Archive for the ‘Layers PD’ Category

Highlights from the Pontydysgu Studio – Learning lessons from key projects

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I wrote down some memories of the so-called Pontydysgu Studio in Bremen, now that that ‘studio’ has been closed and the Pontydysgu activities are continued mainly in Wales (Pontydysgu Ltd) and in Spain (Pontydysgu SL). With that post I tried to give an overview on the work with multimedia (in general) and as a part of our joint projects. With this post I want to give the floor to key actors of Pontydysgu – Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell. In the year 2012 I made some video interviews for my project of that time. In the interviews with Jenny and Graham I asked them to tell what they had learned in some of their key projects and how these lessons could be taken further to possible successor projects.

Jenny: The continuing learning process through different TACCLE projects

Among the Pontydysgu-led or -supported projects the series of TACCLE projects is a clear success story. It started with the first TACCLE project (Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments) that prepared an E-learning handbook for teachers classroom teachers. In the Taccle2 project the work was differentiated to address different subject areas and alongside them the primary education teachers. In the Taccle3 the emphasis on teaching programming and coding for school children. And the (so far) newest project Taccle4 focuses on developing materials and media to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. The following two interviews were recorded already in 2012, so the it was not quite clear, in what order the successor projects would come up, but the vision was clear – this work merits to be continued.

Graham: Lessons from predecessor projects – conclusions for the Learning Layers project

In the videos above  Jenny discussed a clear continuum of projects and a training and learning strategy that was developed further in the successive steps. In this respect the interviews with Graham were somewhat different. Firstly, they covered a longer period and a wider range of projects in which very different experiences could be made. Secondly, in the latter videos they focused on comparing the predecessor projects with the forthcoming Learning Layers project. Therefore, I have selected the two latest videos for this post – the discussion on the immediate predecessor project and the shift of emphasis to the new project. Here it is worthwhile to note what challenges Graham brought into discussion and how he expected us to meet the challenges.

I think this is enough of these highlights. To me, both sets of videos have very timely messages for our current projects. I Jenny’s case we are talking of the Taccle4 project to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. In Graham’s case we are talking about the successor activities of the Learning Layers project and its construction pilot – now that we can build upon the Learning Toolbox (LTB) that was developed in the project. Yet, the message  – that we have to meet the challenges of the construction sector partners in their complexity – is very valid. And at the same time we have to be able to address these needs by customising the LTB and by complementary measures – training, introduction of additional software solutions and by participative co-design processes. This work is still going on.

More blogs to come …

Bye bye “Pontydysgu Studio” – good luck Pontydysgu Ltd & Pontydysgu SL!

April 20th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Pontydysgu headquarters in Pontypridd, Wales and ‘Pontydysgu Studio’ as its filial in Bremen – that is how we have experienced it quite a long time. The name “Pontydysgu Studio” was used by Graham Attwell and Dirk Stieglitz when they worked with projects that had a radio program as its major contribution. Altogether, the years when that ‘studio’ was used, they were to a great extent characterised by multimedia, radio and video productions, e-learning … all this as a support for learning in the context of work. But then came the time for changes. Pontydysgu Ltd will continue as usual, but next to it there is the Valencia-based Pontydysgu SL. And alongside these changes the “Pontydysgu Studio” was closed. This week Graham and several friends have emptied it and closed that chapter of Pontydysgu history. Bye bye Pontydysgu Studio, good luck with Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL! I give the word to Paul McCartney to spell out his greetings:

Memories of the “Pontydysgu Studio” and of our joint activities of that era

My earliest memories on working in and with this Pontydysgu Studio go to the years 2004-2005 just before I started working in ITB and the University of Bremen (but had already got the status of Visiting Fellow). Graham had already become a renown blogger with his “Wales-Wide-Web” and he was promoting Open Source software in Education. We remember the pioneering project SIGOSSEE that brought several key actors together. And in the next phase the successor project Bazaar started to look at possibilities to spread out Open Educational Resources by different stalls under the common umbrella of the Bazaar. However, the greatest success story of this project was the radio program “Sounds of the Bazaar” that was continued in several successor projects. And it was then followed by other similar radio initiatives like the conference radio programs for Online Educa Berlin (OEB) or European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). During these years several radio interviews were also made with international guests visiting the Pontydysgu Studio – I still remember the interviews with Ji Li and Tien Je from Beijing, Nikitas from Athens, Lewis and Libby from Melbourne and several others.

