Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Two: Working further with the follow-up projects

January 21st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of blog posts that reflects on the final review of the EU-funded Learning Layers project (exactly one year ago) and on our progress with follow-up initiatives. The first post looked back at the review event and at the blogs that I had written on the event and on the follow-up activities. At the least it gave a picture of a ‘milky way’ of posts reporting on meetings with different partners – either within ongoing projects or as preparation of new initiatives.

Last week we (the ITB team) had a series of meetings with the developers of the Learning Toolbox and with interested partners in the construction sector in North Germany. In the following I will give a brief summary on the ongoing projects and emerging initiatives that build upon our work with the Learning Toolbox in the Learning Layers project. (For more information on the Learning Toolbox see the website.)

The DigiProB project – Learning Toolbox supports continuing vocational training (CVT) of Bau-ABC

As has been reported in my blogs of the year 2017, the German-funded project DigiProB has started already during the last months of the Learning Layers project. The aim of the project is to develop and introduce digital tools that support training and learning in the continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes in the construction sector. In particular the project focuses on the CVT programmes that upgrade skilled workers to foremen (Vorarbeiter), to specialised construction site managers (Werkpolier) and general construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier). The project had a twofold aim:

  • to support the integration of training contents into integrated projects and
  • to provide the participants digital tools that support their self-organised learning between course periods.

In the year 2017 major progress was achieved with a working group of part-time trainers (lecturers) responsible of different subject areas. A development website was launched to shape a set of integrated projects and for uploading relevant content. In addition, a working agreement was reached, how to integrate this development website to the course management system of Bau-ABC and how to make the digital content available for the learners. In this arrangement it was agreed that the Learning Toolbox will be used as the learners’ tool (and interface with the learning content). In the meeting last week several points were discussed on the finalisation of the software architecture to be used in the pilot activities in the coming weeks.

The ‘Social competences’ initiative – bringing the Learning Toolbox to construction companies

Another follow-up initiative that was started after the final review was the company-specific pilot with the construction company H. This company is a medium-sized enterprise that has specialised in pipeline-building and installations (water and electricity).  The company has several regional offices and its construction teams are working in a wide area in North Germany. The starting point of the cooperation was a feasibility study that was prepared by the developers of the Learning Toolbox (with support from the ITB team). This study made recommendations for the improvement of the system solutions and the software architecture of the company – to improve the sharing of information between the offices and the construction teams. Already in this context the Learning Toolbox played a role. As a spin-off from this study, the partners prepared also a project initiative to use Learning Toolbox as means to improve the communication and knowledge sharing between apprentices and in-company trainers. The pre-proposal had been accepted by the funding body and the partners were invited to submit a detailed proposal for a project that is due to start in Spring 2018. This proposal was discussed last week in the meeting between the partners involved in the project.

From ‘BIM-Table’ to ‘BIM-Koffer’ – preparing hardware solutions for mobile construction teams

One of the pain points for promoting the use of digital tools in construction work was the lack of appropriate hardware that is robust enough and well-protected from bad weather conditions, but at the same time provides access to relevant apps and software. On larger construction sites the companies have tried to introduce ‘BIM-Kiosks’ or ‘BIM-tables’, mainly to support the work of construction site managers and/or supervising engineers. This idea was picked by several Learning Layers partners (including CIMNE, ITB and some craft trade companies) but with the emphasis on similar needs of SMEs, smaller construction sites and mobile teams of construction companies. The construction sector partners have strongly underlined the need for a ‘mobile office hardware set’ (BIM-Koffer) that could provide a WLAN for the construction site and link to internet from remote locations. Whilst the design of such a hardware solution hasn’t fallen into the scope of funding programmes, a pilot team has come up with a plan to prepare a prototype that can be used in small-scale pilots and eventually in funded projects. In this initiative both the access to BIM software and to Learning Toolbox play a role.

