Archive for the ‘Learning Layers’ Category

Learning Layers in Leeds – Part Two: Giving a picture on construction pilot and Learning Toolbox

September 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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.

– – –

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.

More blogs to come …


Learning Layers in Leeds – Part One: Paving the way for the final run

September 27th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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 Leeds University, NHS and our software partner PinBellCom (latterly merged to EMIS group). This consortium meeting differed from many earlier ones because most of the work of the project has already been done. Also, quite a lot of strategic decisions concerning the final reporting had already been done. Therefore, we could concentrate on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating some preparatory processes for the final reporting. Yet, this meeting also had its salt and spices as well. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In the second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in some of the sessions.

Overview on the main sessions

After a quick situation assessment on the current phase of the project we started working in groups and in interim plenaries to be followed by group work:

  1. With the sessions on evaluation studies we had parallel groups working with the evaluation studies that had been adjusted to the progress in construction pilot and healthcare pilot. Concerning the construction pilot, our colleagues from the UIBK presented quantitative data and summarised the qualitative findings that have been discussed earlier on this blog. We had some discussions, whether we can enrich that material with some last minute interviews but that remains to be decided at the local level.
  2. Regarding the integrated deliverable (result-oriented website) we had common discussions on the structure, on the current phase of the main sections and on the technical implementation. Then we had parallel groups on the impact cards, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on the ‘research, development and evaluation approaches’. In the group work we focused on the situation in the sectoral pilots and on the complementary relations between impact cards (demonstrating particular impact), the scenarios or instances (in interpreting the findings in a conceptual and future-oriented way) and the research approaches (in presenting the contribution of the main research approaches represented in the project work).
  3. In a joint demonstration session Tamsin Treasure-Jones informed us, how the Learning Toolbox had been used in an adapted participative “Barcamp” session that was implemented in the AMEE (Association for Medical Education in Europe) conference in Barcelona. This example served as an inspiration and can be adapted for other research and development communities as well.
  4. In a practicing session we rotated between different topic tables to prepare ‘marketing pitches’ to convey the key messages of our tools/infrastructures/impact cases/research approaches. Each table was managed by moderator and the participants could take the role of presenter or listener. This helped us to get an overview and to concentrate on the core message of our presentations.
  5. In the Elevator pitches session we then presented the pitches (20 second pitch to qualify as presenter and a 3 minute pitch to convey the message). In this session Pablo served as real-time rapporteur and colleagues from Leeds had invited ‘critical friends’ to give feedback. This session helped us to shift us from project-internal reporting to speaking to new audiences.
  6. In the concluding session we discussed the organisation of the review meeting, the time plan for remaining activities and some final dissemination activities.

Altogether we made good progress in getting a common picture, what all we have achieved and how to present it. To be sure, we have several points to be settled in a number of working meetings during the coming weeks. But the main thing is that we set the course to achieving common results in the time that is available – and we are fully engaged to make it. In the next post I will take a closer look at the work with the construction pilot in the Leeds meeting.

More blogs to come …


Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Four: How to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning?

September 18th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three latest posts I have presented reflections on “Digital Divide 4.0” (regarding the concept, see the first post). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my second post I discussed, how this concept reflects the initial difficulties of our project work in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC.

In this post I shift the emphasis to another part of the German vocational education and training (VET) system – to vocational schools. This is partly triggered by a recent working meeting with a vocational school teacher, who wondered, why their school was not included into our project.  Indeed, for us in ITB and in the training centre Bau-ABC it is a key issue, how to bridge gaps between formal and informal learning when developing workplace-based learning. In my short answer I referred to the funding priorities that emphasised strongly the promotion of informal learning (and SMEs as target groups). In order to understand this it is useful to look back at the development of earlier policies to promote e-Learning or Technology-Enhanced Learning (on the one hand) and initiatives to promote professional development of teachers and trainers in VET (on the other hand). Yet, we need to ask, why the conceptual gap between parallel earlier policies and initiatives has remained. Moreover, we should reflect, how our work in the LL project could help to bridge the gaps.

