Two weeks ago I wrote and published my ‘Goodbye’ message to our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Obviously, I was too hasty – my work in the project was not over although my contract had come to an end. And apparently my colleagues guessed this because they didn’t react as if it were really the end. During the two last weeks I have been heavily involved in finalising the contributions of the LL Construction Pilot to the final deliverable. Now – as far as I am concerned – that work is done. I pass the ball and leave the field.
In the meantime I pulled the original ‘Goodbye’ blog out. Now it is time to publish it again. Here it comes:
The Goodbye Message
During the last four years most of my blogs have been related with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (2012-2016). I have used my blog to document the ongoing work, present our contributions, report on achievements and reflect on lessons learned. Now this period is over. This week my contract with the project came to an end. During the last few weeks I have been writing our contributions to the final deliverable of the project. There are still some tasks to be completed but by and large the work is done. This is also reflected in my latest blogs on wrapping up our experience.
Now it is time to welcome the follow-up phase. However, in my case there is not a seamless transition from this project to immediate successor project. Instead, I have to go through an interim period during which some solutions have been found and others are being sought. At the same time I have to cope with health issues that take their time as well.
On the whole I try to put on top in my mind the good experiences with the Learning Layers project and the Construction pilot. We have achieved a lot and learned a lot – and this is not all wrapped up in the final deliverable or in my 170 blogs during these years. There is a wealth to look back and an experience to build upon. I hope that the opportunities are round the corner (if not quite at hands).
I now thank the colleagues with whom I have worked in all participating countries and at all phases of the project. I hope you all the best. And I hope that I still meet some of you in the final review and in the follow-up activities. If I were asked to give an honest answer, how I felt about the project, I would ask De Dannan to give a musical answer for me:
So, with this post I close my last Logbook on Learning Layers blogs on Working & Learning. Now it is time to enter a new phase of blogging after this project experience. I will continue blogging – working and learning – but in a new era.
Quite some time my blogs have focused on producing contributions to the final deliverable of our (still) ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now these contributions are taking shape and are being edited as part of a group picture of the results of the whole project. This gives me rise to work with the question: How can we make sure that we take full benefit of the legacy of our project? One part of the answer is to edit a good final deliverable (that will happen). Another part is to make sure that the working documents and reflection documents produced at different stages of the project are not getting lost but are being ‘harvested’ as well. With both aspects in my mind I have recently worked to build up the Learning Layers presence on ResearchGate. I have created two project spaces – one for “Learning Layers Construction Pilot” and the other for “Learning Layers Theory Camp follow-up”.
RG project space for “Learning Layers Construction Pilot” – what for?
The decision to set up a project space for Learning Layers – and in particular for the Construction Pilot – grew out of the need to create commentary spaces that point to the Learning Layers materials that I am uploading to ResearchGate anyway. Firstly I used that space as means to provide some samples of information – news updates on series of blogs and lists of articles – as ‘starters’ to get familiarised with our project. Now that our final contributions are taking shape, this project space provides an opportunity for ‘sneak preview’. Moreover, since some of the draft documents will be edited shorter, I have uploaded the original draft versions (ODV) in full length.
As of today we find the following final documents of the Construction Pilot as ODVs on ResearchGate:
Use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) by Bau-ABC Trainers and Apprentices (Impact Card C-11, Construction pilot, Germany)
Multimedia Training for and with Bau-ABC trainers (Impact Card C-12, Construction pilot, Germany)
Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Action-Oriented Learning in the Apprentice Training of Bau-ABC – Instances of Change (Learning Scenario S-09, Construction Pilot, Germany)
Learning Toolbox as Support for Organisational Learning and Cooperation at a Construction Site in Verden – Instances of change (Learning Scenario S-02, Construction Pilot, Germany) Motivation and Theoretical Contribution
Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Pilot activities in the Training Centre Bau-ABC (Methodology Document M-10, Construction Pilot, Germany)
Training interventions as capacity-building for digital transformation in the Training Centre Bau-ABC (Methodology Document M-11, Construction pilot, Germany)
As the project is coming to an end, this space will also provide insights into follow-up activities.
RG project space for “Learning Layers Theory Camp follow-up” – what for?
The second project space was created quite recently to ‘harvest’ the contributions to the Learning Layers Theory Camp (March 2014) that were prepared by the ITB team. Whilst there was some kind of follow-up at the consortium level with some meta-themes, the contributions provided by us were not discussed widely. Yet, we had put some effort to cover some theoretical, methodological and research-strategic issues. Now, in the final analyses and in the the transition to follow-up activities, it is useful to revisit some of these themes and our theoretical contributions from the earlier phase of the project. Currently we have following main documents allocated to this project space:
WP1/ Work Process Knowledge: Introduction to the reviewing of the legacy of the EU-funded Work Process Knowledge network (FP4 – TSER)
WP2/ Work Process Knowledge: Revisiting the Theme ‘Work Process Knowledge’ and its implications for vocational education and training – The position the WPK network
Commentary 1 on theoretical foundations of the Work Process Knowledge network (based on the synthesis article of M. Fischer and N. Boreham 2004) – 2014
Commentary 2 on empirical studies of Work Process Knowledge network – based on the interim synthesis article of M. Fischer and N. Boreham
WP Accompanying Research: Reviewing the role of Accompanying Research, Interactive Research and Action research as support for participative design processes
Commentary note 1: Activity Theory – Foundations, conceptual evolution, implications for a developmental research strategy – 2015
Commentary note 2: Activity Theory – Intervention research cases, Change Laboratory processes and research findings – 2015
As the project is coming to an end we will also rework with these materials as well when we are preparing (secondary) analyses of the empirical findings and reflection papers on our fieldwork.
