Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Catching up with the Learning Layers news – Part Two: Lessons from parallel work in healthcare sector

August 20th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series of “catching up” blogs to report on the newest developments in the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The first post reported on consortium-wide discussions that pave the way for Year Three review and guide R&D activities and fieldwork during the coming times. This second post looks over the fence (or Channel) and reports on some interesting developments in the LL project work in healthcare sector. Here again, I have to start with the exploitation journey poster that was already presented in the consortium meeting in Tallinn (but I missed because of leaving earlier). Yet, I think it is worthwhile to take a second look and consider how the work with exploitation journey and stocktaking on specific issues can support our work with the construction sector partners.

1. Updating the sectoral exploitation journeys (with posters based on common format)

The exploitation journey poster of the LL healthcare sector has been praised by other LL partners time and again. Indeed, the poster has been well structured and uses good visualisations. The thematic blocks are mostly based on an earlier exploitation workshop (the game exercise in the Y3 Design Conference in Espoo). Yet, as I see it now, the poster gives a good overview for further development of the exploitation activities. Here some comments on the thematic blocks:

a) User needs/ working issues: Here we need to address needs, obstacles and possibilities with a focus on construction sites, companies, intermediate training centres and supporting service providers.

b) Products/ Services: Here we also need to formulate value propositions that take into account infrastructural improvements (Layers Box), integrative toolsets (Learning Toolbox), complementary (LL) tools and capacity building (training concepts).

c) First customers/ Future customers: Here we need to take into account multiple layers of partnership and customer relations that are emerging during the project and after the project.

d) The team/ Key partners: Here we need to take into account the differentiation of developmental teams and partnership constellations with different exploitation initiatives.

e) Getting out of the Building (= initial pilot context): Here we also need to give a picture, how the initial pilot activities with construction partners have prepared the ground for successor activities.

f) External resources: Here we need to give an overview on the proposals for external funding that we have prepared and will prepare (and highlight in which way they continue the work of the LL project).

g) Timeline: Here we also need to give a visualised picture of stakeholder/customer engagement, maturing of products/services and milestones in exploitation activities.

(In general, we had similar elements in the exploitation journey posters for construction sector but not in a similar systematic overview. It is clearly helpful for the consortium and for the reviewers to have similar overviews on both pilot sectors.

2. “Mixing and Matching event” – towards integrative toolsets in the healthcare sector

So far the LL field activities in the healthcare sector have been separate pilots with one particular tool in each pilot venue. Now, the most recent exploitation meeting provided the application partners an overview of parallel tools and opened the prospects for integrative pilots (by mixing and matching the parallel tools). As I have understood it, this was well received by the application partners.

As a contrast, the construction sector pilot has been developing an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Yet, with this toolset we also can see our next field tests taking up different tools (other LL tools or third party tools and apps) to be integrated into LTB. Here we have think of ways to spread the use of such tools and share experiences.

Also, in this “Mixing and Matching” event the LL healthcare colleagues made contact with health education network that is known as “Improvement Academy” and works with communities of practice, networks and project. As I have understood it, this encounter has led to further cooperation between the LL project and this network.

Here I see an interesting parallelity between the work of this Improvement Academy and  a recent capacity-building initiative of the training centre Bau-ABC in the construction sector. The Bau-ABC colleagues have developed an internal training model based on “Theme rooms” (virtual and real) to engage their whole training staff with digital media and LL tools. To me, this model looks like a prototype for developing “Improvement Academy” services in the construction sector.

3. UYOS – Use your own solutions (adapted for the Learning Layers project itself)!

Third point that I find interesting in the newest LL healthcare activities is the commitment to use our own LL tools. I her e-mail to other LL partners Tamsin Treasure-Jones indicates that she has several ideas how we can use  LL tools (that have been piloted in the field activities of healthcare sector)  also within the project work. Now she has started with an initiative to use the Confer tool to support the preparation of the Report 5 (on sectoral pilots) for the Year Three review meeting.

Here the role of the Confer tool is

1) to support the gathering of input from different people (= examples on using digital media and LL tools to support work and learning in healthcare sector) and

2) using the process steps of Confer tool as a joint tool in the team that drafts the sectoral draft report for the Year 3 Deliverable.

As I see it, this is a very interesting initiative and it will give new visibility for users’ views. We need to consider in the German construction sector pilot, whether we can develop a similar approach.

I guess this is enough for the moment – both regarding lessons from the healthcare and the ‘catching up’ posts on newest developments in our project altogether. Now it is time for us to take further steps.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Catching up with the Learning Layers news – Part One: Working with the Story of Year 3

August 20th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My latest post on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project was written just when I started my summer holidays. This year the holidays in North Germany (and in our application partner organisations) started relatively early. Therefore, when I/we were already on holidays, there was this and that happening at the consortium level and in other fields of work (in particular in the healthcare sector in UK). Therefore, it is appropriate to do some stock-taking to make sure that our fieldwork is fits in the plans of the consortium and takes into account the progress in the healthcare sector. With this post I try to summarise the recent discussions at the consortium level – mainly on the preparation for the Year Three review and the implications for our fieldwork. In the next post I will have a look at the recent progress of the LL work in the healthcare sector.

