Archive for the ‘learningtechnologies’ Category

What is happening with Learning Analytics?

April 7th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I seem to be spending a lot of time looking at the potential of various technologies for supporting learning at work. I am not talking here about Virtual Learning Environments. In the construction industry we are looking at how mobile devices can be used to support learning and knowledge sharing between the different contexts of the vocational school, the industrial training centre and the workplace. And through the Employ-ID project we are looking at how to support continuing professional development for workers in public employment organisations across Europe.

None of these is particularly easy. Pedagogically we looking at things like co0counselling and at MOOCs for professional development. And another target on our horizon is Learning Analytics. Like so many things in technology advanced learning, Learning Analytics launched with a big fanfare, then seems to haver sunk under the surface. I was excited by the potential of using data to support learning and wanted to get in there. But there seems to be a problem. Like so often, rather than looking to use the power of Learning Analytics to support learners and learning, institutions have hijacked the application as a learning management tool. Top of the list for UK universities at least is how to reduce drop out rates (since this effects their funding). Rather than look at the effectiveness of teaching and learning, they are more interested in the efficiency of their approach (once more to save money).

So we are back where we have been so many times. We have tools with a great potential to support learners, but institutional managerialism has taken over the agenda. But perhaps I am being overly pessimistic and looking for information in the wrong places. If anyone can point me to examples of how to use Learning Analytics to support real learning please post below.

NB. Another issue concerning me is how to tell users what data we are collecting and how we are using it. Once more, does anyone have any pointers to good practice in this respect

 

Learning Layers has given new emphasis on Development Projects

March 22nd, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

The last event of the Learning Layers (LL) project  in the year 2013 of which I blogged was the Y1 Review meeting in Barcelona. One of the measures with which we have responded to the feedback of reviewers has been the shift of emphasis from overarching Design Ideas to more specific Development Projects. This shift of emphasis was already discussed during the Y1 Review meeting, but it really took off during the preparation of the LL consortium meeting in Innsbruck (that took place in February).

What has this shift of emphasis meant to us:

Firstly, it has provided us an opportunity consider, to what extent the co-design processes are going on with an overarching agenda (of the original Design Teams set up in March 2013) or whether they have moved to more differentiated processes.

Secondly, it has provided us an opportunity to give shape for sub-initiatives or complementary initiatives that may play a role in different contexts.

Thirdly, it has provided us an opportunity to reconsider, in what ways we share experiences and knowledge on co-design activities.

Here it is not necessary to give a comprehensive account on call changes or to go into very specific details. Yet, I can give some examples of the changes that have occurred with reference to the above mentioned reorientations:

1) In the Design Team “Sharing Turbine” the original idea was the digitisation of the White Folder (learning and working resource of the apprentices in Bau ABC). In the current phase the work has differentiated to several parallel Development Project:

1a) The Development Project “Learning Toolbox” is developing a toolbox of mobile apps and resources that supports the work with the White Folder (and paves the way for digitisation of documents and reports).

1b) The Development Project “Multimedia/ Web 2.0  Training “ is giving shape for the training activities that have been piloted with the staff of Bau ABC (and are to be supported by online learning).

1c) The Development Project “Baubildung.net” is developing a platform for professional networking platform for construction sector. This platform will also provide the basis for online learning in the context of the above mentioned training activities.

2) The Development Project “Reflect app” (that was initially developed with support of an affiliated students’ project) is being developed further by the LL project. The audio-based app that helps the users to record their learning experiences and learning gains (and convert them into documents) will be piloted both in healthcare and in construction sector.

3) The flashmeetings of Design Teams have to some extent given way for more comprehensive design forums of the two sectors healthcare and construction sector.

As we are talking of recent changes in dynamic processes, it is not yet the time to conclude, to what extent the Development Projects have shaped the daily work of the LL project. Yet, we can already see that the picture of the LL project is getting more networked and more colourful.

More posts to come …

 

 

 

 

Closing the gap: notes on developing a mobile workplace elearning App

August 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Mind the Gap, says Geoff Stead referring to the gap between theory and practice in mobile learning. And it is this gap which is perplexing me as we attempt to develop an App (code named Rapid Turbine) for use by German construction apprentices.