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I think this is enough of the Learning Layers presence on ResearchGate – as far as the project spaces “Construction Pilot” and the “Theory Camp follow-up” are concerned. Both will have a life beyond the funding period of the current Learning Layers project.
During the last few weeks we have been preparing our contributions to the final deliverable of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. And obviously, my recent blogs have included a lot of ‘loud thinking’ on these contributions. Due to the fact that we have had a complex innovation process in the Construction pilot to report, I may have been repeating some issues when discussing in different posts our various deliverables (Impact Cards, Learning Scenarios and Research Methodology documents). Also, I have noticed that with several iterations in writing I have got the message clearer. Thus, I have been able to highlight the characteristics of the innovation processes and the way different parties worked together to make them happen.
In the final phase I have been working with the question, how to present our research work as a contribution to the innovation process (that we have gone through with our application partners):
Can we claim that we have applied a ‘method’ that triggered an innovation process into movement and guided it into good results? Can we present this ‘method’ as the legacy of our project?
Or – is our project experience to be interpreted as a more complex process innovation in which we played a part – as active contributors, moderators and conceptual interpreters, but yet as part of a common story? Shall we present such a story of research & development dialogue as our legacy?
Below I will present the answers that I have given to these questions in our document “Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Construction Pilot in Germany“. I hope that the extracts from the longer report text give a clear idea, what our answer is and why.
The starting point: relatively open user-initiated co-design process searching for solutions
“This document presents a picture of the collaboration of researchers, technical partners and application partners in the construction pilot of the Learning Layers as a multi-channeled research & development (R&D) dialogue with an emphasis on the following points:
The co-design activities started as a relatively open search for solutions to match the user-initiated design idea (digitisation of learning contents and reporting processes).
Research partners were engaged as accompanying researchers with co-shaping roles to support application partners in a complex iterative process, during which the initial design idea was transformed into shaping of Learning Toolbox as an integrative toolset.
The R&D dialogue was maintained with several parallel activities – joint work process analyses, shared training events, co-design workshops and joint outreach activities. In this way the process could overcome periods of rupture and uncertainty.
The research interventions consisted of empirical studies and conceptual inputs that gave insights into vocational learning and learning inorganisational contexts as contexts in which the Learning Toolbox promoted digital transformation.”
Reflections on the process: Multi-channeled R&D dialogue with many interventions and iterations
“In the light of the above it is apparent that the work of accompanying researchers was not a process that would have guided by one single ‘method’ or pre-defined methodology. Neither was it a case of classical action research. As has been indicated earlier, the ITB team built upon earlier experiences with accompanying research in innovation programmes but adapted its approach to a more open co-design process. Also, it is worthwhile to note that the co-design process was not primarily about social shaping of work and (production) technology or about pedagogic development of vocational education and training. The project was based on interventions to introduce digital media and web resources via mobile devices to (informal) learning at workplaces.
From this perspective it is important to understand that the co-design activities in the Construction pilot were not primarily a tool-centred and design-driven process. Instead, in the early phase the accompanying research partners and application partners were supported by technical partners with intermediate role (but not that of software developers). Under these circumstances it was important to generate a multi-channelled R&D dialogue that included work process analyses, co-design sessions and shared learning activities. In this context the partners could agree on a radical transformation of the design idea, which meant a shift from digitisation of learning contenttoshaping a flexible digital toolset for accessing and sharing learning resources.”
The experiences of researchers and practitioners – working towards, with and for the innovation (‘Learning Toolbox in practice’)
“In this – essentially transformative – process of R&D dialogue, in which all partners involved have to face new challenges, the role of ITB researchers can be characterised as agileaccompanying research. By learning together with application partners, how to work as change agents, ITB participated in the process, documented the process and supported the continuity of the process. In the final phase the peer tutoring by accompanying researchers was crucial for spreading the use of Learning Toolbox among application partners.
For the application partners – in particular for trainers in Bau-ABC – participation in such R&D dialogue has provided a chance for becoming in real terms co-owners of innovations. In the shaping of the Learning Toolbox this has not been merely a matter of receiving the end product that was the originally expected outcome. In this co-design process the trainers have firstly reshaped their own informal learning processes in the context of the training interventions of the project. After the successful piloting with the Learning Toolbox they have the chance to continue as innovation leaders in their own trades and as multipliers of innovation in their wider networks.”
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I guess this is enough of the position and contribution of research in the process we have gone through. However, the picture would be incomplete if I wouldn’t discuss the role of training interventions as a part of this R&D dialogue experience. Only by looking at both key elements of our process history we can really understand the legacy of our project. I will deal with this in my next post.
In my recent blog I reported on a fresh web publication – the Learning Toolbox Chronicle – that is available on the website of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The articles published one by one on the project website and its section for the Construction pilot have been rearranged as a collection that consists of three volumes.
In a similar way I have prepared a new web document on the two training programs that we have organised as a part of our project activities: the early Multimedia training (2013-2014) and Theme Room training (2015) in the training centre Bau-ABC. I have prepared a comprehensive overview on the programs, their implementation and on the training materials used as the Moodle application “Theme Room Training 2015”. Below I present firstly an overview on this moodle application and then some reflections on the role of this training experience in the final phase of the project activities.