The first steps of the recent discussions were already taken in the Consortium meeting in Tallinn (in June 2015, see my earlier blogs). Already there we agreed that we should try to make our contributions for the Year Three review meeting more coherent. The plan was to put integrated stories of LL work in both pilot sectors (healthcare and construction sectors) into the centre. In a similar way we should make visible the progress in tool development and implementation with integrated demonstrations (linked to the stories). Parallel to this we should reduce the number of deliverables into five thematic reports (and indicate, how the work of eight work packages is represented in them).

During the summer meetings these plans have been developed further and they have some implications for the tool development and fieldwork in the construction sector:

1) Concerning integration of technologies we have the challenge to show how the infrastructural solution (“Layers box”) and the integrative tool set (“Learning toolbox” – LTB) can be implemented in application partner organisations (such as the training centre Bau-ABC and the Agentur).

2) Concerning the integration of tools we have the challenge show, how the integrative tools set (LTB) enables us to use different LL tools and apps (and third party apps) in working and learning contexts (such as the Bau-ABC training projects).

3) Concerning the context-specific use of tools we have the challenge to make progress with trainers and learners so that they are able to create their own LTB-stacks to guide and implement training projects.

4) Concerning capacity building we have the challenge to make progress in implementing the Bau-ABC training model (the “Theme rooms”) that caters for organisation-wide engagement of staff to become well-informed and active users of LL tools in their work.

5) Concerning evaluation activities we have the challenge to arrange the collection of real-time evaluation data and reflection on the processes during an intensive field test phase.

Obviously, we have all agreed on the general direction and there has been progress along these lines both at the level of tool development and in user engagement. Yet, we can see that there are technical issues, coordination issues and time constraints that we need to take into account when we start working with the field activities. But, knowing what has already been achieved, gives us a good starting position.

I guess this is enough on this topic. In my next post I will look at the progress in the healthcare sector.

More blogs to come …

 

Graduate jobs, skills and productivity in the UK?

August 19th, 2015 by Graham Attwell
There has been much commenting in the press today over a report from from the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which claims that 58% of UK university-leavers are entering jobs that do not require a degree, with graduate over-qualification now at “saturation point”.
The Guardian says reports that “the mismatch between the number of university leavers and the jobs appropriate to their skills has left the UK with more than half of its graduates in non-graduate jobs, one of the highest rates in Europe,
The Huffington Post quotes Ben Wilmott, CIPD’s head of public policy, as blaming New Labour’s 1999 landmark pledge to send 50% of young people to university, and  the Government’s failure to create high-skill jobs.
Wilmot called for better careers advice, a renewed emphasis on driving up apprenticeship numbers and a re-think of the disparity between further and higher education funding. “We had the assumption that increasing the conveyer belt of graduates will allow the UK to transition into a higher-skilled economy, but research shows that if you compare graduates and non-graduates who are doing the same or a similar job, skill requirement is not enhanced by the presence of a graduate”, he said.
The report raises a series of issues. Firstly just what is a graduate job. The definition appears to stem from Reasearch by the Institute for Employment Research at warwick Univeristy which led to the division of jobs in the Standard Ocuaptional Classification system used int he Uk into 5 different categories.
The Prospects web site summarises them as follows:
1. Traditional graduate occupations
These are the established professions for which a degree has historically been required.
Solicitors, research scientists, architects and medical practitioners are all examples. They typically require the post-holder to be an expert in a very specific area.
2. Modern graduate occupations
The expansion of higher education in the 1960s, and the development of new professional fields in areas such as IT, have resulted in the development of a range of newer professions requiring graduate-level qualifications.
Software programmers, journalists, primary school teachers and chief executives are all examples of modern graduate occupations. They require the post-holders to be ‘experts’, but also often to have more strategic or interactive responsibility than a traditional graduate job.
3. New graduate occupations
These are areas of employment that are often rapidly expanding in today’s labour market. The nature of these jobs has changed relatively recently to mean that the most accepted route into them is via a graduate-level qualification.
Marketing, management accountancy, therapists and many forms of engineer are examples of new graduate occupations. They typically require a higher level of strategic responsibility or of ability to interact with others, and less need for them to be an expert in a topic.
4. Niche graduate occupations
This area is expanding. Many occupations do not require graduate-level qualifications, but contain within them specialist niches that do require degrees to enter.
Nursing, retail managers, specialist electrical engineers and graphic designers all fall into this category. Often they require a combination of skills, such as managerial and expert skills, but equally often the need is for an ‘all-rounder’ with a range of abilities.
5. Non-graduate occupations
All jobs that do not fall into the previous four categories are considered ‘non-graduate occupations’.
Obviously there are questions as to whether objectively a university degree is a necessary or best qualification to be say a physiotherapist or a marketing manager. And does university really teach students to take on “strategic or interactive responsibility”?
Is the expansion in university education in the UK driven by  the need for graduates in employment or is the high number of graduates leading to qualification inflation?
At a more macro level it appears that as CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese says there was an “assumption that we will transition to a more productive, higher-value, higher-skilled economy just by increasing the conveyor belt of graduates”, a policy he believes to be  flawed. The UK government policy of labour market deregulation may have been successful in creating jobs, but many of these are low paid and part time. Productivity in the UK is stubbornly low.
In a paper published on the Social Europe web site entitled “How ‘structural reforms’ oflabour markets harm innovation“, Alfred Kleinknecht, Professor of Economics of Innovation at  Delft University of Technology argues that easier hire and fire and higher labour turnover will, in various ways, damage learning
and knowledge management in the ‘creative accumulation’ innovation model that is based on accumulation of firm-specific knowledge. Besides, lower wage cost pressure will lead to an ageing capital stock, owing to a slow adoption of labour-saving technologies.”
With low productivity and a slow adoption of new technologies, there is simply limited demand for graduate employment. But at the same time university graduation has become almost a rite of passage in the UK. Much has been made of the higher wages that graduates earn during their careers. This is supposed to more that offset the now very substantial university fees in the UK and the resultant high levels of debt on graduating. But of course this represents a historical figure and it is easy to see that such premiums may no longer apply in the future, especially as companies like Ernst and Young announce they will remove a degree from the job recruitment requirements. And despite the rhetoric of developing and promoting apprenticeship routes to skilled work, the reality remains that many of the so called apprenticeships in the UK remain on the low skilled spectrum of employment. And funding cutbacks are particular savage in the Further education (vocational college) sector.
All in all it is hard to see any joined up policy here, apart from a blind belief in austerity and that the markets will sort it out. But it does point to the need for integrated policy making linking education, labour market and innovation policies. That seems to have been absent in any recent Government, Labour, Coalition or Conservative.

Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part Three: The 2nd session on construction pilot

June 26th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest posts I started a series to report on the Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In that first post I gave a picture of the preparation day. In the second posts I gave an overview on the inputs for the 1st session on construction sector pilot. These inputs were contributing to a picture on ‘integrated learning arrangements’. In this post I will continue with a report on our discussions on ‘technical integration’.

Since we had already had the initially scheduled  online demonstration on the functioning of Learning Toolbox (LTB) we dedicated this session on the relations between LTB and ‘complementary’ LL tools that had been presented in the preparatory meeting or during the healthcare sessions. Below I try to give a nutshell of our discussions and conclusions on different tools or apps brought into discussion.

1. ‘AchSo!’ video annotation tool

We started by emphasising the importance of video material and video annotations in the context of the training projects of Bau-ABC. We reminded of the twofold approach – videos to support training (reference videos, produced in advance under the supervision of trainers) and videos documenting learning (produced by apprentices during theproject to document phases of work and learning results). We had a lot of discussion on producing AchSo! for different operating systems (Android, iOS) and on the the functioning of AchSo! on different devices. The colleagues in Aalto agreed to produce a stable version of AchSo! (Android) by the 1st of October and to develop an iOS-version based on it by the Y3 review meeting. The colleagues from Bau-ABC volunteered to purchase Android tablets for trainers who would start using AchSo! with their videos before the iOS version is available.

2. ‘Bits and Pieces’ and ‘KnowBrain’ as collectors of experiences

Concerning ‘Bits and Pieces’ we emphasised the need to develop tools that help workplace learners to collect their learning experiences alongside/based on workplace learning. Here, we noted the contradiction that ‘Bits and Pieces’ has been developed primarily for medical/nursing staff working at GP practices. Therefore, the software (for stationary PCs) needs a lot of space and the migration to mobile devices is not easy. Given this hurdle, the general conclusion was that LTB could take some components of Bits and Pieces and create respective tiles. Parallel to this, some functions of the KnowBrain application could be developed for Learning Logs. (Here we need more discussions before making commitments to particular milestones.)

3. ‘Confer’ tool for help seeking

With the ‘Confer’ tool (earlier called ‘Help seeking’) we took the point (that was already raised in the healthcare session) that it could help us to make transparent our complex development and piloting processes, like the recent initiatives with the LTB. (Here the point is to use our own tools to support our development processes – ‘to take our own medicine ourselves’.) RayCom agreed to take the development of this tool into the next sprint. We agreed on the same milestone as with AchSo! (the 1st of October) for a stable version.

4. ‘Locations’ app in making

Here we continued our discussion on the basis of the input of Adolfo and the TLU study group. RayCom confirmed that the LTB has already been equipped with several functions that can work with the sensors and use the app to be developed. Yet, there is a need to clarify the responsibilities and the resources needed. Graham Attwell emphasised that the issue of ‘locations’ raises higher level questions on interpreting ‘contexts’ – for this purpose we need to revisit the work of Sebastian Dennerlein for mapping different contexts in the construction pilot (for software development purposes).

5. Social Augmented Reality apps in making

For this part of the meeting Jana Pejoska (Aalto) arranged a short demonstration with Social Augmented Reality (SAR) using the vision sharing function with a colleague in Helsinki and making interactive use of marks on the screen. (Based on this demonstration, Melanie Campbell and trainer Marc Schütte provided later on a use case of the driver of excavator (or other construction vehicle) using augmented reality to get a better impression of the dimensions of the vehicle when driving it.) Here we noted that the current version is available on the web. There is a need of further development work for a mobile device. Yet, already at this stage it is essential to make arrangements for a working visit from Aalto to Bau-ABC to start testing with SAR during the September month.

