Archive for the ‘learningtechnologies’ Category

New steps in the Layers fieldwork – Part 2: Pilot workshops with craft trade companies go ahead

September 12th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to report on the recent steps in the fieldwork of the Learning Layers (LL) project in the construction sector. I firstly reported on the participation of LL partners in the large German construction sector fair NordBau and on the stakeholder talks we had their with several companies. A major topic was to engage them into pilot activities on the LL tools in particular with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). This post will give insights into the recent Pilot workshop with craft trade companies on LL tools. This workshop was organised and documented by our ITB colleague Werner Müller. He has written a more detailed report for internal use. I will highlight here some points that give a general picture, how our pilot activities are moving on.

The workshop was planned as a follow-up to the stakeholder engagement activities that we carried out during the Well-builders’ fair in May 2014 (65. Brunnenbauertage) in Bau-ABC Rostrup. However, before launching a wide range of workshops, we agreed to have first a smaller pilot workshop. We invited two companies that we had interviewed during the initial phase of the project and with which the LL partners had good contacts.

The company K is a carpentry company with currently 36 employees. It is involved in the network for ecological construction work (Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen – LL partner organisation) and in several domain-specific networks. The company has been pioneering with company-specific apps and is in the process of introducing tablet PCs for team leaders. At the same time the company is paying attention to the fact that introduction of new ICT tools will not cause a digital divide in access to information and communication. The company has regular meetings to discuss quality issues (QT-Runde).

The company W is a larger medium-sized company with ca. 430 employers and specialised on pipeline-building. It has most of its staff working on missions in teams of two or three skilled workers. This company has a long-term cooperation with Bau-ABC. The company W has been pioneering with digital pens, mobile offices (laptops with internet access) allocated to teams and with centralised databases. Yet, the company has had mixed experiences with the effectivity of such tools regarding time used for searches vs. finding adequate solutions. The company itself has centralised databases and is concerned of knowledge management and confidentiality issues. Concerning knowledge sharing and learning across teams, there are very limited possibilities to provide face-to-face meetings.

In the workshop we presented a general picture on the Learning Layers project and invited the companies to present their own situation assessment on their use of ICT, Web tools and digital media (including use of mobile technologies). Then, we presented a demonstration on the emerging Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a framework for managing web resources and apps with a mobile device. in the next rounds of discussions we were mapping different situations for piloting with the LTB and needs to which it could respond.

At this point it is not appropriate to go into details of the subsequent discussion. For the LL project it was important that both companies found their specific entry points to pilot activities. For the company K these were more in the intra-company communication and knowledge sharing and in the network-wide knowledge sharing. For the company W they were in the filtering of different quality guidelines and requirements (provided by different electricity providers or public authorities). Altogether, both companies agreed to continue the cooperation with the project and to organise further talks and pilot workshops in their companies.

After this pilot event and after the stakeholder talks during the NordBau fair (see my previous post) we are looking forward to the next pilot workshops.

More blogs to come …

 

New steps in the Layers fieldwork – Part 1: Layers goes to NordBau

September 12th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the summer months it has not been possible to report much on the fieldwork for the Learning Layers (LL) project. Due to the holiday periods there have been no major events. Yet, thanks to the efforts in May and June and due to preparatory measures by several colleagues, we have been able to take several steps forward when coming back from holidays and conference trips. In this first post I will give a report on the LL partners’ visit to the German construction fair NordBau that took place yesterday.

The annual NordBau fair in Neumünster, near Hamburg, is the biggest sectoral fair for construction industry and craft trades in North Germany. The exhibition halls present products, tools and services whilst the large outdoor areas are filled with heavy machinery by all major suppliers. Bau-ABC is a regular visitor and this event has served as a major opportunity for contacting suppliers and cooperation partners. This time we decided that Melanie Campbell, Kerstin Engraf and I will make a one-day-visit to join the trainers – Mr Grewe and Mr Schütte, who were attending the whole time. We agreed that we three will first explore the exhibition area of ICT service providers and then join Mr Grewe and Mr Schütte with their talks with the suppliers.

1. Observations in the exhibition area of ICT service providers

We were interested to find out, to what extent the ICT service providers were presenting services for construction workers and their supervisors in the construction sites – based on mobile devices. From this point of view the general picture was far more traditional – most of the exhibitors were presenting CAD/CAM software for design work or business management software . Very few exhibitors were promoting mobile applications – and they also were primarily addressing architects or business managers. Yet, we got brochures from some software providers to have a closer look from the LL perspective.