Insights into the “Theme Room Training 2015” Moodle
This Moodle application provides an overview of the “Theme Room” training concept and its implementation as a part of the Learning Layers (LL) project and its Construction pilot in Germany in 2015.
The first section of this Moodle application give an overview on the role of training activities in the Construction pilot and on the evolution of training concepts.
The second section gives a brief overview on the Multimedia training scheme that was implemented by the project in Bau-ABC in 2013-2014.
The third and fourth sections describe the development of the Theme Room training concept and its adaptation for the pilot implementation in 2015.
The fifth and sixth sections give insights into the work with the two main themes selected for this implementation cycle – ‘Use of Social Media in Training’ and ‘Preparation of Digital Learning Contents for Training’.
The seventh and eighth sections give insights into two further themes – “Intellectual property rights (IPR)” and “Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Training”. For practical reasons the theme IPR was implemented only as transversal theme that was covered with short ‘guest inputs’ in the thematic workshops. The LTB was postponed for a later occasion.
The ninth section summarises the discussions in the self-evaluation workshop that took place in Bau-ABC in December 2015 after the implementation of the first cycle of Theme Room workshops.
The tenth section reflects the Theme Room training experience in the light of the later progress with the Learning Toolbox pilots and outlines some prospects for follow-up activities.
In addition to the documentation in the introductory boxes this Moodle application provides a comprehensive archive of concept documents, training materials, documents of learning achievements and commentaries on implementation.
Reflections on the role of the Theme Room training experience at the end of the project
Shortly after the pilot implementation of the Theme Room program we had to shift the emphasis to the introduction of Learning Toolbox (LTB) into apprentice training and to co-development of LTB-applications by Bau-ABC trainers. Following the example of Bau-ABC trainers, also other application partners of Learning Layers started with their small-scale pilots in the context of construction work.
Reports on these pilots have shown that the use of LTB has increased the opportunities to empower the learners and to strengthen the culture of project-oriented and self-organised learningin Bau-ABC. Equally, the functionality of the LTB has opened new prospects for supporting creative learning in the context of Health and Safety or trade-specific DIN norms. Yet, with such areas LTB alone is not enough. Therefore, the LTB development is looking at the potentials of LTB integrated with a learning platform (such as Moodle).
In the light of the above it appears that the use of the Learning Toolbox (as an integrative toolset) can play a stronger integrative role also in such multimedia training that was provided in the Theme Room training in Bau-ABC. Equally, when the use of LTB is spreading to new pilot fields, it is appropriate to make use of similar collaborative learning arrangements as in the Theme Room workshops. From this perspective it is appropriate to revisit the Theme Room experience and to consider, how such training can be developed and adapted for new contexts and challenges.
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I think this is enough of this new document on our training experience. In the coming days I have to work (once more) with the final deliverables of the project. But we are reaching the point when we have presented the results and realise, what all we have learned in this project – and on what legacy we can build.
One of the final efforts of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project has been the rearrangement of the dissemination articles that we had published on the LL website, section “Construction”. At the end of the project we felt that we should make it accessible as a more structured documentation of the process we went through with our construction sector partners. However, we knew that we cannot make intensive editing operations – the materials were already there and we could at best make them more attractive by providing easier access to them. Secondly, we needed to think beyond our project experience and to open perspectives for follow-up activities. This gave rise to present the history of Construction pilot as the story on the making of its main result – the Learning Toolbox. And so the articles of past years were give a new life as the “Learning Toolbox Chronicle”and as “Learning Toolbox Chronik (Deutsche Version)”.
Under the new heading the articles appear as three volumes (annual chronicles):
Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 1, 2014covers the early phases from the Application Partner Days (APD) and from the early co-design activities (2013) to the outreach activities with the LTB concept in 2014 (Brunnenbauertage, Demo Camp, Nordbau and a smaller demonstration workshop with two active craft trade companies).
Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 2, 2015 covers several interim events starting with the opening of the ‘Learning exhibition’ of our partners in ecological construction work in Verden and with the annual Training Day of the Bau-ABC staff. Later in the year we had workshops and conferences in Espoo, Bremen and Budapest and alongside the Bremen conference the publication of the LTB Beta version. This was celebrated with a field visit in Bau-ABC and with special sessions in the Bremen conference. (And let us not forget the visit of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency to Bremen to inform themselves of the Learning Layers project and of the emerging Learning Toolbox!)
Learning Toolbox (LTB) Chronicle Vol. 3, 2016 covers major training interventions (the Theme Room training campaign) and a series of pilot activities and field events in Bau-ABC Rostrup (the major pilot site for the LTB). We also get insights into using the LTB for coordinating construction work processes at a special construction site in Verden.
In principle the German versions of the Chronicles cover the same developments. However, the number of articles is smaller (since we have only included articles of the years 2014 and 2015) that are closer to the application partners. But regarding the year 2016 we have covered all events and activities.
Bonus tracks and Online Guide
One of the highlights of the year 2014 was the joint effort of Bau-ABC colleagues to produce a series of videos on possible use of the LTB in their training and in construction work. These videos are also accessible via both language versions of the LTB Chronicles, see
One of the highlights of the year 2016 has been the publication of the Learning Toolbox Online Guide. It can also be accessed via the the Learning Toolbox chronicles.
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I think this is enough of the new Chronicles. I hope that they serve their purpose and provide inspiring insights into the making of the Learning Toolbox. For us who were involved in this process they provide an opportunity to celebrate our joint achievements – researchers, practitioners and developers, all working together. And we already know that Learning Toolbox has a future beyond the current project.