Background: Earlier e-Learning as ‘alternative’ for institutionalised education and training

Looking back at the educational initiatives in 1980s and 1990s there was a gradual movement in efforts to create new opportunities for open learning. This was reflected in the terminology – ‘remote learning’, ‘distance learning’, ‘open distance learning (ODL)’, ‘blended learning’ – all these referred to different steps and measures to open access to education and learning. Suddenly, at the end of 1990s and at the brink of the ‘New Millennium’ there was a great hype on ‘eLearning‘. In the newer initiatives there was a clear tendency to push the institutionalised education (and the adult education movement) aside. Some protagonists tried to bring forward private providers and new ‘career spaces’ via commercial eLearning programs as the innovation leaders. This was reflected in the separate European funding opportunities for e-Learning of that time. However, concerning the projects on the uses of e-Learning by work organisations, I remember that they concluded that the take on eLearning provisions was low. Instead, wider European surveys – like the the ones of the project “ICT and SMEs” – provided valuable information on the ways that SMEs actually used to support (organisational) learning.

Shift of emphasis: Teachers and trainers in VET as ‘key actors for lifelong learning’

Whilst the above mentioned developments emerged from fringe areas in education and training policies, the next wave – the follow-up of the EU Lisbon Summit 2000 – was part of an overarching development of EU policies. In the field of education and training this took shape firstly in the European Commission strategy document Education and Training 2010 and the aim was to promote a digital learning culture to support global competitiveness of European economy. In the first phase this follow-up was promoted by European working groups and supported by commissioned follow-up studies. In particular the follow-up study for the Maastricht meeting in 2004 drew attention that the engagement of teachers and trainers (notably in vocational education and training (VET) was lagging behind regarding the promotion of digital learning culture.

This gave rise for the European Commission to introduce new initiatives to stimulate trans-national cooperation and European exchanges with different formats: the Eurotrainer surveys, the TTplus framework project, the network ‘Trainers in Europe’, the policy-makers’ Peer Learning seminars and the Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars for different stakeholder groups. Altogether these measures increased the European knowledge basis on VET teacher education and training of trainers across Europe. However, these activities did not provide a basis for common qualification frameworks – instead they recommended the continuation of such participative dialogue forums with emphasis on learning lessons from recent innovations.

Another shift of emphasis: Focus on digital media and mobile technologies to support informal learning

In the meantime the development of web technologies and the spread of mobile devices had given new impulses for technology-enhanced learning. This became manifest in the wider use of online learning platforms, e-portfolios and open educational resources (OER). Now, there was less talk of sidelining the educational establishments but promoting specific initiatives (the networks of open universities) or by joint services (for consortia of member universities). Parallel to this there was a need to explore, how new forms of online learning could be promoted in working life, in particular in such occupations that were characterised by SMEs (and not catered for by university-industry alliances). Partly, the newer policy priorities were looking for genuinely work- and organisation-based modes of (informal) learning, partly for ways to reduce training costs by promoting flexible learning alongside work.

The experience with Learning Layers: The role of trainers and facilitators as change agents

In my two previous posts I have discussed the issue ‘digital divide’ in its current forms (“Digital divide 4.0”) in general and in the light of our fieldwork in the Learning Layers project. Also, I have given insights, how we have made progress with our application partners in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC and in the network for ecological construction work (NNB). In both cases we have not relied on stand-alone tools or self-learning of practitioners (with the help of online tutorials). With the Learning Toolbox we have managed to develop – in a co-design process with the users – an integrative toolset that meets several basic needs and is easy to expand by the users themselves. Also, we have trained the pioneering users in joint learning sessions to work as peer tutors and mentors in their own communites and networks. However, the wider use has always been dependent on the interest of new users (and anticipation of practical benefits for them). Here, the success factor is to introduce Learning Toolbox as one instrument to promote knowledge sharing, coordination of tasks and real-time communication – and in this way work-related and organisational learning.

Follow-up: What role for teachers and trainers in promoting digital agenda in vocational education?

