coordinated with one another. Thus, she or he is not only a carrier of patterns of bodily behaviour, but also of certain routinized ways of understanding, knowing how and desiring. (pp249-250)”

In this understanding knowledge is more complex than ‘knowing that’. It embraces ways of understanding, knowing how, ways of wanting and of feeling that are linked to each other within a practice.

In seeking to support facilitation within public employment services a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988).  One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.

If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed.

Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”

Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:

1.     Assessing clients and/or situations (sometimes briefly, sometimes involving a long process of investigation) and continuing to monitor them;

2.     Deciding what, if any, action to take, both immediately and over a longer period (either individually or as a leader or member of a team);

3.     Pursuing an agreed course of action, modifying, consulting and reassessing as and when necessary;

4.     Metacognitive monitoring of oneself, people needing attention and the general progress of the case, problem, project or situation.

He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediat9ing group learning about clients or projects in progress.

Among informal learning processes that Eraut lists are participation in group processes, consultations, problem solving, trying things out and working with clients. Working alongside others is important in allowing “people to observe and listen to others at work and to participate in activities; and hence to learn some new practices and new perspectives, to become aware of different kinds of knowledge and expertise, and to gain some sense of other people’s tacit knowledge.”

Tackling challenging tasks and roles requires on-the job learning and, if well- supported and successful, leads to increased motivation and confidence.

 

According to De Laat (2012) informal learning in the workplace is often described as observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation (Marsick and Watkins, 1990). Boud and Hager (2012) argue that learning is a normal part of working and professional development should be placed in a social context where professionals work and learn together, changing and innovating both their professional practice as well as their professional identity.

De Laat (2012) argues that we need to find a new balance between formal and informal learning and provide opportunities for what Fuller and Unwin (2003) call expansive ‐ as opposed to restrictive learning ‐ through developing an organisational culture that values and supports learning and by so doing, opens doors to various opportunities for professional development. Informal professional development through engagement in social learning spaces can enable participation, construction and ‘becoming’ (De Laat, 2012).

Lave and Wenger (1991) also stress the importance of both practice and the social nature of learning in their conception of Communities of Practice.  Interestingly for them, collective learning results in practices that reflect both the pursuit of our enterprises and the attendant social relations. “These practices are thus the property of a kind of community created over time by the sustained pursuit of a shared enterprise. It makes sense, therefore to call these kinds of communities communities of practice.”

“Communities of Practice are important to the functioning of any organisations, but they become crucial to those that recognise knowledge as a key asset. An effective organisation comprises a constellation of interconnected CoPs, each dealing with specific aspects of the company’s competency, from the peculiarities of a long standing client, to manufacturing safety, to esoteric technical inventions. Knowledge is created, shared. organised, revised, and passed on within and among these communities.” (Wenger, 1998).

Connecting people in parallel, across disciplines, roles and departments of the business, is fundamentally different from connecting people in project teams or interest groups. Although the nature and composition of these communities varies members are brought together by joining in common activities and by ‘what they have learned through their mutual engagement in these activities’

According to Wenger (1998), a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:

·      What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.

·      How it functions ‐ mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.

·      What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. (Wenger, 1998)

A number of issues emerge in studies of attempts to develop communities of practice. One is a tendency to build a platform and ‘declare’ the existence of a community of practice, rather than supporting emergence and therefore ownership. The second is to fail to recognise that such a process of emergence is continuous and ongoing. A third is to conflate organisational structures with communities and to focus on the organisational nature of the community rather than the routines and artefacts that define the capability of practices.

In a similar way social learning is not something which can be done to people. Instead an approach to social learning has to be based on facilitation of social learning processes with organisations and within Communities of Practice. Such facilitation needs to relate to the social practices of people. Murphy (2004) has conceptualized collaboration as a continuum of processes, and developed an instrument with six stages for the purpose of identifying and measuring online asynchronous collaboration: “(1) social presence (2) articulating individual perspectives (3) accommodating or reflecting the perspectives of others (4) co-constructing shared perspectives and meanings (5) building shared goals and purposes, and (6) producing shared artefacts.” However, these six stages can also serve as a template for social learning processes and inform the work of EmployID in developing tools which can facilitate social learning.