A special compartment was the BIM exhibition container (Building Information Modelling) that was provided by a German research project consortium. involving several universities and software developers. The project demonstrated use of RFID-technologies and integrated software solutions with which the modelling covers the whole supply chain. Starting from product design and actual production (adjusted to customer needs), following through the logistic chain (including reporting, tracking and quality control) the software solutions gave information to the point of using the products in the construction project (and reporting of good match or eventual mismatches). Here, the emphasis was on integration of software and different steering/controlling technologies. From the LL point of view it was interesting to note that this project had been working with prototype solutions without involvement of real application partners and that the engagement of real users was seen as a task for different spin-off and follow-up projects.

2. Talks with supplier companies

The second part of our visit consisted of short visits and stakeholder talks in the outdoor areas in which suppliers to construction companies were presenting their machinery and equipments. Altogether we visited the areas of the following supplier companies:

  • Liebherr
  • Wirtgen Group
  • TractoTechnik
  • Vetter GmbH Kabelverlegetechnik
  • Tramann + Sohn
  • Wacker Neuson

These visits had been orchestrated and scheduled by Mr Grewe and they were part of his normal agenda for meeting suppliers to make arrangements for cooperation in training users of such machinery in the context of initial and continuing training programmes. This time, however, during most of these visits we had discussions also on the Learning Layers project and in particular on the Learning Toolbox. To me it was important that the colleagues from Bau-ABC had already integrated the promotion of Learning Toolbox (and engagement of their partner companies) to their normal business talks. Also, in these talks the colleagues from Bau-ABC were very attentive concerning the possible benefits that the company representatives could see (and very convincing in eliminating eventual misunderstandings). Yet, it was clear to all of us that our counterparts in these talks were the sales persons (and only in few cases the managers/owners of the companies). Thus, the agreements on subsequent pilot workshops were to be made with the management representatives.

At the end of the day we could conclude that our visit was well-timed and that we got good feedback regarding the Learning Layers project:

  • Concerning the ICT exhibition area and the BIM projects, we noticed that there is a gap in providing services for construction workers on the site and in engaging them in co-design processes. From this perspective both the task of the LL project and its approach can be seen as pioneering work.
  • Concerning the talks with the supplier companies, the colleagues from Bau-ABC demonstrated clearly that they had integrated the promotion of Learning Toolbox (and engagement of partner companies into pilot activities) as an essential part of their cooperation with business partners.

Also, the fact that such cooperation is valued became clear during our chance meeting with the team from the company W. (who had just participated in a pilot workshop on Learning Toolbox – see my next blog). So, we felt very much empowered and are looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …

 

 

The challenges of open data: emerging technology to support learner journeys

September 1st, 2014 by Graham Attwell

It is the end of the holidays and time to return back to work. And of course with September starts the autumn conference season. This week I am at the ALT C Conference at Warwick University and then at the European Conference for Educational Research in Porto. More on The ECER conference later.

At Alt C we are organising a workshop on the UKCES open data project (abstract below). And we will also have an exhibition stand. So if you are coming to the conference make sure to drop by the stand – No 16 in the Arts Centre – free coffee and sweets! and say hello.

The challenges of open data: emerging technology to support learner journeys

People make important decisions about their participation in the labour market every year. This extends from pupils in schools, to students in Further and Higher education institutions and individuals at every stage of their career and learning journeys. Whether these individuals are in transition from education and/or training, in employment and wishing to up-skill, re-skill or change their career, or whether they are outside the labour market wishing to re-enter, high quality and impartial labour market information (LMI) is crucial to effective career decision-making. LMI is at the heart of UK Government reforms of careers service provision. Linking and opening up careers focused LMI to optimise access to, and use of, core national data sources is one approach to improving that provision as well as supporting the Open Data policy agenda (see HM Government, 2012). Careers focused LMI can be used to support people make better decisions about learning and work and improve the efficiency of labour markets by helping match supply with demand, and helping institutions in planning future course provision.

A major project, funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, is underway led by a team of data experts at the Institute for Employment Research (University of Warwick) with developers and technologists from Pontydysgu and Raycom designing, developing and delivering a careers LMI webportal, known as LMI for All. The presentation will focus on the challenge of collaborating and collecting evidence at scale between institutions and the social and technological design and development of the database. The database is accessed through an open API, which will be explored during the presentation.