But our cooperation was not only about multimedia, there were many research & development projects and initiatives in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Here it is worthwhile to mention that Graham had been recognised as a life-time Visiting Fellow (Gastwissenschaftler) of ITB. So, research in VET had a high priority. However, thanks to Graham and Dirk, the web and multimedia components started to play a greater role in these projects – one after another. And when these components started to become increasingly important, the projects became ‘learning laboratories’ for the research partners as well. Here I try to give a more or less comprehensive overview of projects or initiatives in which we (me and my ITB colleagues) have worked together with Pontydysgu during those years. After the acronym of the project and a nutshell description I have added in brackets the work with multimedia and web resources:

  • WLP – Workplace Learning Partnerships (Project website that was enriched with project blog, project wiki and a gallery of video interviews and external video clips);
  • TTplus – Framework for training of trainers (Conceptual and field-oriented project, summarised in a project wiki);
  • iKoopNet – Initiative for a networked project to introduce e-portfolios and digital tools to vocational learning (was given up because the leading industrial partner was hit severely by the economic crisis);
  • “Trainers in Europe” (EuroTrainer 2) – A network activity based on a Europe-wide consortium to promote networking among workplace trainers and trainers of training centres (Creation of a network platform with many communication and sharing functions);
  • “Consultation seminars” – Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars (for different stakeholders) to discuss the role of common frameworks for promoting professional development of trainers (Web platform to bring together the results of different regional workshops; enriched with video material from the latest workshops);
  • Euronet-PBL – promoting practice-based learning as a work-related learning component in higher education with focus on three domains – engineering, business management, vocational teacher education (Web platform enriched with project blog and a number of video interviews with partners and students);
  • Politics – promoting learning about politics by means of storytelling, media commentaries and informal learning (Creation of a single platform with sections using multiple languages and with different kinds of ‘educational resources’, ‘competitions’ and storytelling components);
  • Coop-PBL in VET – transnational project for sharing knowledge on problem- and project-based learning in VET with support of specific learning software and ‘virtual community’ section (Pontydysgu was not a partner but supported me in producing a large section of video interviews into the ‘virtual community’);
  • Learning Layers – Major European research, technology and development (RTD) project funded from EU FP7 with a several technical, research-oriented and intermediate partners as well as application partners from two pilot sectors (construction and healthcare); the aim was to support learning and knowledge processes in SMEs with the help of widely usable digital tools (that networked web resources and were available as mobile apps). (Pontydsygu was leading the work package in which the digital toolset “Learning Toolbox (LTB” was initiated, developed and piloted in a highly participative and interactive process).

I guess this is enough of the memories and of the project history. A lot of working and learning was involved in those activities that in many respects were linked to this famous “Pontydysgu Studio” (and to its extension, the “Pontydysgu Meeting Room” further down at Horner Strasse). Those were the days, but times – they are a-cha-anging as the old song tells us. So, we say goodbye to the Pontydysgu Studio with good memories in our minds and wish all the best to Pontydysgu Ltd and Pontydysgu SL in the new situation.

More blogs to come …

 

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part One: Setting the scene for project activities in the field of VET

February 21st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In December 2017 I wrote a blog on the kick-off meeting of the EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project that took place in our institute ITB at the University of Bremen. In that blog I described the background of TACCLE projects and presented the achievements of the pioneering TACCLE1 and TACCLE2 projects. I also drew attention to the legacy of the recently completed EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016) upon which our institute can draw in the present project. As we see it, the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot was in many respects a predecessor of the present project in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Now it is time to have a closer look at our context of work and make more specific plans for the forthcoming activities. I will start this with an updated description of the TACCLE4-CPD project that I prepared fro the ITB website and then move on with the stock-taking (with focus on the Learning Layers’ successor activities and with the project neighbourhood that I have found from our own institute).

TACCLE4-CPD in a nutshell: What is it about?

The ErasmusPlus project TACCLE4-CPD promotes strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes. From this perspective the project supports teacher trainers and organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. The project builds upon the digital tools, web resources and training concepts that have been created in prior TACCLE projects or other predecessor activities. From the ITB point of view, this project provides an opportunity to work further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB), a key result from the Learning Layers project.

TACCLE4-CPD in a closer look: What is it trying to achieve?

The TACCLE4-CPD project is funded by the ErasmusPlus programme as a ‘strategic partnership’.  It promotes educational strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes in different educational sectors. From this perspective the project puts the emphasis on supporting teacher trainers and/or organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. When doing so, the project builds upon the digital tools,  web resources and training concepts that have been created in earlier TACCLE projects and other predecessor projects.

Regarding the earlier TACCLE projects the current project can make use of the TACCLE Handbook (that will be updated), the TACCLE2 websites and the separate TACCLE courses. Regarding the Learning Layers project the current project can build upon the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and on the Multimedia training schemes (that were organised with construction sector partners).

Whilst the previous TACCLE projects have been working directly with pioneering teachers, the TACCLE4-CPD project addresses now the training of trainers.  In the same way the emphasis is shifted from particular teaching/learning innovations to shaping models for continuing professional development. In this respect the partners promote community-development among professionals and organisations that support the delivery of digital competences and their integration into learning culture. Regarding ITB, it has a specific possibility to develop cooperation and synergy between ongoing European and German projects – in particular between TACCLE4-CPD and the parallel projects STRIDE and DMI.

I think this is enough of the starting points of the TACCLE4-CPD and how I interpret our task in the project. In my next blogs I will continue by looking more closely what we can bring into the project from the Learning Layers’ follow-up and from the neighbouring projects.

More blogs to come …

Ten years blogging – five years active blogging

November 12th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

I-Europe – The difficult beginning

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

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

Working & Learning – a new start (but shaky)

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

A new year – a new era: Let’s see what’s coming up!

