Archive for the ‘learningtechnologies’ Category

Results & Conclusions of our Tallinn meeting – Part One: The preparation day

June 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In one of my previous posts (June 13th, 2015) I wrote about our preparation for the forthcoming Tallinn meeting of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now, with this series of blog posts, it is time to wrap up results and conclusions of our busy days in Tallinn. In this first post I will focus on our work during the preparation day (Tuesday 16th of June). In the next post I will focus on the sessions that focused on the construction sector pilot.

Due to favourable flight schedules the LL partners from North Germany (ITB and Bau-ABC) had decided to take flights to Tallinn already on Monday (15th of June) and to dedicate the whole Tuesday for a preparatory meeting. In the first partof the meeting we were working mainly with our ‘local issues’ with the ongoing construction sector pilot and on the exploitation issues (using German as common working language). Partly we were working together with our partners from Aalto University and Tallinn University. In these parts of the meeting  we explored the possibilities to enrich our pilot activities with complementary tools and apps (in particular AchSo! and Social Augmented Reality). Below, I try to give an overview on the two parts (and different ingredients) of our meeting and on the interim conclusions we reached at that stage.

 1. Discussions on our North German construction pilots

The most important input to this part of the meeting was Melanie Campbell’s report on their follow-up of the Training Day in Bau-ABC (see my earlier posts May 12th, 2015 and May 15th, 2015). After discussing our reports on the workshop sessions during the Training Day the Bau-ABC trainers firstly confirmed the results and conclusions. Thus, the picture we had got from the domain-specific training projects and on the use of digital media and Learning Toolbox seemed to them appropriate (see below the exemplary cases we prepared for the consortium meeting).

However, this discussion brought the Bau-ABC trainers to give some deeper thoughts on the needs for Multimedia Training that is needed, when the use of Learning Toolbox (with mobile technologies, digital media and web resources) will become everyday life practice in Bau-ABC. The trainers came to conclusion that they need to take more intensive measures to support Multimedia Training (and further capacity building) jointly. Here some of the main conclusions:

  • After the holiday break participation in Multimedia Training will be made mandatory for all Bau-ABC trainers and the trainers consider it as an essential part of their duties.
  • To enable flexible participation, the Multimedia Training will take place in (physical and virtual) ‘theme rooms/spaces’ (Themenräume). These rooms/spaces will be available for users for the time they require for individual familiarisation and mutual support. Once the users have ‘checked out’ from the rooms/spaces, they will populated by other themes (and the previous ones will be archived). In this way the Multimedia Training program is based on rotating between parallel/consecutive theme rooms/spaces.
  • The initial set of themes proposed by the Bau-ABC trainers are the following ones: Theme 1 – use of social media (facebook + word press/ buddy press platforms), Theme 2 – making use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) (stack-building, app-integration), Theme 3 – Creating learning material (video, pictures, drawings, quiz, comics …), Theme 4 – Data management (Data protection/ security, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Creative Commons. (This thematic block might require a constant room/ space throughout the Multimedia Training program.)

In addition to this initiative we discussed several practical issues on the implementation of such program with the support of internal facilitators and external support persons. We also discussed the requirements on infrastructure, software and supporting materials. (Here we took note of the existing material of TACCLE and TACCLE2 projects.)

In the light of this report we discussed, how to present some domain-specific training projects that can illustrate the use of  LTB by trainers and/or apprentices. Here we agreed on two exemplary cases: Building a parking place without barriers (for disabled people using wheelchairs) and Building a staircase (Brettschalung/Treppenbau). Here we noted, how the trainers differentiate between the preparation of multimedia contents for the training projects (in advance and as a specific task) and producing multimedia content as documentation of learning processes (during the implementation of the training projects). We also drew an illustrative picture of the estimated use of LTB by apprentices during an average training project (timeline with peak points in the beginning, by the end and after the completion of the project).

With these discussion we equipped ourselves for our contributions on the use of LTB in integrated learning arrangements (scheduled for Wednesday, 17th of June).