Bringing Learning Toolbox into conferences – also in the field of vocational education and training (VET)

One of the delightful news of the year 2017 was the broad-based and successful use of Learning Toolbox as a conference tool to create ePosters (and mini-posters for poster-walls) in the AMEE 2017 conference. This pioneering exercise has been well documented by the introductory videos and by the showcases on the Learning Toolbox site. Based on this success story, another way of using Learning Toolbox with ‘hybrid posters’ was tested in the EC-TEL 2017 conference.

Now, when preparing the 2018 conferences, the ITB team has initiated contacts between the Learning Toolbox developers and organisers of conferences in the field of educational research (or research in vocational education and training (VET)). Even if we may not be able to make major steps forward this year, we are in a good position to start preparations for similar pilots as in the above mentioned conferences

– – –

I guess this is enough updating on the projects and project-like initiatives that involve several partners. On top of this we learned a lot of further work with the Learning Toolbox within the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. But that is already a topic for a further blog post.

More blogs to come …

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part One: Looking back at the event and the follow-up

January 19th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

One year ago we had the pleasure to organise the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (2012-2016) here in North Germany. The main argument to locate the meeting ‘in the field’ was that in this way the consortium and the reviewers could get a better impression on the impact of our work on the application partner organisations and their work. Therefore, we had most parts of the review meeting in Verden at the premises of Norddeutsche Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen (NZNB). This centre for ecological construction work had worked as an application partner in the construction pilot of the LL project. Also, in the premises of the NZNB the participants could see the permanent exhibition and attend live demonstrations on working with ecological materials in construction work. The idea, to bring the review to such a location was received well. Also, trainers from the construction industries’ training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup could participate and give their contributions on the impact of the project on their work. The pictures below give an impression on the environment and on our tour round the premises.

LL Final review 2017-01-18

What we (the LL Construction pilot) presented in the review meeting

After the event I wrote several blogs focusing firstly on the preparations and event itself, secondly on our report on the Construction pilot in which our ITB team had played a major role and thirdly on the conclusions from both pilot sectors of the LL project (Construction and Healthcare). At this moment I do not want to repeat what we said and what I wrote at that time. Here you have the links to the blogs of last year:

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part One: The Event and the Arrangements
Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Two: Presentations on the Construction Pilot
Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Three: Comparisons between and reflections on the pilot sectors

Altogether, we – reporting from the sectoral pilots – gave a picture of pilot teams working intensively with the application partners in the pilot organisations (in particular with the training centre Bau-ABC and the network for ecological construction work). The development of the digital tools and the mobile learning technologies was driven as a participative process in which the technical partners adjusted their ideas to the contexts and users’ potentials. These messages were summarised in two further blogs that I wrote shortly afterwards – to support the final edition of our final ‘final report’ that we were required to submit in addition to the final reporting on the website “Learning Layers Results“.

The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part One: The project experience in a nutshell
The Legacy of “Learning Layers” Construction Pilot – Part Two: Impact of project activities in Bau-ABC Rostrup

In this way we managed to reach a phase in which the Learning Toolbox was a usable tool in different contexts of the construction pilot – and its potentials had been discovered in other application contexts.

What has happened with the follow-up activities after the Final Review

By the time of the review meeting we had already reached the phase of preparing and launching follow-up activities. For us – the research team in ITB and the developers of the Learning Toolbox – it was clear that we have to work together with application partners in the construction sector. The introduction of the Learning Toolbox had been started, but it was not a self-mover. Participative design, training interventions, accompanying research and knowledge sharing was needed – both between ‘old’ partners and ‘new’ users. Therefore, we started working with several parallel follow-up initiatives that started to take shape gradually. This process can be reconstructed with the help of my blogs that I have written in the year 2017 on different follow-up events:

What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part One: The follow-up activities are taking shape
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Two: Bau-ABC trainers working with digital media and ‘health and safety’
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Three: Getting deeper with vocational learning, ‘health and safety’ and digital media
What comes after “Learning Layers”? – Part Four: Further steps with Bau-ABC trainers and ‘health and safety’
Introducing Learning Layers tools to construction companies – Insights and working issues
Shaping digital tools for continuing vocational training in construction sector – the DigiProB workshop in May

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

These were the blogs that I wrote before the summer holiday break. After the summer holidays my work situation changed slightly and I didn’t have a similar possibility to accompany parallel activities. Yet, I could make some notes on the further progress with the activities in North Germany and on the use of Learning Toolbox in conferences.