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

The new year 2017 is already two weeks old and I returned back to work already one week ago. During the last few years I always new, how to start my blogging after the holiday period. I just started to report, what is on the agenda in the EU-funded Learning Layers project. And there was no time to waste because there was always something moving. But now the project has come to an end and we only have the Final Review Meeting ahead us (next week, to be precise). So, in principle this year is to me stepping to a new era – to the period after the major European project. I had prepared myself mentally for a quick transition to follow-up activities but it appears that this transition is slower and the follow-up needs to be shaped carefully. Luckily enough I have now got an unlimited contract with the University of Bremen that makes my life easier and my participation in research activities more flexible.

Yet, it is not only the closure of the Learning Layers that gives me reason to speak of a new era. In the middle of last year I was hit heavily by health issues and the second half of 2016 was no longer like the first one. In June-July I was on holiday in Finland and had to go to a medical doctor because of problems in my lungs. Then I had a series of medical examinations and at the end I got the diagnosis: Prostate cancer with metastasis in lungs. I returned quickly back to Germany (where I am insured) and got the treatment started – firstly with medication and from November on with chemotherapy. So, I had to skip the conferences that took place in the autumn season and to limit my field visits and participation in project meetings to minimum. Yet, I was able give full contribution to the writing of the final reports of the Learning Layers.

Now that I am writing this down I can pass the message that my condition has greatly improved and I have all the reason to be optimistic – although I need keep my optimism in limits. The chemotherapy will be continued to the middle of February and then there will be control examinations and a new situation assessment. So, in the light of the above I am preparing proposals for some conferences in the coming year. Of course these have to pass through the review process, no question. But even more I have to add a personal question mark – “ready to participate provided that my health allows it”. And with possible changes in my health I have to be cautious and humble – to live with my disease day by day.

So, I am looking forward to keep myself in the picture and to face new challenges in the new year. The next milestone is the final review of the Learning Layers (I will get back to it) and then I will start shaping my post-LL activities. There we have a legacy of project work with using Learning Toolbox to support workplace learning – in particular in vocational education and training for construction sector. But before I get to these topics I would like to make somewhat different personal remarks on ‘change of era’ and ‘remarkable moments’ in other contexts. Then I will get back to topics on ‘working and learning’.

More blogs to come …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Six: The expedition with the Learning Layers (2012-2016)

December 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In the third post I discussed the Europrof project, the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up. In the fourth post I discussed the  TTplus project and the European Consultation seminars in the years 2007 – 2010. In the fifth blog I discussed the  Work & Learning Partners (2005-2006) and the Euronet-PBL (2009-2010). In this sixth and final post I will discuss the expedition with the Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016).

Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that this ‘journey’ has taken me and my ITB colleagues through different periods of European cooperation. Not all of our efforts have been that successful. Yet, we have achieved respectable results and we have learned a lot. It is also important to emphasise that there is a strong continuity with underlying theoretical concepts and guiding principles for R&D activities (participation, dialogue and social shaping – all in one word: Gestaltung). With this interim conclusion I try to give a nutshell picture of the latest leg of the journey – our expedition with the EU-funded Learning Layers project (on which I have been blogging the last four years).

The starting points of the Learning Layers project

Thae Learning Layers (LL) project was funded by the 7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and Development of the European Uninon (EU FP7). The aim was to support informal learning in the context of work and organisations by using digital tools, web resources and mobile devices. Special emphasis was given on addressing SMEs (and their networks) as users and to scale up innovations during the project. As a contrast to the previous projects discussed in this series of blogs, our (= ITB) starting position was completely different:

  • Firstly, the previous projects had mainly been initiated and/or led by ITB and carried out with a partnership that we new of the vocational education and training (VET) research community.  In the Learning Layers project we joined in a consortium that was led by research institutions from the fields of educational technology, software solutions, knowledge management and infrastructure architectures. Pontydysgu had made the contact between us and the emerging project consortium.
  • Secondly, the project plan had initially envisaged only one field for piloting (the healthcare sector in England, represented by General Practice stations affiliated with the National Health Service, supported in the project by Leeds University). In the final phase of the preparations the construction sector from Germany (supported by ITB) was included into the project plan as the second field for piloting.
  • Thirdly. the project concept was relying on a good synchronisation of different contributions from the technical partners in a co-design process, so that the users could easily take up the tools (with the support of an integrated scaffolding model). In this concept there was no clear pre-defined role for us (other than coodination fo the sectoral activities with the application partners in the German construction sector.

The above mentioned plan and project concept were reflected in the set of work packages in which we found our role primarily in the WP7 (deployment and promotion of LL tools in the pilot sectors). However, during the project the ‘cards were mixed and redistributed’ in the processes of co-design, tool development and bringing them to users.

