Archive for the ‘integration of technology’ Category

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 …

A Design for Learning

September 16th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

“We learn through experience; the abstract can only take us so far” says Peter Bryant from London School of Economics in the blog entry accompanying this presentation.  “Whether it is environmental, tactile, mental, affective, emotional or physical, learning experiences are the context in which learning and knowledge come together. Learning experiences are the art and design component of curriculum development.”

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Two: Observations on the uses of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC

September 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest post I started a series of reflections on the concept “Digital Divide 4.0” (see my previous post ). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  In particular these thoughts have been triggered by our LTB workshops (covered in my earlier posts) and our working visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. With this blog I try to give insights into our observations on ‘digital divide 4.0’ in the beginning phase of the LL project and into the role of our project work in overcoming such divides. Here I would like to emphasist the role of participative design processes, capacity-building measures and the user-driven deployment of LTB in the training activities of Bau-ABC.

Findings on the use of digital tools and mobile apps in the early phase of the LL project

In the beginning phase of the LL project the ITB team carried out several interviews among Bau-ABC trainers and representatives of craft trade companies regarding their use of digital tools, web platforms and mobile apps. Likewise, we carried out (in collaboration with Bau-ABC) a user survey among the Bau-ABC apprentices.

Without going into details, both the interviews and the survey gave a picture of a scattered landscape of stand-alone tools, apps and platforms. The trainers and company representatives had looked at different sites but were not convinced of the quality – it was difficult to distinguish, what tools/apps were meant for professional use and what for hobbyists. The apprentices new very few of them and had hardly any experience with them.

In general, this picture corresponds with my characterisation of ‘digital divide 4.0’ (see my previous post). Both our interview partners and the apprentices responding to the survey were users of smartphones, had acquired a considerable web capability and were exploring, how to use the new tools and technologies. Yet, the trainers and company representatives experienced a kind of Tantalos-situation (see my previous post) – having a multitude of possibilities but not getting a hold of them. Likewise, the apprentices were frustrated because web tools, apps and mobile devices played no role in the training.

What was the role of co-design processes and multimedia training?

In the co-design workshops with Bau-ABC trainers we were looking for ways to support their pedagogic approaches (action-oriented learning, self-organised learning) in context-specific training projects. Likewise, in the workshops with apprentices we were looking at characteristic working tasks and specific situations in which digital tools would be useful. This all was fed to the development of the Learning Toolbox.

In the Multimedia Training we (the facilitators from Pontydysgu and ITB) helped the Bau-ABC trainers to find their own approach to using digital tools and web resources – and to editing their own contents. The most important achievements of this phase were the trainers’ own WordPress  blogs with which they have made their training materials publicly available. (See Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog.)

Interim assessments by Bau-ABC trainers during the project

In between the Bau-ABC trainers have contributed with their interim assessments that have given important impulses for the development of the Learning Toolbox and for reshaping of the multimedia training arrangements:

  • In August/September 2014 the Bau-ABC colleagues couldn’t participate in the LL consortium meeting in Tallin. Instead they prepared a video message that was later on edited into short videos. These outlined different contexts for using the Learning Toolbox in the training of Bau-ABC and in different work situations. In one of the videos four trainers discuss their pedagogic principles (action-oriented learning; self-organised learning) and how they see the possibilities to promote such learning via Learning Toolbox (see below).

  • In May 2015 the Bau-ABC trainers made an interim assessment on the earlier Multimedia training (2013 -2014) and on their internal follow-up (2014 -2015). They came to the conclusion that Bau-ABC needs to organise a training scheme for the whole trainer staff to bring the media competences to a common level and to work out joint approaches for using the respective tools, apps and platforms. This provided the basis for the Theme Room training campaign that was implemented in November 2015 by tutors from Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu (with on-site support by Jaanika Hirv from TLU). This campaign was a major step forward to prepare the Bau-ABC trainers to take the role of active users of the Learning Toolbox.

Reflections on the deployment of Learning Toolbox and on the feedback from the users

In February and March 2016 we started the active phase of deployment of the Learning Toolbox with some Bau-ABC trainers in their training projects. Already at that stage we could see that the trainers quickly developed their own ways to use stacks, pages and tiles to shape their training projects:

  • In the trade of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) the emphasis was given on a specific project folder that is supported by content tiles (Reference materials) and collection tiles (photos and videos). When the pilot group of well-builder apprentices moved on to training periods in other trades (metalworking, borehole building), the trainers in these trades provided similar project folders.
  • The joint project of carpenters (Zimmerer) and bricklayers (Maurer) was based on a common mother-stack that was linked to daughter stacks that presented the respective subprojects to be carried out during training periods in the respective trades. In addition, the mother stack provided links to other daughter stacks that provided collections of tools and of further learning materials.