2. Discussions on enriching the Learning Toolbox (LTB) with complementary tools and apps

In the second part(s) of the meeting we discussed the contributions of different complementary tools and apps (hitherto developed separately) as enrichment of the LTB (in particular in the construction sector):

  • Adolfo Ruiz Tallinn University (TLU) presented firstly a design of ‘Locations’ by a group of Bachelor students of TLU. Their design was based on the placement of sensors (iBeacons) in different parts of a larger room. When people with smartphones moved around the room, the sensors recognised their devices and posed sets of questions to be answered. In this design the participants were expected to complete all sets of questions by moving around the room. In this way they participated in a competition. For the construction sector this relatively simple idea was attractive because it seemed to provide the techniques, how to support the preparation of working and learning assignments (or projects) in training workshops. Moreover, the fact that the sensors were communicating with a WordPress platform was even more interesting since Bau-ABC has started working with their domain-specific blogs using the platform BauBildung.net (powered by WordPress).
  • The colleagues from Aalto University (Jukka Purma, Marjo Virnes and Samuli Vainio) gave us inputs on the video annotation tool AchSo! and on the current pilots. We had already had several initial demonstrations of AchSo! working in simulated contexts and in review meetings, so we were keen to hear more on pilot testing in construction work, engineering studies and in healthcare studies. The colleagues informed us about clear achievements in documenting the learning processes and making the workplace learning process transparent for reflection after the event. Also, the possibility to annotate pictures and moving pictures with limited amount of text (or symbols) was welcomed. For the construction sector we raised the importance of using longer videos as raw material. Here, Mati Möttus (TLU) reported of his parallel tests of AchSo in the context of traffic surveillance (and with few ‘disturbing’ or ‘alerting’ incidents to be annotated and searched via tags or symbols. Also in this context we started a discussion on the prospects for developing AchSo both for Android and iOS operating systems.
  • The colleagues from Aalto University (mainly Jana Pejoska and Jukka Purma) gave inputs on the current phase of work with Social Augmented Reality (SAR). Since we had to skip the technical demonstration, we had very few impressions but we got a rough idea of the extended illustrations beyond the reach of traditional tools. (Later on Melanie Campbell and trainer Marc Schütte provided us a perfect case of the driver of excavator (or other construction vehicle) using augmented reality to get a better impression of the dimensions of the vehicle when transporting it.) With this discussion we agreed to explore the possibilities to pilot with SAR in Bau-ABC alongside LTB (and preferably with AchSo).

With these additional inputs we drew a picture of the current situation in developing LTB and our interpretation, how the complementary tools could be integrated (and who should be involved in the integration).

Altogether, we were happy that we had this opportunity for preparatory discussions with LL partners presenting complementary tools and finding common interests for further cooperation. With these interim results we were ready for discussing the bigger picture of integrated learning arrangements (in the construction pilots) and technical integration (of tools to be used in construction sector) in the actual consortium meeting. This will be discussed in the next post.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning from Finnish campaigns for sustainable development – Part 3: Sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

April 8th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I started with a topic that might seem remote to our EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). The first post focused on the Finnish sustainability commitments. In the second post I discussed the sustainability issue from the perspective of apprentice training making comparisons between Germany and in Finland (and setting the LL pilots in Germany and Finland into their contexts). In this third post I try to bring these two threads together by posing the question: What about making sustainability commitments for apprentice training?

Here again, I will make comparisons between the Finnish and German contexts – firstly at a more general level and then secondly from the perspective of scaling up the LL initiatives in the construction sector.

1. Sustainability commitments as a perspective for promoting apprentice training?

Firstly, it is appropriate to consider, whether the sustainability commitments – or to be precise: operative commitments to sustainability goals – can provide an appropriate framework for promoting future-oriented apprentice training.

In the case of Finland this perspective is clearly available. One of the central sustainability goals taken up by the operative commitments is “Sustainable work”. Concerning the role of apprentice training and construction work, this can be argued in a twofold sense:

1)  Apprentice training as it is currently promoted in the construction trades, serves the purpose of sustaining the sectoral craftsmanship and the traditional know-how of elder craftsmen in the context of demographic change.

2) Apprentice training can serve as a medium of promoting other sustainability goals (such as “A carbon-neutral society” or “An economy that is resource-wise”) in the context of construction work.

Moreover, the framework of these operative commitments provides clear instructions for setting the timeline, adjusting to the general criteria and on self-monitoring and reporting on progress.