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part One: Notes on meetings with application partners
Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part Two: LTB-based ePosters become success stories in European conferences

So, as we can see from the long list of blogs, there was all the time something going on. And indeed, the Learning Toolbox was being developed for further contexts and users. Moreover, we – as accompanying researchers – felt the need to work with these initiatives. In particular, we wanted to learn, how the introduction of digital tools into work-related or organisational learning opens new frontiers to be explored. But this is already a topic for a further post.

More blogs to come …

Great start for the new working year – The IJRVET Yearbook 2017 is available!

January 8th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Dear readers, let me first wish you all a happy and successful working year 2017!

And having said that, I can share with you a great piece of news. Already before the ITB office building was opened to start the new working year, our professor Michael Gessler had a great message to us: The brand new IJRVET Yearbook is available as an online version and as a print version. Now, for the European and international research communities in the field of vocational education and training (VET) this is such great achievement that it merits to be discussed in a specific blog post. So, I will start my working year with this topic already before I have come to my office.

The early initiatives to create an international journal for research in VET

As I remember it, the idea to set up a genuinely international research journal in the field of VET was brought to the agenda of the board of the European VETNET network in the year 2000. There had already been a predecessor initiative (independently of VETNET) that had been turned down by a commercial publisher. In the next phase the original initiator and the VETNET board joined forces and approached another publisher, who reacted positively. Thus, in the VETNET assembly in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2004 in Rethymnon, Crete, we had an optimistic report from the working group that was preparing the initiative. Also, we had a representative of the publisher attending the conference and observing our work. Everything seemed to work into a good direction.

However, several intervening factors brought the initiative to a different direction. The publisher that VETNET had contacted was merged to a larger publishing house, and that put our initiative on hold. Secondly, disagreements emerged within the working group, and the original initiator left the working group of VETNET and started to promote the initiative independently of VETNET. This led to a creation of a new journal but with different characteristics than we had expected.

This led to a period of latency and reorientation, bridged by a feasibility study that identified several hurdles regarding the relaunching of the journal initiative. Luckily enough, the VETNET board did not give up. By the year2 2013/2014 several things came together that encouraged new start:

  • There was more know-how in the VETNET board to set up the editing procedures for an open access online journal independently of publishing houses.
  • There were advanced open source online services to support the publishing of such journals.
  • The scientific communities were ready to recognise publishing in such journals as academic merits and the global databases were ready to index them.
  • Whilst the European VETNET network had already long ago become consolidated as ‘the’ umbrella network for European VET research, a parallel network initiative (IRNVET) had been launched under the auspices of the World Educational Research Association (WERA) to bring together a wider international VET research community.

The launch of the IJRVET  (2014) and the emergence of the support activities

In the light of the above and given the hard preparatory work between ECER 2013 and ECER 2014, the VETNET General Assembly at ECER 2014 in Porto, Portugal, was happy to make the decision to launch the new journal as “International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET)”. It was accepted as the official organ of the VETNET and IRNVET networks and it had a rather strong backing in Europe and in other global regions. By the end of the year 2014, two regular issues were published and from that point on three regular issues and eventual special issues.In 2015 we had a special issue on ‘Vocational didactics’ and in 2017 on ‘Returning to VET’

In the course of the years the IJRVET has become increasingly attractive also to authors working outside Europe and we have been able to share information and research contribution from practically all global regions. Among these highlights we can include the fact that IJRVET is now fully integrated and indexed in CNKI (Headquarter: Bejing), AIRITI (Headquarter: Taipeh) and ERIC (Headquarter: Washington). Furthermore, IJRVET has  established cooperation  with the ILO (International Labour Organization) and its regional agency Cinterfor (Centro Interamericano para el Desarrollo del Conocimiento en la Formación Profesional). (See more at http://www.ijrvet.net and at the IJRVET-related updates on the Vetnetsite of the VETNET network.