With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As I have indicated, we are preparing contributions for the concluding deliverable of our project. In my previous post I discussed, how we are showing impact of our project with Impact Cards. Then I discussed, how this can lead to a particularisation of the picture. As a contrast, I tried to bring together the messages of different cards to show, how our interventions in the Construction pilot have had impact in terms of promoting digital transformation. However, my examples remained at the level of presenting local and context-specific success stories and progress reports. This gives rise to the question, what is the value of these achievements in terms of promoting the presented innovations. And this then leads to the question, on what grounds we can interpret this potential.
Below I will discuss these issues in the light of the two Learning Scenarios that we have prepared on the basis of the Construction pilot. In both examples we introduce firstly an exemplary case on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB). On the basis of such a case we then draw scenarios for further work with LTB and for dissemination of the innovation. And with both examples we can demonstrate the role of research and of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact.
LTB on construction site – the scenario on the work with multiplier networks
In the first “Learning Scenario” on cross-organisational learning with used as a starting point Thomas Isselhard’s presentation on the use of LTB as support for coordination of the work at a construction site and for real-time communication on plans, orders and reports. In the two videos recorded on his presentation Thomas gives a picture, how the use of LTB can help to avoid communication gaps between different parties involved (video 1) and how to get new users accustomed to work with LTB (video 2). The background text in the ‘Learning Scenario’ draws attention to the way in which the the functionality of LTB help to overcome the gaps. In a similar way the text draws attention to the benefits of LTB as an integrative toolset – customised for the users and by the users with their own sets of context-specific stacks and content tiles. Furthermore, the videos and the text give insights into the ways in which new users are introduced to using LTB while getting their instructions for the construction work.
This exemplary case shows the potential of making interactive use of LTB as a common integrative toolset for sharing knowledge and information between different parties at a construction site. In the ‘Scenario’ part of the document we step out from the site and shift the emphasis to different organisations and networks involved in construction sector. Thomas Isselhard is a member in several networks on ecological construction work and these networks have a wide range of specialised cooperation partners. In this respect the ‘Scenario’ outlines a spectrum of activities via which these networks can promote the use of LTB in sharing knowledge and promoting cooperation in ecological construction work and in different campaigns for awareness-raising.
LTB as support for apprentice training – the scenario on supporting learning in special learning areas
In another “Learning Scenario” document we draw attention to the way in which full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup have used LTB to support their training. In the background sections the document gives insights into the transition from working with paper-based materials to creating web-based resources that are available via trade-specific stacks and content tiles.
In further sections we present results from field visits in which researchers have had interview sessions with the trainers and focus groups with apprentices. Here we found an interesting difference between otherwise similar approaches:
Trainers who follow a problem-oriented training strategy tend to equip learners with comprehensive resources. The apprentices need to search as self-organised learners to find the problem-relevant information. In a nutshell, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘well’.
Trainers who follow an interest-oriented training strategy tend to provide in the beginning fewer resources and only gradually open access to new resources. The learners are nurtured step-by-step with new impulses and challenges once they have started to find their own solutions and ways of working. In this case, the LTB can be characterised as a ‘watering can’.
In the ‘Scenario’ part we stepped out of the trade-specific contexts of apprentice training and shifted the emphasis to specific challenges in the training of Bau-ABC. One issue that the Bau-ABC trainers had raised already at an early stage of the project was, how to make training in Health and Safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) more inspiring. Another issue was, how to provide easy and filtered access to DIN norms that are relevant for skilled workers. For both cases it is possible to provide interim solutions by providing an overview on the sets of resources via Moodle (or similar platform). Then linking LTB to the respective Moodle application (or similar application) the users could find the resources easier (‘LTB as a well’). However, in the training with these resources it would be possible to introduce some kind of ‘gamification’ to guide the learners from tasks that require general knowledge to more demanding cases that require special expertise (‘LTB as a watering can’).
We have also used these documents to highlight the role of our theoretical work in interpreting the impact demonstrated in these exemplary cases (as a basis for the scenarios):
We have interpreted the first case – the use of LTB at the construction site in Verden – as a micro-case that demonstrates organisational and cross-organisational learning in a local context. Here we underline that ‘organisational learning’ is not merely a result of good management skills or good consultancy. Instead, the key point is in finding the way to promote interactivity and responsiveness between site manager, craftsmen and stakeholders involved. This point has also been highlighted in the concept ‘work process knowledge’ that we have discussed in the project on several occasions.
We have interpreted the second case – the Bau-ABC trainers’ transition to use LTB – as an example of gradual digital transformation and as enhancement of their pedagogy. Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that the trainers have challenged apprentices to become self-organised learners and to take ownership on their learning. With the use of LTB they have seen more possibilities – and the learners have felt themselves more empowered. In this way the use of LTB has strengthened the training and learning culture based on action-oriented learning in Bau-ABC.
We worked out these interpretations in the latter case by combining the empirical findings of a visiting evaluation researcher, the process-related knowledge of a ‘local’ accompanying researcher and the insights into instructional designs provided by an educational technology researcher. In this way way came to interpret the changes in Bau-ABC as indications of a digital transformation based on step-by-step transitions – not as an abrupt digital revolution with great leaps to unknown. Moreover, we could conclude these changes as contributions to the Bau-ABC approach that celebrates action-oriented learning– not as a radical paradigm shift in pedagogy.