In the light of the above we (the partners working with the construction pilot of the LL project) have good reasons to consider, what role could teachers in vocational schools play in the follow-up phase. In the German dual system there is a constant challenge to improve cooperation between the fundamental learning venues: enterprise (workplace and the intermediate training centre) and school. In this respect the Learning Toolbox will offer new prospects. Also, the new importance of European mobility schemes (training of apprentices from Spain, Greece etc. in Germany) and the integration schemes for refugees provide new challenges for teachers and trainers in VET. Here, we believe that the introduction of Learning Toolbox could help different parties work together. I will get back to these issues soon.

More blogs to come …

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Three: Discussions on the use of Learning Toolbox at construction sites

September 17th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two latest posts I have presented reflections on “Digital Divide 4.0” (regarding the concept, see the first post ). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my previous post I discussed, how this concept reflects the initial difficulties of our project work in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC – and how our collaboration helped the trainers to become innovation leaders with LTB. In this post I shift the emphasis to our other application partners – the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – NNB) and craft trade companies in building and construction.

Revisiting the Learning Toolbox Workshop with craft trade companies (8.9.2016)

One week ago  ITB organised a workshop on Learning Toolbox in which Thomas Isselhard from NNB presented, how he has started using the Toolbox and representatives of craft trade companies from Bremen region discussed, what benefits the Toolbox could bring to them. In my earlier blog post I have already reported of this event on the basis of my first impressions. Now I have had the chance to revisit this experience when editing the video material from the event. In particular I have been inspired by the way Thomas Isselhard has explained, how he has overcome his own doubts about ‘yet another tool’ and how he has been able to introduce the Toolbox as a joint instrument for coordinating the work and sharing information in real time.

Using the Toolbox to manage a construction site in Verden – challenges and possibilities

Looking again at the video material on Thomas Isselhard’s presentation it strikes me, how many points he makes on the transition phase: “Why should I start using the Toolbox and what could it bring to me/us in charge of construction sites?”. He starts with the simple things to be coordinated with the help of the Toolbox – lists of contractors and partners as well as the distribution of tasks between different parties. He gives insights into difficulties in coping with changing plans and versions of plans in the traditional way – with paper documents and communication via phone calls and e-mails. In this way we get an insight into the advantages of real-time communication, coordinated version management and notification of changes – all enabled via Learning Toolbox. (See below the edited short video on Thomas Isselhard’s presentation – in German but with subtitles in English):

Getting used to working with the Toolbox – starting with simple steps that make sense

In the other video Thomas Isselhard discusses with Werner Müller (ITB) and Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE), how to get other actors interested in using the Toolbox. Thomas emphasised how they started in their own organisation – by simple content tiles and by replicating the standard processes and the filing systems that they were used to (even using the same colours for same contents). In the network for ecological construction work he addressed the young professionals in the partner organisations to get them working as the pioneers for introducing the Toolbox. When starting a cooperation with a contractor on a construction site Thomas links the introduction of the Toolbox to the instruction to the task (uploading with a QR-code) In this context he explains, how the Toolbox can be used to follow the updates of the plans and to give feedback on the progress with the contractor’s work. Whilst the use of Toolbox has been introduced as a service provided by the planners (architects, construction site managers), the real benefit lies in the interactive use of all parties involved. (See below the edited short video on the discussion – in German but with subtitles in English):

Concluding remarks

I guess this is enough of this part of the workshop and on the videos on Thomas’ presentation and the immediate discussion. Whilst the previous post looked at a lengthy co-design, preparation and deployment process (in Bau-ABC), these samples give insights into a quick transition into active use. Also, it is interesting to see, how Thomas is able to demonstrate the smooth entry to using Toolbox and the benefits it can offer in the day-to-day cooperation in construction work. (This was taken up in the further discussion in the workshop but I need to have a fresh look at the video recordings before continuing my reporting on that part.) In the meantime I will discuss the role of vocational school teachers as potential users and promoters of the Learning Toolbox.

More blogs to come … 


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

September 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interim assessments by Bau-ABC trainers during the project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding remarks

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

More blogs to come …

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part One: How to overcome such divides?