Shortly afterwards new arrangements could be made that the production of the journal could be supported by several conferences, in addition to the annual ECER and its VETNET programme. From 2015 on a biennial conference tradition was started with the theme “Crossing boundaries in VET research” in Bremen and continued in Rostock in 2017. At the VETNET General Assembly  at ECER 2017 in Copenhagen the VETNET Board could inform of a new working agreement that these conferences will be scheduled for Spring months and that they will rotate with the Baltic Sea cruise conferences hosted by the Stockholm university. In 2019 the ‘Crossing boundaries’ conference will take place in Valencia, Spain (the call for papers will be published in a short while). In this way the conferences that are supporting the IJRVET will not clash with each other but complement each other. More information on these conferences and on their proceedings also on the Vetnetsite.org and on the IRNVET/VETNET  ‘project space’ on the research portal ResearchGate.

The idea of the IJRVET Yearbook

After all the progress that had been achieved so far, the editorial team of the IJRVET had the feeling that something was missing. Indeed, one should appreciate the fact that there was the online journal that was appearing regularly and that readers had an open access to the archives of previous issues. Also, the proceedings of the conferences were available via Vetnetsite and ResearchGate. Yet, there was a need to get an overview on the progress with the journal. And the solution for that was the annual yearbook. Here again, the services were available for producing such a yearbook independently of publishing houses, either as printed publication via Amazon (see Vetnetsite) or downloaded via ResearchGate.

So, in a relatively short time the IJRVET and the supporting European and international VET research communities have taken major steps forward. We are looking forward to further steps during the year 2018 and from that year on.

More blogs to come …

 

Remembering Juhani Kirjonen and our cooperation – Jussin muistolle

November 30th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Yesterday morning I got from Finland the sad news that my former boss, professor Juhani Kirjonen – Jussi, as we used call him – had passed away. It so happened that his life span came to end just one month before Finland celebrates the 100th anniversary of its independence. To me, there is another striking coincidence with the news of Jussi. At the end of October I had just written out my memories of the period that I had worked together with Jussi at the University of Tampere in the years 1986-1987.

At that time Jussi took the initiative to develop a post-graduate Master programme with focus on ‘Work Sciences’ (interdisciplinary consortium for research on working life). This was an interesting pilot initiative to engage researchers into cooperation with practitioners – HRD professionals, Health and Safety professionals, Training professionals. The aim was to get the participants shape developmental projects with conceptual and methodological support. Jussi, who had a long track record in interdisciplinary research on health and safety issues in working life, was convinced that the time was ripe for such a novelty – at that time there were hardly any postgraduate Master programmes in Finland (except the worldwide spread MBA programmes).

Jussi had got funding for a planning project from the Ministry of Education and the rector of the University of Tampere had set up an interdisciplinary planning committee consisting of researchers from different faculties and of external experts from the competent bodies for Health and Safety. In the year 1986, just after graduating as an MA from educational and social sciences, I started as the curriculum planner for this initiative. That period – one and a half year – was quite an adventure for both of us. We didn’t take this just as a ‘local’ curriculum initiative but as an intellectual mobilisation to get a better institutional backing for research on working life. From this point of view I was exploring also international models and made a lot of use of the German innovation programme “Humanisation of Work” of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Also I provided information on the German debates on integrative approaches to ‘work sciences’ (Fürstenberg: Konzeption integrativer Arbeitswissenschaft) and on the efforts to bring conflicting views from ergonomy vs. work psychology together. This work with literature was important for my further career development.

Alongside the planning work Jussi and I had several contacts with other interested researchers and with Social Partners. Also, after we had submitted the final report, we got involved in the discussion on launching a special research unit for research on working life. In that phase the initiative to set up a postgraduate Master programme got sidelined. Instead, the idea of a new interdisciplinary “Work Research Centre” got wide support and a this new centre was set up in record time bypassing all other earlier priorities of the university. However, in this final phase other researchers got the lead and Jussi retreated and took other duties. For me the new centre provided new opportunities to work in the research field “education and working life” and to create new international contacts – firstly in the joint initiatives of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) and then with German research institutes – in particular with ITB. And this then brought me deeper to European cooperation in the field of vocational education end training (VET). And from 1994 on I worked several years in Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training).