Altogether, we could agree in a plenary session on several working perspectives and milestones regarding the enrichment of the Learning Toolbox.

At this point I had to leave the meeting due to private commitments. I am trying to catch up with the colleagues regarding the key points and conclusions of the remaining sessions. In particular I am interested to learn more on the work with the exploitation journeys and on the conclusions for joint exploitation plans. Let us see, if I can get my impressions on a further blog post – or if someone else does it for me on another blog.

More blogs to come …

 

Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part Two: The 1st session on construction pilot

June 26th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post I started a series to report on the Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In that first post I gave a picture of our productive preparation day (Tuesday 16th of June). In the two further posts I will focus on  our consortium meeting with an emphasis on the construction sector pilot. For the sake of completion I need to mention that we had firstly some general sessions that tuned us into the key issues. Yet, the highlights of the meeting to me were the consecutive sessions on ‘integrated learning arrangements’ (healthcare, construction) and ‘technical integration’ (healthcare, construction). In this blog post I have chosen to cover the first session on the construction sector pilot.

Presentations on the construction sector pilot and on the Learning Toolbox

Our original plan was to give the main emphasis on the use of Learning Toolbox in the Bau-ABC training projects and to highlight different ways in which both trainers and apprentices can be involved. We assumed that the basic ideas of Learning Toolbox had become familiar to the partners during the previous meetings. We also assumed that it would be better to have an up-to-date demonstration on the functioning of the Learning Toolbox later in the second session that focuses on ‘technical integration’. As it often happens, we had to modify these plans during the sessions.

In the beginning we had firstly a guest input by Adolfo Ruiz and the student group of TLU who presented shortly the application on “Locations” that we had discussed during the preparation day (see my previous blog). The quick input and brief discussion showed us that we can easily work with applications that can be adjusted to the training workshops (or outdoor training areas) of Bau-ABC and raise questions that are relevant for working and learning projects.

This was followed by a quick update message by Edwin Veendendaal (RayCom) on the technical development of the Learning Toolbox. In his message he linked to the presentation of Petru Nicolaescu (RWTH) on the technical development of the Layers Box (installation package for users). Both these reports gave us an impression that the LL project is making good progress in overcoming the technical hurdles that had bothered us for some time.

Our (ITB and Bau-ABC) main contributions in this session were the power points with which we illustrated implementation of training projects in the apprentice training of Bau-ABC and how the use of LTB and digital media can be integrated into such projects. Our examplary cases brought different issues into discussion. The first case was the road-builders’ project on constructing a barrier-free (hindrance-free) parking place for vehicles transporting users of wheelchairs. With this example we drew attention to different phases of self-organised project work of the apprentices (and possible points of intervention). The second example – building old-timer staircases with unique (not standardised) scaffolding – demonstrated the possibility to use LTB and digital media as means to conserved older construction techniques that are no longer present in up-to-date handbooks and learning materials. In addition to these examples Melanie Campbell (Bau-ABC) presented her visualisation on the work process and on the use of LTB during a four-day project (with the peak points in the beginning and and completion phase and in the reflection phase after the project).

Once we had presented these inputs we noticed that some colleagues had many questions that required a better insight into the idea of Learning Toolbox and into its current phase. Therefore, Edwin Veendendaal and Raymond Elferink (RayCom) agreed to give their online presentation on the functioning  of Learning Toolbox already in this session. They guided us through the opening menu, to the structure of stacks and tiles and to the process of making new stacks (for bundling different kind of contents) and new tiles (for certain type of contents). In this way we completed the picture on the uses of LTB and how the current design tries to respond to users’ needs.

Altogether, we got an overview on the Learning Toolbox in the kind of shape in which we want to start the first field pilots. And at the same time we invited other partners to think what they could propose for us as complementary tools and applications. This discussion was scheduled for the ‘technical integration’ session that is covered in the next post.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning Layers meets Finnish promoters of apprenticeship and workplace learning

June 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week (Thursday 4.6.2015) we had a small working meeting to present the current phase of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) pilots to our Finnish counterparts who are promoting apprenticeship and workplace learning. The event took place in Espoo, in the Design Factory building of the Aalto University and it was hosted by Marjo Virnes from Aalto and me from ITB. The Finnish counterparts represented the Finnish agencies for apprentice training (oppisopimustoimistot), the Finnish association of “Promoters of Apprenticeships” (Oppisopimuskummit ry) and the Finnish vocational teacher education in the fields of commerce and hospitality. Some of the invited participants were writing their doctoral theses on apprentice training – unfortunately not all could attend the meeting. Here some insights into our discussion.

1. Presenting the Learning Layers project and the LL tools

We started with an overview of the LL project – looking at prior European projects that had tried to promote e-learning, knowledge management and mobile technologies in working life. The shortcomings of the ‘technology push’ or ‘system push’ approaches had provided the basis for our project and its emphasis on learning at workplaces, participative design and iterative development processes.

In this spirit I (= Pekka Kämäräinen) presented the progress that we (ITB and the Bremen team) had made with our application partners (mainly Bau-ABC) in the construction sector. I explained the journey from the initial idea to digitise learning materials (design idea “Sharing Turbine”) and heading to the development of a mobile solution for managing learning resources and communication (Learning Toolbox).