References

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Attwell, G. & Baumgartl, B. (Eds.) (2009): Creating Learning Spaces: Training and Professional Development for Trainers. Vol.9, Navreme Publications, Vienna

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Boud, D. & Hager, P. (2012). Re-thinking continuing professional development through changing metaphors and location in professional practice. Studies in Continuing Education, 34(1),17-30

De Laat, M. (2012) Enabling professional development networks: How connected are you?, Open University of the Netherlands, Hagen

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Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (2003). Learning as apprentices in the contemporary UK workplace: Creating and managing expansive and restrictive participation. Journal of Education and Work, 16(4), 407-42

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Reckwitz A (2002) Toward a Theory of Social Practices, European Journal of Social Theory 2002 5: 243

Tennant, M. (1999) ‘Is learning transferable?’ in D. Boud and J. Garrick (eds.) Understanding Learning at Work, London: Routledge.

Wenger, E. (1999), Communities of Practice. Learning, meaning and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wenger, E. (1998) ‘Communities of Practice. Learning as a social system’, Systems Thinker,

 

Stagnation or innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning?

January 12th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Just a quick note following up on my blog of yesterday noting the lack of new ideas in the exhibition at Online Educa Berlin. Today I read an interesting article entitled “Caputalism: Will Capitalism Die?” by Robert Misik on the Social Europe blog. Most of the article, as the title implies is given over to an analysis of the lack of growth and “secular stagnation” in western economies.

Misik says that “despite superficial impressions, the past 15 years may have produced practically no more genuinely productive innovations.” He quotes the economist Robert J Gordon who says:“Invention since 2000 has centered on entertainment and communication devices that are smaller, smarter, and more capable, but do not fundamentally change labour productivity or the standard of living in the way that electric light, motor cars, or indoor plumbing changed it.”

And that seems to sum up much of the developments in Technology Enhanced Learning. Whilst in the 1990s and the first years of this century there was something of an explosion in innovative uses of technology for learning through mainly the development of Virtual Learning Environments, since then genuine innovation has stalled, as least through the ed tech industry. Games based learning, Learning Analytics, mobile learning, MOOCs are all interesting but they do not, to paraphrase Gordon, fundamentally change education and learning, still less pedagogy. As Phil Hill says: “Didn’t we have bigger dreams for instructional technology?”

Misik speculates on the slow emergence of a new economy in which “more decentralized, self-managed firms, co-operatives and initiatives play a gradually more important role – so that, in the end, a mixed economy emerges composed of private companies, state enterprises and co-operatives and alternative economic bodies.” And that may be the way forward to for Technology Enhanced Learning, where the behemoths of the Ed Tech world play a lesser role, where governments continue to invest in innovation in teaching and learning with technology in education, where the importance of state involvement in education is recognised and where smaller more agile private sector enterprises become partners in developing new initiatives and pedagogic approaches to learning. Its nice to be optimistic!

Learning Layers Year 3 Review – Part Two: Systems architecture, exploitation and feedback from reviewers

December 11th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

On the 30th of November and on the 1st of December our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its third annual review meeting at the European Commission premises in Luxembourg. In the previous post I reported on the presentations of the first day: the coordinator’s overview and the two major presentations on the sectoral pilots in healthcare and in construction. This post discusses firstly the presentations of the second day – on the development of the LL systems architecture and on exploitation activities. Secondly this post discusses the comments of the reviewers on our work.

On the LL systems architecture and DevOpsUse -process

In the first presentation session Ralf Klamma and Istvan Koren (RWTH) gave insights into the development of the LL systems architecture. The main emphasis was given on the development of ‘Layers Box’ as a ready-to-deploy, custom packaged infrastructure for SMEs (small-scale package), networks (medium-scale package) or hosted service. The second major point was the shaping of the DevOpsUse Lifecycle as a model for developers’ and users’ interaction when using Layers’ Box. This was followed by an online demonstration, how the LL systems architecture had been developed during the year three.

On the exploitation initiatives

In the second session Raymond Elferink and Gilbert Peffer introduced the LL approach to exploitation activities based on the ‘incubation model’ introduced last year and on the Exploitation Launchpad workshop that was organised in the Year 3 Design Conference  in Espoo. Then the two pilot sectors presented their exploitation initiatives. Afterwards we had presentations on the exploitation initiatives related to the AchSo! and Social Augmented Reality tools and on the work with managed clusters. Finally we had an input on exploitation with Open Source communities.