– – –

Looking back, I could not have dreamed of making such career steps without the pioneering work with the curriculum planning initiative with Jussi. Also, during that period I enjoyed his strong support. Surely – there were also periods when we were not quite on the same page. But, what was more important, we got over those periods and we were happy to conclude our work with a good spirit. And, although the launch of the Work Research Centre was not a direct follow-up of our initiative, something of the good spirit was taken over during the ‘golden’ pioneering years. Therefore, I feel the loss of my former supervisor, but at the same time I am thankful for having experienced that interesting period of work with him.

Jussin muistoa kunnioittaen

 

Ten years blogging – five years active blogging

November 12th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today (11.11.2017)  I noticed by chance that I had started my career as a Pontydysgu blogger exactly ten years ago. The start was not great and there were periods of hibernation. Although I renamed my blog I didn’t quite get the swing immediately. But then, about exactly five years ago (16.11.2012) I started blogging on the Learning Layers (LL) project – and became a regular blogger. Now, almost one year after completing LL project I have kept myself busy with reporting on the follow-up activities. And indeed – during these active years – I have also learned to write on other topics alongside the work-related blogs. These anniversaries call for a brief reflection on my ideas during the earlier phases and during the active project-related blogging and in the follow-up phase.

I-Europe – The difficult beginning

I first named my blog as “I-Europe”. This needs an explanation. In the ECER conference in 2003 in Hamburg there was a special session of the VETNET network under the heading “Open meeting”. Alan Brown had initiated it to discuss different options for European cooperation (independently of EU-funding). He was at that time working part time as a programme director for a national research programme and had the opportunity create networking among similar research councils. Alan presented a preliminary framework “Learning in Knowledge Society (LinKS)”. I came up with a parallel initiative “I-Europe” – to promote knowledge development on international, innovative, integrative and inclusive developments in European vocational education and training cultures. Obviously, I didn’t have institutional backing or resources for supporting any practical measures based on such framework (I had just recently ceased to work as Cedefop project manager). However, my initiative had some positive feedback, but there was very little that we could have done.

Four years later I thought that I could start a new round of discussions. I had got settled to ITB in Bremen and started working on transnational projects that included fieldwork. At that time the European policy processes were geared to the framework processes – the Bologna process promoting the European Higher Education Area and the Copenhagen process pushing forward the European Qualification Framework (EQF). A working group in ITB had prepared a critical discussion paper on the EQF. I wanted to take the discussion further – to positive ideas on thematic knowledge development at the European level. But once again I had to observe that I was floating high up – and couldn’t get my ideas properly grounded.

Working & Learning – a new start (but shaky)

After some time and some self-critical reflections I decided to try a new start with a renamed blog. “Working & Learning” seemed to me an appropriate title because it referred to my research context and to the way I wanted get my blogging grounded. I was hoping that I could rely strongly on the projects of that time – Consultation seminars (on teachers and trainers in VET) and the network ‘Trainers in Europe”. However, the blogs for the Consultation seminars had to published exclusively on the project website, whilst the Trainers in Europe network allowed publishing on multiple websites. That already caused a split in the project landscape and made it difficult to reflect on the work in parallel activities. Two further projects of that time – the Politics project and Coop-PBL in VET – required content creation on the respective project websites. At that time I didn’t see any added value in posting on multiple websites. Therefore, I ended up with another period of hibernation with my blog.

Working & Learning gets a new swing with the Learning Layers project

The start of our major EU-funded research & development project Learning Layers (LL) changed the situation radically. We (ITB) had joined in the consortium at the late phase of preparations and we had the responsibility to coordinate the work with application partners in the Construction pilot in Germany. So, we had to work ourselves in and position ourselves as a research partner with genuine research contribution. And the project schedules pushed us into a rapid start (the initial interviews, the Application Partner Days, the preparation of the User Stories, the Helsinki Design Conference …). All this brought me back to blogging – and I got accustomed of regular blogging.