September 13th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With this post I will start a series of reflections on the concept “Digital Divide 4.0” (to be explained below). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  In particular these thoughts have been triggered by our workshops last week (see my previous posts) and our working visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC (to be covered in my next posts). All of a sudden I started thinking, what kind of ‘digital divide(s)’ we are encountering.  And in addition to this, I got struck by the question: In what ways can the Learning Toolbox help us to overcome such divides?

The different meanings of  ‘digital divide’

As I see it, debates on the topic ‘digital divide’ have come and gone in several waves. In the more recent debates the authored have characterised their point of view with expressions like ‘Digital divide 2.0’ or (in some cases) ‘Digital divide 3.0’. This, of course has been shadowing the authors view on the evolution of web technologies, uses of web and the perception of the gaps that cause the respective divide.

I am not an expert on this topic but my rough picture of this history is the following:

  • The initial discussion on the topic ‘digital divide’ (which we could now label as the phase of ‘Digital divide 1.0’) drew attention to lacking access to computer technology and computer literacy as main problem. Thus, strategies to overcome digital divide were directed to provide access (private and public) to devices and to promote computer literacy by different campaigns involving formal and informal learning opportunities.
  • The second phase of these debates – named by some authors as ‘Digital divide 2.0’ – has shifted the emphasis on computers and computer literacy to Internet, World-Wide Web and to social networks. The key problem is seen in the lacking or poor Internet connections and web-literacy. Thus, the strategies to overcome digital divide have emphasised the necessity to promote access to internet and to engage the users as participants (clients) of social networks and networked services.
  • The third phase – arising from the previous one and only rarely distinguished as ‘Digital divide 3.0’ shifts the emphasis to mobile devices, in particular to smartphones. In this perception the lack of Internet access via mobile devices (and/or the lacking capability to use them for real-time Internet searches and communication) is the main problem addressed by the concept. And, consequently, the main emphasis is given on informal coaching, tutoring, mentoring, scaffolding etc. to get the potential users over the hurdle and turn them into active users.

What are we missing from this picture and how – in this respect – could these divides be overcome?

Whilst the above presented picture seems valid, to us it is one-sided: the technologies (as such) appear as the driving force and the users only need to get access to the devices and to the respective ‘literacy’ to use them. In this way the ‘ordinary’ users need to be educated to be able to use the technologies in the way the designers have planned.

However, from starting from very the beginning of the LL project and up to present date we have experienced another type of problem constellation that we could characterise as ‘Digital divide 4.0’. Here we have a situation in which the potential users have access to appropriate devices and to average digital literacy but are confronted with a multitude of stand-alone apps, tools, platforms and services – the relevance of which remains a riddle to them. Thus, the users lack orientation and guidance that would help them to make informed choices for options that match their needs. This can be characterised as a Tantalos-situation – by analogy to the antique tale. (Tantalos was stuck into position next to fruit treas that were quasi at his reach but kept their branches out of his reach. Likewise, he was standing next to a river, but when he bowed down to drink, the water escaped his lips.) Therefore, this new divide is not characterised by lack of access to (and command of) particular technologies but lack of overview and strategic mastery of them in terms of user-competences.

What is so specific in the Learning Toolbox regarding ‘Digital divide 4.0’?

In the light of the above we are happy to announce that on several occasions we have been able to witness that the introduction of the Learning Toolbox has clearly contribute to processes that help to overcome such Tantalos-situations. At the moment our experiences are episodic and limited in numbers. Yet, we can start looking at the turning points and at the criteria for overcoming the kind of ‘Digital divide 4.0’ that has been typical of the situation before our pilot activities.

– – –

I guess this is enough as an introduction to the topic. In my next post I will have a look at our fieldwork and on our observations concerning the use of the Learning Toolbox to overcome the kind of digital divide I discussed above.

More blogs to come … 


Unconferencing at AMEE

September 12th, 2016 by Graham Attwell


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.