In the case of Germany it is not easy to see, how a similar framework could emerge on a general policy level. In my previous blog I referred to the national agreements for promoting apprentice training (Ausbildungspakt), which do not provide a similar mechanism for operative commitments. However, the sectoral campaigns of the national association of construction industry (Bauindustrieverband) could possibly be developed into such direction (see the previous campaigns “Leitbild Bau” or “Deutschland baut”).

2. Sustainability commitments as means to promote LL initiatives?

In addition to the above presented thoughts it is necessary to consider, how such commitments could be linked to the promotion and scaling up of LL-related initiatives in the construction sector.

In the case of Finland the current pilots focus on the use of AchSo! as an instrument to document achievements in workplace learning – mainly for the vocational school that is in charge of assessing the apprentices and trainees. In this respect the use of LL tools is rather limited and does not (yet) cover the broader scope of using digital media and web resources to support working and learning process as well as real-time communication. From this point of view the introduction of the Learning Toolbox would open new possibilities to link LL tools to such operative commitments as have been referred to above.

In the case of Germany the current pilot phase focuses on multiple uses of Learning Toolbox in the working and learning environments of apprentices (firstly in the intermediate training centre and then subsequently in the companies). In this respect the situation is different from the Finnish pilots. Here, in the pilot context of the training centre Bau-ABC it is possible to develop sets of small-scale commitments and to introduce corresponding patterns of (self-)monitoring and (self-)evaluation. These initial steps can then provide a basis for wider roll-out phase.

I think this is as far as I can get with my thoughts, what we (the LL project) can learn from the Finnish approach to promote sustainable development via operative commitments. If my quickly written blogs have left gaps of information or if I should add more specific examples, I am happy to continue the discussion. Otherwise, we are heading to further tasks in our current pilots.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Preparing for the LL Design Conference – Part 1: Comparing Y1 and Y3

March 5th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

As i have indicated earlier, the Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing itself for the Design Conference of the Year 3. This time the venue is the main Campus of the Aalto University in Espoo, next to Helsinki. This gives a chance to compare our current situation in the project with the one two years ago, when we had the Year 1 Design Conference in the Arabia Campus of the Aalto University in Helsinki. Here some thoughts of the changes between the early days and the current phase of our project.

1. What has happened in the fieldwork?

When preparing ourselves for the Y1 Design Conference we were in a very initial stage with our fieldwork, Speaking for our part – the work with the Construction sector in North Germany – we had only manged to complete in a rapid tempo the first round of stakeholder interviews and draft initial User Stories in Bau-ABC, in the Agentur and in some craft trade companies. Based on this, we organised the Application Partner Day visits in Bau-ABC and in Agentur to see the huge training area of the training centre and to see the construction site of the merging exhibition building. Altogether, we could at best destill some design issues but we were not sure, to what directions the project could move.

Now, two years later, we see that we worked out the ways forward to participative design processes, to progressive tool development and to promising pilot concepts. In the construction sector this has required several iterations and modifications of the initial design ideas but we have kept the processes going on. In Bau-ABC we have had several series of co-design workshops, capacity building workshops and stakeholder engagement events that have brought us forward. With Agentur we have had somewhat different process dynamic but nevertheless the impulses we have got from different encounters and partcipative events have pushed our tool development further as well.

2. How have we found the way to design ideas?

Looking back, we did not necessarily anticipate in the Y1 Design Conference workshops that the four parallel round tables would produce The Design Ideas and The Design Teams for the next one year plus perhaps longer. At that point we just seemed to be working with some exemplary needs raised by our application partners and tried to look for design processes that could respond to them. The dynamic of the event nevertheless gave the results of these parallel group processes a higher status than we may have expected. Moreover, when we started giving catchy names for the Design Ideas and creating a collective identity for the teams to continue, we had shaped the project in a new way.