The starting points of the construction pilot

Looking back, the starting point for the construction pilot was somewhat similar as the earlier educational pilot projects (Modellversuche) and the innovation programme on Work and Technology (Arbeit und Technik). Obviously, we could consider that our role was similar to the accompanying research (Begleitforschung). Yet, we had to start with a relatively open research agenda visà-vis the predecessor projects. And, compared to our colleagues in the healthcare sector (Leeds University) we both had an intermediate position between the technical partners and the application partners. Ye, in the course of the project, the pilot activities and our roles developed into somewhat different directions. I will try to summarise the points below:

  • As a contrast to the Modellversuche or the AuT programme, the accompanying research team of ITB could not take a pedagogic pilot concept and related working hypotheses (Versuchshypothesen) or explicit programme goals (AuT-Gestaltungsziele) as points of reference.
  • Concerning the project concept, the accompanying research team had to take an intermediate and interpretative role regarding the achievement of project goals in the context of apprentice training and within organisational learning in construction sector.
  • Concerning the co-design processes, the healthcare pilot worked with three parallel design ideas (and emerging tools) towards a integrative approaches. This process was supported by separate tool development teams of technical partners. In the construction pilot the overarching design idea went through two iterations before the co-design work took the course towards an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox. This development process was prepared jointly by the application partners, research partners and intermediate partners, whilst the technical partners joined in later.

In this respect the accompanying research team in the construction pilot had to reconsider its tasks and contributions and to take new roles in the course of the project work.

The R&D dialogue in Bau-ABC – the iterative process

In the co-design process in Bau-ABC (intermediate training centre of of North-German construction industry) was to digitise the Bau-ABC White Folder (collection of training materials, worksheets and reporting documents) and the related training and learning processes. In the initial phase the ITB team engaged heavily Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices by work process analyses and storyboard workshops to identify potential points of intervention (for using digital tools). In the subsequent co-design workshops a lot of attention was paid on haping the tools in such a way that they support vocational learning – and reflective learning. However, in two iteration cycles the joint conclusions was reached to give up the over-ambitious digitisation agenda. Instead, the course was taken to develop a flexible and integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox – to provide access to web resources, to create own resources and to share knowledge and communicate in real time.

Immediately after this shift into new phase the ITB team together with the LTB developers and colleagues from Bau-ABC started outreach activities that engaged more construction sector professionals and apprentices in discussions on the emerging toolset – on the elementary functions and what could be added upon. These talks were carried out in the Brunnenbauertage trade fair (in Bau-ABC), in the Demo Camp workshop event (also in Bau-ABC) and in the NordBau trade fair (in Neumünster). Also, a closer cooperation with the first interested construction companies was started at this phase.

The training schemes as capacity building and contribution to tool development

Already before the abve mentioned shift in the co-design process the partners in the construction pilot had agreed to start a multimedia training scheme for the trainers in Bau-ABC. The first scheme was developed step by step to equip the participants with basic multimedia competences and capability to assess possibilities for using existing apps or tools and for co-creating and co-developing new ones. In this context the Bau-ABC trainers started working with their domain-specific blogs (Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog) and to develop them into repositories of their own training materials and supporting content. After the first multimedia training the Bau-ABC trainers (who had participated) produced series of videos pointing to specific contexts for using the toolset to optimise work processes and to support workplace-based learning.

In the next phase a more overarching training programme, based on the “Theme Room” concept (initiated by Bau-ABC trainers) was implemented as a ‘whole organisation’ campaign involving all  training staff of Bau-ABC. The training scheme consisted of four Friday afternoon workshops in November 2015 with focus on two main themes – ‘Use of Social Media’ and ‘Production/Use of Digital Learning Materials’ – with two workshops for each theme. The training staff in Bau-ABC (Rostrup) was divided into four parallel groups (and a fifth group in the branch centre Mellendorf). Each group was tutored by one Bau-ABC trainer and a researcher from ITB team. Altogether this campaign gave a strong push for using digital tools, and web resources in the apprentice training. Moreover, it paved the way for improvements in the infrastructure to enable the piloting with the Learning Toolbox – within the apprentice training of Bau-ABC.

The breakthrough with Learning Toolbox and the completion of the project work

In February-March the Learning Layers project project started the active use of Learning Toolbox in the apprentice training for selected pioneering trades. After the Kick-off event in March the trainers started to spread the piloting via peer tutoring and via joint projects involving several trades. This process was supported by accompanying researchers from ITB, the Learning Toolbox developers and visiting researches from Innsbruck, Espoo and Tallinn. With the jointly implemented evaluation studies in May, August and September we could conclude that the trainers in different trades had found somewhat different ways to use Learning Toolbox – and that the apprentices in their respective trades responded positively to their approaches.

Parallel to the these final activities the Learning Layers partners have prepared their contributions to the final deliverable – a comperehensive reporting website, currently called as ‘the Layers Web’. The main contributions of the construction pilot include the following:

  • Impact Cards: C-01 on specific pilot with AchSo video annotation tool in Bau-ABC; C-05 on pilot activities in Verden; C-11 on the use of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC, C-12 on Training schemes in Bau-ABC.
  • Learning Scenarios: S-02 on use of Learning Toolbox at a construction site (Verden); S-09 on Learning Toolbox as support for Handlungsorientiertes Lernen in Bau-ABC; S-10 on changing and sustaining practices in the pilot sectors.
  • Methodology documents: M-10 on accompanying research and participative design; M-11 on Training interventions as capacity-building.