In this context the Construction pilot team emphasised the exploitation activities with different variations of the framework for mobile apps and tools – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). This approach is to be implemented via further development of the training initiatives (Theme Rooms and other training services) of which we reported in the sectoral presentation on the first day. As an extension of these activities we indicated several new projects to be started with construction sector application partners in the beginning of the year 2016. For further stakeholder engagement we referred to our exchanges with representatives of Activity Theory and on their experience on Change Laboratory methodology. Finally, we outlined a timeline for the construction partners to match their plans for sustaining technical support services and training services in order to bring new users and external service providers into picture.

Feedback from the reviewers

Throughout the meeting the reviewers gave positive comments to us on the progress with the tool development and in the pilot deployment.  They saw a great potential in the linked tools and integrated toolsets combined to capacity-building and strengthening the multiplier-organisations (e.g. Bau-ABC and Agentur) as service-providers. We got a clear signal to emphasise exploitation activities and to provide evidence (indicators) on the use of our tools in working and learning contexts in the pilot sectors. Here, we should present examples, how changes of work practices are instilled by the introduction or our tools. We were also encouraged to seize  to deploy the tools with other users and occupational areas that were not anticipated in the Description of Work.

Looking at more detailed comments, we were recommended take rapid steps in making clear agreements on the Intellectual Property Rights issues related to the emerging tools. (Partly this has been included into the plans that we outlined in the meeting.) Furthermore, our technical partners were advised strongly to integrate the work with capacity-building and communication flows from fieldwork to their process model of DevOpsUse. The partners working with sectoral pilots and exploitation initiatives were recommended to look more closely at possibilities to use Change Laboratory methodology in the follow-up activities.

Altogether, the project was characterised as a promising one – not merely in the light of what it has achieved in terms of promising prototypes. The expectation is that the products and related working patterns can be sustained after the project and will have further impact in practice.

I think this was the essential message that we got from the review meeting. It is now our task to take these comments and recommendations on board in the final year of the project work. In Luxembourg we already started our preparation for our next consortium meeting after the holiday break. There is more work to be done in the new year 2016 but now it is time to take breath.

More blogs to come (in the year 2016) …

 

 

Learning Layers Year 3 Review – Part One: The project team presents its work

December 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

On the 30th of November and on the 1st of December our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its third annual review meeting at the European Commission premises in Luxembourg. As usual, the consortium had gathered in advance to finalise the presentations and to ensure that we pass a coherent message. The presentations on our work in the pilot sectors took place on the first day of the meeting. On the second day we had shorter presentations on the development on the technical infrastructure and on the exploitation initiatives. Then the reviewers finalised their feedback and presented their main points to us in the final session. This first post gives insights into the presentations of the first day. The second post discusses the presentations of the second day and the comments of the reviewers.

The coordinator’s overview

In the beginning Tobias Ley (TLU), the scientific coordinator, recapitulated some key facts of the development of the project during the three years of activities. He then underlined the three main objectives for our R&D work that were highlighted in our Critical Path Analysis we had carried in January 2015:

  • Large-scale implementation,
  • Long-term sustainability,
  • Theoretical advance on scaling.

Tobias made it clear that the work with software development (and with interoperability of LL tools/ toolsets, services and infrastructures) had not proceeded quite up to expectations. Yet, we had made progress on all accounts. In this context he highlighted the following aspects:

  • Development of new workplace learning technology and pedagogy,
  • Providing technology platform for flexible deployment,
  • Continuation of co-creation with stakeholders.

This overview was followed by presentations from the two pilot sectors – healthcare and construction – including the presentations/demonstrations of tools that were used in these pilots.

The presentation of the Healthcare pilot

The presentation of the Healthcare pilot (coordinated by Tamsin Treasure-Jones, Leeds) provided firstly an overview on the organisations involved and on the working contexts of GP practices in the pilot region (Yorkshire). Secondly, an overview was given on the three LL tools that had been hitherto developed and tested in three different organisations (“Bits and Pieces”, “Confer” and “Living Documents”). Then, the presentation was continued with two exemplary learning stories that illustrated the practitioners’ (doctors’ and nurses’) work with the tools:

1) The first storyIndividual reflection on experience (with patients and its enhancement) into shared learning – focused on the use of Bits and Pieces as tool for archiving, sensemaking and reflecting on work experience. Here the story focused on the needs for antibiotics and issues on sensitivity, allergies and resistencies. In this context the iterative process of tool development was made transparent. In the final phase the material that had been structured was communicated via Living Documents into a trusted communication platform to be shared with other healthcare professionals.