In the beginning this was just quick documentation on activities and events. But gradually there was more in it – reflection on lessons learned in the fieldwork, discussion on working issues, reorientation in the co-design work, introduction of training activities … In addition to this we redefined some aspects of the work as ‘development projects’, had a consortium-wide “Theory Camp” and prepared sustainability plans. The ‘hot’ phases of the work started when the idea of Learning Tool started to take shape, when the multimedia training was expanded to the “Theme Room” campaign and when the Learning Toolbox was piloted in the field. Furthermore, much of the discussion on the final reporting was supported by numerous blogs posts. At the end of the day, the annual logbooks of LL-related blogs were rather massive documents.

Working & Learning continues with follow-up activities of the Learning Layers project

When the Learning Layers project had reached the stage of final review and completed the final-final reporting duties, this could have been the end of the story – both for the project and for the project-related blogging. But it was not the case. Instead, the main actors in the Construction pilot – ITB, the application partners and the developers of the Learning Toolbox were keen to move on to follow-up activities. Although it was not easy to find appropriate ways to continue the development work and to find suitable funding opportunities, several smaller follow-up initiatives emerged. In this way the work with Learning Toolbox was linked to shaping of new ecosystems for coordinating work processes and/or supporting integrative training and learning arrangements. Moreover, the challenge to support the multimedia training for trainers and instructors has become actual time and again. All this makes me confident that there is work to be done in the follow-up activities.

– – –

I guess this is enough as a quick review and reflection on lessons learned. I may not have achieved a record number of blog posts during the ten years (and definitely not during the first five years). But that doesn’t matter to me. I have gone through quite a learning journey and found my way of blogging during the last five years. And with that I can be happy to continue.

More blogs to come …

Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – “ToDo List” for conferences finally completed

October 19th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of April this year I had left behind all the work after the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. We had completed the work for the review and the additional tasks that were required to clarify the picture. At that time I was looking forward to revisit the project experience and wrote myself a “ToDo List” – outlining a set of working papers that I wanted to complete as soon as possible. This is what I wrote as my opening statement:

“Now, we have a chance to revisit the project experience and draw conceptual and methodological conclusions of our work in the Construction pilot. And I have booked myself in to three conferences to have a closer look at our achievements and how review them from a conceptual point of view.”

Little did I know at that time, what kind of intervening factors may cause delays to such plans. Instead of working three papers ready by the middle of August I had to take a break and give thoughts on something bigger than my work. Yet, having taken the time I needed, I am happy to announce that I have completed the ToDo List of late April. Today I have uploaded the last one of the designed three Working Papers on my account on ResearchGate. And in order to put the three Working Papers into a group picture, I published the following update:

“During the year 2017 I have written three parallel working papers that are the pillars for my re-examination of our work in the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. Together they provide insights into our methodological orientation and to two central theoretical themes in the context of a participative research & development project:

 

1) Accompanying research (“Begleitforschung”) between knowledge development and support for innovations in the field-Revisiting earlier developments and the experience in Learning Layers:
2) Begleitforschung in the context of digital transformation in vocational education and training (VET): Linking work process knowledge to ‘Industry 4.0’:
3) Begleitforschung as mediator between action-oriented learning and digital change: on the role of accompanying research in earlier pilot projects and the Learning Layers Construction pilot:
Altogether these papers give a picture of our approach and of our learning journey with co-design, collaborative learning and support for piloting with digital tools in the construction sector. These working papers will be developed further and linked to discussion on sustainability and transferability of the innovations with which we worked.”
– – –
I think this is enough of this effort at the moment. As I have indicated above. I need to do some work with the three papers to make the mutual relations more transparent and to fill some gaps. And I need to tackle the issue of sustainability and transferability of innovations – just as it emerged in the follow-up phase after the end of the project. But let us take one step at a time amd next steps afterwards.
More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part Two: LTB-based ePosters become success stories in European conferences

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I gave a progress report on our work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the follow-up activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot (2012 -2016). With this post I want to give visibility for the successful implementation of LTB as a tool for creating ePosters for large (European and international) conferences. This work has been led by the coordinator of the Learning Layers’ healthcare pilot, Tamsin Treasure-Jones and by the key developer of LTB, Raymond Elferink. Together with their support team they have pioneered with the use of LTB-based ePosters in the AMEE 2017 conference in Helsinki. I am pleased to publish their report on my blog. Many thanks to Tamsin, Ray and their team! From this point on I am using their text (slightly edited) and their pictures & links:

