Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

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 …

 

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 3: Sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

April 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I started with a topic that might seem remote to our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). The first post focused on the Finnish sustainability commitments. In the second post I discussed the sustainability issue from the perspective of apprentice training making comparisons between Germany and in Finland (and setting the LL pilots in Germany and Finland into their contexts). In this third post I try to bring these two threads together by posing the question: What about making sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

Here again, I will make comparisons between the Finnish and German contexts – firstly at a more general level and then secondly from the perspective of scaling up the LL initiatives in the construction sector.

1. Sustainability commitments as a perspective for promoting apprentice training?

Firstly, it is appropriate to consider, whether the sustainability commitments – or to be precise: operative commitments to sustainability goals – can provide an appropriate framework for promoting future-oriented apprentice training.

In the case of Finland this perspective is clearly available. One of the central sustainability goals taken up by the operative commitments is “Sustainable work”. Concerning the role of apprentice training and construction work, this can be argued in a twofold sense:

1)  Apprentice training as it is currently promoted in the construction trades, serves the purpose of sustaining the sectoral craftsmanship and the traditional know-how of elder craftsmen in the context of demographic change.

2) Apprentice training can serve as a medium of promoting other sustainability goals (such as “A carbon-neutral society” or “An economy that is resource-wise”) in the context of construction work.

Moreover, the framework of these operative commitments provides clear instructions for setting the timeline, adjusting to the general criteria and on self-monitoring and reporting on progress.

In the case of Germany it is not easy to see, how a similar framework could emerge on a general policy level. In my previous blog I referred to the national agreements for promoting apprentice training (Ausbildungspakt), which do not provide a similar mechanism for operative commitments. However, the sectoral campaigns of the national association of construction industry (Bauindustrieverband) could possibly be developed into such direction (see the previous campaigns “Leitbild Bau” or “Deutschland baut”).

2. Sustainability commitments as means to promote LL initiatives?

In addition to the above presented thoughts it is necessary to consider, how such commitments could be linked to the promotion and scaling up of LL-related initiatives in the construction sector.

In the case of Finland the current pilots focus on the use of AchSo! as an instrument to document achievements in workplace learning – mainly for the vocational school that is in charge of assessing the apprentices and trainees. In this respect the use of LL tools is rather limited and does not (yet) cover the broader scope of using digital media and web resources to support working and learning process as well as real-time communication. From this point of view the introduction of the Learning Toolbox would open new possibilities to link LL tools to such operative commitments as have been referred to above.

In the case of Germany the current pilot phase focuses on multiple uses of Learning Toolbox in the working and learning environments of apprentices (firstly in the intermediate training centre and then subsequently in the companies). In this respect the situation is different from the Finnish pilots. Here, in the pilot context of the training centre Bau-ABC it is possible to develop sets of small-scale commitments and to introduce corresponding patterns of (self-)monitoring and (self-)evaluation. These initial steps can then provide a basis for wider roll-out phase.

I think this is as far as I can get with my thoughts, what we (the LL project) can learn from the Finnish approach to promote sustainable development via operative commitments. If my quickly written blogs have left gaps of information or if I should add more specific examples, I am happy to continue the discussion. Otherwise, we are heading to further tasks in our current pilots.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 2: Sustainability of apprentice training in discussion

April 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I discussed with some length a topic that is seemingly remote to our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL): The Finnish campaigns to promote sustainable development via sustainability commitments. I promised to get back to the relevance of such commitments to the LL project in a later blog. In this post I will discuss the sustainability issue from the perspective of apprentice training – using the different situations in Germany and in Finland as a starting point and then proceeding to campaigns to promote the sustainability of apprentice training Then I will discuss the importance of LL pilots in construction sector – both in Germany and in Finland – in this context.

1.  Sustainability issues in apprentice training – the cases of Germany and Finland

Apprentice training in Germany (the dual system of apprentice training) has traditionally been the flagship model of vocational education and training (VET). This tradition has been deeply rooted in economy, educational policy, labour market relations and working culture. In particular in the construction sector Germany has opted for high-skilled workforce, to be obtained via apprentice training. This, however has been challenged via academic drift (young people opting for studies rather than career as skilled worker) and by competition from semi-skilled or low-skilled workforce (external companies, migrant workforce etc.). Therefore, already for several years the educational policy debates have been concerned about the sustainability of apprentice training (and the reliance on skilled workforce). This has given rise to different initiatives and support measures to promote the sustainability of apprentice training (see below).