2) The second storyThe working group to develop the trainee doctors’ programme – focused on the use of Confer as a tool for progressive inquiry, search for advice and/or collaborative group work. Here the story raised the issue, how to make best use of the very short time for practical training (1,5 hours) and the GP practices. The demonstration showed, how the Confer tool gave structure for the conversations and helped the working group to proceed through predefined steps and reach the phase of recommendations. Here again, the use of Living Documents was introduced to present the results for a wider audience and to enable further conversations based on the recommendations.

Here, both stories highlighted the interoperability of the LL tools. The presentation then gave insights into the role of Social Semantic Server (SSS) and of the Intradoc environment as technical support. Finally, this presentation was concluded by results from interim evaluation and on plans for final evaluation during the final year of the LL project.

The presentation of the Construction pilot

The presentation of the Construction pilot (coordinated by me) differed from the previous one since it was more centrally focusing on the role of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as the integrative toolset. Firstly, the presentation outlined the evolution of the co-design process from the earlier design ideas to the framework of Learning Toolbox. Then it drew attention to the parallel development of co-design, user engagement and capacity-building (before the concept of LTB and during the actual development of LTB). Then the presentation outlined the background of three different pilot contexts:

  • the training centre Bau-ABC as an industry-driven training provider for initial vocational training, continuing vocational training and other training services;
  • the Agentur (Agency for ecological construction work and its affiliated network NNB) as multiplier organisation with exhibition spaces and regular network activities;
  • the Finnish pilot activities initiated by the company Skanska, the construction trade union and vocational schools (with interest on documentation of workplace learning).

This was followed by an online demonstration in which Raymond Elferink (RayCom) presented how Learning Toolbox can be used by a Bau-ABC trainer to prepare stacks of digital contents, to send a related task to apprentices working at distance and to monitor the reception of the message. Marjo Virnes (Aalto) took the role of an apprentice and recorded a  video with the AchSo! tool that presented a safety hazard risk at workplace. She then annotated the video and shared it with a group (using all the time AchSo! via LTB). Raymond then took the role of another apprentice and received the shared video via his smartphone (using AchSo! tools that was integrated into LTB).

After these demonstrations Melanie Campbell (Bau-ABC) informed of the Multimedia training program based on the Theme Rooms (see my previous blogs) and on the role of this training in enabling the Bau-ABC to become a stronger multiplier-organisation for the LL tools. Michael Burchert (Agentur) gave insights into the possibilities to link the use of Learning Toolbox to the recently opened permanent exhibition on ecological construction work and to related training events. Marjo Virnes presented insights into the Finnish pilots with AchSo! as a stand-alone tool and on the results of their field studies.

In the final phase the presentation was complemented by inputs on the role of Social Semantic Server, then on the role of our theoretical work in the project (as support for design activities and training) and on the evaluation activities (interim results and plans for year 4).

Here again, we presented an integrated story that brought together different pilot contexts and the work with integrative toolsets.

At this point we reached the end of the first day. I will report on the further presentations and on the feedback from reviewers in my next post.

More blogs to come …

First cycle of Multimedia Training in Theme Rooms – Part 1: The program takes shape

December 5th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

One of the highlights in the Construction pilot of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the year 2015 was the implementation of the Multimedia Training based on the “Theme Room” concept in our application partner organisation Bau-ABC Rostrup. I have already reported on, how the training staff in Bau-ABC developed the concept ‘Theme Rooms’ (and how we integrated it into the LL project approach) in my earlier blogs of June 2015 and September 2015. After an intensive conference period we (the LL teams of Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu) found the time for planning and preparation in October. In joint planning meetings we adjusted the initial concept and made the related working agreements.

Adjustment of the concept and selecting the themes for the first cycle

The key idea of the Theme Room concept was to arrange four parallel rooms for thematic workshops with small groups. The idea was that the participants will go through a whole cycle through these rooms during four successive Friday afternoons. In addition, the participants should have access to virtual learning spaces of the Theme Rooms. The concept envisaged peer tutors from Bau-ABC  (supported by co-tutors from ITB and Pontydysgu).

