Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

New steps in the Layers fieldwork – Part 2: Pilot workshops with craft trade companies go ahead

September 12th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to report on the recent steps in the fieldwork of the Learning Layers (LL) project in the construction sector. I firstly reported on the participation of LL partners in the large German construction sector fair NordBau and on the stakeholder talks we had their with several companies. A major topic was to engage them into pilot activities on the LL tools in particular with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). This post will give insights into the recent Pilot workshop with craft trade companies on LL tools. This workshop was organised and documented by our ITB colleague Werner Müller. He has written a more detailed report for internal use. I will highlight here some points that give a general picture, how our pilot activities are moving on.

The workshop was planned as a follow-up to the stakeholder engagement activities that we carried out during the Well-builders’ fair in May 2014 (65. Brunnenbauertage) in Bau-ABC Rostrup. However, before launching a wide range of workshops, we agreed to have first a smaller pilot workshop. We invited two companies that we had interviewed during the initial phase of the project and with which the LL partners had good contacts.

The company K is a carpentry company with currently 36 employees. It is involved in the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – LL partner organisation) and in several domain-specific networks. The company has been pioneering with company-specific apps and is in the process of introducing tablet PCs for team leaders. At the same time the company is paying attention to the fact that introduction of new ICT tools will not cause a digital divide in access to information and communication. The company has regular meetings to discuss quality issues (QT-Runde).

The company W is a larger medium-sized company with ca. 430 employers and specialised on pipeline-building. It has most of its staff working on missions in teams of two or three skilled workers. This company has a long-term cooperation with Bau-ABC. The company W has been pioneering with digital pens, mobile offices (laptops with internet access) allocated to teams and with centralised databases. Yet, the company has had mixed experiences with the effectivity of such tools regarding time used for searches vs. finding adequate solutions. The company itself has centralised databases and is concerned of knowledge management and confidentiality issues. Concerning knowledge sharing and learning across teams, there are very limited possibilities to provide face-to-face meetings.

In the workshop we presented a general picture on the Learning Layers project and invited the companies to present their own situation assessment on their use of ICT, Web tools and digital media (including use of mobile technologies). Then, we presented a demonstration on the emerging Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a framework for managing web resources and apps with a mobile device. in the next rounds of discussions we were mapping different situations for piloting with the LTB and needs to which it could respond.

At this point it is not appropriate to go into details of the subsequent discussion. For the LL project it was important that both companies found their specific entry points to pilot activities. For the company K these were more in the intra-company communication and knowledge sharing and in the network-wide knowledge sharing. For the company W they were in the filtering of different quality guidelines and requirements (provided by different electricity providers or public authorities). Altogether, both companies agreed to continue the cooperation with the project and to organise further talks and pilot workshops in their companies.

After this pilot event and after the stakeholder talks during the NordBau fair (see my previous post) we are looking forward to the next pilot workshops.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning Layers at ECER’14 – Part 4: Reflections on the feedback

September 9th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have reported on the three sessions via which the Learning Layers (LL) project contributed to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER’14) in Porto, Portugal. With this one I try to pick up some key points from the feedback we got from our colleagues.

Firstly, the presentation on the Legacy of the Work Process Knowledge network was well received – given that the network itself had been strongly present in ECER conferences between 1998 and 2006. But, what was more striking to me was the fact that the most recent changes in technologies – e.g. “Internet of things” – trigger a new interest on human interaction in organisational contexts. Thus, our researchers in vocational education and training (VET) want to find out, whether ‘organisational learning’ is merely a result of management strategies and consultants’ interventions. Or – like the WPK network argued – often unintended consequence of designed actviities, supported by shared knowledge processes.

Secondly, our symposium “Construction 2.0″ appeared to be a heavy load of information. Yet – no one complained that we had all these inputs (accompanying research methodologies, the encounters between work process knowledge and mobile learning and framework for scaling up innovations). We tried to focus on the work in construction sector. As a consequence, we failed to give a sufficient picture of the other parts of the project. We tried to emphasise the relevance of our activities for work organisations. As a consequence, we got questions, why we don’t focus more directly on (vocational) learning. Yet, by the end of the symposium we had probably covered most of the questions on understanding. And furthermore – we had brought the reality of complex R&D projects into discussion.