Through open competition developers, including students in FE, have been encouraged to develop their own applications based on the data. Early adopters and developers have developed targeted applications and websites that present LMI in a more engaging way, which are targeted at specific audiences with contrasting needs.The web portal is innovative, as it seeks to link and open up careers focused LMI with the intention of optimising access to, and use of, core national data sources that can be used to support individuals make better decisions about learning and work. It has already won an award from the Open Data Institute.

The presentation will highlight some of the big data and technological challenges the project has addressed. It will also look at how to organise collaboration between institutions and organisations in sharing data to provide new services in education and training.Targeted participants include developers and stakeholders from a range of educational and learning settings.

The session will be interactive with participants able to test out the API, provide feedback and view applications.

Learning Layers goes to Brunnenbauertage – Part 1: The event and our contributions

May 10th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week (from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon) the Learning Layers project was actively present at the German construction sector event “Brunnenbauertage” hosted by Bau-ABC on their premises in Rostrup. With two blog postings I try to give a picture of the events and our contributions (Part 1) and of the conversations we had there with different participants from the construction sector.

As a professional event of well-builders and borehole builders (Brunnenbauer) the conference part of the Brunnenbauertage event has a longer history (this one was already the 65th). As an enrichment, Bau-ABC has started to organise a professional exhibition every third year. Whilst the start was modest (only five exhibition stalls in the beginning), also the this part has gained importance and now there were over 100 exhibitors with stands and demonstration areas. Altogether, the event was attended by over 650 participants. On the spot, the following activities were running parallel to each other:

  • The conference sessions (and workshops on specific topics on construction techniques) were running in separate conference rooms;
  • The exhibition stalls were accommodated in an a huge exhibition tent that also provided the space for  foyer presentations;
  • In several workshop halls and in the surrounding outdoor areas there were dedicated demonstration areas with scheduled demonstrations of drilling techniques and machinery.

We had planned in advance some presentations and then worked out a plan for several activities to be carried out in the exhibition area. Altogether, we were present in the following ways:

  1. In the conference area Melanie Campbell organised a workshop that was addressed to the training of Horizontal Drilling specialists and brought insights into the role of the Baubildung.net platform. (The workshop  was attended also by Werner Müller, Graham Attwell and Dirk Stieglitz.
  2. In the exhibition area the Learning Layers stall served as an info-point and contact point for all activities. We had posters on AchSo!, Baubildung.net, Learning Toolbox and the Reflect App. In addition we had a comprehensive slideshow and devices to demonstrate AchSo! and the Learning Toolbox. (The stall was managed by Martina Lübbing with support from Pekka Kämäräinen, Werner Müller, Owen Gray and Istvan Koren.)
  3. During the first two days some of us were actively visiting other exhibition stalls and engaging the exhibitors to conversation on the role of digital media, Web 2.0 and mobile technologies in learning and knowledge sharing. (These activities were carried out by Ludger Deitmer, Werner Müller and Gilbert Peffer.)
  4. During the last two days some of us were following the demonstrations and taking videos with the help of helmet camera, tablet and smartphones. (These activities were carried out by Martina Lübbing, Owen Gray and Istvan Koren. Also, some apprentices of Bau-ABC supported us in these activities.)
  5. On the second day we had a foyer-presentation on the Learning Layers in front of the exhibition area (that reached the entire audience in the exhibition tent). This presentation outlined the key points of the project (on the potential of digital media, Web 2.0 and mobile technologies to support workplace learning) and gave specific insights into Learning Toolbox and into the AchSo! application. (The presentation was given by Ludger Deitmer, Gilbert Peffer and Istvan Koren. With her interim input Kerstin Engraf explained, how Bau-ABC has been involved in the project and what benefits they see coming up for the construction sector and for training activities.)
  6. On the third day we had some concluding talks with major exhibitors (that are strongly present in training) and with universities of applied science (who are developing e-learning and practice-based learning in the programmes for “dual studies”).  (These talks were carried out by Werner Müller, Martina Lübbing, Pekka Kämäräinen and Istvan Koren).

Altogether, the three days were characterised by manifold activities, lots of contacts and several ideas that were exchanged between us and our counterparts in these conversations. We need to get back to our learning gains very soon.

More posts to come …

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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