Marjo Virnes explained firstly the key idea of the AchSo! tool for video annotation and then presented exemplary cases in the construction sector (apprentices and trainees using tablet PCs to document their learning at construction sites) and in healthcare (the nurses documenting each others’ efforts to revitalise patients in a simulated exercise). In these cases we could note the advantages of the video annotation tool to draw attention to critical details and episodes without the need to write extensive explanatory notes. At the same time we noted that the functionality for sharing and further commenting is under development.

I then presented the Learning Toolbox (LTB) with the help of the most recent power points and screenshots from the online demonstration that we had used recently. This presentation drew attention to the possibility to develop flexible frameworks for managing sets of tools and apps and for customising the menus and the sets for different contexts (training centres, companies, construction sites). In this context I also drew attention to the parallel development of the ‘technology package’ Layers Box that enables the user organisations to control the data and the internet connections of the LTB.

2. Discussion on the current phase of apprentice training (and of the role of research) in Finland

After these presentations Kari Viinisalo (retired director of the Helsinki agency for apprentice training) gave a brief overview of the status of apprentice training in Finland (as a complementary model parallel to school-based vocational education) and on the efforts to give more visibility to this path. In this context he drew attention to the work of the joint association of the agencies for apprentice training (OpSo ry) and of the newly established voluntary association of Promoters of Apprenticeships. His main concern was that research on apprentice training is very limited, falls between the established disciplines and has had very little visibility. From this perspective he welcomed the contribution of the LL project.

Annukka Norontaus (Jyväskylä agency for apprentice training) informed of her doctoral study that focuses on the expectations on/ impact of apprentice training on the companies involved. She had interviewed company representatives (that employ young learners in apprentice contracts) in five branches and also some company representatives that have not been involved in apprentice training. She also informed of some other parallel doctoral studies. Virve Vainio (Haaga-Helia University of applied sciences) informed of their forthcoming pilot event (forum for promoting workplace learning) and of the contribution of vocational teacher education in supporting workplace learning.

3. Conclusions for further cooperation

In the concluding discussion our Finnish counterparts felt inspired by the ongoing LL pilots and pointed to the potential of the tools in different organisational contexts. Also they emphasised the value of the R&D activities that put workplace learning and apprentice training into the centre of such pilots. They agreed to propose similar workshops (as our session) to be integrated into the regular bi-annual meetings of the national association of the agencies for apprentice training (OpSo). They also agreed to propose the launch of a ‘research forum’ section of the electronic journal “Osaaja”. We (as participants of the meeting) agreed to maintain communication with each other as a Working Group (with the nickname “Betoniryhmä” based on the street Betonimiehentie where the Design Factory is located). There is so much to be shared on the work of the LL project and on the context of apprentice training.

I think this all gives a sufficient picture of small steps to start with. As we noted it during the meeting, there are severe political pressures to cut costs of (vocational) education and training in Finland. Yet, there is also a growing interest to speed up the entry of young people into working life. Therefore, the role of apprentice training may be of major political interest in the near future.

More blogs to come …

 

Training Day in Bau-ABC – Part Two: How to work with the Learning Toolbox?

May 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

This post continues the reports on the recent highlight event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its construction sector pilot in North Germany – the Training Days of the training centre Bau-ABC (that took place on Monday and Tuesday this week). On Monday the LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu organised three workshop sessions to present the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to plan further pilot activities with LTB in Bau-ABC. In my previous post I gave an overview on the event as such and on our contributions. In this post I will focus on the issues that were raised and on the results of different sessions and working groups.

1. General issues to be taken into account

Already after the general presentations we were confronted by several issues that we need to consider when preparing the actual pilot activities with LTB to be used with mobile devices:

  • Officially the use of mobile phones is prohibited in the training centres – mainly because the use of them is perceived as distraction. When using their smartphones, the apprentices seem to have their attention elsewhere than in their working and learning tasks. Even if the trainers can see that these devices can be used to support work and learning, there is a need to get others convinced.
  • Use of mobile devices is often a safety risk in traffic and in working life – therefore, many companies have prohibited the use of mobile devices at construction sites (or allowed only the site manager/ supervisor to use one). These issues need to be reflected in the code of conduct for users.
  • Video recordings from working and training contexts need to pay attention to specific sensitivity issues – are these recordings documenting good or bad practice, is the behaviour of the people appropriate, are the videos showing something that is confidential … These issues need to be reflected in the code of conduct for users.
  • From the pedagogic point of view use of multimedia and web can support different types of learning behaviour: a) It can lead to ‘light learning’ that uses quick searches and quick documenting solutions that seem to give appropriate answers (without paving the way to adequate understanding of the problems and the solutions). b) Or it can lead to ‘smart learning’ in which digital media and web resources are used as illustrations that give insights into problems, solutions and understanding of appropriate practice.

These introductory discussions brought us (once again) to the picture that the use of mobile devices, digital media and web resources has to be introduced in a work- and context-adjusted way.