So, we came out of Y1 Design Conference regrouped into four parallel Design Teams with more or less sectoral focus and perspective to tool development for particular needs:

  • “Sharing Turbine” based on the idea of digitising the instruction and learning materials of Bau-ABC (“the White Folder“) into digital learning resource to be shared and used across learning venues (training centre, company and vocational school);
  • “Captus” based on the idea to support the “Learning exhibition” of the Agentur for ecological construction work with the help of tools that capture knowledge and support experience-based learning in informal contexts;
  • “Pandora” based on the idea to work with local and regional interpretation of healthcare sector guidelines and support reflection on training contents and mutual advice in problem cases;
  • “Bits and Pieces” based on the idea to support real-time documentation and archiving of episodes and instances of learning, sensemaking on these elements and rearranging the them for further reflection (based on the original example of medical doctors archiving paper notes into cardboard boxes for further reflection).

Now, coming back to the current situation, we have clearly come out of these rather particularistic groupings and moved towards more scalable sets of tools and implementation scenarios.

3. How have we proceeded with co-design, tool development and piloting?

Here it is possible to give only rough outlines of the dynamic, iterative and reorienting processes that had led to the current sets of tools, frameworks and services with which we are working. In a nutshell they can be characterised in the following ways:

  • The design process that was started as digitisation of instruction and learning materials (the White Folder) got transformed into shaping of a framework (“the Learning Toolbox”) to manage mobile apps and tools for working and learning processes. Parallel to this the Multimedia Training helped the trainers to create domain-specific blogs for delivering instruction materials and learning resources. These are hosted by the common platform “Baubildung.net”.
  • The design process that was started as specific support for the forthcoming exhibition turned into more general piloting with video annotation tools and augmented reality. For some of these pilots alternative fields and counterparts were found from other contexts.
  • The initial design idea of “Pandora” was differentiated into development of parallel tools, apps and services (“Living Documents”, “Reflect App”, “Help Seeking”). Whilst these were firstly, developed and piloted in different contexts in the same pilot region, the current work is bringing them closer to each other.
  • The work with “Bits and Pieces” has focused on different aspects and phases of the collection, sensemaking and reinterpretation processes with particular tools and software solutions . The current phase is looking for integrative approach (with links to other LL tools).

I leave my comparisons here. I may have given a somewhat idealised picture of the more complex and ‘messy’ process in which we have been working our ways forward. Yet, I believe that this picture helps to see from where we are coming and via what kind of efforts. Now we are gathering to take further steps ahead.

More blogs to come …

What can we learn from pilot activities with MOOCs?

February 24th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I told in my previous post, our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing itself for the Design Conference of the Year 2, which will take place in March in Espoo (next to Helsinki) in Finland. And as I also told, I have looked over the fence and explored, what our colleague Graham Attwell has been writing recently. In my previous post I was looking at the points he has made in debates on VLEs, PLEs and MOOCs.

Now I am trying get an idea, what Graham and his colleagues have been experiencing with the pilot activities of the neighbouring EU-funded project Employ-ID (that focuses on Employment services in Europe). As I understand it, they have started as learners in MOOCs, then to develop a medium-scale pilot arrangement, and now they are harvesting their first results. I am not trying to tell the news myself, but I am fascinated by the way that Graham has worked his way in this pilot (and covered it with his blogs).

 1. Stepping in as a participant of MOOC (Graham’s report May 13th 2014)

“We are planning to run a series of MOCCs as part of this project (Employ-ID) and the project partners have agreed themselves to do a MOOC as part of our own learning project. So why did I choose to do a course of digital curation? I have spent a lot of time working on the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs). Open Educational Resources are resources for learning and teaching that are open to use. But resources means not only content and materials but also tools for content creation and sharing as well as intellectual property licenses for using these resources freely and openly.” (…)

“It strikes me that many of the digital objects being grated by participants in this course could be a very rick source of learning. more than that it also seems that many of the issues in digital curation are very similar to those round OERs – for example

  • how do we classify and structure resources
  • how do we ensure digital resources are discoverable
  • how do we measure the quality of resources
  • how can we encourage people to interact with resources.

And finally I think that the best answers to these questions may come through an interdisciplinary dialogue.”

2. Heading to pilot with adapted MOOC (Graham’s comment April 29th 2014)

“Within the European Employ-ID project, (which is researching employment adaptability and the use of technology for supporting coaching and continuing professional development for Public Employment workers in Europe), we have promised, for better or worse, to organise a MOOC. In fact, I think this was promised for the final year of thee project, which has only just started, but with plenty of enthusiasm from the public employment services and from project partners, we are planning to bring it forward to next year.”