“Learning Toolbox – a transformative ePoster solution: AMEE 2017 as an example

Learning Toolbox as an ePoster solution is a spin-off initiative that emerged from the EU- funded Learning Layers research & development project. AMEE 2017 has been the pioneering ePoster client. AMEE is the very large (approx. 3,800 delegates) annual international conference of the Association of Medical Education (AMEE).

Overview of Learning Toolbox as the ePoster solution at AMEE 2017

These two short videos (which were created for the conference participants) provide an overview of the how the ePosters worked at AMEE.

ePoster_Video2 ePoster_Video2

https://youtu.be/6KUFHBhZGVs                https://youtu.be/QKQ5R1mZzlw

In total we supported 80 ePosters (this included 3 which we created with the authors during the conference itself, as they had lost their paper posters in transit!). You can explore and interact with all the ePosters on our AMEE 2017 ePosters Showcase page https://my.ltb.io/#/showcase/amee:

ePoster_Showcases

What is novel about Learning Toolbox?

Underlying our approach are several educational aims to transform the way in which posters (and existing ePoster solutions) are used in conferences:

Novelty-in-ePoster
Moving beyond PDFs

We wanted to move beyond a vision of ePosters as just an onscreen version of a paper poster (most ePoster solutions are effectively online PDFs with minimal interactivity). Learning Toolbox allows people to include a wide range of multimedia and interactive material in their ePoster including videos, surveys, presentations, web links and even apps.

Bridging between the physical and virtual worlds

We wanted to give the ePosters both a physical and virtual presence at the conference, and to allow easy bridging between these worlds. Existing ePoster platforms often only offer the ePosters online, so that they are easily overlooked in busy conferences. We used the mini-poster wall to actually give the ePosters a high profile (but small footprint) presence in the conference and a very easy way to move from the mini-poster to the ePosters.

ePoster_cubicle

Direct engagement & interaction between people

We wanted to support people engaging with the ePoster work and the ePoster authors (with traditional posters & ePosters this interaction with the author is only really possible during a very short timetabled presentation session). So Learning Toolbox also allows people to have discussions that are attached to the ePoster (viewable by all who interact with that ePoster) and the ePoster author can also send out messages to the ePoster. These exchanges can happen before, during & after the conference. Our educational aim is for this extra interactivity to help people to find and develop groups who have a shared interest in their research topic. This can be a particular issue at large conferences such as AMEE.

Bring your own device – ePosters in your pocket

We wanted to help people to feel very connected to the ePosters, to have them in their hands, in their pocket. You can also easily share an ePoster from one phone to another, allowing people to pass on the ePosters that interest them. Many traditional ePoster solutions rely heavily on expensive hardware (large screens or touchscreens). Learning Toolbox instead uses people’s own devices, supporting a more personalised experience.

Life beyond the conference

We wanted people to be able to take home the ePoster, to actually have them as a long-term learning resource that could be used by the ePoster author and those who had an interest in their topic. Learning Toolbox allows conference attendees to favourite and easily take home ePosters with them on their phone and it allows the ePoster author to add to and update their ePoster following the discussions at the conference”

– – –

This was the report of our pioneering team in AMEE 2017. If you want to have more information on the way the participants prepared themselves for the conference and how the ePosters were used, I would recommend you to follow the tweets of Tamsin Treasure-Jones @tamsinttj. And if you want to get more information, how to use ePosters in your conferences, contact Raymond Elferink and his team support [at] stack [dot] services

As I have heard it from Gilbert Peffer, who was also involved in that exercise, also other conferences and support organisations are interested to use ePosters. We hope that also our conference organisers in the field of Vocational Education and Training (VET) research will follow their example in due time.