Thirdly, with the research workshop on “Interactive research” we had clearly found a good format to bring into comparison and dialogue different innovation projects. By using a common background framework and a common format for posters we had a focused discussion on four parallel cases in similar innovation programmes. Here we can speculate whether it would have been better to have the symposium first and the workshop afterwards. Or – was the successful and dialogue-oriented workshop a good starter for digesting the heavier symposium.

Altogether, we saw that we could share knowledge on the complex and dynamic LL project already at this stage. And, moreover, we got interested counterparts who want to deepen this practice into joint knowledge development. We are looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers at ECER’14 – Part 3: The German-Dutch workshop on Interactive Research

September 9th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts on the contributions of the Learning Layers (LL) project to the ECER’14 conference in Porto, Portugal,  I have reported on the Opening Colloquium of the VETNET network and on the LL symposium “Construction 2.0″. This third post will give insights into the joint German-Dutch research workshop on the theme “Interactive Innovation Research in VET and Working Life: Lessons from Dutch and European Projects”.

The background of this workshop was a similar session in the ECER’13 in Istanbul in which three Dutch research groups presented parallel interactive research projects and experiences with boundary-crossing practices in educational innovation projects. This triggered the initiative to prepare a similar session between a merged Dutch research group and the LL research team of ITB. We agreed to present an update on one of the earlier Dutch project and a new project. From the German side we presented the LL development projects “Learning Toolbox” and “Captus – the Learning Exhibition”.

In the workshop session we started with a joint Power Point, presented by Aimée Hoeve (HAN University of Applied Sciences). She gave insights into the key concept “Interactive research” by Per-Erik Ellström (VETNET keynote speaker at ECER’08) and into the framework of Akkerman and Baker for analysing boundary-crossing practicies in innovation practices. Based on these conceptual impulses the Dutch colleagues had developed a poster format to present complex interactive projects with focus on the following points:

  • Brief description of the innovation context;
  • Characterisation of the interrelations between the activity systems ‘Research’ and ‘Practice’;
  • Characterisation of boundary-crossing practices in the project work;
  • Reflection on lessons learned.

After the brief introduction Aimée and Loek Nieuwenhuis (also from HAN) presented the two Dutch project cases:

1. The Hybrid Learning Environment project that was carried out in two sectors Catering and Construction, see

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B02cXf0hbQH0Tm9HUE1JN0l5T0k

2. The Better Learning in Practice (BLIP) project that is being carried out in several vocational schools, see

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B02cXf0hbQH0UHVYWHdIeVdOMXM

In a second round of discussions I and Joanna Burchert presented the two LL project cases from Germany:

3. The LL development project Learning Toolbox carried out in the training centre Bau-ABC, see

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B02cXf0hbQH0TWdxbG0xWnVWTHM

4. The LL development project Captus carried out in with the Network for Ecological Construction work, see

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B02cXf0hbQH0Q0sxQ3B1VGQ2RFE

In this context it is not appropriate to try to go into more detailed discussion. (We have jointly written an article that will be published in a short while.) However, we are pleased to report that this workshop format – even in the lecture theatre -shaped room – served the purpose of bringing the audience into active interaction with us. Also, via this mode of communication we got a better understanding of each others’ projects and agreed to continue this kind of cross-project dialogue and knowledge sharing. As the next milestone we agreed to organise a joint contact workshop with more detailed information on each others’ projects. We also agreed to invite a newer Norwegian project to this cooperation.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Learning Layers at ECER’14 – Part 2: The LL symposium “Construction 2.0″

September 9th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series on the contributions of the Learning Layers (LL) project to the European Conference on Educational Research – ECER’14 – in Porto, Portugal, last week. In this entry I will focus on our main contribution – the LL symposium with the theme “Construction 2.0: Concepts, Challenges and Chances for the research & development work in the Learning Layers project”.

We had prepared this session to give an overview on

  1. the R&D work in the construction sector as dynamic participative design process,
  2. on the specific design issues that require mediating between work-related challenges and mobile learning and
  3. on the challenges regarding ‘scaling up’ of innovations.