As Graham has reported it several months ago, the idea to organise an adapted MOOC – not necessarily massively open and not yet so open, but based on the same pattern – was well received by their counterparts. As I hear from the echos, it appears that this pilot experience helps us to overcome the EdTech perspective on MOOCs and to turn the concept back on its feet. Instead of putting the design issues into centre, Graham has pushed us to think about the social learning in organisational and professional communities. We are looking forward to hear more on this.

More blogs to come …

What do we learn from debates on VLEs, PLEs and MOOCs for workplace learning?

February 24th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Currently our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing itself for the Design Conference of the Year 2, which will take place in March in Espoo (next to Helsinki) in Finland. We will be discussing issues of Co-Design, Evaluation and Exploitation. Surely, our work with the Learning Toolbox will be high on the agenda. But, as the name of the event says, we should consider, what is important regarding design, transfer of innovations and scaling up of innovations.

From this perspective I have looked over the fence and explored, what our colleague Graham Attwell has been writing recently on the debates on Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on his blog Wales-Wide-Web. Of course, his blog articles are available on this same Pontydysgu site. But sometimes it is worthwhile to highlight some points that we may pass too quickly when reading his flow of posts. Here some of the highlights that I have picked as lessons from the debates:

1. Graham’s comment on the optimistic prediction on the impact of mobile technologies on workplace learning (July 6th 2014)

Prediction (formulated by Graham): “the workplace becomes part of the Personal Learning Environment and conversely the PLE becomes part of the work process. At the same time, such an approach can bring together both formal and informal learning.”

Comment (by Graham): “It hasn’t happened yet and it is worth thinking about why. One reason maybe that only recently has seen the spread of sufficiently powerful mobile devices and applications. Another is the suspicion of employers about the uses of such devices in the workplace. Most importantly may be the failure to develop pedagogic approaches for mobile learning.”

2. Graham’s comments on trends and fashions in Educational Technology (June 15th /April 29th 2014)

What is floating, what is sustaining: ” Ideas and trends emerge, peak and die away as attention moves to the latest new thing. At the time of writing MOOCs dominate the discourse. Yet the developments around Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have not gone away.  It could be argued that the development and adoption of PLEs is not so much driven the educational technology (…) but by the way people (…)  are using technology for learning in their everyday lives.”

Managerism/Consumerism/Prosumerism: “Even when Learning Management Systems were in their prime, there was evidence of serious issues in their use. Teachers tended to use such environments as an extended file storage system; forums and discussion spaces were frequently under populated. In other words such systems were used for managing learning, rather than for learning itself.  Learners expropriated and adapted consumer and productivity applications for their learning.”

Contrast between VLEs/PLEs: “At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community. It can be argued that whilst most educational technology development has focused on supporting learners already engaged in educational programmes and institutions, the major potential of technology and particularly of Personal Learning Environments is for the majority of people not enrolled on formal educational programmes.”

Open learning/Open Educational Resources/ MOOCs: “Such changes are reflected in the growing movement towards open learning, be it in the form of MOOCs or in the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources. The popularity of MOOCs has revealed a vast pent up demand for learning and at least in the form of the c-MOOCs has speeded the adoption of PLEs. MOOCs are in their infancy and we can expect the rapid emergence of other forms of open learning or open education in the next few years.”

MOOCs – only hype?: “MOOCs are now set on the downside of the hype cycle and it is not difficult to find critics – or even those predicting their immanent end. I can’t see much sign of them going away = if anything there seems to be more and more MOOCs appearing – although that may be just a result of better discoverability. However there does seem to be huge variation in design, duration and above all quality although we do not really have any agreed criteria for measuring quality.”

So what: “Despite the issues of design and quality, the sheer numbers of learners signing up for MOOCs deserves some reflection. I interpret it as a vast pent up demand for opportunities for learning. (…) MOOCs have enabled a massive expansion in the scope of subjects on offer as Open Education. So, even though I sympathise with the critics, particularly as to the quality of pedagogy, I think we should see MOOCs in that light. MOOCs are one iteration in the use of technology to greatly expand Open Education and to make that education available to everyone.”