These final documents and many other working documents have been made available as draft versions on the following ResearchGate project spaces:

The follow-up prospects

The signals from pilots in Bau-ABC have been positive and they have been picked up. Following the example, the application partner organisations in Verden have made their steps in using Learning Toolbox in construction work and in promoting the tool to other actors in construction sector. Based on these pioneering cases, the ITB team has recently organised bilateral talks with interested companies. Some spin-off projects have already been started with other construction sector partners before the Learning Toolbox was fully available (to be integrated to their working concepts). At the moment the ITB team is involved in talks to prepare proposals with new knowledge on the usability of Learning Toolbox in the projects.

I think this is enough of the Learning Layers project – of our experiences, achievements and follow-up prospects. To me it is important to not that this has been an exceptional project with richly documented activities and sustainable results to take further by follow-up activities. And for this reason it is important to continue the ‘harvesting’ of results while preparing further follow-up initiatives. It has been and it it is worthwhile.

More blogs to come …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part One: The magic years 1989-1990

December 8th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week (on Friday) our institute will have a special event “Klausurtag” to reflect on the development of our patterns of work. This event is supported by a particular pilot activity inspired by the Learning Layers (LL) project. Our LL team has created together with the developers of the Learning Toolbox a specific stack “Klausurtag” to share information and to work with specific issues raised in the last year’s event or to take further issues that are discussed this year. As I cannot participate due to health issues, I have chosen a special program for me. Last year it became apparent that our young colleagues are interested to know more about the history of our institute – and not only of the facts that are written down in history documents but more about the lived practice in research – in projects, networks and communities. As an oldtimer with a special relation with our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (shortly ITB) – I have decided to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”.  In this first post I try to cover my first encounters during the years 1989 and 1990 – which in many respect were ‘magic years’ for Germany and for me.

My study visit in October-November 1989: Five weeks travelling around Germany

My contacts with ITB started in 1989 when I had got grants from the DAAD and my university to carry out a five weeks’ study visit program involving German research institutes in the fields on vocational education and training (VET), industrial sociology and industrial relations. This study visit was part of my effort to prepare the grounds for similar approaches in the newly created Work Research Centre of the University of Tampere. In this respect I tried to collect impressions from several neighbouring research approaches and inform myself of similarities, differences and synergies. During this trip ITB in Bremen was my first station and remained as my major cooperation partner. Yet, I found that at that time there were several evaluative measures going on in which many of my counterparts were involved. From that point of view the visit was well timed. However, the most impressive experience during the trip was the possibility to follow from close distance the erosion of the DDR-regime – which culminated in the opening of Berlin wall three days after I had returned to Finland.

Talks in ITB and on ITB projects: Berufspädagogen, Berufsbilder 2000, CAPIRN, Landesprogramm AuT

In ITB my two-day visit was hosted by Gerald Heidegger. With him we discussed firstly the general picture of the relatively new institute – its commitment to vocational teacher education and to interdisciplinary research in VET and the importance of the guiding principle ‘Gestaltung’ (social shaping of work, technology, work organisations and vocational learning). On the more specific talks on different projects of that time I can recall the following impressions:

  • Pilot project “Qualifizierung der Berufspädagogen für alle Lernorte” (discussions with Peter Gerds and Helmuth Passe-Tietjen): This project was a smaller local pilot the sought find flexible solutions that enable career shifts between teacher/trainer/training manager positions. I do not remember the details of the approach and of the boundary conditions under which it worked. Nevertheless, the programmatic to address all learning venues with an integrative approach made an impression.
  • Scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” (discussions with Gerald Heidegger): This project explored the prospects for skilled workers (Facharbeiter) in the context of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) – an early predecessor debate of the current one on ‘Industry 4.0’. The project explored several branch-specific technologies and drafted different policy scenarios for the use of semi-skilled vs. skilled workforce. Here the specific point was to highlight the policy choices and the ole of social shaping (at the organisational level and as the contribution of skilled workers).
  • Industry culture project CAPIRN (discussions with Klaus Ruth): This project and the subsequent network initiative focused on different policy choices in designing CNC-tools – whether they are designed for lowly skilled workforce (little prospects for social shaping and users’ own programming) vs, skilled workforce (more options for social shaping and users own input). The first comparative studies had already ben carried out and the network was expanding to new countries.
  • Landesprogramm Arbeit  und Technik (discussions with Ludger Deitmer): As I had interpreted it, Germany was in a transition from one generation of socio-technic innovation prohrams (with focus on ‘Humanisation of Work’ (Humanisierung der Arbeit – HdA) to a new focus on social shaping of ‘Work and Technology’ (Arbeit und Technik – AuT). In this transition Bremen was playing a pioneering role and had appointed an expert commission to outline a regional innovation program. Ludger, who had been supporting the expert commission gave a report on the shaping of the forthcoming program and the way it is expected to implemented.