Apprentice training in Finland has had a relatively marginal position vis-à-vis the dual system of apprenticeship in Germany. Mainly this is due to the late and rapid industrialisation in Finland in the post-war reconstruction era (after the World War II). During that period a wide network of school-based vocational education institutes was built in different parts of Finland to attract expanding industries and services to all parts of the country. In this context industries tended not to engage themselves with initial vocational education but to cater for (formal or informal) continuing training. In the 1990s there was a shift in emphasis to enhance the role of workplace learning in initial VET and revitalise apprentice training (mainly as an option for working adults without formal qualifications to obtain them via on-the-job-training). Quite recently these hitherto separate policies have been combined in pilot projects that enable flexible transition from school-based VET to apprentice training (within the same curricular framework – see below). Also in this case there is an issue, whether the Finnish VET system can compete with the academic drift and ensure such quality of young workforce that can compete against low-cost companies  that tend to rely on lowly skilled workforce.

2. Campaigns for promoting the sustainability of apprentice training

Centralised campaigns for providing sufficient apprentice training opportunities in Germany: Since apprentice training is the main model of VET in Germany, there is a constant concern, whether there are sufficiently apprentice training opportunities and whether these opportunities have been utilised by young people. During the last decade the federal policy makers have introduced new kinds of campaigns in the form of central agreements on apprentice training opportunities (Ausbildungspakt) between government bodies and the Social Partners (= employers’ confederations and trade unions). These agreements (usually for a three-year period) cover a range of nation-wide measures to be taken by public authorities and by the Social Partners to provide better frameworks and possibilities to meet current bottlenecks in the training markets. Yet, there is quite a distance between these measures and the actual implementation in local, regional and sectoral contexts.

Targeted campaigns for raising awareness of apprenticeship as an option: Since the role of apprentice training in the national VET system is not so prominent as in Germany, the central government and the Social Partners have not engaged themselves in such measures. Instead, the campaigning has been a matter for the local/regional agencies for apprentice training (that function as brokers between young people, industries and vocational schools). Their campaigns have been efforts to raise awareness of apprenticeship as option for particular target groups and for interested employers (and to engage the vocational schools). Altogether, this has been more a matter of finding the niche areas and interested partners than contributing to the sustainability of the whole system of VET.

3. The contribution of the LL pilots to the sustainability issues in construction sector

In the light of the above it is interesting to compare, how the pilots of the LL project in construction sector fit to this picture of sustainability issues of apprentice training.

The contribution of the German pilot with Learning Toolbox (LTB) to the sustainability issue in the German construction sector is related to the following questions:

  • Can the LTB help the apprentices and skilled construction workers to master their tasks, mobilise their knowledge resources and communicate effectively in problem-situations?
  • Can the use of LTB help them to become better aware of their know-how, learning progress and challenges yet to meet?
  • Can a wider use of such tools help to overcome some negative images of construction work and to highlight the aspects of knowledge work in the construction trades?

Altogether these questions are related to a general effort to enhance the learning, know-how and co-participation of skilled workers as a part of the sustainability of highly skilled  workforce in construction sector.

The contribution of the Finnish pilot with the video annotation tool AchSo! is a narrower pilot regarding the entire set of issues indicated above. Yet, it focuses on the documentation of learners’ progress in workplace learning – which has so far been the Achilles’ heel in all collaboration between school-based VET and workplace learning. And in the current situation the effective use of LL tools can increase the trust of all parties on the flexible transition from school-centred to apprenticeship-based vocational learning.

I think this is enough at the moment. In my next post I will discuss the relevance of the Sustainability Commitments for the development of apprentice training and for the scaling up of LL pilots.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 1: The sustainability commitments

March 31st, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few years my blogs on “Working and Learning” have been almost exclusively on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I will have a look at something else – and this ‘something else’ is happening in my home country Finland. Yet, when I have got to the end of my story, I think it has quite a lot of relevance for the LL project.

1. Looking at facebook, listening to the radio podcast

This all started when I looked at the facebook page of a friend of old, Mr Sauli Rouhinen from the Finnish Ministry of  the Environment. I had known Sauli from the time when he was a junior researcher at the University of Tampere and I was a student at the same university. Sauli was specialising in social ecology and was well positioned to start in the newly established Ministry of the Environment when it was taking its initial steps. What is more important, is the fact that he became the civil servant in charge of the government commissions for and civic participation in the national strategies for Sustainable Development.