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I think this is enough of our work with the ‘Learning Scenarios’ and altogether on the theme ‘digital transformation’. In the coming days our deliverables will take shape and will be made available in due time. There is some more work to be done, but most of the Learning Layers experience is getting wrapped up. Then we have to prepare ourselves for the follow-up.
With my two latest blogs I have started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Currently we are preparing contributions for the concluding deliverable of our project. One part of this exercise is writing “Impact Cards” to demonstrate, what kind of achievements we have reached in the sectoral pilots in Construction sector and in Healthcare sector as well as in the supporting activities (development of tools, software and infrastructure). In general, I have welcomed the idea of preparing such impact cards. They present in different contexts a) the situation before our project activities, b) the interventions that we have carried out and c) the situation/developments after our interventions.
However, such cards have also their limitations. Whilst they are good tools for demonstrating particular achievements in specific contexts, it is difficult to keep the big picture visible with such tools. Thus, we may have details but loose sigh on the overall developments to which these achievements contribute. Also, we may fail to see, what kind of challenges we have had to meet during the work to show any impact whatsoever. This, to me is important when we discuss the theme ‘digital transformation’ and consider, how our project has contributed to changes in working and learning processes. From this perspective I will discuss below the picture that we have given on the Construction pilot by reading across the impact cards we have prepared. For practical reasons I focus now on the cards that deal with the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup.
The situation before the Learning Layers project
Here it is worthwhile to emphasise that the general atmosphere in Germany concerning the role of mobile devices as support for learning – and in particular for workplace learning – was mainly sceptical and restrictive. The use of mobile devices during work was forbidden in most companies and in the training centres. The use of smartphones was considered as distraction and in the worst cases as a risk factor (concerning hazards at work or concerning data privacy in work contexts). Furthermore, the companies that had been involved in early pilots with digital tools had made negative experiences with ‘infant diseases’ of specific tools and compatibility problems with stand-alone tools and apps. The trainers in Bau-ABC had been monitoring tools and apps that were advertised for their trades, but not many of them had proven appropriate for professional use or as support for apprentice training. Moreover, the apprentices had not learned to know tools or apps relevant for their learning and most of them had used smartphones only for private hobbies.
However, having said all that we started our cooperation with Bau-ABC trainers and management in good spirit and the apprentices were keen to join in the activities when there was a chance. All parties were interested in looking, how to bring mobile devices, digital media and web resources into learning and into work processes. All parties informed us of communication gaps and practical difficulties in which they saw the possibility to bring in digital tools to facilitate work and learning. However, the important point was that the new technologies should offload them, not add to their workload. And regarding apprentice training, the new technologies should empower them as self-organised learners, not provide easy shortcuts that reduce the learning effect.
The training interventions as capacity-building
When starting our co-design process with Bau-ABC trainers, we soon realised that we (all of us) needed to raise our awareness on existing tools and apps as well as of processes of using, co-creating and co-developing. From this perspective it was great help that our Pontydysgu colleagues – in particular Jenny Hughes – had a lot of experience with the TACCLE courses in getting teachers familiarise themselves with such technologies for their own use. Moreover, those courses had brought the teachers together to make their own plans for using web resources in their teaching. This provided the background for the first training intervention – the early Multimedia training workshops in Bau-ABC. This training encouraged some of the participants to create their own WordPress blogs and to use them as repositories for making their training materials publicly available (see Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog and Brunnenbauerblog).
Based on this experience the Bau-ABC trainers proposed at a later phase the Theme Room training model to raise awareness and to promote digital competences across the organisation. This provided the basis for the second training intervention – the Theme Room training campaign in November 2015. This time the whole organisation participated, whilst partners from LL project worked together with the advanced trainers as tutors and mentors. Here again, the emphasis was on creating an overview on the themes (social media, digital learning materials) and to work together to get an idea, how to use the web-based and tools in apprentice training.
The co-design and pilot testing of Learning Toolbox (LTB)
In the early phase of the LL project the Bau-ABC colleagues proposed as a major design idea the digitisation of the White Folder of Bau-ABC (the collector of training materials, worksheets and reporting documents in their apprentice training). Already at this phase we got a lot of feedback, how the use of the forthcoming tool should enhance the learning of apprentices (instead of providing easy shortcuts to answers before reflecting the task). During the process the design idea got transformed from digitising the materials to developing an integrative toolset to facilitate the work with web-based resources and real-time communication. In this way the co-design process took the course to developing the Learning Toolbox (LTB). And due to their intensive participating in this work and in Multimedia Training the Bau-ABC trainers were supporting this idea. The strongest evidence for this were the videos that Bau-ABC trainers produced in August 2014 on potential use of LTB in different training and working contexts. In a similar way the ca. 80 apprentices that participated in the Demo Camp workshops in June 2014 were very inspired by the idea of getting such a toolset to work with.
In the final phase of the project when the LTB was ready to be introduced for piloting in the apprentice training (with several few trades and selected training projects) we were pleased to witness a relatively smooth take-off. In spite of some technical problems we got positive feedback from trainers and apprentices. The trainerswho were leading these pilots had found their own ways to use the LTB (building their own stacks, screens and tiles) to provide access to learning resources. Some of them provided a wide range of information resources (for problem-oriented searches), some preferred to open the acess to wider resources as a step-by-step procedure (based on learning progress and interests). The apprentices also found their own ways to make use of the LTB and gave their own views as feedback. In a similar way, the separate introduction of AchSo (video annotation tool) in some of the trades was taken as an enrichment (although there was some confusion, whether it can be integrated into LTB or remains as a stand-alone tool). Altogether, the experiences with piloting were by and large positive.