2. The first workshop on initial training: picking exemplary themes for particular occupations

In the first workshop session we had groups that represented the following occupations/occupational fields: concrete builders (one group), carpenters and indoor builders (one group), road builders and pipeline builders (one group). Each of these groups had as their starting point a specific project for apprentices in the respective occupation. The trainers were looking for ways to introduce Learning Toolbox into the project work. In this session the groups had somewhat different concerns and interests:

a) The group of concrete builders (Betonbauer) was concerned of the lack of written instructions for older techniques to build frames for concrete constructs. Currently, most of the frames for concrete builders are standardised and often pre-fabricated. Thus, the transfer of craftsmen’s know-how on building special-shaped frames is not supported by up-to-date learning materials. This could be compensated by video recordings that are edited into digital learning materials.

b) The group of carpenters (Zimmerer) listed several points in which the use of digital media and access to web were found useful, starting form general health and safety instructions, access to drawings, QR codes referring to appropriate tools, Barcode scanner that refers to materials, tools for documentation of learning achievements.

c) The group of road builders and pipeline builders (Strassenbauer, Rohrleitungsbauer) discussed the possibilities to link drawings, photos and DIN norms to each other, creative ways to introduce technical terminology, creative ways to control learning gains and smart ways to use videos for presenting essential ‘tricks of the trade’.

As a common point of interest the groups of the first workshop session drew attention to differentiated communication channels (messages to all vs. bilateral communication between apprentice and trainer), collecting examples of good practice to be presented to all and on differentiated ways to document learning progress at different stages of apprentice training.

3. The second workshop on initial training: developing core themes for groups of occupations

In the second workshop session the parallel groups consisted of mutually linked occupations or occupational fields and the participants had selected integrative ‘core projects’ in which they explored the use of digital media and web resources:

d) The group of well-builders and tunnel-builders (Brunnenbauer, Spezialtiefbauer) had chosen a project task on disassembling, maintenance & testing and assembling of pumps used in their trades. Here the discussion focused on the uses of digital media to visualize the processes, to draw attention to key concepts and to safety precautions. Here, a critical issue was, how to guide the work with video recording so that the documents are appropriate for the project and for the apprentices’ learning processes.

e) The group representing occupations in metal and machine techniques (Metall- und Maschinentechnik, Baugerätetechnik) had also selected a project that drew attention to the core knowledge of all these occupations – producing a threaded plate according to technical drawing (Herstellen einer Gewindeplatte gemäß Zeichnung). The group discussed different phases of the project and then drew attention to points of intervention with digital media and web tools (e.g. digital access to references, producing user-generated learning contents with apprentices, using QR-codes to demonstrate health and safety risks and using digital tools and apps to simulate use of real tools plus to discuss quality criteria and tolerances).

f) The group of road-builders, bricklayers and plasterers (Strassenbauer, Maurer, Fliesenleger) had also selected an integrative project – building a parking place for vehicles transporting disabled people (Behindertenparkplatz). Here the discussion focused on the special challenges of such task (e.g. search for information on the requirements, making the scattered information accessible for the groups of construction workers, using special techniques for constructing adequate slopes and surfaces, documentation of the work and simulation of the final inspection and acceptance of the work by public authorities).

Here, the groups focused on integrating the use of digital media and web resources into the logic of the selected projects.

4. The workshop on continuing training: identifying uses for LTB and other tools/apps promoted by LL project

The final workshop focused on the usability of the Learning Toolbox and other LL tools in the continuing training schemes. Here, the basic problem was that we could not rely on similar projects as in the initial training. Secondly, we were still demonstrating tools that were not yet finalised. And thirdly, most of the participants were only getting familiarised with the LL project on the whole. Finally, we were discussing issues that can partly be implemented as spin-offs and by-effects of the LL project work in the initial training, but partly require major spin-out activities.  Yet, given these limitations the participants could make several points for further discussion alongside the pilot activities in apprentice training.

5. Next steps to be taken

I think this is as much as I can say about the workshops and on the way the prepared us for working with the Learning Toolbox. We saw (once again) that the trainers are willing to start working with it. We also noticed, that we (the accompanying LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu) need to join them when the domain-specific piloting with LTB applications will start. There are several technical, practical and pedagogic issues coming up in that phase. So, we are looking forward to a new collaborative phase in the fieldwork with Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

Opening of “Learning Exhibition” in Verden – Part 2: The use of digital media and web tools

April 29th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported on the opening event of the ‘Learning Exhibition’ “nachhaltig. bauen. erleben” and its importance for the EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). This event – the inauguration of the new ecological building and the opening of the inaugural exhibition is clearly a highlight for our application partners Agentur, NNB and NZNB in Verden.  In the previous post I summarised some first impressions of the Learning Layers team that contributed to the exhibition. Now that some of our photos are available as photo albums in our Facebook group Learning Layers Photos, it is possible to make further comments on the way that the exhibition has implemented the design ideas of the Learning Layers project (in particular of the Captus design team).

1. What was the design team Captus looking for?

As I already mentioned in my previous post, one of the early design ideas of the Learning Layers project was called “Captus” – Capturing of knowledge and experiences with the help of digital media and web tools. This design idea and the design team that worked with it took the the ‘Learning Exhibition’ as their focal point.

The contributors from the project worked with the question: How can the use of digital media, web resources and mobile devices best be incorporated into the exhibition?