Discussions on cross-cutting themes and on overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies

Already in the themes discussed in ITB I could see a set of cross-cutting themes coming up whilst some other themes came up in further institutes. Likewise, in several institutes I was informed of overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies to which my counterparts were contributing. Without going into details (and recapitulating particular talks) I try to give a group picture of such talks and different positions or contributions:

  • Kollegschule NRW (KS), Doppelqualifizierende Bildungsgänge Hessen (talks with Kalrheinz Fingerle, Gerald Heidegger, Arnulf Bojanowski, Antonius Lipsmeier): At that time Finland was discussing reforms in educational structures. The integrated framework fo upper secondary education – as piloted in the Kollegschule in Nordrhein-Westphalen wasone of the interesting models. I got a lot of materials and reflections why such reform concepts fell between mainstream institutions and how the curriculum innovations with ‘integrated’ qualifications tended to lack the ‘grounding’ in occupational work. Therefore, Gerald emphasised the importance of such pilots that are based on apprentice training (instead of other vocational paths).
  • Bundestag Enquete-Kommission “Zukunft der Arbeit”: (talks with Gerald Heidegger, Burkart Lutz): The above mentioned scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” was one of the projects invited to the expert commission of the German parliament to explore the future of skilled work in Germany. It appeared that the industrial sociologists saw the risk of polarisation as the likely option, whilst VET researchers emphasised the role of social shaping of work, technology and work organisations.
  • DFG-Denkschrift “Berufsbildungsforschung” (talks with Burkart Lutz, Laszlo Alex, Wolfgang Lempert): The German Research Council had set up an expert commission to examine the status and resources of research in VET – in the universities and in non-university institutes. The general picture was that the more policy-related research was concentrated in bigger public R&D institutions (BIBB, IAB) and in university affiliated institutes (MPI Berlin, SOFI, ISF) whilst the research in pedgaogics of VET (Breufspädagogik) was fragmented. Here, the former mentioned instititutes were recommending cooperation to create centres of excellence based on inter-university cooperation, whilst the university representatives wer expecting ‘natural growth’ of some top institutes.
  • Modellversuchsforschung (talks with Heiz Holz, Dieter Weissker, Peter Dehnbostel, Brigitte Wolff, Gerhard Zimmer): In BIBB I had discussions on the current stand of pilot projects (Modellversuche) and related accompanying research (Begleitforschung). The coordination unit was supporting thematic clusters (Modellversuchsreihen) of pilot projects in order to promote synergy and learning from each other.
  • HdA- & AuT-Begleitforschung (talks with Gerhard Bosch, Rainer Lichte, Else Fricke, Eva Kuda, Norbert Altmann, Ingrid Drexel, Christoph Köhler, Frieder Naschold): In the institutes that were affiliated to trade unions and/or specialised in industrial reations and labour process research I had several talks on the experiences of the eatrlier HdA-program and the related accompanying research (with which the researchers had note always been in good terms with the social partners). Now I couls see that in the successful cases the researchers were moving from observational into co-shaping approaches (e.g. regarding the introduction of apprentice training models alongside automation). In this way resewarch teams were supporting workers’ participation and social shaping of work processes.

I guess this is enough of  my impressions on the discussions. At the same time when I was approaching Berlin, my last station, the old regime of DDR came to dead end and had to give up. After a rupture period the political process took the course to unification.

Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1st to 3rd of October 1990 in Magdeburg

Almost one year after I had another opportunity to visit Germany by participating in the conference “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung” 1990 in Magdeburg. This conference was initiated by the founders of ITB in the 1980s (before the ITB was founded) and it served as a joint forum of researchers in VET and active practitioners with interest in research. In addition to plenary sessions the conference had several regular domain-specific sessions (Fachtagung) and another set of thematic workshops (which may vary from one year to another). The conference of the 1990 was originally given for Stuttgart but it was relocated to Magdeburg – as a sign to build good neighbourhood relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR) which was in transition. However, shortly after this decision had been made, it appeared that the two German states will be unified during the conference dates. Thus, the conference was started in Magdeburg, DDR and finished in Magdeburg, BRD. And the announced main theme ‘Key qualifications’ was overshadowed by questions, challenges and anxieties regarding the rapid unification.

The big picture of unification – and the instant implementation of the legislation of BRD in the ‘new Federal states’ dominated the plenary sessions. They were expected to make a rapid transition from the school-based and company-affiliated vocational education system into the dual system of apprenticeship. This was a major organisational, administrative and educational challenge. At the some of the educational solutions of DDR that were valued by West-German educationalists, were given up. These issues were discussed openly and the participants from West tried to to show very cleatrly their solidarity to their Eastern colleagues who were implementing changes with very tight schedules.

From the specific sessions I remember that I followed firstly the discussions in the Fachtagung “Metalltechnik” chaired by Prof. Hoppe from ITB. Then I moved to Fachtagung “Wirtschaft und Verwaltung” in which I followed the presentations of Dr. Benteler on the Modellversuch at Klöckner Stahl (rotating clerk-apprentices through different production units of the steelworks to give them an organisational overview) and of Dr.Rischmüller on Modellversuch WoKI on the training of clerk-apprentices at VW in Wolfsburg.