Writing in a blog for last year’s MobiMOOC Geoff says:

There are a few academic frameworks that can be useful in evaluating, and reflecting on m-learning:

  1. Laurillard’s Conversational framework (2002) – showing the different roles that technology can play in the process
  2. Park’s Pedagogical Framework for Mobile Learning (2011) – offering a simple matrix to map the transactional and/or social closeness of a learning intervention
  3. Koole’s Model for Framing Mobile Learning (FRAME) – 2009 – showing how the mobile learning is an interaction between the technology, the learner and the context.
frame-venn-i1.png
FRAME model

The one that most connects with my own thinking is FRAME, because it is quite clear that you any theory about m-learning needs to engage with the technology itself (the device), AND the learner (who they are, what they want), AND their social context.

The reason the definition works for me is exactly the reason why I suspect m-learning has proved so problematic to define precisely. It just isn’t one thing. There may well be one core idea in the middle, but this is heavily influenced by factors that are different in different contexts.

Here are some examples, and contrasting ideas:

  • while m-learning at work might be about performance support tools, and access to small nuggets of information; m-learning in the classroom might be more about exploring ideas together, and collaborating on a project
  • while m-learning on a field trip might be exploring your environment (GPS / augmented reality / mapping / camera), m-learning in a lecture theatre might be about taking notes, and looking up references.
  • while BYOD m-learning might be about sharing critical information via any device; a specific iPad activity will be rely on a specific app on a specific, named device

Folks, these are ALL m-learning, but because the circles in the Venn Diagram are filled with different questions, the resulting answer is different.

The core idea behind Rapid Turbine is that it brings teogther learning in different contexts – in the vocational school, in the industry training centre and in the workplace

Thus the pedagogic design of the App needs to be ‘mutable; to reflect these different designs. In the vocational school learning may be more formal and the app needs to scaffold and support apprentices in linking that formal knowledge to the work based learning gained in practice.

In the training centre the use of the App is focused on gaining practical work based knowledge and the presentation of learning materials and learning support needs to reflect that use. In the workplace, the App may be more needed to provide information and knowledge based on the other settings.

The different dimensions of the App should adapt to these different contexts of use. Collaboration, communication and data sharing will vary in each context of use. Thus a use case based on a single scenario or context will only provide us limited help.

Perhaps a dimension or scale lacking in these frameworks is that of depth and breadth, which can be seen as key in linking both the different kinds of knowledge and learning and the different resources which support scaffolded learning.

If we take a particular work task as the basis for an application (as Rapid Turbine does which is why it is high in authenticity and situatedness) then at some points apprentices will want to progress in more depth which perhaps brings in more theoretical learning and in other cases with more breadth which provides more contextual links to other work tasks (and arguably to more holistic work tasks).

The App needs to overcome not just a gap between theory and practice in mobile learning design but the gap between theory and practice in skilled construction work and the gap between informal and formal learning. And that is not easy

Learning Layers – What are we learning in the current phase of our fieldwork? (Part 4: Learning from cluster organisations elsewhere)

June 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts in this series I have mainly focused on the efforts of the ITB team and the application partners in North Germany. However, an essential part of the picture of the fieldwork is  the involvement of external partners of the Learning Layers (LL) project who have accompanied our field activities and provided feedback from parallel developments in Europe. In particular we should pay attention to the work of Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) and Tor-Arne Bellika (I-Perform) who have taken the responsibility to find out as much as possible of European cluster policies and of the functioning of cluster organisations in Europe.

In general, it was refreshing to learn from the functioning and of the services of well-organised cluster organisations elsewher in Europe. In this respect it was interesting to learn of the cross-sectoral cluster region in Upper Austria (Oberösterreich). In a similar way it was important to learn of the specific cluster organisation in ecological construction work in Lower Austria (Niederösterreich). The former example drew attention to new cooperation prospects across accustomed boundaries. The latter example drew attention to new possibilities for knowledge transfer in the context of same area of specialisation.

Also, the work of these ambassadors of knowledge transfer has drawn attention to the fact that it was not only the ‘results’ and organisational´models of ‘mature clusters’ that were important in promoting innovations. It has been very helpful to learn what kinds of services such cluster organisations can provide for their members (e.g. in the context of HRD, talent finding, training, ICT support and logistics). In particular it is important to see that the member organisations are often SMEs who couldn’t provide such services on their own but can benefit of joining forces with each other.