For the organisers the key question was rather: How can the exhibition be shaped as an experienceable learning opportunity (Gelegenheit for erfahrbares Lernen)?

For the LL project the key question was: How can we get these two perspectives joined together?

This gave rise to different learning exercises with web tools, webinars, video production and annotation sessions. Also different explorations were made on the use of QR-tags and alternative solutions. Finally, these efforts culminated to the questions:

1) How can we support the participants in getting more knowledge and insights into the exhibits/exhibition areas than is possible by posters, info sheets ans flyers?

2) How can we provide opportunities for such knowledge acquisition that makes it possible for the participants to take their new knowledge with them for further reflection?

These questions brought into picture the efforts to introduce augmented reality as an integral part of the exhibition concept.

2. What did we witness as ‘ideas put into practice’ in the exhibition?

At best we can demonstrate the impact of the Captus ideas with a ‘guided tour round the exhibition’ via the photos that we have uploaded in the album “The ‘Learning exhibition’ “Nachhaltig. bauen. erleben” of our application partners Agentur, NNB, NZNB (ecological construction work)“.

We see firstly the welcome message (here a screenshot) of the web page that is available on the tablets used in the exhibition. The users can indicate their interests as ordinary visitors, construction sector specialists, construction companies or their clients.  Each of them can make their own ‘guided’ tour with the help of the AR application used on the tablet.

Secondly we see the exhibition area for heating and cooling (basement ambiente) and for furnishing and wood materials (wider area). Both areas have hot spots for using AR.

Thirdly we see the use of the tablet at those hot spots and the additional text-based or picture-based information that appears on the screen.

Finally we see the instructions, how to take this information home and how to access it from home offices.

As we see it, this may appear as rather simplistic way of implementing the ideas that were discussed. But, what makes it important, in this way the ideas of using digital media, web tools and mobile technologies have become integral parts of the exhibition concept. Moreover, the key organisers have taken this as their starting point to work further with this approach. And finally, we saw that the exhibition is still in many ways under construction. From this perspective the tools, system solutions and software solutions that are being piloted in Bau-ABC could also be demonstrated as parts of the exhibition (when the time is ripe for this step). At least we saw this as an entry point to a new phase rather than as a final station of completed journey.

More blogs to come …

PS. With this blog I have worked with Joanna Burchert who has been most intensively working with the Captus idea from the ITB team. I have listened to her views and taken on board as much as possible but the words are mine. PK

Opening of “Learning Exhibition” in Verden – Part 1: First impressions

April 26th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday we witnessed a great day for the EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL) and its work in the North German construction pilots. Our application partner Agentur für nachhaltiges Bauen (Agency for ecological construction work) and the support organisations Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen (NNB) and  Norddeutsches Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen (NZNB) had reached an important milestone of their project activities. Their new  Exhibition building was inaugurated and the Learning Exhibition “nachhaltig. bauen. erleben” was opened. The preparation of this exhibition has been the central theme of the colleagues from Agentur, NNB and NZNB throughout their participation in the LL project.

1. The journey from an early design idea to making the exhibition

As we remember it, the idea to prepare a special exhibition – with emphasis on learning from experience – was highlighted by the colleagues from Agentur, NNB and NZNB during the first working meetings (December 2012) and the Application Partner Day (APD) visit (January 2013). At that time the construction work for the new building was at an early stage and there was quite some time to develop plans for the exhibition. In the Y1 Design Conference in Helsinki one of the working groups brought these early thoughts into concept with the design idea “Captus” – Capturing of knowledge and experiences with the help of digital media and web tools. At that stage it was clear that it is not an easy road forward to put those ideas into practice.

Already the first encounters and the working groups during the APD visit brought into picture that there was a lot of scepticism and reservation vis-à-vis introduction of digital media, web tools and mobile technologies among the people who were interested in ecological construction work. And the key persons working for Agentur, NNB and NZNB were not quite sure, how the use of new media, web tools and mobile devices could best support their ecological message and ideas on the exhibition. During the next phases of project work several exercises were made to bring the new media, use of web tools and trials with mobile devices closer to the everyday practice. This phase was characterised by various learning experiences but uncertainty, whether the learning gains can be put into practice. It was a question mark, to what extent a trans-national R&D project can support the making of the exhibition in the local environment and for the local/regional and national audiences.

2. Impressions on the exhibition as a materialised reality

Jumping to the impressions of yesterday I have to confess that it was a kind of positive cultural shock – the new building with sveral storeys for offices and with the wide exhibition spaces on ground floor and basement made a huge difference to the past. Also, the exhibits representing different aspects of ecological, sustainable and energy-saving solutions were presented nicely and with smart anc compressed green information sheets. Also, a lot of materials and artefacts were made easily accessible in small spaces – including the isolation materials (compressed straw to be covered with clay).

What about the role of digital media, web tools and mobile or embedded devices? They were also there and implemented in a harmonious way. Several info sheets had camera symbols or QR tags that provided access to background information or light-weight applications of augmented reality. And at different areas we saw embedded computer screens on the wall or on the table surface – all this implemented as a part of the exhibition experience, not something added on. Some of these impressions have been made accessible via the updated website http://www.nznb.de whilst more information is yet to be updated after the event.