 The first paper – authored by me together with Ludger Deitmer and Lars Heinemann – had the title “The Role of Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Learning Layers Project”. Our key messages can be summarised in the following way:

1. Key message: Initial shaping of the project concept of Learning Layers: In the initial phase the key achievement of the consortium was to overcome one-sided technology-push approaches and simplistic assumptions on the adaptability of web tools and software solutions that seemed context-relevant. The interim conclusion for the whole project was to launch participative design processes with relatively open innovation agendas and to allow several iterations. The interim conclusion for the ITB team was to support the interaction of different parties and to facilitate their search for specific solutions.

2. Key message: Building on prior accompanying research in innovation programmes: When looking back to prior experiences with accompanying research, the ITB has built upon the work in the  networked innovation programmes (Work and Technology, New learning Concepts) in which the coordination units supported knowledge sharing across the projects and the outreach activities. The interim conclusion for the ITB team was to look for opportunities to engage professional organisations and networks on the participative design process and to promote targeted outreach activities.

3. Key message: Adjusting the documentary and interpretative contributions to the process dynamics of participative design: During the design process (with manifold workshops) the ITB team has been responsible for the real-time documentation of the events and subsequent interpretation of the steps taken.  In this way the research team has provided a basis for joint reflection and process-awareness across different parties involved. The interim conclusion for the ITB team is that such material provides a basis for deeper conceptual interpretation of the design and transfer processes.

4. Key message: Adjusting research interventions to further development of design and transfer processes: In general, accompanying research is being legitimated as evaluation measure. Yet, in the light of the dynamics of the design process – and taking into account the goals for scaling up innovations – it has been appropriate to delay the evaluation measures.The interim conclusion for the ITB team is that the evaluation activities need to grasp the initial pilot contexts, the potential transfer contexts and the role of multipliers and peer tutoring and/or peer learning.

 The second paper – authored by me and Joanna Burchert  – had the title “Work Process Knowledge meets Mobile Learning – Insights into conceptual backgrounds and sectoral challenges within a participative design process”. In this  paper we focused on the legacy of the Work Process Knowledge network (see also my contribution to the VETNET opening colloquium) and the newer insights into mobile learning technologies. The recapitulation on the theme “work process knowledge” drew attention on the (informal) learning gains in organisational innovations. As a contrast, the newer discussion on mobile learning tends to be overshadowed by technology-push approaches and there are fewer insights into work contexts – and they tend to address motivational aspects. Here, we drew attention to the feedback we had got from apprentices and from company representatives at different phases of the participative design processes. As a conclusion, we pointed out to the need to analyse more the risks and conflicting interests that are at stake when introducing the LL tools into work organisations. Here, we saw the analogy to the case studies of the Work Process Knowledge network.

The third paper – authored by Gilbert Peffer and Tor-Arne Bellika – had the title “Designing and organising for scale – Experiences from a large-scale TEL project”.  This paper provided a wider overview on the whole LL project in its full complexity and addressed different aspects of scaling that we can take up. It explored some threads in the literature and some paths easily available for the LL pilots.Then it started working with a conceptual (synthesis) model that covers different organisational levels and brings into picture our outreach activities (including the work with managed clusters outside the pilot regions). Based on this introduction the paper looked closer at the design processes with Learning Toolbox as a progress from disconnected insular pilot to an open and expansive innovation agenda. In a similar way the paper outlined the work with cluster organisations.

I think this is enough of our input to the symposium. I will get back to the discussion in a later posting.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning Layers at ECER’14 – Part 1: The VETNET opening session

September 8th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week the Learning Layers (LL) project was strongly present at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER’14) in Porto, Portugal. This year the conference celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the umbrella organisation European Educational Research (EERA) that is in charge of the annual ECER conferences. The overarching theme was “Past, Present and Future of European Educational Research“. In a similar way the EERA network for European Research in Vocational Education and Training (VETNET) took the theme “Past, Present and Future of VET Research in Europe and Beyond” for its Opening Colloquium.