This perspective is very important for the LL project. There are many ways of presenting the results of our design activities and sharing the results as ‘offerings’. As an example, the webinar concept with which we have piloted in Verden, could be developed further as such offering.  Also. there are many ways of engaging users in our development activities. Its was inspiring to find out that the participative co-design workshops of the LL project and the efforts to promote user engagement attract the interest  of cluster organisations elsewhere in Europe.

This all is part of what we are learning in the current phase of our fieldwork.

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Learning Layers – What are we learning in the current phase of our fieldwork? (Part 3: SMEs in craft trade)

June 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

My previous post informed of the fieldwork activities that we had arranged with the training centre Bau ABC. In this context the construction companies were addressed in an indirect way – via apprentices who were reflecting on their working and learning experiences in the companies (and looking for new solutions). In this post I shift the emphasis from the training context to cooperation with SMEs – directly or via their network organisation (in this case the NNB/ Agentur).

In the case of Bau ABC we had a relatively easy start with the workshops. It is no major problem for training centres to involve their learners and staff members in such workshops in the course of their normal weekly schedule. However, it requires more effort from SMEs to participate in similar events (either as their own event or as a joint event hosted by trade guild or a networking agency – such as the NNB/ Agentu). Therefore, it has been necessary to find ways to present design ideas of the Learning layers (LL) project for them in such a way that they would see the benefit for them and commit themselves to the necessary preparatory events. Here our colleagues Joanna Burchert and Werner Müller as well as Tobias Funke from NNB/ Agentur have had to work hard to find ways forward. Here some remarks from an observer’s point of view. Joanna and Werner have spent the last week on a course in Verden and deepened their insights in the topic ‘ecological construction work’ and into the community. Thus, they will soon have quite a lot of fresh  first hand information to report.

Shortly after the LL Design Conference Tobias Funke raised the issue that the NNB/Agentur should develop a specific offering – a Webinar – to inform its own staff and member companies of possible uses of web applications and services that could be immediately useful. Werner and Joanna from the ITB team started to work together with this concept and agreed to take the role of trainers (to get themselves into a development-oriented dialogue with the participants). This webinar was thought to be a preparatory step to a presence workshop in which the participants could test the applications and try to customise them for their own context. However, the Webinar turned out to be an internal training event – and as such a useful one – but with no participants from the member SMEs. The planned presence workshop had to be postponed and instead a working session was organised to see how the SMEs could be approached with more targeted and customised offerings.

Without going into details it is worthwhile to mention that in our direct contacts with SMEs we have had somewhat similar experiences. It has not been easy to find an obvious way to open the discussion and design processes on other LL design ideas (although there is much good will). It is becoming clearer to us that the befits that we might be able to demonstrate in optimising work processes may lead to non-trivial issues about redistributing decision-making powers and responsibilities of risks. Thus, well-meant interventions to work processes may have problematic side-effects on the business processes. Furthermore, these issues tend to be perceived in a different light in different companies.

What we tend to see as the way forward is to develop similar exercises as the storyboard workshop in Bau ABC for apprentices and/or skilled workers in interested companies. Here the challenge is harder – the mapping of problems, hurdles and communication gaps in the process of work is though similar but the search for possible solutions may be more demanding in a mini-workshop or individual exercise. Therefore, we see it necessary to continue the interviews with company representatives and the harvesting of existing interview material.

Here, the picture is incomplete and may change soon in the light of newer information. However, the message is the same: our efforts to bring the use of ICT- and web-based tools and apps to the everyday practice of SMEs are not just simple measures of introducing new tools for those who are interested. The processes of accessing information, sharing knowledge and managing communication are very closely linked to business processes and to (re)distributing roles, powers and responsibilities. The SMEs need to get convinced that it is worthwhile taking the path that brings changes alongside developmental steps. We need to work and learn with the SMEs to see the benefits together with them.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Learning Layers – What are we learning in the current phase of our fieldwork? (Part 2: Bau ABC)

June 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I indicated that our current phase of fieldwork is preparing the grounds for participative co-design processes “for the users, with the users and by the users”. So far, we have had quite a lot of activities with the training centre Bau ABC and made also a lot of experiences with different workshops. Here, the blessing for us has been that we have had a chance to have joint workshops with groups of apprentices (during their stay at the centre) and with full-time trainers (at the time slots when apprentices have been working independently with their projects). Below some remarks on our workshops and on our learning experiences about their ways of making the workshops their events in which they address their own issues, concerns and initiatives.