In the initial concept the Bau-ABC trainers had proposed four main themes tor

  1. Learning Toolbox as a flexible framework for tools/ apps/ contents/ communication,
  2. Use of Social media as support for learning,
  3. Intellectual property rights, licensing and sharing,
  4. Preparation of Digital Learning Materials.

In the planning meetings we concluded that it would be necessary to start with fewer themes and to have two workshops in the same theme room before moving to the next one. In this way we could ensure that all participants can follow the tempo and achieve sustainable learning results. Also, we considered that it is better to have two workshops with the themes ‘Social Media’ and ‘Preparing Digital Learning Materials’ before introducing the theme ‘Learning Toolbox (LTB)’. Thus, the work with LTB would be introduced in the second cycle of Theme Room workshops. Concerning the theme ‘Intellectual Property Rights’, we agreed to take it up as a transversal theme and to invite the responsible tutor (Dirk Stieglitz, Pontydysgu) to visit the parallel theme rooms to give a brief input on these themes to all groups working in Bau-ABC.

Adjusting the mode of operation of  the Theme Rooms

So, we had come up with a model in which we had  four parallel groups that attended workshops on four successive Fridays in the training centre Bau-ABC in Rostrup and a fifth group working in the affiliated training centre ABZ in Mellendorf. We agreed that two groups in Bau-ABC would start with Social Media and two with Digital Learning Materials. The Mellendorf group also started with Social Media. After two workshops the groups would change to the other priority theme of the first cycle of workshops.

For each group we appointed a tutor from Bau-ABC and a co-tutor from ITB, whilst Dirk Stieglitz from Pontydysgu (responsible for Intellectual property rights) and Jaanika Hirv (TLU, placed for two months in Bau-ABC) were supporting all the groups. During the work we agreed that the groups will work with the same tutors across the themes instead of changing tutors when moving to the next theme.

All these measures and the grouping of participants aimed to help the participants to reach a common overview of the themes and a capability to use social media and prepare digital learning materials (whatever their prior knowledge and skills may have been). Thus, the workshops had the goal to provide all participants active learning opportunities and to create a basi for joint use of new tools and media across the organisation. For the preparation of the workshops and for storage of group results we set up a Google Drive folder tol be updated with contents, learning tasks and links to supporting web resources.

So, in this way we prepared for the start in October. During four Friday afternoons we then worked in the Theme Rooms to make the best of the program.

More blogs to come …

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    Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from the OEB 2015

    We will broadcast from Berlin on the 3rd and the 4th of December. Both times it will start at 11.00 CET and will go on for about 45 minutes.

    Go here to listen to the radio stream: SoB Online EDUCA 2015 LIVE Radio.

    Or go to our new stream webpage: Sounds of the Bazaar Radio Stream Page

    News Bites

    The future of English Further Education

    The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

    It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

    The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.


    Skills in Europe

    Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).

    Skills Panorama, they say,  turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.

    The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/launch/.


    Talking about ‘European’ MOOCs

    The European EMMA project is launching a  webinar series. The first is on Tuesday 17 November 2015 from 14:00 – 15:00 CET.

    They say: “In this first webinar we will explore new trends in European MOOCs. Rosanna de Rosa, from UNINA, will present the philosophy and challenges behind the EMMA EU project and MOOC platform developed with the idea of accommodating diversity through multilingualism. Darco Jansen, from EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities), will talk about Europe’s response to MOOC opportunities. His presentation will highlight the main difference with the U.S. and discuss the consequences for didactical and pedagogical approaches regarding the different contexts.


    OER – update 2

    Open Education Europa has compiled and is releasing today as open data the analytical list of European Repositories of Open Educational Resources (OER).

    It includes:

    • European OER Portals and Repositories
    • Educational material repositories/directories
    • Larger Repositories rather than very specific ones
    • Focus on those who include Creative Commons license and on National/public OER repositories
    • Focus on material for teachers  (for the classroom/schools) rather than on higher education
    • Collaborative OER production initiatives (LeMill, RVP.CZ Portal, Lektion.se, KlasCement”)


    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      pbwiki
      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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    RT @shackletonjones @andytedd @C4LPT @wootled @LT16uk got tired of saying '70/20/10 is descriptive not prescriptive'. Probably @charlesjennings does too.

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