The highlight for me was the possibility join in the International workshop initiated by Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and to give a presentation on Scandinavian reforms in VET. In the relatively heterogeneous program of the workshop (with rather conversational presentations) my comparative view attracted attention and I got an invitation to the Soviet-European exchange seminar in Moscow (organised by the Soviet Academy of Educational Sciences and Cedefop).

– – –

I think this is enough of these ‘magic years’. I think I have made it clear, why I use this expression – both regarding the political processes and my individual experiences. I had started the journey to familiarise meself with the German VET and working life research. Very soon I was received as a contributor from Scandinavia to enter the European arenas of exchanges and cooperation in VET research. In the next phase on this career path I continued my cooperation with ITB.

More blogs to come …

The Challenges for Construction Sector Training in the UK

October 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

emgineerAccording to the Daily Telegraph, a new UK Government report into the skills crisis in the construction sector has recommended a new levy on house builders in a last ditch attempt to reform the industry.

The Telegraph reports Mark Farmer, who wrote the review, as warning that “within 10 years the industry would lose 20-25pc of its workforce. He said that Government apprenticeship policies had not done enough, and that it needed to “modernise or die.”

Research undertaken through the EU Learning layers project has identified the challenges to the sector from both the introduction of digital technologies and ecological issues. Digital technology is impacting on the construction industry in different ways. It is enabling the development of new materials, or new ways of producing materials, for instance through 3D printing. Secondly, it is enabling new construction techniques and processes. Building Information Modelling, being phased in as a compulsory requirement for publicly funded project throughout the European Union, represents a major change in the way construction projects are planned and carried out.

The sector also faces pressures with digital technologies from their wider deployment within society and from their potentials to solve or ameliorate societal challenges, for instance climate change.

The European Commission sees the main challenges facing construction as being:

  • Stimulating demand: Efficiency improvements in existing buildings and renovations have the highest potential to stimulate demand.
  • Training: Improving specialised training and making the sector more attractive, in particular for blue-collar workers, technical colleges and universities.
  • Innovation: More active uptake of new technologies.
  • Energy efficiency and climate change: Buildings account for the largest share of total EU final energy consumption (40%) and produce about 35% of all greenhouse emissions.

It is interesting that they highlight the need for more active uptake of new technologies. This may be a particular problem given the structure of the industry and the predominance of SMEs with a need for wider access to information and knowledge about new technologies and the skills and competences to use technologies in practice. Discussions with the Bau ABC training centre and construction companies in north west Germany, have raised the issue of training centres playing a more central role in technology innovation, especially with apprentices trained in the centres in using new technologies.

The issue of the attractiveness of the sector to new entrants has also commonly been raised. In Germany it is proving difficult to recruit sufficient apprentices and one project is even running a programme for apprentices from Spain. The use of new mobile technologies for learning is seen as a measure which could promote a more modern image for construction industry.

Technologies are also being deployed to support energy efficiency and ameliorate climate change. These include the installation of digital monitoring and control systems for buildings, geothermal bores as an energy source for new buildings and retrofitting of older buildings for energy efficiency. Although the present ‘hype’ around the Internet of Things (IoT) probably outweighs the reality, it may have a major impact on the construction industry in the near future.

Demands of digital technologies for cabling has led to the introduction of new computer based horizontal boring machines to avoid having to dig up roads to install new cables.

Drones are increasingly being used for surveying and monitoring progress in large construction projects. Although at an early stage in deployment there is widespread interest in the potential of augmented reality applications in construction, for instance to allow the visualisation of hidden infrastructures such as cabling in construction sites.

Building Information Modelling has been the subject of much discussion during the Learning Layers project. European legislation has permitted the adoption of different timetables for implementation in different European Member States. In some countries such as UK and Norway, implementation is at an advanced stage. In others such as Spain and Germany it is less far forward. There is some discussion about what organisations will be responsible for managing and implementing BIM processes as well as the technical approaches to BIM. Will BIM be the responsibility of larger civil engineering enterprises or will employees of small (Craft) companies be required to have a greater or lesser knowledge of BIM? This obviously has major implications for training and skills.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the UK’s commercial sector faces a bill of over £9bn to upgrade properties to meet the minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES), and residential buildings will cost a total of £20bn to meet the necessary level.

Yet with looming skills shortages and the upgrade in skills and knowledge required to cope with new technologies and energy efficient buildings, it seems hard to see how the UK construction industry can adapt to the new demands. Present government proposals are for a short term levy and a reliance on the market system to overcome skills shortages. But as Norman Crowther, national official for post-16 education at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers writing in the Times Educational Supplement (TES), points out  a market is not a system per se. “Introducing market mechanisms to get the output you want is not a VET system. All the “market” systems have the same sort of problems around VET (think the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada). Of course, that’s not a problem as long as you don’t want coherent skill formation and skill utilisation. But in a time of economic uncertainty and poor productivity, a system is exactly what we need.