As part of this Opening Colloquium I was invited to give a short presentation on the development European research in workplace learning. Originally this task was planned for two other researchers with mutually complementing approaches. As their substitute I chose to focus on the legacy of the Work Process Knowledge network – a topic that I have also brought into discussion in the first Theory Camp session of the Learning Layers project.

I first looked at the history of the network from the unfunded phase (before 1996) to the first funding period as a European network under the EU 4th Framework Programme of Research (Targeted Socio-Economic Research) to the second funding period as a transnational project on Organisational Learning under the EU FP5. During all these phases the network brought together researchers from a wide range of disciplines including ergonomics, psychology of work, VET pedagogists, industrial sociologists, organisational researchers … For the VETNET network it was important that the network was strongly present in ECER conferences from 1978 (Ljubljana) to 2006 (Geneva).

The main point of interest for us was to look at the work of a Europe-wide interdisciplinary network that focused on skilled workers’ participation in and co-shaping contribution to innovations in working life. Here, the network did not try to make an a priori agreement on one overarching umbrella theory under which it would subsume its contributions. Instead,  it organised several sets of case studies and parallel to this worked with a common interpretative framework.

The main sources for developing the framework were field studies and comparative studies of the following kind:

  • studies on organisational innovations (e.g. including the introduction of quality circles) in which skilled workers’ participation and co-shaping contribution became manifest;
  • studies on new manufacturing concepts (e.g. transition from conveyor belt to ‘production islands’) that gave skilled workers’ collective responsibility new importance,
  • studies on hybrid qualifications and new emergining occupations (e.g. the integrative maintenance competences) that required crossing boundaries between traditional occupational fields.

With the overarching concept “Work Process Knowledge” the network drew attention  to the  acquisition of new kind knowledge in the context of innovations:

  1. acquisition of work process knowledge as a whole – not merely as new ‘procedural knowledge’
  2. balanced look at the role of informal learning (by-product of designed activities) and formal learning (taking up the learning gains of informal learning);
  3. the possibility to give support measures to promote organisational learning with relevant tools, learning arrangements and facilitation;
  4. the possibility to promote wider transfer  to other contexts by sharing knowledge and experiences.

When looking back at the history of the Work Process Knowledge network, it became apparent that the phase of the TSER-network was a unique opportunity to provide such a Europe-wide conceptual, transnational and inter-sectoral overview. In the next phase, the follow-up project focused on one branch – the chemical process industry – which was beneficial for becoming more concrete. Yet, the counter-side was the gradual particularisation regarding sectoral aspects and the size of companies. Also, the shift of emphasis brought the management perspective on organisational learning to the centre of interest.

When looking at present, it is apparent that the new presence of Internet, Web 2.0 technologies and mobile technologies open up several working issues of the network in new light. (This became apparent in the other LL sessions in the conference). When looking at the newest technologies that overshadow the construction sector (e.g. “Internet of things”, 3D-printing with new materials, Building Information Modelling (BIM)), there are other challenges that are similar to the ones already discussed by the network at an earlier stage.

Interestingly enough, in the Opening Colloquium Karen Evans raised three main points for looking at past and present and how to draw conclusions for the future:

  • Making VET research robust (awareness of conceptual and methodological grounds but being open for new issues),
  • Making VET research more dialogue-oriented (research, development and practice working together),
  • Making VET research more comparative (both system level, organisational level and in historical terms).

I think this is enough of the opening session. The main contributions of the LL project were in two other sessions – the symposium “Construction 2.0″ and the research workshop on “Interactive research”.

More posts to come

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 4: How are we trying to develop our work further?

June 15th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have firstly discussed the forthcoming consortium meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project in Bau-ABC Rostrup. Secondly, I have recapitulated the experiences we have made with project activities in Bau-ABC. Thirdly, I have given a picture of our joint efforts to develop successful outreach activities in the German construction sector and in the surrounding regional contexts.

Altogether, these have been preparatory steps that have helped me to raise the question: How can we use the meeting in Bau-ABC to help us to develop our work in the LL project  further?