Firstly, on the workshop concepts with which we worked: We firstly had conversational workshops with one group of apprentices (from different trades) in the morning and with a group of full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in the initial training plus the coordinator of continuing vocational training programmes. These workshops were supported by some pre-given guiding questions (Leitfragen) but they were run as relatively free conversation to let the participants address their issues with their own accents and their own voice. As a result, the apprentices spoke very freely of what they saw a needs and possibilities for improvement regarding the training in the centre (vis-a-vis advanced practice in the companies). They also emphasised their interest to have joint projects with apprentices from  neighbouring trades. The trainers gave positive comments on the views expressed by apprentices – however, they drew attention to rather inflexible boundary conditions for accommodating the apprentices’ training periods in the centre. Thus, there is very little room for manoeuvre for meeting the wishes of apprentices re joint projects or more flexible timing of periods in companies and in the centre. In addition, the trainers started giving thoughts, how they could use digital media and web appsa more effectively in informing themselves of new developments in the trade and on advanced practice in companies. Here, it seemed that something that was discussed in initial training was already in practice in the continuing vocational training activities.

In the next phase we organised a storyboard workshop that was based on group work to make storyboards of exemplary working days of apprentices (in the morning) and trainers (in the afternoon). The two parallel groups of apprentices had different tasks: one was invited to portray a day in the training centre whilst the other was asked to portray a day in the company and in the construction site. The group that worked with a day in the centre presented a spatial journey with drawings of different locations  at the Bau ABC sites and only after completing this started to give thoughts on eventual problems and how they could be taken into account in the phase of giving instructions. The group that focused on working at construction site portrayed the work flow (and the daily journey) from the company office to the site, setting the site and carrying through the process (drilling the holes for the well to be built) and in completing the task. Here, the apprentices drew attention to eventual obstacles and needs to star again or to give up if no water is found. Thus, they highlighted key problems in the work process – in which however the availability of web tools made very little difference. At the end of this session the joint plenary discussion started top trigger ideas of new apps to extend the learning effect and to draw attention to good practice  (e.g. the Maurer-App) and comments on the (limited) usability of existing apps.

The trainers gave very positive comments on the storyboards of apprentices and gave some thoughts of the possible usability of existing apps as a basis for the proposed Maurer-App. In their own group work phase they presented two parallel storyboards of trainers work at the centre. One story focused on a relatively homogeneous group of apprentices in the initial training whilst the other illustrated the growing complexity when there are apprentices from different phases of their training and eventual visiting groups in continuing training (with visiting trainers) to be supported at the same time. Altogether, the storyboards drew much more attention to the complex social and organisational processes to be managed alongside the key training functions  (instruction, supervision, monitoring, assessing and giving feedback). In the plenary sessions a lot of thoughts were given on the possibilities to offload the trainers with digital solutions in the assessment and in giving feedback. A major issue was the access to norms, standards and regulations in which context new copyright problems had emerged. As a result, a list of several design ideas and issues was drafted to be included into the workshop report (to take into account the issues arising from initial and continuing training).

Here I have emphasised the workshop dynamics rather than particular ‘results’ to be listed as apps or solutions that would have attracted most attention. In the preparation phase our colleagues suggested different techniques to get feedback on particular ‘use cases’ or wireframes drafted on the drawing boards elsewhere. As I have illustrated it above, when the users got control of their workshops, they addressed concerns, how to improve their working and learning processes on the whole. When getting their messages into discussion we then could use  some time to illustrate some of the use cases and emerging wireframes as possible responses to their concerns. In this context the powerpoint slides and the presentation of Martin Bachl (Hochschule Karlsruhe) worked very well.