The German coordinated market economy goes so far as to legislate on vocational education and training, and apprenticeships have labour-market worth. In France, the state coordinates agreement via ministerial committees. The Nordic model has positioned VET as a part of the school curriculum and produced publicly intelligible VET qualifications that resonate with the public.”

The failings of vocational education and training in the UK are hardly new, neither are skills shortages. Yet without developing a proper system based on high quality training both in vocational schools and in the workplace it is only likely these problems will worsen

Unconferencing at AMEE

September 12th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

image001

I am way behind writing things up at the moment – too much going on.

Anyway two weeks ago I was with the Learning Layers team at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Barcelona. We organised a Barcamp session, had a stand, Tamsin and Sebastion presented a paper and a couple of colleagues presented posters.

Obviously with the stand I didn’t get a chance to go to many sessions but did get to talk at some length to quite a few delegates. The conference was big, with over 3200 individuals attending. What impressed me was that the conference seemed to be made up predominantly of practising educators- and at least from looking at some of the over 600 posters to be extremely practice focused. Regard9ing educational technology, there was a perhaps to be expected interest in the potential of Augmented Reality and simulations. But generally delegates (or at least those I talked too) seemed to regard educational technology as a given.

Once more, this may have been a self selected sample of those interested in Learning Layers technologies designed more to support informal learning than traditional classroom teaching, but there seemed to be a growing frustration with the limitations of Learning Management Systems.

The double unconferencing session we ran – promoted as a Barcamp was very well received. After a short introduction into the idea of a Barcamp, participants themselves decided on the topics to be discussed at a series of four round table sessions. Some of the action was captured on a Google doc which can be viewed here.

And there have a number of participants writing about their own experiences of the BarCamp in blogs about the conference (more about the Joycards in a future blog entry).

Natalie Lafferty’s Highlights from AMEE – mention the BarCamp, Learning Layers, Learning Toolbox and the informal learning JoyCard. She shared these reflections on twitter as well.

The Learning Layers BarCamp and the informal learning JoyCard are two of Barbara Jenning’s Top 10 Highlights of AMEE in her storify which was also shared on twitter.

Given the positive feedback – and the obvious knowledge sharing and learning which took place, it makes me wonder why more conference have not adopted BarCamps or similar unconferencing sessions. It seems AMEE is open to different formats and we hope to repeat the experiment again next year. But all too often conferences are sticking to the tried and tested, despite the frequently repeated observation that more is learned in informal chats at breaks and in the evening than n formal paper presentations.

150 blogs on Learning Layers project – 200 altogether on Pontydysgu site

August 4th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

I have come back from my summer break – but not back to work and normal business. During my holidays I had to run through a series of medical tests/investigations and now I am on sick leave for some time. I do not want to go into details – some investigations are yet to come – but I know enough that I have to take a break from my normal work. This gives me a reason to spell out some thoughts on my blogging on this site. It so happens that I have reached the milestone of 150 blogs on our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and altogether the milestone of 200 blogs on Pontydysgu site.

In general, such numbers are not great achievements – veteran bloggers count their posts in thousands, not hundreds. And indeed, during my first years as a blogger I was not so successful in finding my approach and ways to work forward. With my first blog “I-Europe” I tried to stimulate a debate on European initiatives to promote vocational education and training (VET). Unfortunately, these entries were not so well grounded and attracted little attention. With my second attempt – with  my new blog “Working & Learning” – I tried get closer to the work of European projects and educational debates. Yet – for some time this remained at the level of irregular scraping. Some of the projects of that time were perhaps not that inspiring or they required blogging (or similar writings) on other platforms. Therefore, I had made some experiences but had not really found my own way of blogging.

This all changed with the start of the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in 2012. The project has required us (ITB – research institute with focus on VET and learning in the context of work) to face new challenges. It has not been merely a matter of introducing new learning technologies and new learning concepts to the field (and study the impact). The project has been far more innovative in terms of exploring different options, involving users in co-design & co-development and in engaging us as VET researchers in different roles as co-developers, co-tutors and co-testers of new tools. From this perspective I have had the challenges and the opportunities to produce a more or less regular flow of blogs on new project activities, observations on parallel developments, links to inspiring research or to policies that have an impact on our work. And, moreover, the flow of blogs has not merely been recording of events, debates and happenings – they provide insights into our learning processes as research partners, developers and application partners. In particular they provide insights into our transformation from explorers to change agents and interpreters of the changes.

Having said all this I feel sad that I cannot continue with the intensive observation and documentation of field activities in the same way as I have done so far. From now on I have to take the role of listener and thinker. Perhaps that is also a positive turn in its way – after all, the rich project experience needs to be digested and interpreted in conceptual terms. And surely, our experiences as accompanying researchers differ from the traditional patterns of doing such research. But, as I said in the beginning, I have to take some time out of regular project work to get myself fit. Nevertheless, I will be around.

More blogs to come …

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    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

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    TES says “The robot-based project will be led by medical AP provider Hospital and Outreach Education, backed by £544,143 of government money.

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    The robot, called AV1, acts as an avatar for children with long-term illnesses so they can take part in class and communicate with friends.

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    Adult Education in Wales

    Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

    They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

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