OK, here I have picked some thoughts that Graham has brought forward in the course of debates and as candidates for ‘lessons from the debates’. However, these are still at the level of educational debates. What we in the Learning Layers are looking for, is something to put into practice and something that sustains in the hard test of practice. I think Graham has something more to say in this respect – I will continue my reading.

More blogs to come …

Radio Days continue

February 23rd, 2015 by Graham Attwell

The European funding for the RadioActive project may have ended but the activity continues. Just to remind you – and according tot he blurb – “RadioActive101 is a highly innovative educational intervention that is being implemented across Europe. It uses primarily internet radio and also social media to promote inclusion, informal learning, employability and active citizenship in an original and exciting way!” RadioActive was financed between 2012 and 2104 by the European Commission through the Lifelong Learning Program  The project is led by the University of East London in the UK, with partners from Wales, Germany, Portugal, Malta and Romania.

RadioActive was awarded in Portugal by FCT, the national funding agency for science, technology and innovation. The prize acknowledges the good results of RadioActive and supports the expansion of the project in Portugal during 2015.  In Portugal, the project is implemented by CIMJ – Research Centre for Media and Journalism. The Portuguese team, coordinated by Maria José Brites, is composed by Sílvio Correia Santos, Ana Jorge, Daniel Catalão, Catarina Navio and António Granado. This award will support the expansion of the project in Portugal in cooperation with the governmental program Escolhas during 2015.

And for International Radio Day on 13 February of this year,  the German RadioActive partner, the University of Koblenz, were interviewed by the local newspaper here in their region called Rheinzeitung. The interview took a closer look on the Radioactive-Project and – thats where, says Andreas Auwaerter “I am proud of the Deichstadtradio RadioMakingPeople. We’ve had an 1.5 hour interview with the vice-editorial leading person. This is IMHPO very long and in deph. What I kept in mind from this interview: “I am a bit of jealous, because you had the chance to dig into your topics without all that all day business”. That’s so seldom that we’ve got that opportunity. Based on that business pressure I can understand her. ”

Not to be left behind, the University of East London broadcast a programme on Mental Health and Young People: Experiences and Perspectives. The show explored what different groups of young people in the UK think about mental health, discussing their experiences and giving their perspectives on perceived differences in help and support for mental health issues at school and college.

Inspiring talks on Learning Toolbox and Dual Studies in Ostfalia

February 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Thursday Ludger Deitmer and I visited the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in the context of the Learning Layers (LL) project. For us this was a follow-up of the talks we had had during the Brunnenbauertage conference last year and a planning meeting for the forthcoming pilot activities. The representatives of Ostfalia had already at that time expressed their interest to learn more of the Learning Toolbox. Now that we had promising progress reports from the Alpüha Beta Camp in Aachen, it was high time to take further steps.

Our host organisation, the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences is a merged university colleges with four campuses in the Easten part of the federal state Lower Saxony (near the former border of the two German states). Our hosts from the faculty “Bau-Wasser-Boden”, professor Elfriede Ott (Geo-engineering) and Albrecht Meißner  (Informatics, dean of the faculty) are working in the campus of Suderburg, the most rural campus of the four. As we experienced it in our talks, this university college cannot profile itself with the attractions of urban city life – therefore, it has to profile itself with a strong emphasis on practice-based learning, collaboration with enterprises and creative pedagogy.

Our hosts firstly informed us of their study programs for construction engineers with different areas of specialisation (in particular building the grounds, water supply solutions and tunneling). Here, as well as in other areas of specialisation, Ostfalia was actively developing the model of Dual Stdudies (combination of Higher Education degree with apprentice training that delivered initial vocational qualification). And, due to the regulations of the training in construction sector, the workplace training included several presence periods in the intermediate training centre Bau-ABC. As we understood it, the cooperation between Ostfalia and Bau-ABC had already reached a relatively mature phase – they had learned to combine their strengths and developed a culture of mutual exchanges.

Concerning their pedagogic interests, our hosts told us of their experiences with stimulating collaborative group and self-organised learning. In this context they also noted the need to overcome some resistance and anxieties. Moreover, they informed us of their experiments with gamification – facilitating learning in geo-engineering by playing cards that make transparent the basic facts and the necessary measures – essentials on which you need to have an overview. Finally, they informed of their university-wide pedagogic support services and pilots with pedagogic counseling (Lerncoaching).