As I understand it, we are going through similar collaborative learning processes as the earlier Work and Technology projects that couldn’t successfully transplant new technologies into companies as ‘gifts that fall  from Mt Olympus that are parachuted upon users’ but had to discover the possible needs for innovations and benefits for users in iterative processes that took their own time. Yet, after these experiences we have the feeling the we are making progress.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Taccle2 on track

May 20th, 2013 by Jenny Hughes

We are really excited about the Taccle 2 project – 5 hard copy handbooks and a website bursting with practical ideas on how to use web 2.0 apps and other e-learning tools in your classroom.

The project has reached its half way mark and we are so far on target. The E-learning handbook for Primary Teachers has just come back from the layout artist and is in its final proof reading stage. (There is a temporary version available if you want to take a look)

The E-learning handbook for STEM teachers is waiting for the layout artist to make it look pretty and the E-learning for Humanities is in its draft version. This will be available on the site within the next week.

The next book, E-learning for Creative and Performing Arts has just been started – we are still at the stage of collecting ideas but they are coming in thick and fast. The final book, E-learnig for Core Skills 14-19 is at the planning stage. All books will be ready for printing by April 2014.

Meanwhile, check out Taccle2 website It has 280 posts at the moment and our rough estimate is that there are well over a thousand ideas that can be navigated by subject, age, software, language, format and more. Even better, judging from the number of visitors who return and the number of contributions and comments, there is a growing community around the Taccle2 site which will expand rapidly once the Taccle2 training starts next month.

Please come and join us and spread the word – tried and tested ideas for using technology in the classroom, created by teachers for teachers. No theory, no research just inspiration!

PS you can also follow us on Twitter #taccle or on the Taccle2  Diigo group or on Scoop.it – so no excuses!!

Involving users and scaling up applications for learning

March 18th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I am spending a lot of time working on the Learning Layers project at the moment. There are two interlinked areas on which I have been thinking. The first is design processes – more particularly how we can develop a user centred or co-design process. And the second is how we can scale the uptake of applications and approaches to learning with technology to significant numbers of users.

the two are interlinked, I think, because if we involve users in every part of the design process, we have a reasonable chance of developing software which is relevant to users. However, having said that, we are realising that different users have very different interests. We are working in two main sectors – or industrial clusters – in the construction sector and in the health sector. Motivations and restrains on the use of technologies for learning vary greatly between the two sectors. In the construction sector there seems a general desire to use technology both to improve the image of the sector – and thus attract new trainees – and to update and improve the quality of both initial and continuing learning. In the medical sector, there is probably more concern on how to update learning and knowledge in a situation where time and opportunity for formal learning is very limited. But interestingly, attitudes towards technology also varies greatly between individuals, even in the same workplace.

The original EU specification for the project is that we focus on sectors where the take up of technology for learning has been limited and is lagging behind. This may be a misconception. In truth in both sectors we are finding plenty of examples of learning practice using technology. But we are also finding many examples where there is little use of technology and even where access to social networks or the use of mobile devices is banned. I suspect that we would find a similar pattern in other sectors. So challenge number one is how we involve workers in the codesign process. Should we focus on those who are enthusiastic – as early adapters – or should we try to involve those more sceptical about the potential of technology to support learning in the workplace?

Challenge number two is around the target to upscale to involve significant numbers of users. Although the project is targeted at workers in Small and Medium Enterprises, and we have a number fo these involved as partners in the project, it is clear that we will have to involve industry organisations in the upscaling. the original application was based on the idea of industrial clusters. There is a great deal of research on such clusters, which I will talk about more in a future article. Enough to say, that we are encountering different forms of organisations which bring together different SMEs. These include industrial clusters, usually around innovation such as the use of green technology in construction. But they may also include different networks and communities of practice which may be more or less fomalised. For instance, in Bremen the Electro Innung brings together over 120 SMEs in the electrical sector of the construction trade. It forms part of the structure of craft chambers through which craft trade companies in Germany are organised. And Communities of Practice can cut across more traditional organisations.

At the moment we are working on a User Engagement plan and looking at the potential interests of different stakeholders in the Learning layers project. The intention is that once we have such a plan we can work out a strategy for interacting with these organisations and for taking forward the user centred design process.