When collecting feedback on the use of Learning Tools the LL researchers involved (mainly Markus Manhart from UIBK) could conclude that the trainers were becoming owners of the innovation and that the apprentices had adopted the use of Learning Toolbox as ‘their way’ of managing the projects. In particular the following observations were of interest:

  • From the pedagogic point of view the trainers had set somewhat different accents. Some of them put an emphasis on equipping the apprentices with comprehensive sets of reference materials and challenging them to do selective and searches for their purposes. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘well’ for the stacks as stable learning resources. Other trainers put an emphasis on curiosity- and interest-based learning and with respective opening of new pages or tiles for apprentices. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘watering cans’ for the stacks as learning resources that are adjusted to the learners’ progress. Consequently, their apprentices have developed either explorative or level-by-level progressing learning approaches.
  • From the infrastructural and organisational points of view the trainers concluded that the deployment of Learning Toolbox had been carried out as a limited pilot. Now the time had come ripe to make commitments for the whole organisation (including the infrastructure and the availability of mobile devices for all training areas). The apprentices had experienced difficulties due to limited internet access – both in the training centre and even more when they were on construction sites. Yet, they emphasised the advantages of using Learning Toolbox vis-à-vis the time when they had not had such a toolset. Also, they put a major emphasis in having the necessary tools in an integrated and contextually adjusted set. However, very few had been able to convince their employers or supervisors of the benefits of the Toolbox. Here, it apparent that the company representatives have to find their own ways to use such a toolset and to become aware of the benefits from their perspective.

Concluding remarks

I believe this is enough of our learning journey in the context of the Learning Layers project and with focus on the project activities in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. To me this story serves as an example, how participative design process, capacity building and user-driven tool deployment can work well in the long run. As I see it, we started in a situation that could be characterised as ‘digital divide 4.0’ and worked through processes that helped us to overcome such divides (including us as researchers and our counterparts in the training centre). However, the story shows that we need extra efforts to help the construction companies to find their ways forward. I will get back to this in my next blog.

More blogs to come …

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

December 11th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

On the LL systems architecture and DevOpsUse -process

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

On the exploitation initiatives

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

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

Feedback from the reviewers

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come (in the year 2016) …



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

December 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

The coordinator’s overview

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

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

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

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

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

The presentation of the Healthcare pilot

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

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

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

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

The presentation of the Construction pilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

August 20th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here the role of the Confer tool is

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …




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

August 20th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More blogs to come …


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 …


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

Preparing for LL field workshops – Part 1: What is new with the tools and technology?

March 27th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

After the Design Conference of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project we have returned back to everyday life work. For the ITB team and our cooperation partners in the construction sector pilots this means that we are preparing for a new round of Field Workshops with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). We would have wanted to start these workshops earlier but we understand that we have to be patient about the development of tools and supporting technologies. With this post I try to give a picture what all is changing since our previous workshops. In my next post I will discuss what is changing regarding Data protection/Data Security (“Datenschutz”). Here some key points on the development of tools and technology and on the implications for the pilot activities:

1. Transition from meeting rooms to pilots in training areas and working environments

Our previous pilots have been co-design activities with a preparatory character. We have had conversational workshops, storyboard workshops (producing working/learning journey maps), stakeholder talks (giving impulses for the development of LTB) and ‘demo camp’ workshops (with mock-ups and giving more specific feedback for the development of LTB). Finally, our colleagues in Bau-ABC prepared videos where the showed exemplary contexts and processes, in which LTB could be used. Also, Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) were assembled to give their views how they would use the LTB and how they are developing their blogs to support such pilots.

As I have reported in my blogs last year, we have harvested a number of ideas, how the the Learning Toolbox – as an integrated mobile framework for web resources, tools and apps – can support learning and working in the construction sector. So, after all these preparatory measures the natural step forward is to enter pilots in the field – in the training areas and in the context working and learning (with LTB as support tool).

2. What is new with the infrastructure?

A major hurdle for all such pilots has been the limited infrastructure that has not provided access to internet in the training areas of Bau-ABC. This has not only been a problem for demonstrations and piloting in Bau-ABC but also a more general problem for piloting with the LL tools in the construction sector.

In this respect the solution that has been developed by the LL partners in RWTH Aachen – the “Layers Box” – has been of vital importance. As I understand it, the Layers Box is a local ‘server ‘ that enables the user organisation to use LL tools in a predefined range and is linked to the RWTH server that hosts the LL infrastructure. As I understand it, with such a ‘technology package’ the user organisation has control of its own engagement in the pilot activities as regards the use of technology and tools. At the same time RWTH is in the position to give remote support for the functioning of the infrastructure and tools that have been installed.

As we have been informed, the Layers Box has been successfully installed in Bau-ABC and our colleagues are now taking care of the preparations to enable pilots in the training areas.

3. What is new with the piloting with tools?

Looking back at the earlier workshops and stakeholder talks, we only had rather early versions of the Learning Toolbox available (powerpoints, wireframes and temporary software solutions that enabled some demonstrations). The hard work with the software architecture and with the links to attached servers and platforms has progressed gradually. The Alpha Beta Camp in Aachen earlier this year was an important milestone in getting different contributions from different software developers work together. Now, as we see it, we are waiting for the crucial steps in this work to get LTB work on the basis of a local Layers Box installed in Bau-ABC.

As I see it, the new phase will change the pattern of cooperation from co-design sessions (the results of which were communicated to developers) to more collaborative Dev-Ops mode (in which the user/designers can make some adjustments themselves or suggest changes in a rapid prototyping process). In order to enter such phase the developers and we – the intermediate facilitators – need to get an updated picture what is possible and where we may be hitting the limits.

Altogether, the echoes that we are getting from the developers are promising and we are looking forward to bringing our pilots ahead after the easter break. In the meantime we have some other homework to do with the Data protection/ Data Security (“Datenschutz”) issues.

More blogs to come …



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