From the LL perspective the Ostfalia study programs – in particular the dual studies provide an interesting field for piloting with the Learning Toolbox. As we discussed it, the students are challenged to get awareness of the limits of desk engineering and to take into account the practical reality of construction work on the grounds. Our hosts could give us several examples of possible mismatches and how they are detected when the engineering students get insights into the work processes of skilled workers. From this perspective they were interested in becoming involved in the pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox. Furthermore, given the fact that their students gather experiences in multiple learning venues – college, training centre, enterprise – they were interested in getting the students reflect on their learning experiences and making the connections between theory and practice. This issue was also discussed in the context of a separate funding programme “Erfahrbares Lernen” that seeks to bring new innovation-oriented and experiential insights into studies in higher education.

Altogether, we covered a lot of topics and reached an agreement to continue our cooperation in the next phase when the recent results of the developers are prepared for field workshops. We are looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

Alpha Beta Camp and internal dissemination for Learning Layers

February 10th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts I have reported on the Year 2 review of the Learning Layers (LL) project and on the Critical Path Analysis (CPA)  that the project has carried out as a follow-up. This has been an internal exercise to set priorities and to concentrate on key activities. However, this (and the work with related project proposals) has tied us to backstage work. Now we are hoping to take further steps in our fieldwork and in stakeholder engagement. For the moment I can at best pass some short messages on current events.

1. The Alpha Beta Camp in Aachen (9.2. – 11.2.2015)

One of the aims of the project (and also a special recommendation of the reviewers) has been to overcome patchwork-like development of separate tools and apps for different users. Now, after some minor integrative efforts, the LL project is organising an Alpha Beta Camp (ABC) in RWTH Aachen. The time has become ripe for the designers and developers working in different teams to come together to a joint sprint session. For us who have been working with the construction sector – and in particular with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) this is an important milestone. As I see it, the colleagues who are working together in Aachen are trying to geththe LL tools (prototypes) and infrastructures work together at a new level. And as I see it, both pilot sectors – construction and health care – are represented by competent messengers of users. So, we can expect something to build upon in our forthcoming field activities.

2. Internal dissemination for the LL project in ITB

Last week I had a pleasant experience when visiting a meeting of one of the thematic research groups (Forschungsgruppe “Lernen in Arbeit” – FoG LiA). These thematic groups have been launched for sharing knowledge and insights across the departments of our institute. Whilst it is easy to agree that such work is useful, it is often hard to find time for such meetings in the middle of busy times in project work. Now I felt happy to present the Learning Layers to some of my colleagues with whom I had rarely had a chance to have in-depth discussions.

The FoG had developed a set of questions concerning the context of work and research approach of projects to be presented. Instead of responding to these with one ppt-presentation I arranged a guided tour across several earlier presentations:

  •  We looked at the construction sector presentation for Year 2 review to get an overview on the project (and on the work in the construction sector pilot).
  • We looked our presentation for the ECER’14 on accompanying research (Begleitforschung) in this pilot to get a picture of our multiple roles and on the evolution of the participative design process.
  • We looked at our presentations on “Work process knowledge” and “Workplace learning” for the Theory Camp session in Aachen (March 2014) to get an impression how we have brought ITB ideas on vocational education and training (VET) and on social shaping (Gestaltung) into European discussion.
  • Finally, we looked at Werner Müller’s ppt presentation on the Learning Toolbox (for craft trade company and for intermediate training centre) to get an idea, how the LL tools are supposed to support vocational and workplace-based learning.

After this guided tour and with the help of several smart questions, the colleagues wrote ‘answer cards’ responding to ‘question cards’ and assembled on overview on the LL project on pin-board.

To me, it was interesting to notice, how quickly the colleagues got an impression of a complex project, of our ( = the German partners’ roles), on the key ideas we have put forward and on the developmental steps we are taking. For me this was a clear evidence that there is a lot of shared understanding and intellectual commonality in ITB.

So, these were my interim messages. I am looking forward to the reports from Aachen and to next steps.