Interestingly Google searches on user engagement produce little of interest, mainly being driven by the concerns of social software companies to gain and retain more users. Hover changing the search string to stakeholder engagement yields far richer results. There seems a valuable tradition of research and development by economic and social development organisations and aid organisations seeking to consult with and involve users in various projects. In particular the Stakeholder Engagement toolkit (from which the diagramme above is taken), produced by the European funded REVIT project, provides a wealth of practical ideas.

I would welcome any feedback and ideas readers have found useful around both user centred design and user engagement.

Learning Layers: supporting the emergence of innovation clusters

February 4th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

My colleague Pekka from the University of Bremen has posted a series of useful reports on this site about the Application Partner Days, held as part of the Learning Layers project, funded by the European Commission IST programme.

Learning layers is aiming to increase the use of technology for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in Europe, particularly through the use of mobile devices for informal learning in two ‘industry clusters, in the north German construction industry and in the medical sector in north east England.

Obviously such a project faces a number of challenges, given the slow take up of technology enhanced learning in SMEs. The Application Partner Days are designed to bring developers and researchers together with potential end users in organisations in the two sectors. And prior to the Application partner Days in north Germany, we also spent two days visiting companies and organisations in the sector responsible for education and training and for policy development in this area.

Rather than repeat Pekka’s excellent summary of the proceedings, I will offer a few observations, based on my own attempts to make sense of all we saw and of our discussions.

Firstly there is a perception that there are barriers to introducing technology for learning in small enterprises. But most people we spoke to were overwhelmingly positive about the potential especially of mobile devices. Although it was felt there may be some individual resistance, due to lack of familiarity or fears over privacy, in general it was felt that mobile devices would be easily accepted, especially by younger workers. Indeed, some people we talked to felt that introducing technology could make the construction industry more attractive and help overcome recruitment problems. The big driver for this seems to be the increasing everyday use of internet enabled phones. And  flat rate data contracts mean more workers are prepared to use the ir own device for work purposes.

The issue of sharing between enterprises is more problematic. Some seem willing to share data, others less so. My impression is that this is a new situation where companies are undecided on the implications of sharing. And, of course there are worries over privacy and security, particularly and understandably in the medical sector. Interestingly, I was talking last weekend with someone responsible for the introduction of mobile devices in a major agency in the UK. One of their key requirements is that data is not held in the USA, due to fears over US security policies.

During the different workshop and focus group sessions we held in the Application Partner Days, we sought to gather ideas for applications which could be useful within the SMEs. A number of these =focused on better communication and information flows. The boundary between applications that support learning and those supporting communication and information exchange is becoming blurred. Better information provision can support informal learning but this may not be an automatic process.

Even though the Learning Layers project has relatively generous funding support from the European Commission, there are of course limits to what we can do. Even with the increasing functionality of Software Development Kits and frameworks, development takes time and resources. How do we decide what developments we wish to prioritise. And at the same time there is an avalanche of commercial applications being made available for both Apple and Android operating systems.

One answer may be to develop interlinked physical and on-line ‘Demonstration Centres’ which can bring together both relevant commercial Applications with apps produced through the Layers project.

A second approach may to to focus on boundary points. Obviously the medical and construction sectors both contain workers from different occupations organised through various structures and networks. These I would characterise as Communities of Practice. It is where innovations – both technical and social – occur that innovation occurs and new cluster emerge transcending the boundaries between traditional Communities of Practice and occupations and challenging existing occupational practices. It may be that it is at these points that the need for learning and new forms of collaborative working are at there greatest. Of course much of this learning is informal. And if the boundary points offer opportunities for the emergence of new innovation clusters, they may also serve to frustrate innovation where learning is impeded by existing organisational and occupational practices.

Lets try and provide a couple of examples to make this discussion a little less abstract! In the construction industry we can see a series of emergent innovation networks in the area of green or ecological construction. these involve collaboration by workers from different occupations using new materials, or old materials in new ways and developing new practices. Similarly, the use of Programmable Logic Controllers is crossing boundaries between programming and electrical installation. In the medical industry, we are looking at new practices and forms of organisation for supporting those with diabetes.

If we focus resources on such emergent practices, the result might be both to stimulate economic and social sustainability for small enterprises, to promote sustainable growth and the generation of new employment and at the same time support the development of knowledge maturing and informal learning within and between Communities of Practice.