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I think this is enough of the situation before the Learning Layers activities and of the interventions that we have carried out during the project work. The impact cards do contain an assessment, how the situation has developed after the interventions and on what points we can show impact. However, from the perspective of the theme ‘digital transformation’ these points would be very detailed. Furthermore, we are still looking forward to having concluding discussions with Bau-ABC trainers and with the management. Therefore, I will not go into the details here. However, I need to emphasise that in our final reporting we have a further task to interpret the impact and achievements in conceptual and future-oriented terms – with Learning Scenarios. I will discuss this task in my next post.
With my latest blog I started a series of posts to wrap up the experiences of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. As I mentioned,we are in the phase of concluding our project. For us this is not just a matter of presenting our results with individual reports or demonstrating the achievements with individual tools. An essential part of this phase is to reflect on our experiences on the whole – what have we learned and achieved together. I started my reflections with the theme ‘digital transformation’ and how we have experienced it aslived practiceand as research challenge. In this second post I try to describe, how this has characterised our work as researcher partners in research & development dialogue with our application partners in the Construction pilot of the LL project.
The process dynamics: Research & Development dialogue with multiple activities and many iterations
Shortly before the start of the project I recorded with our colleague Graham Attwell a video interview in which he presented some key ideas for the forthcoming project. Graham made a realistic point that
‘in the beginning the users don’t know, what the technical developers can offer them and the developers don’t know why and how the users would use their products’.
Graham saw the great chance of the LL project in turning such ‘don’t know – don’t know’ constellation into a ‘getting to know – getting to know’ type of dialogue. This was his anticipation in Spring 2012.
The real life in the construction pilot turned to be far more colourful. In Graham’s reflection the technical partners and research partners were treated as one group. And finding a common design idea and ways to put it into practice didn’t appear as complicated as it turned out to be.
Altogether, the process dynamic that led to the development of Learning Toolbox (LTB) was characterised by a long search for an appropriate design idea that makes sense for the trainers and apprentices in construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. This process did not lead to a quick listing of requirements for external software developers to do their job. Instead, the lack of developer resources was compensated by co-design workshops and further iterations involving research partners, intermediate technicians and application partners – who were preparing the grounds for software developers to enter a process of research & development (R&D) dialogue. Thus, the key characteristics and expected functions of LTB were in a ‘getting to know – getting to know’ type of dialogue – but the developers and their know-how had to be integrated into this process.
The multiple roles of accompanying research during the process
Concerning the role of our ITB team (Institut Technik & Bildung) in this process, the best term is ‘accompanying research‘. This concept arises from German innovation programs in working life and in vocational education and training (VET). Originally two German concepts have been used, which may have somewhat different connotations – Wissenschaftliche Begleitung (scientific accompaniment) and Begleitforschung (accompanying research). The former might be seen as a more open approach, whilst the latter may emphasise a more focused research design. In the innovation programs in working life such research was used to monitor, whether the innovations improved the quality of working life. In VET-related pilot projects (Modellversuche) the role of research was to monitor and evaluate the implementation of pedagogic innovations. In both cases the accompanying researchers tended to have co-participative and co-shaping roles. However, the responsibility on the success of pilots was on the application partner organisations.
Concerning the LL project and the co-design process of Learning Toolbox (LTB), the role of the accompanying research team of ITB was even more co-participative and co-shaping than that of the predecessors. Moreover, the research challenges was also more open – the researchers had to grasp the challenges in the course of the interactive and dialogue-oriented process. When the process moved on to the active deployment of the LTB, the researchers were needed as facilitators of the dialogue and as co-tutors in the training activities. In the final phase the accompanying researchers were needed as counterparts of evaluation researchers – to interpret together the findings. All this can at best be characterised with the term ‘agile accompanying research‘.
The role of training interventions as capacity-building in the field
In the light of the above it is essential to emphasise that the co-design activities and the research interventions were not enough to give the process its strength. A crucial part was played by the training interventions at different phases of the process. In the earlier phase of co-design process the ITB and Pontydysgu teams arranged a series of Multimedia training workshops for voluntary trainers of Bau-ABC Rostrup. At a later phase the ITB and Pontydysgu teams together with advanced Bau-ABC colleagues organised the Theme Room training campaign (see my blogs of November and December 2015). These training interventions were not merely general orientation or user-training for certain tools. On the whole these training interventions were capacity-building for Bau-ABC as a whole organisation and for the trades involved.
Here it is essential to emphasise that the training interventions were essential dialogical elements in the process. All parties were engaged as learners – trying to find out, in what ways digital media and web tools can be introduced into construction work and into workplace-based training. And all this supported the development and deployment of the LTB as an integrative toolset to work with.
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I think this is enough of our experiences with research & development dialogue in the LL project and in the Construction pilot – in particular with the application partner Bau-ABC. In the next posts I will look more closely to the challenges to show impact and to draw scenarios on the basis of such experience.
During the last four years I and my colleagues have been working in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now we are in the phase of drawing final conclusions and editing the final deliverables. Whilst such a phase easily requires more focused work on particular products – in our cases tool descriptions, impact cards, scenarios, methodology descriptions etc. – it is essential to keep the big picture in our minds. Our project was about introducing new technologies – tools for mobile devices to support access to web resources and to online communication – but not only of that. Most of all it was about changing practicesin workplace learning or learning in the context of work. And it is in this context that the project has gone through a long journey and made important experiences. With this post and the next ones I try to revisit our learning journey in the LL pilot in construction sector draw some conclusions and key messages arising from it. In this post I will focus on the overarching theme ‘digital transformation’.