More blogs to come …

Back at work – facing the challenges of the new year 2015

January 22nd, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

So, after a lengthy holiday break I am back at work. As usual, when being one of the last ones to return from the holidays, you get overwhelmed by things that are on the move and you have to jump into running trains. With the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project we are doing the homework that we got from the Year 2 review meeting – preparing a Critical path Analysis. Partly within this process and partly alongside it we are finalising our plans for the year 2015.

The Critical Path Analysis was recommended by the reviewers to clarify our priorities (what is taken on board in the critical paths) and to specify our approach to less critical activities (sandboxing them as reserve activities). In many respects this has pointed out to be useful since this is not merely a routine updating of the work plan. Instead, the analysis has pushed us to become more aware of the key activities for the whole project and to find synergies between them. Due to this task we are getting clearer about the synergies at the level of software development, technology packages, linked services and framework tools etc.

While we are working with this task we are preparing proposals for conferences and plans for field activities. Furthermore, it is one of the key features of the LL project that we are looking for opportunities for transfer projects and opportunities to exploit the results alongside the project work. So, this all keeps us busy at the moment.

More blogs to come …

Layers and cluster visitors: What did we learn in Bau-ABC today (Part 2)

December 5th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post I firstly told, why the fieldwork of the Learning Layers (LL) project has had less visibility in the recent weeks. Our reporting duties and some backstage work with the tools have filled the agendas. Therefore, a new round of pilot workshops had to postponed to the beginning of next year. In this respect we were happy to make a field visit to Bau-ABC with our visitors from the Norwegian cluster organisation Tretorget. In my first post on our visit I gave a brief report on our cluster talks with the visitors. In this post I will report on our talks with apprentices and trainers in Bau-ABC.

 Talks with apprentices

Since our Norwegian visitors represented a cluster in wood industry, our primary target was the workshop and the training area of carpenters. When approaching the area, I recognised some of the apprentices as ones who had participated in June in the Demo Camp event in Bau-ABC. They also recognised us and greeted us as old acquaintances – and wanted to know, how the project is going on. Therefore, I started talking with apprentice Ahmed (born in Germany but with family roots in Libanon and Syria). In particular I was interested to find out, how he and his fellow apprentices perceived the blog of their trainer Markus Pape, the Zimmererblog. (See also my previous posts on the trainers’ blogs and on the video presenting the blogs.)

Ahmed made the following remarks:

1) The very fact that their trainer has made all instruction materials for apprentices’ projects available via his blog is very much appreciated. The apprentices feel that they get access to relevant contents via their own media (smartphones, tablets or laptops).

2) The way that the blog has structured the materials of different years of training gives a better overview and the apprentices can relate different contents to phases of training.

3) The fact that they have such a learning resource from the training centre makes it easier to tackle with the learning contents provided by the vocational school. (In general apprentices have been less motivated in school-based learning.)

4) The problem with this web-based learning resource is that it can only be used when you have access to Internet. This is already a problem in several training areas of Bau-ABC and even more at the workplaces.

In the light of the above Ahmed and his fellow apprentices were looking forward to further progress with developing web-based learning resources. In particular they are eager to start piloting with the Learning Toolbox in their projects.

 Talks with trainers

During our visit at the carpenters’ workshop our talks with the trainer, Mr Bruns, focused on their domain. In our next station, at the well-builders, we had a quick talk with the trainer Lothar Schoka. He told us of the recent progress with the Facebook group of the well-builders (using photos and short videos). Inspired by the success of this group they are also developing their own blog (which has not yet become public but is in the pipeline).

At the end of the visit I managed to meet trainer Markus Pape and talk with him of the next phase of developing the blogs. We had reached an agreement to migrate the first pilot blogs to the BauBildung.net platform to promote synergy and mutual support. Also, via this move we want to enable feeding metadata from the blogs to Social Semantic Server and back to Learning Toolbox. This perspective is inspiring and we are looking forward to it.

Finally, I need to mention the transition that has taken place in multimedia training. Whilst we have so far been running these events as LL project workshops organised by Pontydysgu and ITB, the Bau-ABC colleagues have now continued this with their own peer tutoring and peer training activities. In this context they are now discussing the use of different web resources, the importance of Creative Commons and of Open Educational Resources. To us, the R&D partners, this is a step from the project activities towards sustaining the learning gains and new practices. And for our cooperation this gives a challenge to proceed further with the piloting and outreach activities.

More blogs to come …

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