During the weekend I discovered that Sauli had been interviewed by the Finnish public radio (YLE) for a special program on economic affairs “Mikä maksaa?” (Twist of words between the questions: ‘What does it cost?’ and ‘ What does it take to achieve …?’). And this time it was all about Sustainable development. So, I took my time and listened to the program and it was worthwhile. For those who understand Finnish (we are over 5 million people who speak this language), here is the link:

http://areena.yle.fi/radio/2630343

2. The Finnish approach to engage people, organisations and public bodies via commitments

In the program Sauli told firstly about the early stage of the work with the theme ‘Sustainable development’. This phase produced green papers, white papers and recommendations which were well-written but did not have a strong impact on decision-making and everyday life. In the next phase the overarching strategy papers were chopped down to smaller ones – but this led to a multitude of strategies on which nobody could have an overview.  Therefore, narrowing down the focus didn’t improve the chances to implement the strategies and to monitor the impact.

The fundamental change in the approach was taken when the campaigning for sustainable development was turned into participative process based on Sustainability commitments. As a first step, eight central goals for sustainability were formulated as concise documents that provided a basis for making one’s own commitments. Then, different kinds of organisations as well as publicly known opinion leaders were invited to make their specific commitments. In this way the leaders of the campaign (the civil servants and their supporters) could reach public bodies, civic organisations (like employers’ federations or trade unions but also other voluntary organisations) and individual companies or chains of companies. And the ones who had made such commitments were enabled to invite others to join in this process.

3. How are such commitments made and how are they put into practice?

Firstly, it is worthwhile to note that the sustainability goals require specific measures to change the status quo in order to ensure the attainment of these goals. Secondly, the organisations or individuals have to specify their actions and set clear objectives in a time frame that they have defined for themselves. Thirdly, they have to define indicators or clarify in an alternative way, how their progress can be monitored. When all these criteria have been met, the Ministry of the Environment will register the commitments. After the registration, the organisations are obliged to report on annual basis on their progress in reaching their objectives.

Initially this process with Sustainability commitments was launched by a small ‘task force’ in the ministry. However, when the process started to take off, it became hard for the civil servants to check the draft commitments and to give feedback on them. Therefore, in the current phase the process is being taken to a database. After this transition, it is possible to use web tools to check whether the commitments meet the criteria. Also, the database works as a social network platform for a community of practice. So, the community is expected to give feedback on the proposals and on the progress. Here , it is necessary to emphasise the role of some NGOs like the one - “Yllätetään yhteiskunta” (‘Let’s surprise the society’) – that play an active role in mobilising such civic participation and public interest.

4. What kinds of commitments have been made and and what kind of actions have emerged?

Currently all registered commitments can be viewed on the platform Sitoumus2050.fi - Kestävän kehityksen toimenpidesitoumukset (Commitment2050.fi – Commitments to measures for sustainable development). The opening page gives a general introduction and them lists the most recent registered commitments. At the bottom of the page there are link buttons to different domains of sustainability commitments such as “Työtä kestävästi” (‘To work in a sustainable way’) or “Hiilineutraali yhteiskunta” (Carbon-neutral society) or “Luontoa kunnioittava päätöksenteko” (Decision-making that respects nature).

Looking more closely at the domain “Työtä kestävästi” (‘To work in a sustainable way’) we see different actors making different kinds of commitments:

  • The Ministry of Education and Culture has committed itself to organise campaigns that raise awareness on sustainable developments in different educational sectors.
  • The OKKA foundation has committed itself to produce training materials on sustainable development for different educational establishments.
  • Some regional consortia of vocational schools and colleges have committed themselves to obtain sustainability certificates in their initial vocational education programs.
  • Some consortia that have already obtained such certificates for initial vocational education and training (iVET) have committed themselves to obtain such certificates for the continuing vocational education and training (cVET) provisions.
  • The national grouping of co-operative shops, markets and catering services (S-ryhmä) commits itself to introduce principles of sustainable development at work to its trainees and apprentices….

I think this is enough to give an idea of the Finnish approach to work with a participative process of Sustainability commitments. In my next post I will discuss, how this kind of approach could be taken up in the field of vocational education and training (VET) and in the Learning Layers (LL) project.

PS. After publishing this blog I was informed by Sauli that he has presented the Finnish approach at the events of the  European Sustainable Development Network  and that they have published his presentations as well as the Finnish Commitment template. I am happy to share this news.

More blogs to come …

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