More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part One: Notes on meetings with application partners

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week I have had a chance to participate in some working meetings that have discussed further work with the “Learning Toolbox – LTB”. As readers of this blog have learned during the last few years, the LTB was the main result of the Construction pilot of our EU-funded project “Learning Layers LL” (2012 – 2016). In the project researchers, technical partners and application partners in North Germany were involved in the co-design of the LTB and in the pilot testing of this integrative toolset in apprentice training and in the coordination of construction work. LTB was built as an integrative toolset that linked together mobile apps, resource tiles and communication tiles. As such it has facilitated project-based learning of construction sector apprentices in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. In a similar way it has facilitated the cooperation and coordination work of construction site manager in a special project of ecological construction work in Verden. (These achievements of the LL project and the transition to follow-up activities have been discussed in my blogs in 2016 and in the first half of 2017).

In Spring 2017 I witnessed several working meetings in which my colleagues from Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) and developers of LTB were discussing follow-up activities of the LL Construction pilot – with emphasis on new contexts for using the LTB.  Now – after a lengthy break – I had the chance to observe some further steps and progress to new milestones in these follow-up activities. In May I wrote more detailed blogs on these earlier meetings and on the initiatives that were taking shape. This time it is enough to make brief notes on the progress and on new milestones to be reached in the near future.

Verden: Looking at integrative hardware and software solutions to support process optimisation an construction site

In our previous meeting with the LL application partner Thomas Isselhard we had discussed several initiatives to promote the use of LTB via his networks for ecological construction work. This time my ITB-colleague Werner Müller and our LL-partner Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) took further steps in their talks in Verden towards shaping one central initiative. The aim is to bring together hardware development (“BIM-Koffer”), software development (BIM, construction sector applications and network connectivity) and uses of LTB at construction sites. With this initiative the colleagues want to tackle several key issues that prevent effective uses of mobile technologies at construction sites. I am looking forward to hearing more of the further steps.

Firma H: Shaping integrative software ecologies to optimise company-specific knowledge processes and workplace learning

The next meeting (which I could also attend) was an interim assessment of the feasibility study and the workshop process that my colleagues had carried out with the company H (see my blog of last May). Now my colleagues had finalised their  feasibilty study and provided a draft report on the workshop with the company staff (of last June). Now the discussion focused on starting a short-term pilot with the solutions that were proposed in the reports: to start a transition to a more integrative software ecology – including new online communication arrangements between the offices and the worksite troops (with the help of LTB). The meeting made progress in setting the schedules, defining the pilot sites and the modes of participation (project team, supporting training arrangements). I am looking forward to hear more when the project activities in the field will start early next year.

Bau-ABC Rostrup: Continuing the work with Learning Toolbox and linking it to new software ecology

Our final meeting was at Bau-ABC Rostrup, our central application partner in the co-design and pilot testing of the LTB. With Bau-ABC we have had several follow-up activities/initiatives on which we now had a catch-up meeting.

In spring I had worked with a group of full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) to develop coherent patterns for training in the cross-cutting area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) until the holiday break. (I have blogged on this activity in April and May 2017.) Unfortunately I had to extend my stay in Finland for personal reasons and then I got other duties. Now I was pleased to learn that a similar pattern of parallel thematic groups had been established and that there was an internal support team. Moreover, it was inspiring that these groups were also working with the LTB and its use in initial vocational training.

Parallel to this my colleagues have been working in the German-funded DigiProB project that introduces digital media to Continuing Vocational Training of construction sector professionals. In the project meetings and workshops that I followed in Spring I could see that this project shaped a new software ecology to match with each other a traditional course management database, an innovative platform for integrative project development and a workable mobile toolset for course participants. I will not go into the technicalities. The important thing in our catch up-meeting was that we could address the latest issues on the role of LTB as the participants interface for accessing course information and for planning their participation.

– – –

I think that this is enough for a quick update on these follow-up activities of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot. My main point here is to demonstrate that our work with LTB is being continued with several application partners and on several fronts. Although the work with LTB may not have scaled up that quickly as expected, we are making progress in getting the work grounded. In my next post I will give another kind of progress report on work with the Learning Toolbox.

More blogs to come …

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

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

Background, work plan and modification of the plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

June 16th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

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