Lastly but not least. The Learning layers project will run for four years and is keen to involve organisations and researchers interested in our work. You can sign up on the Layers website to become part of a Stakeholder Network, giving enhanced access to the work and to the applications being developed.

 

 

Learning Layers – What have we learned during Application Partner Days in Bremen (Part 4)

February 1st, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

I hereby complete my reporting on the Application Partner Days (APDs) of the Learning Layers (LL) project that were organised this week in Bremen and in the neighbouring areas. My two previous posts gave an overview on the site visits to the training centre area of Bau ABC (Rostrup) and to the premises of Agentur für nachhaltiges Bauen (Verden). I also reported on the workshop events that were organised in the context of these site visits. This blog article focuses on the issues that were raised and observations that were made during the talks in these workshops. As the digestion of  the rich documented material will take some time, I only want to provide a bridging step to further analyses and conclusions.

Below I will sum up some issues and remarks across the discussions during both on-site visits:

1. Who were the ‘users’ whom we met and/or whose interests and problems were discussed?

At the Bau ABC the ITB team members had earlier met senior trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) of the Bau ABC staff and got some of their views documented in the “User stories”. Now these persons were already ‘old acquaintances’ when participating in the event. However, this time there was an opportunity to widen the circle and to engage several senior craftsmen who were completing their continuing training to become certified team leaders/on-site supervisors (Werkpolierer). In a similar way the spectrum of trades was widened to cover different fields of construction work (including the building of houses, construction of roads and the special construction areas of borehole builders).

At the Agentur the ITB team had mainly talked with architects and on the core activities of the Agentur and the supporting network on ecological construction work. Now the workshops set the accent to outreach activities towards craft trade companies (represented by two entrepreneurs) and to apprentices (discussed as a major target group for the forthcoming  exhibition).

 2. What kinds of problems and challenges brought ICT and Web into picture?

On both site visits the discussion was triggered by coordination problems and communication problems at different construction sites. Various examples were presented of gaps of information, gaps of communication, lack of shared information and hurdles in knowledge sharing. Much of this could be helped with simple apps (which were also becoming widely used), some problems appeared to be more deeply rooted into divisions of labour, hierarchies and to cultural boundaries between different trades and companies involved.

3. How are these issues related to learning and knowledge development?

Firstly,  some of discussions might have seemed to be somewhat remote of the theme “learning”. However, in a closer analysis it is possible to discover different instances of learning or instances of professional development when the construction specialists addressed needs for ICT and web support (or proposed possible solutions). Here, it was possible to observe a movement from passive expectations to participative co-development and co-design.

Secondly, it is worthwhile to consider, to what extent is use of web and digital media embedded into the working and learning culture of construction sector. At the moment some of the main documentation is still paper-based and the transition is only taking place (e.g. the apprentices white folders are paper-based and some of the software solutions for planners have not really made a breakthrough). Here, issues of trust and practical benefit are very present.

Thirdly, it is worthwhile to consider the cooperation culture at the construction sites and between different parties involved. The traditional mode of thinking and working emphasised the division of labour (each party being responsible of their task) whilst nowadays new holistic solutions (package offers) may change the picture.

4. What can be considered as “hot issues” or factors that keep the discussion going on?

 Firstly, it is obvious that the construction industry and trade want to attract new workforce and to influence the public image of construction work as low-tech area. Secondly, in many special areas the high risks with costly equipment require more attention to risk management by different parties. Thirdly, trainers have a major concern in improving the quality of training in safety issues and to raise awareness of safety risks (e.g. using video simulations and intelligent games). Fourthly, young professionals who are working their way through via vocational progression routes are interested in acting as change agents (and in being recognised as such).

After all these remarks I find it appropriate to bring my reporting to an end at this point. As I mentioned above, I am not suggesting any conclusions for the LL project but making some remarks that help us to step to the next phase of work.

The discussion will be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

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    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
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    A special issue of the online journal eLearning Papers has been released entitled MOOCs and beyond. Editors Yishay Mor and Tapio Koshkinen say the issue brings together in-depth research and examples from the field to generate debate within this emerging research area.

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