Bringing Learning Toolbox to users – Part Two: Workshop with craft trade companies in Bremen

September 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of reports on the newest events in the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its key product Learning Toolbox (LTB) developed in the construction sector pilot. The LTB has been shaped together with our application partners in the North-German construction industries and trad to support workplace learning and/or learning in the context of work processes. With the two workshops that we organised on Wednesday (7.9.) and Thursday (8.9.) we wanted to present the Toolbox and to bring it close to users. The previous post covered the workshop with researchers from our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB). This second post focuses on the workshop that we had with representatives of craft trade companies and construction sector professionals from Bremen region.

Introducing the Learning Layers project and the Learning Toolbox

In this workshop the moderator Werner Müller (ITB) and the representative of the developers of the Toolbox Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) focused on the efferts of the project to support learning and knowledge sharing in the context of work and organisations. In particular Gilbert demonstrated the use of the Toolbox with different examples on practice-based learning and on getting access to relevant information and deeper know-how in work situations. See Gilbert’s slides here LTB-WS_Handwerksbetriebe.

The case for using Learning Toolbox at a construction site presented by Thomas Isselhard

After the introductions our application partner Thomas Isselhard from the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – NNB) presented the case with which he had trained himself to become an active user of the Learning Toolbox. Thomas is an architect with expertise on renovating old buildings and work with ecologically sound  construction materials. He is now in charge of a special construction site in Verden. The old building that is under preservation order (Denkmalschutz) needs to be renovated thoroughly. However, due to the preservation order there are further requirements how the work needs to be done. And therefore, there are frequent changes in plans and instructions – and repeated needs for real-time communication between and advice for the teams that are working on the site. In the following video clip Thomas and Werner discuss this issue when visiting the construction site:

Concerning the introduction of the Toolbox in their working Thomas refers to their standard procedures, files and use of colours in paper-based archiving. It has been convenient for his fellow colleagues and collaborators to use the similar structure in creating digital tiles in the Toolbox (for specific phases and documents) and to equip them with the colours that have been used in paper-based archiving. Therefore, he has a general prototype stack (of such tiles) that he can copy for new cases with which he will use the Toolbox. In the following video clip Thomas expresses this in his own words:

Thomas gave us several examples from everyday life situations, how much miscommunication and unnecessary delays (due to waiting times) can be avoided if different parties involved were equipped with such a Toolbox and had the updated information (without confusion on versions) at the same time available.

Discussion on other prospects or working issues to be considered

In the discussion several issues were raised from the perspective of the companies. In the beginning some participants were concerned, whether construction workers are ready to use digital tools and insert information in writing. Thomas stated immediately that the Toolbox is very easy to use and that users can adjust it to their needs without heavy training. Others emphasised that there are several ‘paperwork’ duties that can be immensely facilitated with such an interactive tool. Furthermore, the Toolbox makes it easier to manage different communication channels and versions of documents that are being used. Also, the Toolbox makes it easier to distinguish between archives and working documents – and to make this distinction transparent to all parties. Yet, for regular use, the participants needed clarification on storage of data (cloud – central server – local server), on different levels of privacy and sharing, on access to public resources (official maps held by public authorities) and on the policies and pricing for subscriptions. These, as we see it, will be clarified by the end of the LL project, when the support of the Toolbox is continued by a new service provider.

– – –

I think this is enough of this workshop. We got a clear impression that the Toolbox is reaching the stage of maturity and that the craft trade companies are ready for further talks on actual use of it in their work. However, given the relatively short time of piloting, we all understand that there is a need for further support by research & development activities. From this perspective we in ITB are pleased to note that we have several follow-up projects that can provide such support. Therefore, we will keep working with such follow-up activities.

More blogs to come …


Bringing Learning Toolbox to users – Part One: Workshop with ITB researchers

September 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week we have taken further steps in the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its key product Learning Toolbox (LTB) developed in the construction sector pilot. The LTB has been shaped together with our application partners in the North-German construction industries and trad to support workplace learning and/or learning in the context of work processes. With the two workshops that we organised on Wednesday (7.9.) and Thursday (8.9.) we wanted to present the Toolbox and to bring it close to users. With researchers from our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – we wanted to discuss interfaces and future cooperation prospects. With representatives of craft trade companies in Bremen region we wanted to discuss specific needs and opportunities for using the Toolbox in their work – and to get feedback for further development. In this first post I focus on the workshop with ITB researchers.