For a complex European interdisciplinary project with ambitions in Research, Technology and Development and with emphasis on implementing and scaling up innovations in SME clusters (and with focus on two sectors) this is not a trivial question. And especially, when we think of the work of the whole consortium, it is even more complex. Let us firstly look back, what kind of journey we have made together as a whole consortium, what we have achieved and what we might still be missing in our work:

  • Firstly, in the initial work plan we expected the first year to be chacarcterised by creative diversity whilst the second should be shaped as an integrative phase. We have gone through the process of setting up  four overarching design agendas and the emergence of a more differentiated set of development projects. We then had the Integration Meeting in Aachen with an intensive technical integration agenda and Theory Camp which helped us to get a better overview on, what all is going on.
  • Secondly, we have to admit that the transition to Development Projects has not created a general clarity on the processes and resources. (This has become even more problematic when one major technical partner left the project and the process of engaging the replacement has not been completed.) Therefore, we have to pay more attention to overcoming gaps of knowledge and communication to get our resources mobilised into joint efforts.
  • Thirdly, we have not discussed strongly enough the importance of user-friendly and user-relevant solutions when moving on to the implementation and scaling up phases. Here we seem to have differences in perception between partners who have engaged themselves heavily in fieldwork (co-design workshops, multimedia training, stakeholder talks and pilot implementation) and others who have had less encounters with users. It is worthwhile to note that progress with user engagement (e.g. during the Brunnenbauertage and in the follow-up) tends to bring new challenges and time pressures for the development work.

In the light of the above we have tried to organise our work somewhat differently to avoid a tendency of particularisation. This is especially the case with the Day Two workshops. In these workshops we will have a closer look at the Sustainability scenarios and how to develop our activities sustainability with the help of mid-term roadmaps. The Scenario groups will rotate through different Round Tables (topic tables) and discuss different aspects of the roadmap. With this exercise we want to get a clearer picture on the following issues:

  • Key initiatives that are instrumental for achieving sustainability within each scenario (Construction, Healthcare, Organised clusters, OSS communities);
  • Technical support that is needed to bring the initiatives into maturity (taking into account the users’ interests and ICT- & Web-related capabilities);
  • Partners’ commitments to ensure that we are mobilising all available resources to support joint initiatives.

Whilst the main emphasis is given on the work of the Sustainability scenario groups that are developing the roadmaps, the Round Tables (topic tables) serve as interim stations to address the following issues (as indicated in the agenda on the LL Wiki):

  • Round table 1 – Capacity building, training, and stakeholder engagement (Which tools are ready for demonstrating to stakeholders? What materials / processes do we need to engage stakeholders with our tools? what is the roadmap of other planned capacity building, training and engagement activities and how can we ensure that the tools are ready by that time and usable?)
  • Round table 2 – Learning stories – Coming up with a Learning Story that connects tools and practices to a integrated story (that development teams can work with, where we identify missing links and we develop further for the review)
  • Round table 3 – New collaboration initiatives and spin-out projects with stakeholders
  • Round table 4 – Developing Layers offerings

     

I think this is enough of a “sneak preview” on the forthcoming LL Consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup. I hope that this series of blogs has helped us to warm up for the exercise. At the same time I hope that the postings have given those who will not be there a better chance to catch up when we are reporting of results. But that we can only do after the hard work of the coming days.

More posts to come (after the event) …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 2: What have we experienced together so far?

June 14th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I announced the fact that the Learning Layers (LL) project is organising its next consortium meeting in Bau-ABC Rostrup. Then I started a discussion, what we are looking for with this choice of conference venue. One of the points that I raised was to get a deeper understanding on what we have experienced together and what we can achieve together.

Looking back at our common  journey with the Learning Layers project, we in the Bremen region started with the initial interviews for empirical studies. The results of some interviews were compressed into User Stories that were then used as materials for the Focus Groups of WP1. All this was done very quickly to accommodate the Focus Group as part of the Application Partner Days. Altogether, this busy start already provided the basis for dialogue and mutual familiarisation. Later on, observations, findings, analyses and design ideas of this phase were fed in into the Helsinki Design Conference.