Looking at other visitors, it was obvious that everything was new to them and it was difficult to digest the new experience. A lot of visitors were moving around in bigger groups, guided by the organisers, whilst some others were making impressions as individual observers. It was clear to us that the time for more focused stakeholder talks will come later when the exhibition will be visited by groups from organisations like Bau-ABC or from networks that are affiliated with the NZNB.

3. Voices of the key organisers

For us from the LL team participating in a visitor (and co-exhibitor) role – Joanna Burchert and me (ITB) and Martina Lübbing (Pontydysgu) it was most rewarding to make interviews with the key organisers – Dorothee Mix and Ute Gieseking (NZNB), Enno Precht and Michael Burchert (Agentur). All of them were highly positive about their participation in the LL project and valued the ideas and learning experiences made with the project. At the same time the others praised Michael for his role as a change agent, mediator and interpreter. Altogether, they one by one characterised their own learning history with digital media, web and mobile technologies as a transition from scepticism to a new awareness, how link this support to their own practice. Given this background, Michael was sure that this was not the end station of such transition process. Instead, now that the exhibition is there, the LL project has a good opportunity to bring in new solutions, frameworks, tools and apps once they have reached the maturity. In particular the cooperation with Bau-ABC can be strengthened in this respect.

I think this is enough of the first impressions. I have agreed to work with Joanna Burchert to give a more detailed picture, what all had been achieved regarding the introduction of digital media, web tools and software solutions. So, the story goes on.

More blogs to come …

 

Once more the Finnish sustainability commitments – What makes them real?

April 16th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have discussed the Finnish Sustainability Commitments and their relevance for our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). In the first blog I described the model, in the second one I shifted the emphasis to the sustainability of apprentice training and in the third one I discussed the transferability of the commitment model to the Learning Layers project.

In the meantime I have had some talks with my colleagues on this model and its applicability. Some of the comments have been inspired: There seems to be something attractive in the approach. Some of the comments have been characterised  by scepticism: Isn’t this yet another one of those campaigns that end up as lip service without major impact? Below I try to give some further insights into the model itself and into mechanisms that can make it work as a real thing.

1. What is so special about these Sustainability Commitments?

The inspiring aspect of these Sustainability Commitments is that they are part of a nation-wide strategy for Sustainable Development – targeted to the year 2050 – but they are operative commitments agreed in particular organisations. They refer to a four-page reference document that outlines seven sustainability goals. And then it is up to each organisation to agree which of these goals it will select for its own operative commitments. Once this discussion is through the organisation has to agree on the time frame of the commitment and on the indicators for assessing the success. When these decisions have been made the organisation can register its commitment on the special website http://sitoumus2050.fi (Commitment 2050). And when the commitment has been registered and published, the organisation has the responsibility to report on the progress.

Altogether, this model is that of a Societal Commitment Process - it transforms the implementation of the national strategy into a movement that consists of into sets of goal-oriented local and domain-specific commitment processes. When an insider-expert tells how this model came into being, it is easy to sense the inspiration and creative energy. Yet, it is worthwhile to ask, what mechanisms and  measures can prevent it from falling into ritualism and lip service.

2. What makes these commitments become real measures with impact?

It is worthwhile to consider, what kinds of background factors, mechanisms, efforts, initiatives etc. have been provided to make these commitment processes work towards the desired change. I will try to list some of these below:

a) High level policy support: The national commission for sustainable development has been chaired by the prime minister and the commitment processes have been taken up by ministries, central government bodies, employers’ confederations, trade unions, political parties, big enterprises etc. Key players in national politics want to be involved in such processes.

b) Facilitation and assistance by expert organisations: In the field of vocational education and training (VET) – as well as in general and adult education – a  special expert organisation (the OKKA foundation) has developed Sustainability certificates for educational establishments. In a similar way universities (among others the Aalto University) have made commitments to support their partner organisations in joining the commitment processes and in reaching their objectives.

c) Expanding the range of commitments after first pilots: Several regional consortia for VET (the inter-municipal ‘holding’ organisations of VET institutes) have started their commitment processes with one institute and educational domain candidating for a Sustainability certificate of the OKKA foundation. After a successful pilot they have continued with further commitments involving other institutes and educational domains.

d) Cooperative chains and business networks as promoters of commitments: The leading cooperative chain – the S-group with its shops, department stores, supermarkets and hotels – has committed itself nation-wide to link sustainable development into its processes of inducting new employees. In a similar way a nation-wide network of social responsibility managers has made its own commitments for its member enterprises.

e) NGOs as promoters of commitments: In the dissemination activities the Ministry of Environment and the participating organisations are supported by creative NGOs. In particular the NGO “Yllätetään yhteiskunta” (Let’s surprise the society) has specialised in organising dissemination events – such as sustainability jams – that give visibility to particular initiatives.

f) The role of social media: So far the Commitment process has been supported by a static website. Yet, the according to the newest plans (that were reported in the Finnish radio podcast, http://areena.yle.fi/radio/2630343) the website is being transformed into a social networking website and the commitment processes are being transformed into community processes. The launch of the new platform is scheduled for the 3rd of June 2015.

I think these points were already enough to give an impression, what all is making the commitment process work. And I will try to find out more in due time.

More blogs to come …

 

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