Digital transformation as lived practice
I am aware of the fact that there is plenty of literature on the theme ‘digital transformation’ and that I should do my homework with if I want to use this concept properly. However, given the intensity of our project work, I have come across this theme from the perspective of our fieldwork and in our own processes of work. In this context we have experienced many transitions from earlier modes of work to new ways of using online resources and web-based communication and interaction. A great deal of our research and development work is carried out on web platforms and by using shared resources. And if we use traditional e-mails, then mainly when sending out group mails for wider target groups. Furthermore, when developing new online tools, such as the much discussed Learning Toolbox (LTB), we are more and more inclined to find ways to use for such tools in our own work – not only in the pilot fields. Altogether, my perspective on the topic ‘digital transformation’ is primarily that of manifold step-by-step changes in everyday life as lived practice.
Digital transformation as precondition for/aim of a R&D project
Shifting the emphasis from our everyday life as project partners into our field of piloting – the construction sector – we need to take a broader perspective. Indeed, there have been many speculations on automation and new technologies making skilled workers redundant – or cautious statements on the limits to digitisation in construction work. To be sure, the true picture is probably characterised by an ongoing change between the extreme poles. But how to grasp the real picture of changes in construction sector?
Looking back at the earliest interviews in the project, we learned a lot of the infant diseases of several ‘new technologies’ that didn’t work properly or didn’t reduce the workload of construction professionals. Likewise, we heard of several stand-alone apps that were advertised for construction sector, but were not good enough for professional use (or didn’t promote learning at work). So, in the further work we needed to keep an eye on real innovations that made a difference to our application partners and improved the quality of working life. Here we found ourselves in a similar position as the researchers studying the early automation processes in the 1970s and 1980s. As the German researcher Rolf Nemitz formulated it: ‘So far, the studies on automation have focused on, how automation can replace or reduce human contribution. However, the real innovation lies in combining automation and human potential.’ Or, as the founders of our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – took this further: the contribution of research is to equip practitioners with capability for social shaping (Gestaltung) of work, organisations and technology. However, the researchers of that time were talking about production technologies, not about present-date technologies and new media to promote learning at work. Now we have been facing new challenges.
Digital transformation as a research theme and as transformative practice
In the light of the above, for us the topic ‘digital transformation’ has notbeen merely a research them to be dealt with via academic contemplation, empirical observations and testing designs for learning technologies. For us, the understanding of digital transformation can only arise from processes of working with the application partners and for changes that enhance them as pioneers for innovations in construction work. In this context I hear the echo of the words of young Karl Marx in his Theses on Feuerbach: “The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.” (Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One, Progress Publishers Moscow, 1969). Or in original version: “Das Zusammenfallen des Ändern[s] der Umstände und der menschlichen Tätigkeit oder Selbstveränderung kann nur als revolutionäre Praxis gefaßt und rationell verstanden werden.” Marx-Engels Werke, Band 3, Seite 5ff. Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1969).
Here, in our context, we could interpret this classical phrase as referring to digital transformation as a coincidence of changing circumstances and changing self-understanding of actors as an interactive and transformative process. Thus, it is not enough to document the changes as observable facts or to record the self-understanding of practitioners as their testimony. Instead, a real understanding of such processes arises from experiencing the changes as efforts of change agents and sensing changes in their views on, what to pursue and how to make it work. In this way in-depth research has to be involved in the transformative practice, but has to maintain its ability to reflect on the practice.
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I guess this is enough for introductory thoughts. In my next posts I will take a closer look at the role of research and training activities in the project. Then, later on, I will discuss issues on ‘showing impact’ and ‘drawing scenarios’.
Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by the local partners. We focused on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating the final preparatory processes for the final reporting. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In this second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in the preparation sessions and in the Elevator pitch session.
Insights into the preparation sessions (focus on impact and cases, scenarios and research approaches)
In the preparation sessions we rotated between three topic tables (of five altogether) to prepare the marketing pitches for which we had been signed (or to listen to others’ contributions and to give feedback). My choice was to give pitches on the impact cases, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on research approaches. In the first topic table it was useful to share ideas between construction pilot (use of Learning Toolbox at construction site) and healthcare pilot (use of Learning Toolbox in a conference environment). As a spin-off I promised to communicate the idea of using LTB in the forthcoming European conferences on vocational education and training in 2017 (ECER 2017, ‘Crossing boundaries 2017’). I also picked the idea of using LTB in conferences as a manifestation of ‘work process knowledge’ of researchers. In the topic table of ‘learning scenarios’ we discussed the criteria, what is to be presented as ‘impact cases’ and what qualifies as ‘scenarios’ or ‘instances of change’ in terms of conceptual interpretation. In the topic table of ‘research approaches’ we also had a similar discussion regarding the presentation of research methodologies and research findings.