In Spring 2013 we started the phase of cooperation that was mainly characterised by co-design workshops (under the design idea “Sharing Turbine”). Here, we can see a gradual evolution of our working concepts and modes of cooperation:

  • We started with conversational workshops (separate sessions for apprentices and Bau-ABC trainers). These helped us to map a wide range of problems, working issues, environmental factors and points of interest.
  • We continued with storyboard workshops (again separate sessions for apprentices and trainers). These helped us to put locate problems, design issues, intervening factors and other points of interest into a structured description of working/learning processes within one day.
  • Whilst we continued with the storyboard workshops with the apprentices, the encounters with the trainers started to get a new character. This was due to shift in the design work from the overarching Sharing Turbine agenda to a narrower pilot concept that was latterly named the Learning Toolbox. During this transition the encounters with the trainers became more directly co-design meetings in which the trainers were involved in giving the design process a new direction.
  • Parallel to the above mentioned development we started developing jointly the concept of Multimedia Training Workshops. These started as familiarisation with Web 2.0 tools and apps and moved gradually towards working with tools to get material for own training practice. Now we are heading to the fifth workshop and we have seen clear signs of progress.

My point is not merely to recapitulate jointly lived project history in the Bremen region as something exclusive within Bau-ABC. On the contrary, to us the progress in Bau-ABC is an example of capacity building that is not merely looking inward. Altogether, the management and the staff of Bau-ABC are looking for ways to strengthen these developments internally and to enhance the efforts for disseminating the model and to develop wider outreach activities. But this point merits a separate blog article.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers goes to Bau-ABC Rostrup – Part 1: What are we looking for?

June 14th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

Next week the Learning Layers (LL) project will have its consortium meeting in the Bremen region. However, the venue will not be the University of Bremen nor any hotel or conference centre nearby. Instead, we have chosen to arrange the consortium meeting on the premises of our application partner Bau-ABC in Rostrup. In this way we will place our discussions and working sessions to the same neighbourhood, where apprentices are trained for construction sector and full-time trainers (working together with companies) are supporting their work process-oriented learning.

Looking back, most of the previous LL consortium meetings have been arranged on university campuses or neighbouring hotels (Barcelona, Helsinki, Graz, Innsbruck, Aachen) and once in a remote conference location (Paphos). All these meetings and the choices of venues had their reasons which I do not want to bring into discussion afterwards. For me the point of interest is, what kind of new experiences and learning gains can we make now that we arrange or meeting at Bau-ABC?

Indeed, we have been already once before with a big group of LL partners during the Application Partner Days in January 2013. At that time the project was carrying out its initial empirical studies and very little could be brought into discussion regarding the co-design processes. Instead, our main task was to get adequate picture of the main activities carried out in the host organisations and share the first impressions with our hosts. In this way the Application Partner Days helped us all further.

Now that we return to Bau-ABC after one and half year we have worked further with the project and there have been many further encounters between Bau-ABC and LL partners. However, we know that our picture of the progress of the LL project is different – depending on the tasks, sectors and cooperation experiences we have had. Also, we know that even if we in the Bremen region have put much effort to share our knowledge and experiences (via reports, notes and blogs) this doesn’t immediately turn into lived knowledge development across the project.

Therefore, we are looking forward to this LL project consortium meeting as an opportunity to real encounters with our application partners. We also hope that we can deepen the picture of shared learning experiences we have made with Bau-ABC staff in our fieldwork. And furthermore, we hope that the way we have planned the work of this meeting helps us to get new insights into  co-design, stakeholder engagement and into scaling up of innovations.

More posts to come …

 

Changes in Learning and Development

May 21st, 2014 by Graham Attwell

This is an interesting video. Donald H Taylor explains how Learning and Development Departments need to change their attitude to risk in order to keep pace with the rest of the business in today’s modern world. He describes 4 quadrants in which L&D departments fit: Learning Leadership, Unacknowledged Prophet, Comfortable Extinction and The Training Ghetto and explains how and why all L&D departments should join the quadrant of Learning Leadership. However I am not convinced that the major problem is that Learning and Development departments are failing to keep up with changing organisations. In my experience all too often it is the organisations themselves who are holding back change. And don’t forget that most Small and Medium Enterprises, who it could be argued are the prime drivers of change do not have a Learning and Development Department (interesting in that regard that Donald cites Pinterest with 12 employees as an example of a fast changing organisation).