Getting an up-to-date picture of Learning Toolbox and where it can be used

Many of the ITB colleagues had already participated in earlier events in which we had informed them of the LL project, on our work with the construction pilot and on the participative design processes that led to the development of the LTB. Therefor, Werner Müller (ITB) gave a very brief over view and then handed over to Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) who represented the developers of LTB. Gilbert gave an up-to-date presentation on the key features of LTB and on its usability in different working and learning contexts  – see Gilbert’s slides here: LTB-WS_Handwerksbetriebe

As a part of his presentation Gilbert also demonstrated live the mobile application, the editor (Tilestore) and the Online Guide. Finally, he gave a sneak preview to some new functions that are being tested and will appear in the next version.

Engaging ITB researchers as users of Learning Toolbox

Together with the LL team of ITB Gilbert had prepared a specific application – a stack – in the Learning Toolbox to support the preparation of an internal ITB event (“Klausurtagung“) later this year. With this stack (see the screenshots below) he showed, how the information on the forthcoming event can be delivered and the participants’ contributions can be obtained in an interactive way.

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 1

We became aware of the questionnaire that has been prepared and of the opportunity to contribute via using the LTB.

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 2

Discussion on the potential use of Learning Toolbox in further ITB projects

In the following discussion we mainly focused on possible use of the Toolbox in other (ongoing or forthcoming) ITB projects. We discussed issues on data protection, data privacy and confidentiality – who controls, who has access. We also discussed the potential to develop the Toolbox as a contributor to e-portfolios of apprentices and trainees. Several questions were raised on the role of social media (e.g. Facebook) and on good or bad examples how it is being used. In the light of our multimedia training activities with our application partners (in particular the training centre Bau-ABC) we could give insights how they are using Facebook to promote professionalism and commitment to their trades via specific FB-groups.

Altogether, many of these questions could be responded with reference to field visits and working events on which I have reported on this blog during the recent months. With some of the questions we could refer to issues that would come up with the discussions with craft trade companies in the workshop scheduled for the next day. And with some questions we took note for the developers of the Learning Toolbox. We still hav work to do in the ongoing project.

– – –

I think this is enough of the first workshop. In my next post I will report on the workshop with representatives of craft trade companies in the construction sector.

More blogs to come …


Workplace Learning Analytics workshop

September 7th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

It is not easy developing a community around Workplace Learning Analytics but there are some signs of emerging interest.

On 23 September 2016, in Leeds, there is an open workshop on Workplace Learning Analytics, sponsored by the Learning Layers project. The invitation to the workshop runs as follows.

Up to now, the Learning Analytics community has not paid much attention to workplace and professional scenarios, where, in contrast to formal education, learning is driven by demands of work tasks and intrinsic interest of the learner. Hence, learning processes at the workplace are typically informal and not related to a pedagogical scenario. But workplace and professional learners can benefit from their own and others’ learning outcomes as they will potentially increase learning awareness, knowledge sharing and scaling-up learning practices.

Some approaches to Learning Analytics at the workplace have been suggested. On the one hand, the topic of analytics in smart industries has extended its focus to some learning scenarios, such as how professionals adopt innovations or changes at the workplace; on the other hand, the Learning Analytics community is increasing its attention to informal scenarios, professional training courses and teaching analytics. For this reason, we consider that it a great moment to collect all this interest to build up a community related to workplace and professional Learning Analytics.

  • We invite you to take part in the workshop which will have two main activities:
    During the morning all the participants will shortly present their research work or the research questions they are working on. Thus, we can find common problems, synergies and potential collaborations in future projects.
  • During the afternoon we can work on smaller groups to discuss some community-building mechanisms: follow-up workshops (maybe at LAK’17), potential grant applications, creation of an on-line community, collaboration in current or future projects, collaboration with other researchers or research communities… etc.

To register, please send an email to: Tamsin Treasure-Jones (t [dot] treasure-jones [at] leeds [dot] ac [dot] uk)

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