Presenting the construction pilot in the ‘Elevator pitch’ session (‘impact cases’, ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘accompanying research’)
The ‘Elevator pitch’ session followed the pattern of marketing events that are typical in educational technology and software development communities. Each presenter had a 20 seconds slot to announce the topic and attract the interest of audience. Then the presenter had a 3 minutes slot to present the case and to convey the message. After each presentation three persons gave feedback (including one of the two ‘critical friends’ that were invited by the organisers). Below I focus on my/our presentations on the construction pilot of the LL project.
a) The impact cases: Use of Learning Toolbox in training (the pitch of Melanie Campbell) and at a construction site (my pitch)
In her pitch Melanie Campbell presented the training centre Bau-ABC as an application partner of the project and gave insights into the impact of the project from their perspective. Her key message was that Bau-ABC had engaged itself as a ‘learning organisation’in different phases of the project work and used the opportunity to enhance the digital literacy and multimedia competences of its staff. On the basis of successful deployment of the Learning Toolbox Bau-ABC is looking forward to a more prominent role in promoting this know-how in its initial training (for apprentices), continuing training (for construction professionals) and training partnerships (with suppliers and client companies). She emphasised the new strategic interpretation of ‘Internet as the fourth learning venue’ (“Internet als vierter Lernort”) – alongside the company employing the apprentice (Ausbildungsbetrieb), the intermediate training centre (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätte) and the vocational school (Berufsschule) – and the contribution of the Learning Layers project in conveying this message.
In my first pitch I presented (with the help of a short video demonstration) the impact case of using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the management of a construction site. I used the video on Thomas Isselhard’s recent presentation (see my recent blog) as an exemplary case to show, what kind of problems can be overcome with LTB, how the traditional way of managing the processes can be supported by LTB and how different parties can be engaged as users of LTB – to achieve real-time knowledge sharing and communication. Here I positioned myself as the interpreter and let the practitioner explain the benefits, see below:
b) The ‘learning scenario’: Learning Toolbox as means to make ‘work process knowledge’ transparent in lived practice
In my second pitch – for ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) – I focused on the concept ‘work process knowledge’ and how the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) can make this concept more transparent. I looked back at the original European projects of the Work Process Knowledge network (funded by EU, 4th Framework programme of research) between 1998 and 2001. In the original studies the network analysed informal and cross-organisational learning processes as preconditions for innovation. They came up with the concept of ‘work process knowledge’ (as shared foundation of knowledge, experience and trust) based on which the organisations can successfully implement major changes. The network had collected several interesting cases in which interactive informal learning in organisations – and workers’ participation in shaping the technical and organisational changes. Yet, with their plans to develop follow-up projects they got narrowed down to more particular approaches on ‘organisational learning’ and to local and sectoral tools or instruments to promote such learning. With reference to the ‘impact cases’ on LTB I argued that the introduction of the integrative toolset has helped managers, skilled workers, trainers and apprentices to get a common overview on work processes and a shared understanding on matching activities and contributions.
c) The research approach: Transformation of ‘accompanying research’ within participative design and tool deployment processes
In my third pitch – with focus on research approaches – I invited the audience to a journey to revisit the development of the accompanying research approach of ITB during the construction pilot of the Learning Layers project. Firstly I mentioned two earlier models of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) of which ITB has rich experiences:
Accompaniment of a regional ‘Work and Technology’ programme and its projects in 1990-1997: Focus on the attainment of policy goals regarding social shaping of work, technology, organisations and regional cooperation.
Accompaniment of nation-wide educational innovation programme ‘New learning concepts in dual vocational education and training’ 1997-2003: Focus on the attainment of self-declared innovation goals regarding introduction of new pedagogic and curricular settings, new occupational profiles and new instructional designs.
Concerning Learning Layers, I emphasised the difference, since we were working with an open and participative co-design process (with several iterative phases and adjustments), with common search for an appropriate design concept and ways to deploy the integrative toolset. During the process the accompanying researchers worked as
explorers (mapping workshops and initial interviews),
facilitators of digital literacy (the early multimedia training),
co-designers (in the shaping of the concept of Learning Toolbox),
co-tutors (the training campaign for all Bau-ABC staff),
facilitators of tool deployment (introduction of Learning Toolbox),
co-evaluators (collecting feedback and reviewing the qualitative feedback).
Concerning the interaction of accompanying researchers with practitioners we tried to position ourselves as supporting partners – helping them to become owners of the innovation. This was clearly successful with the early multimedia training and with the launch of trainers’ blogs (see the video of August 2014 below). In a similar way the deployment of Learning Toolbox was a user-driven exercise in which Bau-ABC trainers set their own accents on promoting problem-oriented learning (with rich resources) or interest-based and expansive learning (with gradually increasing variety of resources). In a similar way the apprentices were guided by trainers to become owners of their own learning processes by self-organised use of learning resources via Learning Toolbox.
Concluding remarks and lessons for the final run
Regarding the feedback on my pitches, I was praised for the use of video to pass a user’s own voice and accents in the first pitch, I was criticized for not using such visuals in the two latter ones (I dropped the idea because the video could not be displayed that well to all). I was also praised for presenting coherent stories but criticized for giving too much emphasis on the history and leaving the connection between history and present date too thin. Finally, I was praised by making the users visible and emphasising them as ‘pioneers’, our role in ’empowering users’ and making transparent different ways of using innovative toolsets. Altogether, this feedback helped us to pull ourselves out of project-internal reporting and to focus on new audiences who don’t have the shared background knowledge.
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I think this is enough of this exercise. At the moment we are taking further steps in preparing the final documents, making further arrangements for the final review and working with follow-up activities.
According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers
Teachers and overtime
According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.
A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.
Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.
Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”
The future of English Further Education
The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.
It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.
The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.
Skills in Europe
Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).
Skills Panorama, they say, turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.
The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/launch/.