Learning Layers after the Aachen Integration meeting – Part 3: The Aachen Theory Camp (working group)

April 10th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

My previous posts to this series have focused on the the Aachen Integration Meeting of the Learning Layers (LL) project. Part one gave an overview on the results of the Integration Meeting. Part two provided insights into the plenary session of the Aachen Theory Camp (a special event in the meeting). This post gives a report on the results of group work – Working Group 1 on Workplace learning. 

(I am much obliged to Gilbert Peffer who took photos of the flipcharts and Debbie Holley who took minutes on the spot – yet the accents and conclusions are mine.)

I would summarise our work with the following points:

a) The task: We discussed the presentations of the plenary and the way in which the different perspectives (or schools of thought) can be taken into account in the LL project. In this context we acknowledged the diverse positions, frameworks, and theories – some contrasting each other whilst others being complementary to each other. We also noted that some are more underpinned with empirical work whilst others were at higher level of abstraction. From these starting points we worked towards a joint understanding, how to make good use of the different background theories.

b) Approach to theory v.s. theories : We debated the issue ‘unified vs. pluralist view(s)’ as possible way(s) forward. We drew attention to the fact that some of the theories/concepts were not addressing conflicts of interest (or power relations) in working life. As a contrast, others saw them as key issues. Therefore, some theories provide a basis for ‘management tools’ whilst others give insights into conflicts that prevent innovations or lead to unexpected consequences. Taking such tensions into account we pointed to possibilities for drawing together the work from case studies or surveys, from qualitative or quantitative perspectives.

c) Implications for methodology v.s. methodologies: In this context we discussed the parallel use of data from the empirical studies of WP1 and from participative co-design processes and stakeholder talks. We also discussed, in which way the LL project can clarify its commitment or affiliation to ‘action research’ (as indicated in the deliverable of the WP7).  We noted that there are conceptual and epistemological tensions between ‘design research’ and (classical) ‘action research’ that are being debated in the literature. We also noted that there are German conceptualised traditions of ‘accompanying research’ (Begleitforschung) that refer to innovation programmes on Work & Technology or to model/pilot projects in vocational education and training(VET) that are less known elsewhere.

d) The issues of Intervention and Impact: In this context we had a discussion, in what ways the LL project is expected to show impact as Research, Technology & Development (RTD) project. We all agreed that there was a consensus on working with participative design processes and the interventions were essential for the knowledge development approach. However, there were differences between university traditions and/or evaluation procedures, to what extent researches should prioritise impact on theoretical level (academic publishing) or impact on practice (getting evidence on project-generated changes in working life).

e) The issue of desired outcomes in the field: In this context we discussed the prospect of changing attitudes to knowledge sharing. Here the key issues were “tolerance of uncertainty”, “willing to share” and “ability to share knowledge”. The strategies to promote such changes were linked to phrases ‘mindlines not guidelines’ (in the healthcare sector) and to the capability for social shaping of work, technology and environment (Gestaltungsorientierung) in the construction sector. In this way we tried to link the efforts to promote new competences/ capabilities in using Web 2.0 technologies (in the context of work or workplace learning) to the empowerment of users.

f) The conclusion: The group supported the initiative to continue with Theory Camp session(s) in the Bremen consortium meeting. We proposed the following title: “The Impact of the Learning Layers project on Theory and Practice”. We discussed some ideas that can be taken as topics or cross-cutting themes:

  • Connections between learning processes at the level of teams/ groups, organisations, networks, clusters and (‘learning’) regions;
  • Readiness for sharing knowledge; sharing in networks and/or in multiple networks;
  • Promoting new capabilities – the role of networks, organisations, teams and peers;
  • The role of intervention research approaches (action research, accompanying research, design research etc.) in working with and conceptualising such issues.

This is as far as we got in Aachen. The discussion on the follow-up is going on.

More posts to come on the next steps …

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    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


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